“Don’t Hush Rush …”

Originally Published March, 14, 2012

Howard Stern … Don Imus … Opie and Anthony … Lisa Lampanelli … Chris Rock … George Lopez … Kathy Griffin … Bill Maher … Roseanne Barr … Sarah Silverman … and George Carlin, of sainted memory.

We’ve always had terrible examples to defend.  And Rush Limbaugh has given us another stellar specimen of vulgar discourse.  But defend it we must.

Not the hateful, demeaning and discomfiting words.  But the right of our colleague – the social commentator – to be heard.  And the right of the people to decide.

Rush misfired.  But he should not be fired or denied his podium.

Here’s a baseball analogy.  Suppose you had a pitcher with remarkable stamina who, during the course of a long career threw some 8,000 innings.  Many of his pitches will miss the strike zone.  A few may even hit the poor batter.  And during those 8,000 innings spanning some 20 or 30 seasons, he may even bean the damn umpire!  But he’s still a great pitcher.

Rush Limbaugh forgot that the young woman from Georgetown – no shrinking violet she, who bemoaned the fact, for all the world to hear, that contraception costs some $1,300.00 annually – was someone’s daughter.

Her candid and sincere congressional testimony thus provoked Limbaugh’s unfortunate, regrettable and completely inappropriate attack which was all too personal and mean-spirited.

Rush Limbaugh is a performer, an entertainer, a provocateur, a social commentator, and, in his worst moments, a carnival barker for the hard right.  But the sanctimonious holier-than-thou campaign to destroy and silence him has an agenda that transcends the hurt feelings of one individual.

Phil Reisman, the brilliant and astute Gannett feature columnist, says it’s entirely appropriate to remind Rush that chivalry, respectful discourse and gentlemanly behavior still matter.  And I would sign up for that.

To be sure, in this whole dreary matter we’re confronted by a civility issue which is valid, necessary and altogether appropriate.  But the mission of the liberal sharks like Ed Shultz and other windbags who smell blood in the water, is not to address the wrong, but to drive Limbaugh off the air.

In other words, when you separate the civility, or lack thereof, from the politics, it’s all too clear that Limbaugh’s enemies are using this contretemps as a weapon to knock him off his platform – permanently.

It drives them – and us – crazy that Limbaugh represents a significant chunk of the Republican Party.  So, as Rockefeller Republicans, he’s not at all our cup of tea.  Over the years I’ve listened only very occasionally to his ranting and raving since the great Ed McLaughlin plucked Limbaugh from an obscure broadcasting station in Sacramento, California and gave him a national podium.

Truth to tell, if my friends at the New York Post had not already dubbed Alec Baldwin “The Bloviator,” I would suggest that appellation might be more appropriately applied to Mr. Limbaugh.

Like I said, Rush misfired.  And like that pitcher, he may have hit the poor umpire this time or some poor bastard behind home plate.  (Actually, he hit someone’s daughter!)  But he should not be fired … even if the whole cannon of his work is filled with raucous vulgarity and incendiary right-wing rhetoric directed at immigrants, illegal aliens and even presidents of the United States.

We broadcasters are ever alert to incursions against free speech from government bureaucrats.  But censorship from corporate timidity in the face of economic boycotts is just as dangerous as the stifling of creative and artistic expression by government fiat, decree, sanction or regulation.

You don’t have to be a First Amendment voluptuary to realize this is just as treacherous as any racism, sexism, bigotry or vulgarity.

Let the S.O.B. be heard.   And trust only the people to censure him with a flick of the wrist and a changing of the dial.

I’m uncomfortable as hell about it.  But I’m with Limbaugh.

He makes his living with words.

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The Townie Soapbox Orators

Originally Published August 8, 2012

Word came this morning of the passing of Ines Candrea.  You will not read of her life in the New York Times.  Around these parts she was known as the widow of the late Joe Candrea and mother-in-law of one Anthony Galletta.  Mrs. Candrea was 80 and I speak of her on this radio station because for so many of those 80 years she used WVOX as her own personal soapbox, as did her late husband.

And as we mourn Mrs. Candrea this day, our mind drifts back to her shy, modest, retiring husband who was cut from the same outspoken cloth.  And when he went to what Malcolm Wilson would call “another, and we are sure, a better world” on December 21st, 1999, we went into this studio and said these very words about the man:

“Joe Candrea was a Runyunesque figure.  But instead of Broadway or The Great White Way, his canvas was our home heath.  It was here in New Rochelle that Joe Candrea lived most of his years with great conviction.

