aired March 7, 2015 on Dave’s Gone By. Youtube clip: http://youtu.be/SJrDutZ8dpc
Shalom Dammit! This is Rabbi Sol Solomon with a Rabbinical Reflection for the week of March 8, 2015.
Some inventions in this world are amazingly useful, life-changing, relevant, exciting, and crucial to every single person on the planet. And then there’s radio. Oh sure, 80 years ago, if you lived on a farm with one telegraph pole and a half-dead chicken, being able to dial your wireless to hear the latest barn dance down the road was a blessing. Think of families in the Forties, gathered around the console to hear Fred Allen, The Shadow, Fibber McGee, Father Coughlin — everyone staring at the speaker as if waiting, waiting, waiting for David Sarnoff to invent television so they wouldn’t look like idiots staring at nothing all night.
Well, eventually, television did come. As did walkmen, and video games and iTunes and Netflix, and now the only people who listen to radio are the ones who — no, nobody listens to radio. Except blind people. And even they’re watching television; they just think it’s radio. However, despite the obsolescence of Arch Obeler, some people still MAKE radio! Don Quixotes tilting at the windmills of modern media, not caring that while the rest of the world is using washer-dryers, they’re still bashing dirty clothes on a rock. Yet that is part of the mystique that still affords radio whatever charm it has left. A human at a microphone reaching through the airwaves to communicate with another human stuck at a red light.
Even in this hypersaturated visual era, some radio personalities have broken through to become superstars: Howard Stern, Rush Limbaugh, the dead guy who laughed a lot on that car show — yes, radio has been bery bery good to .00003 percent of the population. And then there’s Dave Lefkowitz. Twelve and a half years ago, not content with being an underpaid arts journalist, a marginally produced playwright and an unemployable actor, Dave tried his hand at the media world’s oldest profession. He knew he wanted to do something different but not too different, since Jews are terrified of risk. And he knew he wanted to be funny and interesting and worth spending time with. It never worked with women, so he figured it might work with listeners. In a musical market then dominated by Celine Dion, Britney Spears and Hoobastank, Dave wanted to play Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Frank Zappa, Joni Mitchell, Tom Lehrer and Shooby Taylor. (Personally, I don’t think he plays enough Rabbi Moshe Koussevitsky, but that’s just me.) Dave also wanted to talk to heroes of his youth, like Doctor Demento, Joe Franklin, and the opera fanatic who talked like he was castrated but nevertheless was shockingly heterosexual.
These people did appear on Dave’s Gone By, as did Neil Sedaka, Carl Reiner, Carol Channing, Charles Grodin, Bonnie Franklin, Sheldon Harnick, Dick Cavett, Judy Collins and, most importantly, yours truly. I was on that very first episode, October 6th, 2002. It was 11 o’clock at night on a Sunday, so you can tell just how important the station thought this new show would be. That station is still around by the way, except now, all day long, they play news and music in Mandarin Chinese. It’s a brilliant strategy, actually, because you hear it, and then an hour later, you wanna hear it over again. But back then, the station was a lot more eclectic, and Dave came on with his jokes and sketches and theater reviews and oddball segues, and I have to say my radio was never the same again. Because I dropped it in the toilet while I was listening.
But as I said, I was on the debut show, offering my benediction for success and an important public-service segment about monitoring for breast cancer. My small hope was to alert women to the importance of early screening — by having them come down to the station and let me check their boobs for lumps. That didn’t quite work out, but my connection to Dave’s Gone By was solidified that night, joined together…like an unidentified fibrous mass under a nipple. Since then, it has been a joy and an honor to be a dweller in the Daverhood. I get to share my weekly Rabbinical Reflections on this program, where I can rant and rave and embarrass Dave. These reflections have encompassed everything from Coca Cola to gay rights to Regis Philbin to the relentless insanity of the Arab world. Considering some of the things I’ve said, it’s a miracle I haven’t had my head handed to me – literally, by some English yutz in ISIS.
Think about what radio has come to. Go up and down the dial, and what do you hear? Obnoxious debt consolidators, obnoxious mariachi music, obnoxious preachers spouting that Jesus is the answer to everything when we all know that chocolate is the answer to everything. You’ve got your right-wing, talk-radio goons who think our President is worse than AIDS, and you’ve got your hand-wringing, public-radio schlemiels who think we should cut off Israel’s aid. You get one classical-music station that’s always playing Mozart, because nobody can tolerate anything else. And, of course, 20 rock stations doing their own unique formats of top-40 pop, which all uniquely suck dog poop in their own unique ways.
Somewhere in that vast audio wasteland, you also get sports talk, lite jazz–which is what the devil listens to when he’s not torturing bin Laden—and commercials, commercials, commercials, commercials, commercials, commercials, public-service announcements, commercials, station IDs and commercials. Thank haShem for college radio: for a few spots on the dial that have real kids with quirky personalities playing the shitty music that they love. At least it means something to them.
My friend Dave has found a home on college radio, and so have I. Especially since we both like co-eds. UNC Radio may be a pup tent in a land of high rises, but we can speak freely and not fit into some politically correct, constrained, corporate idea of what a deejay is, or what a Rabbi is, or, in the case of Bill Clinton, what “is” is. And besides, everyone says fame and fortune can make you just as miserable as poverty and obscurity. To which I say, “Prove it! Prove it on me! I am so ready to be miserably wealthy, you can’t imagine!”
But I digress. Dave, my friend, my acolyte, my Miller Lite, mazel tov on your 500th radio program of the air. It’s an achievement that speaks to your tenacity, your talent, your endurance, your inflated ego, and your belief that a moribund medium can still reach one or two lonely people out there, in the dark, who aren’t necessarily serial killers.
Radio isn’t always an honorable or dignified profession, but Dave, that’s why it suits you. I wish you 500 more shows – nay, 5,000! 5,000,000! 5 shmagillion – whatever comes after that. I know you’ll keep doing radio as long as the inspiration holds. And when inspiration goes and you have nothing left to say? Well, there’s always blogging.
Until then, Dave Lefkowitz: more you, more me, immortality. This has been a Rabbinical Reflection from Rabbi Sol Solomon, Temple Sons of Bitches in Great Neck, New York.
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