NOVA M MELTDOWN
Is there anything sadder than the backstabbing pettiness of a liberal talk-radio station going under? The Bird would like nothing more than to listen to left-wing lip-flappers such as Randi Rhodes, that ribald yenta of the airwaves, as a counterbalance to the political poison emitted daily from far-right loons such as Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh. But the left in this country continues to prove that running a talk-radio station is beyond its capabilities.
Take liberal talk-radio network Nova M, heard locally on 1190 AM. Its owners, Anita and Sheldon Drobny, continue to betray a passion for taking a Luger to their tootsies and acting contra the desires of Nova M's listeners. The network, which claims to have about 30 affiliates nationwide, grew out of the Air America radio network, which the Drobnys helped establish in 2004 but which has also had a tortured and troubled history.
Nova M's flagship station is 1190 AM, but until the end of last year, the station was parked at 1480 AM. Sources have suggested that financial problems prompted the move, while others have cited better digs and a debatably stronger signal (depending on where you are in the Valley).
Location aside, the problems really began September of last year when the Drobnys canned 1480's station manager and CEO, John Manzo, who's currently suing the Drobnys for breach of contract, among other things. Manzo's departure fomented a rebellion in the ranks, with many on 1480's staff either taking a powder or getting axed, depending on whom you're listening to. One of these was popular local lefty Jeff Farias, who now hosts a daily Web cast at thejefffariasshow.com. Love him or not, it's been a tribute to Farias' following locally that he actually gets viewers calling into a show available only on the 'Net.
Farias contends he was fired, hence his slogan, "Jeff Farias is FIRED up." And until recently, Manzo's replacement as station manager, Art Mobley, was arguing the Drobnys' line that Farias' departure was voluntary and part of a coup attempted by the Manzo faction. This is the so-called "hostile takeover" version of events, which was bandied about the Internet with all the abandon of a 9/11 conspiracy theory.
But despite being a loyal soldier and even helping the Drobnys score the new space at 1190, Mobley parted ways with the Drobnys in early January, with engineer Sean Ryan suddenly getting elevated to station manager. Ryan, too, was one of the Drobnys' staunchest defenders, 'til the point that they let him go in late January, offering him no reason other than it was "time for a change," according to Ryan. This pecker asked him if he feels as though he'd been stabbed between the shoulder blades.
"With a very long, sharp knife," Ryan said. "And not only stabbed, but twisted."
Ryan claimed the Drobnys were worn out and broke, and he placed his bet in the Nova M death pool for the end of February, claiming that de facto control of the station had been turned over to Mike Newcomb, who hosts an afternoon show on 1190 and is generally regarded as even more boring than the infomercials 1190 plays on the weekends.
Speaking of which, Phoenix Democrat Todd Landfried's tres lefty show, Desert Politics, was cut suddenly from last Saturday's broadcast and replaced with an infomercial in a move that rivals something Loch Ness Monster enthusiasts might do in stupidity. Landfried's show was one of the few local efforts that people actually listened to, but the station sold the hour out from under Landfried, informing him at the last minute. Landfried didn't sound too peeved when he discussed it with The Bird, as he was hoping 1190 would give him another time slot, assuming there's not some pay-for-play show about investing in gold or getting enemas that 1190 can score for the same spot.
The cataclysm seemed to become official as the news hit the blogosphere recently that Randi Rhodes's daytime show was kaput. One of the few real talents on the left side of the fence, talk-radio-wise, Rhodes is one of those people blessed with the gift for gab. The woman could jabber on about windshield wipers or the last time she got her toenails done and make it interesting.
The real reason for the split remains unsaid. Anita Drobny has a condescending message on Nova M's site asserting that "Nova M has done everything we can to get her back on the air," and that "Randi now has to make her decisions as to what she must do with her career."
Rhodes fired back on her Web site: "Any statement implicating me as in any way responsible for the disruption of the Randi Rhodes Show is patently false . . . In light of [the] most recent developments, my show will be seeking a new home."
This loss of Rhodes has devastated 1190's fan base, leaving only left-wing wild man Mike Malloy as a draw for the station. Malloy, however, has all the appeal of a crazed, urine-soaked homeless man yelling obscenities in a public library. As one poster to the Feathered Bastard blog commented recently, Malloy is "an acquired taste." You know, sort of like Albanian goat dung.
The Bird lucked into Anita Drobny's home phone number in Illinois and gave her a ring. The weepy, morose Drobny would not discuss details of the Manzo lawsuit — which claims that the Drobnys didn't pay Manzo's withholding to the federal government, that they'd been late in paying Nova M's bills, that Sheldon Drobny had erroneously claimed the FBI was investigating Manzo — save but to say that the legal action was "ridiculous" and "wasn't going anywhere."
As for Randi Rhodes, Mrs. Drobny said, "People are saying it's about money. It's not about money at all. I just could not fulfill one of her requirements." She did, however, note the financial impact of Rhodes' departure:
"I looked at [our] site, and I see that because Randi Rhodes isn't on, there are so many people leaving the Founders Club [which involves a fee paid to Nova M]. And you can't operate without people's participation."
As to the rumor that her husband had attempted suicide, she responded, "My husband had a breakdown. That's the most correct thing I can say. A breakdown from all the radio stuff."
Drobny said she hopes that "someone can take this over for us," and that "we tried; we tried real hard."
John Manzo pointed out to the The Bird that the Drobnys each had said in the past that the other was experiencing a breakdown or acting bizarre for bizarre reasons, and Manzo mentions more than one occurrence in his tort claim.
As The Bird went to press, it received a report that the trade publication Radio and Records had quoted current Nova M general manager Eric Reinert as stating that Nova M is no more, and that a new company, called On Second Thought LLC, had been formed. (It remains to be seen whether the place will make it past Sean Ryan's death pool bet.)
