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50 Stories: 50 Years in Radio




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Story Thirty-Six

Not so deep down inside, every talk show host who keyed a mic wants to see results from his work. Eventually. Whether opening minds with compelling information, positive reactions to new information or correcting a bad situation.

This Story accomplished all three!

During the halcyon days of Mornings with Brian and Bob, then WWRC/DC GM, Radio Legend Dick Rakovan, nabbed two syndicated programs to fill our night-time programming: Talk Radio pioneer Bruce Williams and perennial-talker Larry King. It was such a big deal, the station threw a rare reception for the two hosts, to celebrate our mutual good fortunes as well as score some promotional coverage from the DC media.

Larry King was at the top of his broadcasting game:  a CNN show, syndicated USA Today column and published author. The Larry King Show aired from midnight to 5:30 a.m. and was the lead-in to Brian and Bob. As a result, I was able to hear the "open phones" segment of Larry's last two hours while driving to the palatial WWRC studios in the overly-pretentious World Building in Silver Spring from my meager hovel in suburban Columbia, MD.

Despite the ginormous income earned with his CNN and syndicated radio shows, newspaper columns and book deals, Larry complained a lot about taxes. Not about paying taxes. But that too many people weren't paying enough; a typical left/liberal complaint I found personally and politically offensive. Like most people, I worked my ass off for what I got paid and I resented various levels of government appropriating larger and larger chunks of that paycheck to fund federal and state boondoggles designed to keep them in office rather than performing government’s essential responsibilities:  preserving freedom and protecting rights.  Whenever "taxes" came up during the show, I would rant "Taxation is Theft!" and rail about how a free country would not send Men With Guns to seize you and your property if you failed – or refused – to fork over whatever the IRS demanded! While not nearly as strident as I, my beloved partner, Bob Madigan, himself a noted figure in financial matters, would at least support the logic of my podium-pounding. Other than the occasional altruistic caller, no one successfully challenged the "Tax is Theft" charge.

But I digress…

The redundancy of hearing Larry boo-hoo about how “too few people were paying too few taxes” grew increasingly irritating -- enough to spark an idea, which I promptly put to work.

Explaining the issue to Bob and the audience, noting the absence of any logical or sustaining "pro-tax" argument, I implored anyone listening who also had earlier heard Larry do his thing to call him and say something -- something like:

Hey Larry! I've been listening to you here on WWRC and I've got a question. You've been saying we don't pay enough taxes, not just the rich people – but all of us don't pay enough. Here's my question. I saw a recent USA Today article about you; it said with your TV and radio shows, books and newspaper column, you were knocking down around $17 Large a year. If that's even close to accurate, I'm certain you pay your CPA's to make sure you cough up the least amount of taxes possible, right? So why don't you just personally send in an extra million or two? There's no law against sending in more money than you owe, right? What do think, Larry?

You get the idea. The caller’s question didn’t have to be verbatim, but simply point out that someone making more in a year than you and I will make in a lifetime could send in as much as he wanted, rather than complain about everyone paying too little. It's not illegal and no one would stop him! Hell, they might even say it's patriotic!

This went on every few mornings for a week or two. Every time Larry went off on "too few taxes" on his show, I'd make my little speech later on Brian and Bob. Then, I'd listen on the drive in to work the next morning to see if a Brian and Bob listener got through.

About a month and a half-dozen rants later, after my usual routine:  dress, drive, stop for coffee, drive, etc., I hopped in the Jeep just in time to hear:

Silver Spring, Maryland, hello…

Hi Larry! Thanks for taking my call. Listening to you on WWRC and I have a question. You've been talking a lot lately about taxes and people not paying enough or their fair share or something like that. I've read that you're doing pretty well with your TV show and this radio show and your books and all; USA Today says you're making around $17 million a year. So I was just wondering after you take all your legal deductions, why not just set a good example and send in a few extra million of your own?

The dead air lasted seven or eight seconds, an eternity in radio. At last, King spoke:

I will when everyone else does. Biloxi, Mississippi… hello?

How lame was that!

John Nolan, our ace board op, had grabbed the aircheck tape and pulled off the segment by the time I got in. He knew immediately the replay would be a big part of the show. And it was!

I never met the caller from Silver Spring but, if you're reading this sir, a very belated thanks for your perfectly executed effort, making a great contribution to the Brian and Bob Show and an unforgettable Story for this book!  


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