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77 WABC: refuge of the damned

77 WABC: refuge of the damned

I admit that I was a devoted listener and viewer of the late Don Imus. As a so-called “Shock-Jock” he actually was a terrific interviewer of politicians. Before he self-immolated by a stupid racial outburst that got him fired from the morning slot on MSNBC, his show was required viewing. He was able to get the rich, famous and powerful on his show at the snap of his fingers. Everybody who was anybody wanted to be on the Imus Show. He was surrounded by a gaggle of supporting cast members—Rob Bartlett who provided an outstanding Godfather commentary, or Bernard McGuirk with a FedEx mailer on his head imitating NYC’s Cardinal Egan, the humor was outrageous, bawdy, profane…but mostly funny.

Imus ended his career at 77 WABC in New York before he died in 2019, The station then carried on with two of Imus’s sidekicks—the aforementioned Bernard McGuirk and Sportscaster Sid Rosenberg—doing the morning show, now called Bernie and Sid in the Morning. Unlike Imus, who had no discernable political ideology and was as at home interviewing John Kerry as he was a conservative Republican, Bernie and Sid have gone alt-right. They think the 2020 election was stolen, they attack woke-ness in all its forms, they are tough on crime. To their credit they both have been vaccinated. But there’s one thing they have retained from their Imus days, they are funny. I don’t think it hurts to listen to people whose political views you largely disagree with, if they can deliver their views with humour. And that, Bernie and Sid do.

The rest of 77 WABC’s roster of performers reminds one of the famous bar scene in the movie Star Wars. Station owner, billionaire grocer John Catsimatidis. seems to have opened a way station for a diverse collection of Trump castoffs and other figures with “pasts”. Disbarred Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, who is facing a number of criminal charges has an afternoon talk show, where among other things, he flogs T-Shirts and ball caps numbered and signed by the man who was one knows as “America’s Mayor” hisself. Larry Kudlow, whose day job is on the Fox network after serving as an economic adviser to Trump, can be heard voicing commercials advising people to invest in precious metals as a hedge against the economic disaster being wrought by Joe Biden.

 Red beret-wearing subway vigilante, Curtis Sliwa who just lost the NYC mayoralty race to Eric Adams has a late night weekend show. Bill O’Reilly, whose sexual misdeeds cost him his job at Fox and millions in settlements to victims is a frequent contributor to the Bernie and Sid show. Bo Snerdley, (AKA James Golden) who has introduced himself as an “African-American-in-good-standing-and-certified-black-enough-to-criticize-Obama guy,” holds down a weekday afternoon slot. For 20 years, Snerdley was the show producer for the late Rush Limbaugh.

Even some of the station’s sponsors reflect a mixture of conservative causes, Trump victims and offbeat businesses. The conservative TV network Newsmax is a sponsor. Newsmax also provides a TV home for WABC radio hosts like OReilly, Greg Kelly and Mike Huckabee. Bernie and Sid  also do commercials for Mike Lindell, of My Pillow whose fierce support of Trump has resulted in his products being kicked out of most retail outlets.

Another regular sponsor is a pest control operation in Westchester County who uses dogs to chase away Canada geese and also to sniff out bedbugs.

Mc Guirk’s sidekick Syd Rosenberg is a fitness freak who prides himself on his Burberry and Joseph Abboud wardrobe. He’s also big on cosmetic enhancement as is seen in this commercial.

I think what makes this program work for me is the fact that they are irreverent, politically incorrect  and outrageous at times but somehow delivering their comments with some humour—and God knows there is no shortage of humorless people on both sides of the culture wars. As well, I can’t be absolutely sure if Berne and Sid are doing a real conservative talk show or a parody of one. In any event it is good radio in the sense of two skilled broadcasters who know how to perform. They read their commercials live mostly, which adds a sense of authenticity and spontaneity. Also what I like, is politics aside, they make the city I have visited dozens of times and love, seem like a small town. That is something.

WABC is online and a TV version is also available livestreamed on YouTube

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