I strongly dislike Bill O’Reilly. His magnanimous announcement that “Happy Holidays” is now permissible again inspired me to e-mail him a little note, ending with, “Once again, thank you, Your Eminence.”  Honestly, this guy has been so full of manure for so long I don’t think he can smell manure anymore, not even if he was T-boned by a manure truck just out side of a manure processing plant with a big red sign on the side of the truck that read, “Fresh Manure”, and then the truck caught fire. Like his pill popping ponderous predecessor Bill seems convinced in his own significance.  But the truth is, this jerk isn’t even original.
Once upon a time there was a guy named Joe Pyne working as a disc jockey at radio station WILM in Wilmington, Delaware. Joe was a war vet with an artificial leg, a big ego, an acerbic mouth with a cigarette hanging out of it and a set of political opinions slightly to the right of Genghis Kahn.  He was also smart enough to notice that when he let go a short political rant to fill some dead air his listeners called the station in droves. By 1949 the records were gone completely and Joe was playing nothing but his mouth and his callers.  Joe Pyne had invented talk radio.

Conservatives called in to be comforted while outraged liberals called in to challenge Joe’s outrageous opinions. Contemporary Ray Brien described Pyne’s technique; “…he would play his caller like a fish, always asking pointed questions, and then when the caller left himself open, he would go in for the kill. He always knew when the caller giving him a hard time was vulnerable.” Where The Big Giant Head shouts “Shut up” at troublesome guests Joe would snarl, “Take a Walk.”  Or he might tell a listener “Go gargle with razor blades,” or “Take your false teeth out, put them in backwards and bit yourself in the neck.”  It sounds adolescent today, almost as adolescent as a Howard Stern show, but there had never been anything like it on radio before and the listeners and the callers both ate it up. Joe once told a long time victim, “Look lady, every time you call this program and open your mouth, nothing falls out but garbage. Get off the line, you creep!” Of course she continued calling in for years.

In 1954 “The Joe Pyne Show” premiered on Channel 12, WDEL- TV. Three years later Pyne was broadcasting out of KTLA in Hollywood, with syndicated radio and television versions on some 800 stations nationwide.  It was that syndicated radio show I grew up being appalled by.

It was part circus geek show, part political debate.  Joe interviewed and humiliated hippies, guests who had seen Big Foot and those who claimed to have been abducted by aliens. But he also humiliated feminists, advocates for the poor and anti-Vietnam war activists. During a radio segment with black activist Ernie Smith, who insisted that all African-Americans including himself should be referred to as slaves, Pyne shouted, “If you’re a slave I ought to be able to sell you.” After the following commercial break Pyne announced, “This is  Joe Pyne taking Ernie Smith out on the sidewalk to see what I can get for him.” And he did, too.  Joe had invented shock radio.  

Life Magazine wrote, “His manner is that of a barroom tough who invites his quarry to pull up a chair and sit down. Five minutes later the poor lummox is apt to feel he has been slapped into a corner with his tie ripped off.’  Joe himself admitted, “I’m not a nice guy, and I don’t want to be. I have no respect for anyone who would come on my show.”  

Well, maybe there was one guest Joe respected, someone smart to beat the inventor at his own game. In a TV interview with Frank Zappa, Pyne delivered the classic 1960’s conservative put down. “I guess your long hair makes you a woman.”   Frank responded, “I guess your wooden leg makes you a table.”  

Without Joe Pyne there would have never been a Rush Limbaugh, an Ann Coulter or a Bill “The Big Giant Head” O’Reilly. All of these boobs are merely following Joe Pyne’s example on how to sell your soul to the lowest common denominator. But without Joe Pyne to prove the entertainment value of race, religion and war there might never have been an Archie Bunker, either. At the height of his popularity Joe had more listeners than Dodger baseball He ended each show with the phrase, “Good night, everybody. Straight ahead.” We can only surmise how he would have trivialized the issue of same sex marriage.

Joe Pyne, professional right wing nut case, died on August 23, 1970 of lung cancer. He was only 44 years old.  He may have been lucky in leaving the stage before his tricks became old hat and he became the butt of public jokes.  Let us hope Mr. O’Reilly, Ms. Coulter and Mr. Limbaugh live long, long lives.

P.S. a piece of trivia…at the height of his popularity Joe was hired by NBC to host a game show called “Showdown”. The show was terrible and quickly cancelled and its replacement was “The Hollywood Squares”.

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