I learned of Rush Limbaugh fairly early in his career. WGL in Fort Wayne was one of the first stations to pick up his show when he went national. I believe I’d listened for five minutes when I said to myself, “This is a fat guy who cannot score with chicks.”
Nothing against fat guys! Decent fat guys score all the time. Malevolent ones whose lack of Clooneytude has metastasized into a deep hatred of women are the ones who can’t. And while he was able to lure four of them into matrimony, none stuck around for very long. The last two lasted 10 years apiece, but I’d be willing to bet that as his wealth grew, the women in his life maintained separate bedrooms. Like Melania Trump, because she
couldn’t stand the sight of the bastard “liked to read.”
I mean, five minutes with that foghorn voice would make me stick a drill in my ear. Rush would eventually lose his own hearing, likely through opiate abuse, which suggests even his own body was sick of carrying his blackened soul around after a while.
So anyway, that’s where it started with me and Limbaugh: The sexism. The racism, the homophobia, the casual bigotry and contempt for anyone who he perceived to be a lib-rull, as he pronounced it — that would come later, but only about 10 minutes later. You gotta give him this: The man was who he was from the beginning, and never really changed. If he had a conscience, if he ever evolved on any issue, if he grew, if his heart softened or expanded in any way, if he discarded one position and took up another, I never saw it. Of course, I didn’t listen to him for very long and had to depend on what was reported about him.
But you didn’t have to listen to him to listen to him. In Indiana, I heard him coming out of my neighbor’s kitchen window, out of cars stopped at lights, in restaurants. God, the restaurants. Alan, when he was a reporter, did a story on the “Rush rooms,” i.e. dedicated rooms in restaurants where they played his show over speakers for those who maybe couldn’t listen at work, but could catch the first or second hour at lunchtime. People only talked during the breaks. The rest of the time these places were like church with the clinking of silverware. Some people came every day.
I have been a fan in my life, a superfan of some, but honestly, I cannot imagine being so wound up with any one entertainer, one writer, one broadcaster, that I would devote this sort of attention to them. But I was never in Rush Limbaugh’s target audience, the people who not only listened to his show, but subscribed to his newsletter, bought his horrible books (even a “history” series, for children), attended his speeches and book signings, all the while looking at the sky or their shoes as the man revealed himself: As a serial bridegroom, a sex tourist, a drug addict, an all-around piece of shit from head to toe, from day one to whenever his last breath rattled his larynx.
Ordinary people, those with decency, stumble in all those ways, too. There’s no crime in multiple divorces (although when they come with NDAs you might want to check yourself), in patronizing sex workers, even in addiction. But you’re supposed to learn from these things. They’re supposed to humble you. If they did, the listening audience never got a sense of it.
It all culminated with that ghastly moment at the last State of the Union, when the worst president in history arranged to have his sex-worker wife hang the nation’s highest civilian honor around his neck, cheapening it forever. By then we all knew cancer was going to take him home sooner rather than later. I viciously hoped he’d live long enough to see Trump lose, and he did, but he was happy to walk in the president’s slime trail to the very end. Game recognize game.
Even Lee Atwater repented on his death bed. I guess we’ll have to see whether Mrs. Limbaugh numero quatro tells us what his final words were.
Alan noted that when people Rush Limbaugh didn’t like died, he’d say they “assumed room temperature.” I guess his corpse has gotten there by now. And the world is an incrementally better place today for his loss.
(This being the third entry of the week, I’m going to take the next couple of days off, unless Trump kicks the bucket, too. Then we’ll open the champagne. See you Monday.)