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Crystal Channel Goes to War
March 19, 2003
By Marilyn Allen Frith

I am a stringer for a large Eastern daily working on a story at a Midwestern radio station, getting a perspective on their view of the coming Iraqi War - which is on the horizon. Here is my story of two interviews with the "stars" of prime daytime talk: follow closely, through the looking glass - darkly...

(R is me; ND is Nick Donalds; CH is Cholly Holly)

I find Donalds lounging in his cubicle opposite the studio; he welcomes me with a "come-in" motion.

R: Hello, Mr. Donalds...

ND: Oh, call me Nick, we're fellow pros, right? (I'm not too sure if that requires a response; his claims might be presumptious.)

R: Uh, Okay, Nick; first, I want to ask you how the Crystal Channel Network is handling the pending question of war in Iraq.

ND: Well, with my usual deft aplomb, I take a few calls, uh, those who agree get more airtime. I try not to get too heavy, usually leave that to old Cholly.

R: Agree; disagree?

ND: Well, we at Crystal are for war - bring it on!

R: Does that mean that the station takes an outright political stance? (He looks at me like I just fell off the turnip truck.)

ND: How old are you? Oh never mind...sure we are pro-war, pro-Bush, pro-life, pro-male, pro-capitalist and pro-wrestling. (Nick makes a slight punctuation point with an emphatic nod, grinning like the actor who starred in "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying," minus a prominent tooth gap.)

R: Well, then I guess you are ready to go to war, ready for combat. (I am flying blind but found his answer wanting.)

ND: Heck, yes! Have my slightly broken-in Nikes, my official big-league ball cap...ready to take on the war and opening day at our new billion-buck stadium, named for a local tycoon and his current pet project...The Four Cheese Intersport Ball Park and Entertainment Complex - get big bands and even if the team stinks, it will draw crowds. We shorten the name to "Chester Cheese Park" on air. Cute, huh?

R: Uh, yes, cute...then I suppose you have adequate field rations for the coming campaign (again testing my ironic wit).

ND: Heck, I guess! I think I can smell today's mess sampler coming down the hall - Mama Tioni's meatball sandwich with chili fries - oh, Mama... (Is he drooling?) The diners and vendors around here vie for our favors. We get free food, they get free advertising on "The Big Air."

R: Hmmmm.

ND: I mean, it's a real dog fight! (Huge laugh, here.)

R: Not exactly K rations, are they? (My tone colors a bit with ire.)

ND: That's a joke, right? (He is looking at me like I just picked myself up from the street after the flop from that truck, his eyes aquamarine slits.)

R: Of course...

ND: Stick around and I'll show you my fancy arsenal when I take incoming on the show. I can blow them off or blow them up if they smell a little alien - push the button - kaboom, down the hole!

R: You don't like controversy?

ND: I commit the controversy...it's my show and just like a good comedian, I want the laughs, see?

R: Yes, I do. You get many opposition calls around the area?

ND: That's why we have call screening. Tammy's our gal on sentry duty. She's been briefed and debriefed to know who's feisty or abrasive or just plain obnoxious. She is one of the forward troops, put out there to sniff out guerilla elements...the show must go on without a hitch, just like a war. (I suddenly had visions of Slim Pickens riding an A-bomb down over Russia from a B-52 in "Dr. Strangelove." I watch a lot of old movies.)

R: I 'd like to stay but I have another interview - down the hall.

ND: Well, too bad; Semper Fi, my man...catch me again when this here war gets down and dirty. We may come to blows on air - grreaaaatt radio! (He gives me a V sign and I back out the door.)

Feeling slightly queasy, I half-stumble down the hall to find the office of Cholly Holly, "The Big Air's" talk-racket COO, I was advised. He is on the phone but nods at me and I walk in.

R: Hello, time to talk? (I manage, still uneasy.)

CH: Talk is my middle name, he tells me and hangs up his phone.

R: Then let's get right to the question: where do you stand on the coming war?

CH: Oh, good, my kind of fistfight, dandy topic du jour, especially if its quick and surgical and over before the start of opening day at Cheese Park...my good friend, Chester Moolay, has guaranteed me prize seats right down front. Helps to have connections, right?

R: Yes, I mumble; then your official stance is that the station supports this war?

CH: Where did you get that idea? Sounds like left-wing agi-prop to me. We support the troops...war is always iffy. (His toothy grin hides an odd ambivalence behind a round, florid face and unreadable vapid eyes.)

R: Uh...

CH: Of course we support Bush. He's the president. We're red-blooded Americans, aren't we? Our country was founded on war...war after war, from sea to shining sea.

R: Uh...(I was still speechless; did he or did he not?)

CH: If not proud of our heritage, who are we?

R: (I recover and pose the most delicate query of all...) You're not bothered, then, by the thought of young men and women coming home in body bags?

CH: Oh, my God, don't tell me you are one of those sissy so called objective journalists, Mr.!

R: It is not my job to show bias.

CH: Oh, God, another thinker. Save us from a thinker, Lord...those pink- pantied Frenchies - leftist disease; all show and no go; they like truffles and parfume!

R: Are you saying anyone who opposes...

CH: Damned straight! Saddam had twelve years to get it right. Huh, thought he could outsmart the old USA...dumb as a box of rocks, he is.

R: His country is in ruins, the majority of the population under fifteen years old or so.

CH: Do Tell? You are obviously out of the loop; I want to go on record: write this down, now...we, me and the station, support the war and the President. We will show the flag and we will play the anthems of our country.

R: Has diplomacy been exhausted?

CH: There you go thinking again...you must be daff. What is there about my position that you don't understand? (He glares at me through a fog of menace so toxic, I do a quick intake for air.) We need oil for our plants and cars and planes. After the war, we won't need to buy it; we will own it...venture capitalism in its finest hour...my God, what a beautiful thing. (His voice turns reverential.)

R: And the sacrifice...(Holly sighs and turns to his papers.)

CH: Got calls to make and reseach to do...(I took that as a goodbye but he continues.) Death stats are rising in the city - Black vee Cop thing - you know the usual rap. We keep it in check; I give the poor advice on how to crawl out of their misery.

R: How's that?

CH: Clean up the kids, keep them in school, stop sleeping around...simple, straightforward, no BS.

R: So, I can report that you are a strict conservative on all issues.

CH: Right, and add that while I'm beating my brains out trying to save the world, all I get is opposition - gives our fair city a bad reputation.

R: Yes, I think I see now. You are pro-war, pro-Bush, pro-male, pro-life, pro-capitalism and pro-wrestling.

CH: You've been talking to Donalds...now if you will excuse me, I have some outside interests to see to. I have five car dealersips in the tristate and the market is down, gas is up - damned shame. Let's get this war over with and get back to business.

I take my leave and head down the hall. As I hit the first flight of steps, I hear the music "God Bless America" over the sound system. I could imagine Cholly Holly mouthing some words, new words, that might go something like this: "God bless our SUVs, suburban device; they can glide us and guide us 'round the snow and the muck and the ice..."

The fresh air hits me full-faced, acting as a moral purge; I slip out onto the wide boulevard - Ronald Reagan Parkway - wondering if Cholly used his bully pulpit to push through the name of that unabashed capitalist hero, tatooed forever upon the city's urban district.

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