A Belling the Airwaves prominent circuit performers to be guests on his own show, and few turn him down. Theologically and financially, Art Bell’s circuit has some parallels with the culture industry of the religious talk radio programmers. The Bell crowd is also focused on the heavens only slightly hipper, with its new age orientations. Unlike their religious right brethren on the radio, they tend to be politically inactive and naive. The Art Bell audience consolidates a formerly untapped media market, one that has grown substantially since the release of the Roswell alien dissection movie \(and shrank only slightly when the Heaven’s Gate foltogether fringe-oid guests and callers, who tell each other a grab bag of ghost stories. He is good at what he does, masterfully stringing together calls and guests into semicoherent programming sequences. Stylistically, he is the opposite of the shrill or smug voice commonly found on the AM dial in recent years. He is a charming, pleasant, modest, interesting, and considerate talk show host. Bell calls his nightly efforts “speculative science,” and this turn of phrase also aptly describes his new publishing career. With all of the hot air blowing from talk radio, it might seem strange that Bell chose the next ice age as the topic of his new book, The BOOKS & THE CULTURE Fiction Science A Radio Guru Crosses Over BY PATRICK BURKART THE COMING GLOBAL SUPERSTORM. By Art Bell and Whitley Strieber. Pocket Books. 255 pages. $23.95. Talk radio’s most prominent personalities send a lot of us diving for the tuning knob each time we hear one start to rant. That leaves most of the other SUVs on the road permanently tuned in to Rush Limbaugh or the creepy “Dr.” Laura. What other choice is there? If your local talk radio stations have the same local “dittohead” programming that mimics the primetime stuff, then you know how barren and desolate talk radio can be. When I occasionally manage to find a talk radio personality who is not a prominently wacko rightwing drive-time moralist, then I actually feel grateful for finding a scintilla of programming diversity. So what if it’s another talk radio skull farmer? That’s why I for one will miss Art Bell, the geeky storyteller who has captivated huge late-night radio audiences nationwide since 1997, all without moralizing, sermonizing, or chastising his listeners. Just as Dr. Laura is set to add a television show to her already ubiquitous media presence, Bell has announced he is leaving the airwaves, effective April 26, due to family difficulties. On “Dreamland” and “Coast to Coast,” his nationally syndicated AM callin talk shows, Bell peddles spiritualism, psychic phenomena, and other spooky topics to any and all lost souls \(or prank weirdos and misfits respond, dialing up his Nevada studio outpost to confess their paranormal experiences from UFOs, alien abductions, and Area 51, to out-ofbody experiences before an estimated six million listeners. There are more true believers among them than you might think, collectively supporting a cottage industry of paranormal publications, videos, and lecture circuits. Bell invites all of the 28 THE TEXAS OBSERVER MAY 12, 2000
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