Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Imus & Andy

#308 Imus and Andy or Life Imitates Art

The old lizard, Imus is among us again. “God’s Chosen Disc Jockey,” as he once called himself resurrected by the new owners of ABC Radio.

All of us in the radio biz owe this guy a debt of gratitude. He had the nerve to say stuff we all were thinking, but lacked the nerve to say. But he hasn’t been funny in 30 years. And his return to the airwaves lets us hear a guy who never could have gotten where he is by being the way he is.

Years of racist, sexist, mindless self involvement caught up with him, and he got fired from a job that paid 40 million dollars a year.

Apparently, he never saw “A Face In The Crowd,” the 1957 movie that starred a bunch of household names that were all but unknown at the time. Andy Griffith, Patricia Neal, Tony Franciosa, Walter Matthau and Lee Remick.

There were cameos from Benett Cerf, Faye Emerson, Virginia Graham, Sam Levinson, Brownie McGee, Charles Nelson Riley, John Cameron Swayze, Rip Torn, Mike Wallace, Walter Winchell and others.

The story, originally “Your Arkansas Traveler” was by Budd Schulberg and Elia Kazan directed. A power cast if ever there was one.

The movie’s about a guy who rises from a night in a drunk tank to become a national radio, then television, then political superstar.

But he knocks himself out of the box with the 1957 version of “Nappy headed ‘hos that got Imus the boot.

The Matthau character assures the Patricia Neal character that the Andy Griffith character will eventually make a comeback, but in a chastened way.

In some ways, this was a story about Arthur Godfrey, a popular broadcast personality of the day who also shot himself in the foot, though not as badly as either Griffith’s “Lonesome Rhodes,” or Imus.

And so, life imitates art.

Imus is back. All but a handful will have forgotten that he was gone and made a comeback. An even smaller number will try to get him fired just for being what he is or was.

It wasn’t the one remark that got him canned in the first place. It was years of dancing in the duck blind, but too fast for any of the hunters to take aim.

Do we celebrate the comeback? Do we castigate ABC/Citadel for dragging this guy back into the public eye? Or do we just figure it’s part of a cycle in which entertainers come and go, getting so full of themselves along the way that they are thought of as dangerous.

Probably, most of us will pay no attention at all. At least not after the first few days of the new show.

After all, he’s just an old lizard, a reformed coke-head and booze hound, like Lonesome Rhodes.

Griffith, possibly the most underrated actor of the last century, is largely confined to a wheelchair these days, but still gets around.

You can bet Hollywood, Broadway and ASCAP will turn out for a deserved final goodbye when he finally goes.

Imus, on the other hand, will go quietly. But not now.

I'm Wes Richards, my opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.

(c) 2007 WJR

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