"It's been like watching a six-month pratfall," Manzo said of the collapse of Nova M.
Seems you can't turn on right wing-nut radio these days without someone like Glenn Beck (or some other conserva-crazy saliva jockey) calling President Barack Obama a Marxist, a socialist, or worse. Is our beloved (for now) chief executive really a full-on devotee of Karl Marx and V.I. Lenin? Well, you don't ask an on-air goosestepper such as Beck for an answer to that question. You ask a dyed-in-the-red Commie.
That's why this cardinal winged down to Tempe's Kiwanis Park recently for a picnic sponsored by the Arizona branch of the Communist Party USA, where the national chairman of the CPUSA was in town to speak. Hell, the CPUSA's been around since 1919, figured this finch. And back in the day, when hardliner Gus Hall was still chairman (Hall died in 2000), the party opposed Russian leader Mikhail Gorbachev's perestroika program, saying it was diluting and destroying the basis for communism. (Hall once touted North Korea as a nice place for Americans to take a vacation.)
In other words, if these Commies don't know who a Commie is, then no one does.
So this yardbird made the scene, half-expecting it to consist of a bunch of old doods in berets and Birkenstocks. But, amazingly, about half of the roughly 40 in attendance were under 40 years old, and there were even a couple of hot Commie babes, which beats nativist and neo-Nazi meetings The Bird's been to by about, well, a couple.
Alas, no one was in a Mao Tse-tung jacket, and there was only one cat wearing a hammer and sickle, a local, 20-something musician who calls himself the Black River Bandit. Everyone else looked pretty friggin' normal. Actually, too normal and way too laid back.
Whatever happened all those boisterous hellraisers The Bird saw in that Warren Beatty flick Reds, way back when? When this seed-swallower wondered to one young Commie present why he and his fellow pinkos don't go out and kick some neo-Nazi ass — as there are plenty of swastika-lickers in town — his eyes got all big, and he told this beaker they like to keep a low profile.
Real low. That's why you could've practically confused the meeting with some Christian kumbaya sing-along. Anyhoo, the beer and the hot dogs were free, even though the Commies were askin' for a $5 donation.
The meat of the meet was an hour-long address and Q&A with chairman Sam Webb, who took over leadership of the party in 2000 after Hall's demise. But Webb, unless you listen real closely, sounds a lot like a Democrat. In fact, most of his speech was given over to what a great fella Barack Obama is and how Obama's election was the beginning of a new age in American politics, one free of the ravages of an oppressive right wing.
"Because of the election last year," enthused Webb to his audience, "there's a possibility that this can be an era of social progress in this country."
Webb hoped that with Obama and the Dems in power, and the Republicans out, lefties could realize their dreams of socialized medicine, the nationalization of major industries, and public ownership and control of the financial markets — which, granted, doesn't sound as farfetched as it once did.
Commies need to seize the time, Webb explained, and use this newfangled thing called the Internet to expand their party, which currently numbers a few thousand. And he spoke to getting past the stigma the word "communist" has for so many Americans, though The Bird would suggest a radical name change might be necessary. You know, like the "Peace, Freedom and Poverty Brigade," or "Democrats on Steroids." New slogans could include, "Reds Are Better in Bed," "Khrushchev Was My Homeboy," and "Castro: It Ain't Just a District in San Fran."
After Webb's speech, this taloned terror pulled him aside and asked if he thought Obamarama wore red Speedos. As you might imagine, Webb disagrees with Glenn Beck on this one.
"Obama's not a Marxist. He's not a socialist," Webb, a genial gray-haired gent, said. "The right wing, they try to paint him with that brush. But I don't think a lot of people pay attention to it. I think the election demonstrated that."
But what about the fact that he and other Commies sure seem to be sweet on Obama. In fact, CPUSA's paper, People's Weekly World, has been running Obama on its front page almost as often as Time puts him on its cover.
"Like most Americans, we want the new administration to do well," Webb said. "And address the growing difficulties and problems. We don't want him to fail. We'd like for him to succeed."
So you heard it here first, folks: Commies heart Obama and give him their full support — but he ain't no Marxist. So don't worry about American kids being forced to read Chairman Mao's Little Red Book anytime soon — no matter what moon-howlers like Beck blather.
Carson Daly or Jay Leno won't be breaking a sweat over this, but a little promo was e-mailed to The Bird announcing the launch of ex-Arizona Attorney General Grant Woods' "new interactive Website and online talk show," grantwoods.com.
What's next, Terry Goddard pimping himself as a centerfold for Cosmo? Jan Brewer in the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition? Rick Romley doing play-by-play for the Phoenix Suns? (Well, that last one might be cool.)
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On the other hand, the guy does have advertising from Budweiser, and boasts David Spade and alleged drunken blowjob-seeker Sir Charles Barkley as a couple of his first guests, thereby running through a lot of the Valley's celebrity quotient. But, wait, you can also get Grant's Oscar picks, find out what sort of underwear he's got on (if any), and discover what his fave viral videos are. Hey, where's the Twitter, so we can get updated on how Grant's morning ritual went?
Just kidding about the underwear (sorry, AARP ladies). For all of you under 30 who're saying, "Grant who?" right about now: No, he's not that guy who you learned about in college art history class who painted American Gothic, but close. Ask your 'rents about him if they're from Arizona.
One final quibble for the publicist who wrote his press release, which states that with this vanity site, Woods "returns to the airwaves with a brand-new version of his talk show." Sorry, but Web casts don't count as being on "the air." For that, you need a radio gig, which Grant apparently had back in caveman times.
Don't get The Bird wrong, Grant's cool — for a Republican. But acting one's age is even cooler. Capisce?