He confronted every proposition and civic issue with a relentless passion.  Although his resume said “newspaper delivery man,” Joe Candrea could put power and energy into words, which usually became majestic proclamations.  His podium was behind this microphone, or on any street corner he could find.

He possessed what most of us search for all our lives.  There was a sureness to Joe Candrea’s proposals and observations.  He was the great articulator, the undiminished champion of the forgotten neighborhoods in the West End of our city.

The politicians used to call it the old Fourth Ward.  It is where Rocco Bellantoni once lived.  And Tony and Sal Tocci and the Fosinas came from there.  But in recent years there was only Joe Candrea to rage against injustices as they might be committed against his neighbors in the West End.

New Rochelle was his mistress.  And also his fortress.  He felt about our city the way some men of his generation look upon The United States Marine Corps or the Notre Dame football team.  Other callers and radio talk show hosts discuss with great erudition the cosmic issues of the day.  Theirs is an international curiosity or a national inclination, but Joe Candrea’s enthusiasms and passions extended only as far as the city limits.  Zip Code 10801 was his territory, baby, and don’t you forget it.

He ran flat out and went straight for everything.  There was no halfway station… no middle ground with the man…and never, ever a doubt about where he stood on civic issues, politicians, bureaucrats and other disreputable types.

He was all about building up the damn neighborhood.

Have I got it right, Joe?”

That was spoken for Joe Candrea, who, like I said, was the husband of one Ines Candrea who left us early this morning at 80.

There were other vivid townie orators who used this WVOX broadcasting station over the years as their own personal soapbox.  Back in the 60’s there was a brilliant, cerebral David Kendig who drove them nuts at city hall.  And Lorraine Trotta, whose son Frank is now a big-time lawyer in Greenwich and works with Lewis Lehrman who spent millions trying to become governor.  Our roster of townie callers in those days also included Bob Schaeffer, who called himself “The Neighborhood Watchdog” or was it “Junkyard Dog”?  Memory fails.  Bob weighed in on everything and everyone.  So did Ken from Pelham and Frank from Connecticut who used to be Frank from Mount Vernon.

Every day on our “Open Line” programs they were there opining, arguing, debating, raging, cajoling, attacking, occasionally even flattering and, on rare occasion, actually saying something nice about one of our neighbors.

Mario Cuomo once told me he prays for “sureness.”  Our callers never had that problem.  They brought a rock-solid, unshakeable sureness to most of their pronouncements.

Other stations had Scott Shannon, Imus or Howard Stern.  We had Mitch from the North End and Bruce the Swimmer, a Libertarian who … lived … his … life … the … way … he … damn … well … pleased.  And there was always, it seems, Mr. Cam, who demanded to be addressed just so.  But I’ll not leave this planet till I find out his regular, normal, human, given first name.  He’s gotta have one.

Day after day here on the radio there was Ann Witkowski, Peggy Godfrey, Mary Tedesco and a brilliant William Kirby Scollon, who was descended from the Kirbys of Rye, but became a New Rochelle “townie” in good standing.  He was a friend of Bill Mullen, no blushing violet he, who could also climb up on our soapbox.   Right out here with Mullen would be Dave from Mamaroneck, Joanne, Alex from Greenburgh and Michael Brown.  They could all talk.

Some of our regular callers were possessed of great insight and a few were even accompanied by a stunning intelligence concerning matters political.  One of the most brilliant was – and still is – Angela Scarano, who reveled in the moniker … “Nudge.”  She was.  And is.  In the best possible way.

Also we recall Anthony Galletta, the Candrea son-in-law, Charlie from the West End, Lorraine Pierce and don’t forget Bob, her husband.  And the late, great “Woody.”  That’s all … just “Woody.”  There was a Rae Rega and an Isabel.  And I have gone this far without mentioning the incomparable Carmine Saracino.  And Mrs. Green.

Actually, some of these “frequent” callers were so good (and so frequent) we couldn’t resist giving them their very own weekly shows:  Colonel Marty Rochelle, the Yonkers legend who never met a judge he doesn’t like.  Or a district attorney.  And Mike Scully, the world-traveler, who gets better every week.  But I wish he’d let me “enlighten”  him  on  the  great  issues.   I’ll bring  him  around.   Like

when Andrew Cuomo is sworn in … and Scully jumps off our 190 foot radio tower!  And Lou Felicione, who opines about everything New Rochelle when he’s not posting on Facebook.  He has his very own show too.  And Sam Spady.

