Art Bell, Radio Host Who Tuned In to the Dark Side, Dies at 72

His “Coast to Coast” show was syndicated and broadcast from 1989 to 2003, followed by episodic returns on satellite radio and online with a program called “Midnight in the Desert,” which he canceled in 2015 after he said shots had been fired at his home. Mr. Bell said he kept a .40-caliber Glock 22 in a desk drawer of his isolated desert home. “If I had a problem out here,” he told Time magazine in 2012, “well, the police would arrive just in time to draw the chalk outline on my floor.” While some critics accused him of laying the foundation for right-wing conspiracists on talk radio, Mr. Bell’s politics were not easily pigeonholed. He described himself as a libertarian, but his passion was directed less at politicians or ideology than at debunking scientific doctrine and preaching apocalyptic prophecy. “He was different, fed up with the government not because of some tax increase or a bad vote but because of what they were hiding,” the journalist Jack Dickey wrote in Time magazine in 2013. “Where others had rage, he had skepticism, and lots of it.”

With the horror novelist Whitley Strieber, Mr. Bell wrote “The Coming Global Superstorm” (1999), in which violent climate disruptions lead to a global deep freeze. The director Roland Emmerich adapted it for the 2004 film “The Day After Tomorrow,” starring Dennis Quaid. (Writing about the film in The New York Times, Andrew C. Revkin noted, “Most experts on climate change say a switch from slow warming to an instant hemispheric deep freeze like the one posited in the book is impossible.”) Mr. Bell wrote several other books, including “The Quickening: Today’s Trends, Tomorrow’s World” (1997) and a memoir, “The Art of Talk” (1998). His spoken words had a much wider reach, however. “His Marlboro-Lights-weathered voice blanketed the continent after dark, reliably chilling his audience,” one reviewer wrote.

Mr. Bell acknowledged that he had a certain hold on his nocturnal audience. As he told The Washington Post in 1998, “There is a difference in what people are willing to consider, daytime versus nighttime. It’s dark, and you don’t know what’s out there.

Why am I upset…well for one thing, this article is written with an intentional smirk on the reporter’s face. Oh that Art Bell, the host for all of us who were a part of his late night campfire for the lunatic fringe – now called conspiracy nuts, or theorists or Anon’s or whatever the flavor of the month is even though so much of what his interviews were about have become part of our mainstream thinking.

So really, nothing’s changed, right? Same shit, different day. Nothing but disrespect for anyone that doesn’t tow the line. Afterall, we are just a bunch of fricking crazies. If I don’t believe what you believe well then, I must be one of those who thinks everything is a conspiracy. But I’ll tell you what, Art Bell was nobody’s fool. He would often say, A mind should not be so open that the brains fall out; however, it should not be so closed that whatever gray matter which does reside may not be reached.” I would dare you to go on his show back in the day and not have your facts together. Even if you were part of the fringe, you better not be crazy because Art Bell would tear you apart. He was brilliant. A disembodied voice that opened up our reasoning and imagination and sense of reality understanding that so much more could be going on or be real than we ever had before considered.

I would drive home late at night after gigs, dial in CKLW, a Canadian station and listen to Art Bell. The craziness of the gig would soon dissipate as Art would announce his guest in that smooth baritone voice introducing his guests or when the power would go out, dialing in Coast to Coast on my transistor radio cued up for power outage emergencies ….his voice being the constant, the glue, the theater, the teacher, or maybe just a radio guy who was brilliant at what he did. He actually knew how.

You see he didn’t open up his computer or his eye phone or Ipad and just start talking. No he had a producer, a license, knowledge of ham radios talking to people all over the world, a timeline, a schedule. He had skill.

I’m ashamed of the Alt-Media YouTubers. Not a one of you mentioned Art Bell’s death. Not a one of you. How dare you. How dare you to not take one minute out of your all important lives and pay respect to a man that was the glue for this kind of work. He was the beginning. There was no one else. He took the slams, the disrespect, the threats to his life, the divorces the heartaches, the accusations – he did that first! Not you, Not me Not Lionel or Alex, or Tracy or Jordan or Isaac or Styx or You Are Free, or Jerome or well any one of you.

Yes, I am ashamed of all of you YouTubers as individuals and of us as a community. How dare us to not honor what came before us like a hip hop artist or rock and roll musician who doesn’t understand that their music started in the fields, sung by slaves, morphing through time so that they could play and create along within a true musically historical narrative. So Like the blues, alt-media radio has its historical piece of history that more than likely made it possible for what we all do. The template and outline for all of us amateurs. So I take this moment to say for all of us, I am going to miss you Art Bell. You will hold a very important place in my psyche of all that is possible. You will be sorely missed by your 10 million listeners of yesteryear. And Mr. Bell I wish for you all that you ever dreamed that the afterlife is and may you do what you loved to do best broadcast to all of the cosmos from now until eternity.

So from the High Desert to the Great Southwest

Radical Gardener

Sending you Tons of Love

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