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Thursday, November 01, 2012

Let Coast Be Coast


We've talked about my radio habits and obsession here before. Up until I got satellite radio, I still enjoyed exploring the AM dial in the middle of the night. Some time in the late nineties I discovered Art Bell and Coast to Coast AM.

This was more than a year before Art finally came to Philadelphia, syndicated on 1210 AM. I remember an intriguing and heated discussion about UFOs and alien abductions. I also remember that night getting out of my warm bed to log on the computer at around three in the morning to see the artist's rendering of the aliens, you know, a visual to go with the audio. Yeah, I was hooked, and have been for close to fifteen years.

Mostly I was delighted to find talk radio that was not about politics. I could hear that nonsense anywhere and any time. I like different in my talk radio. It's probably why I have been attracted to things like Howard Stern, Opie and Anthony, Dr. Ruth, Dr. Drew, radio dramas, audiobooks, and Joe Frank. Coast to Coast AM was definitely different.

I was overjoyed when the program found its Philly home and was a faithful listener almost every night. My insomnia proved helpful in that endeavor. Night after night I listened to a myriad of guests and topics, always in the realm of the paranormal. That was Coast's forte. If you wanted intelligent (and sometimes not so) discussion about ufology, cryptozoology, mythology, pseudoscience, conspiracy theories or anything involving the odd or surreal, Coast to Coast AM was for you.

There's a lot that can said about the host Art Bell. Surrounded by rumor and conspiracy himself, he was and is a consummate radio professional. No matter the insanity or unlikeliness of the guest or caller, he was always fair, entertaining, and at the top of his game. There are few talk radio hosts as sharp and composed as Art Bell.

Due to personal issues, Art has had to retire from radio and the show several times - the final time was in the late 2000s. He has been replaced the last time by George Noory. George is quite talented himself, but every time I hear an old Art show, it becomes quite obvious how inferior the replacement is to the original host. He never challenges guests or listeners, is often uninformed, and frequently seems inattentive or not even listening to guests and callers.

Noory also seems to have a problem with open lines. He doesn't do it that often. Anyone who knows talk radio knows that it's not about the host, it's about the callers. Art knew this, and his regular technique was to not screen callers as is usually done - he just put them on the air. Often open lines was the best part of the old Coast to Coast AM. Since George has come in board, there also seems a shift in topic, more toward politics, and current events. I'm not happy with that at all.

The two biggest nights of the year on Coast to Coast AM are New Year's Eve and Halloween. On New Year's Eve they take psychic predictions for the upcoming year, and on Halloween, the show becomes 'Ghost to Ghost' as callers tell ghost stories. I love Ghost to Ghost. However, it too has gone downhill in recent years. Noury screens the calls, taking away the spontaneity, as well as the need to think on his feet, I suppose.

This year, last night, Noory even cut short the program by taking up the first hour with news, and an interview with a security expert. Seriously? Real Coast to Coast topics are rare enough recently, and now you're truncating the best show of the year??

It's no wonder that other radio programs similar to the original Coast to Coast AM, like Ground Zero with Clyde Lewis and A View from Space, are growing in popularity and Coast is falling. Politics and current events can be heard anywhere on the dial, the topics that made Coast great can not. I want my show back.

Please! Let Coast be Coast!

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