RUSH: This is Don in Lake Ronkonkoma, New York. Nice to have you with us.
CALLER: Hey, mega 20th anniversary dittos, Rush.
RUSH: Thank you.
CALLER: You know, you’re the 20th and 21st century equivalent to a Founding Father, Thomas Paine.
RUSH: Wow. Thank you, sir. I appreciate that.
CALLER: Well, you’re always dishing up conservative and moral common sense on a daily basis. And, like Thomas Payne, you have ignited a nation through your ideas and opinions. Thank you.
RUSH: You’re welcome, sir. (laughs) Thank you again.
CALLER: You know, if Barack Obama had spent the last 20 years listening to you instead of Jeremiah Wright — and in so doing embrace sound conservatism — this would be a far more interesting campaign.
RUSH: You know, that’s an excellent, excellent point, and it illustrates again that his associations do indeed matter.
CALLER: Yes. Rush, besides your accomplishment of growing and holding the largest talk radio audience ever —
CALLER: — and as well as maintaining a loyal staff —
CALLER: — what event in the last 20 years stands out as the most successful or gratifying to you? I’d love to know. There have been so many over the years that I’ve been captivated on. I’ve been a 20-year listener.
RUSH: Well, now, you say there have been so many. You know, when I get questions like this, a brain freeze sets in and I can’t remember all the things that may have happened.
CALLER: Okay. Can I help you?
RUSH: Give me some things on your mind.
CALLER: The Barbara Schoener charity. Remember the woman that was killed by the cougar?
RUSH: Oh, yes, in California.
CALLER: Your leukemia charity event, your Rush on Broadway event for Katrina victims, Dan’s Bake Sale, the optimism surrounding your determination to overcome your deafness, the Clinton years and impeachment, the 2000 election fiasco, the 9/11 attacks and the aftermath, and —
RUSH: Now, wait, wait a minute. You said the most —
CALLER: Well, getting us through it, Rush.
RUSH: Oh, I misunderstood. What was the most gratifying thing, I thought you’d asked, that had happened in the last 20 years.
RUSH: I mean, all those are extremely gratifying.
CALLER: That’s all I could think of off the top. You know what else, too, Rush, you are still the king of the eBay auctions, with that smear letter.
RUSH: I would have been but they won by a hundred thousand dollars.
CALLER: I don’t think so. I had to disagree, Rush, because you went into that auction knowing that you were going to match it.
RUSH: Well, true, I did match it, and so the total amount raised was —
CALLER: Was more.
RUSH: — double what lunch with Warren Buffett got, yes. But the amount that was actually pledged was a hundred thousand dollars more for Buffett. EBay made a big deal out of everybody knowing that.
RUSH: They had to. What I was going to say when I misunderstood your question, is it’s really hard to pick one or two things here.
CALLER: I know.
RUSH: You see, it’s harder even to remember all of the things.
RUSH: I’ve been —
CALLER: Okay, there’s been so many.
RUSH: What took me so long to get on a success track in this business. I started radio in 1967. It wasn’t ’til 1984 that I started to experience any kind of success. So the whole ride here has been phenomenal.
CALLER: Well, the friendships that you have made.
RUSH: Oh, yeah. But none of that should be discarded, but I’ll tell you, I think early on the thing that probably solidified it for me is when my first and second books came out.
RUSH: Those books both sold two and a half million copies hardcover, and the second one did that in eight weeks.
RUSH: So it was actually on the New York Times best-seller list far less than the first one was. It was on for a year.
RUSH: Because it just kept going. It’s one thing to turn on the radio and listen, but it’s another thing to go to a bookstore and actually engage in the physical act of buying a book. Those two things were profound. I had no such expectation.
CALLER: I have both of your books autographed by you, Rush.
RUSH: Well, you do? Congratulations.
RUSH: I thank you, too. When those events happened, you know, that’s sort of being slapped upside the head, ‘Hey, this is real, and it’s got some staying power.’ I remember the first book party, the party for the first book, and it was at ’21.’ I was so woefully unprepared for all of this. I just was so naive. Nothing wrong with it. You have to live through things to learn them. But I had invaded again the literary crowd, the publishing business. There were people that were not happy about this. There were some bookstore owners that weren’t happy about it. There were some bookstores — you people remember that tried to buy them — that you had to go to the fiction section. You had to go to the cooking section. They’d put ’em upside down.
Even in New York outside Coliseum Books near Seventh Avenue they had people standing guard. If you went in and tried to buy my book, they would try to intimidate you from doing so. There were feminist-oriented bookshops in California that would not stock it. And yet it just sold through the roof, and the second one did, too. If you combine the hardcover and the paperback, over nine million copies of those two books are in print. So, this book party was at ’21,’ and I don’t remember the gentleman’s name. I remember his face. I think he was with, at the time, TIME Magazine, TimeWarner, some executive there. He came up to me, says, ‘How do you feel about this? How do you feel about this many of your books being sold?’
I said, ‘You know, I’m kind of humbled by it.’
He just could not understand. He said, ‘Humbled? You are humbled by it? Why, nobody can believe this, and you’re humbled?’
I said, ‘Yes, I’m humbled.’
He could not understand that what I was trying to say was what I just told you. It’s one thing to turn on the radio and listen to it. For two and a half million people to go out and buy a book, when the only books that were sold in those quantities were fiction brooks by people like Grisham and Tom Clancy, yeah, I was humbled. He did not understand the emotion that I had about this, and I remember a lot of other people thought that. The book party was very nice, and it was fun, but you could just tell that most of the people there just could not believe this. They were not really understanding it. They were a little bit excited because of what it might mean for the nonfiction publishing business. But even at that, it was a strange experience. The second book party was out in Los Angeles, and that was really odd. I had to leave my own book party early because there were so many people that showed up that I had no clue were going to be there, that I had no desire to meet. I didn’t invite them, didn’t know who they were. It was an autograph-photo session, and I got swamped and swarmed. I had to get out of there, went to Chasen’s and had an adult beverage.