Sometimes I’ve felt like taking a page from my friend – and mentor to us all – Bob Grant who, when he couldn’t abide it any more, would just scream into the microphone:  “Get off my phone!”  It was tempting, I should tell you.  But then the advice we received so many years ago from Alvin Richard Ruskin would break through all the cacophony,  noise,  dialogue  and  often  disagreeable  chatter.

Alvin Ruskin was mayor of New Rochelle back in the 60’s before Nelson Rockefeller made him a judge.  And one day he took me aside:  “Your damn station is gaining a national reputation … the Wall Street Journal called you ‘the quintessential community station in America’ … and so on.  And all that is well and good, O’Shaughnessy.  But don’t let it go to your head. And don’t forget the townies. They made you.  They’re the strength of your station … people with opinions.”

Judge Ruskin was a wise man then.  And he is to this day – retired, in his 90’s, and living in Stamford, Connecticut.

Like I said … other stations had Imus, Scott Shannon and Howard Stern.

We had Ines Candrea and Joe and all those other marvelous soapbox orators.

And with it all … there really was never a dull moment.

Have I got it right, Anthony …?

The New Killing Season

First they took the rabbits and squirrels.  That was easy.  Then they went after the deer with rifle shot and bow and arrow which was just plain fun.  And they even took their sons into the quiet, dense, dark forest to teach them how to stalk and kill using just the right amount of “Kentucky windage” on muzzle and scope.

Next they set about ravaging woodland and forest.  There was much money to be made in the timber from out of state loggers who brutally cut and culled the tall trees which grew up from the rich soil underfoot through hundreds of bleak, lonely winters across Upstate New York.

And now in 2012 yet another predator beckons and threatens once more to violate the earth as the desperate stewards of the burdened land succumb and yield to the blandishments and enticements of surrogates of these new speculators who sing the  siren song of the natural gas industry in the name of Hydraulic Fracturing.

Their allurements are considerable and irresistible to landowners and farmers who, when dining in the entire Southern Tier, really need make only two decisions at their favorite local restaurant.  Just two, as the bored waitress inquires:  “Do you want ‘veal parm’ … or ‘chicken parm’?”   And one more:  “‘Sprinkled blue’ … or ‘plain’?”  Salad, that is.

Then they ride the dusty backroads with their beer bellies stuffed into Ram pickup trucks outfitted with gun racks and powerful spotlights with which to stun deer before shooting them dumb and done as they forage for food in the sparse, mean winter landscape.  Opening Day of Hunting Season is a most sacred stop on the calendar of their lonely days and drab existence as the killing season begins.

In once verdant fields where fleet, sleek Quarterhorses and stout, elegant Morgans grazed in the summer sun, ugly drilling contraptions now penetrate and violate the land and pump their  deadly cocktail into the earth almost a mile below.  The horses, most of them, disappeared when it was realized that they were worth more at the local rendering station than competing for a ribbon at a horse show in Elmira.

But they are not stupid, these people who exist north of Poughkeepsie and west of Binghamton.  And in their back country wisdom they know they’d best grab on to the fragile lifeline dangled by the energy companies from Oklahoma and Texas to further pillage the weary and exhausted land by injecting vulgar and dangerous chemicals hundreds of feet down into the earth.  This latest obscenity carries a glib, but ugly nickname:  “Fracking.”  It is something akin to raping or pillaging the neighborhood.

It has already begun, these backcountry folks know, just over the line in Pennsylvania where towns like Sayre, Towanda and Mansfield sit near the border astride the Marcellus Shale.  The area is known, on the other side of the line, for purposes of tourism, as “The EndlessMountains.”  They are anything but.

But our poor hardscrabble New Yorkers can smell the beguiling scent of money just over that state line.  It is altogether more  powerful and alluring than the smell of sulfurous, toxic chemicals fouling the water supply and causing flames to leap out of kitchen faucets and toilets in those Endless Mountains where once the Pooles and Talada clans raised their inbred families in house trailers and ramshackle hovels.  My grandfather was a Talada so I can tell of these things.

Andrew Mark Cuomo, our brilliant, dynamic and stunningly effective new governor has pledged to restore some prosperity – and hope – to this troubled area of our State.  The Governor has always had an exquisite feel for the region and if anybody can pull a Lazarus up there – Andrew can.

We just hope “Fracking” isn’t part and parcel of the State’s effort to renew the sad, beleaguered land of my birth.

This is a Whitney Media commentary.  This is William O’Shaughnessy.