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MARK: Mark Steyn in for Rush, the world’s greatest radio program with the world’s greatest host, there is no competition. There has been nothing like the run of this show. We’ve brought you a few favorite moments, in particular personal moments in which Rush tells how he came to be Rush. It’s not a story any of us can replicate. But the most interesting part of anybody’s life, any big-time celebrity’s life, it’s how he got to be who he is. And with Rush, that is a story that takes in Missouri and takes in disc jockey shifts in the middle of the night, playing Donny Osmond, he said, and all the time learning, learning, learning and waiting to seize the opportunity.

Now, I just played you a very serious interview that Rush did with Clarence Thomas, who actually was a forerunner of the environment we live in today where the left just wants to destroy you because you’re evil and you have to be destroyed, and so they’re prepared to do whatever it takes. But that isn’t this show. This show isn’t all about how grim and miserable and awful our world is or is becoming. Because Rush was also the funniest guy out there.

Now, as the show grew, he added, I mentioned earlier, one of his very first stations was WNTK in New London, New Hampshire, where I had the fun of doing a couple of shows when I began guest hosting this show. And, you know, I love southern New Hampshire. But I couldn’t honestly say that, you know, New London, New Hampshire, it’s a great little town if you ever happen to be in New Hampshire. They got tons of great little stores and everything. But it isn’t what the radio guys consider a major market. And one of the things I loved about Rush, when he acquired major markets is that if he was in the mood for just a really good prank to wind them up, he didn’t care how upset they got. Here is Rush recalling one such time just after picking up some major affiliates, including WLS Chicago.


RUSH: We’ve been sitting here reminiscing, ladies and gentlemen, at some of the things that have happened in the past over the course of this program, and one of the — we didn’t find the tape of this, I wish we had. But there was an incident early on, shortly after we had secured WLS Chicago as our Chicago affiliate, which to me was huge. I grew up listening to WLS and KXOK in St. Louis, and KMOX as well, and to be on WLS was a real, real, real big deal. I mean, that was major.

Shortly after the clearance on WLS, I was just playing around, horsing around here. I’d found a word in the dictionary that I found fascinating, and after I looked up this word, I said, “You know what we’ve found, ladies and gentlemen?” They were worried about high safety back then, something had happened, and highway safety was a problem, and I said, “One of the things we can do to really clean up highway safety is to get women to stop farding in their cars. If you get that stopped, we’ll be safer. You can see it every time it happens. If you get that stopped, get women to stop farding in their cars, then they’ll be paying attention to driving, and it will be a lot safer out on the roads.”

Well, all these people started calling. “I can’t believe what you’re saying!”

“What am I saying? What are you talking about?”

“Well, how do you know that somebody is doing what you said when they’re driving?”

“Because you can see it! And I’ll tell you something else: Men don’t do it. You will not see men farding in their cars when they’re driving,” and this went on and on.

Finally, Tom Tradup, who was running WLS, pulled me off the air, canceled me for 45 minutes and called Ed McLaughlin to say, “This is not what we signed up for. This is not the kind of garbage we signed up for,” and then Tom said, “By the way, I’m sick and tired and hearing that Ted Kennedy song, too. The Philanderer.” I don’t think Ed was even aware of what we were doing. He didn’t monitor every minute of the show. But I knew exactly when I heard this, I said, “This is great.” Of course, the word was fard: f-a-r-d. And you just run that pronunciation real quickly, and people think you’re saying the other word, and it means “to apply makeup.” It’s a French word to apply makeup. So I was on solid ground. I had not uttered an obscenity. I had not even said anything off color. But people thought so, including Tom Tradup.


MARK: Ah, these fainthearted station managers. Rush talking about farding, f-a-r-d. It’s a word from the French, meaning to apply makeup. So in those days women did do a lot of farding in cars. I think some guys do it these days too. By the way, I opened my Oxford English Dictionary and looked at the entry for “fard,” and it doesn’t just mean from the French to apply makeup, but it has a whole other dimension these days that it didn’t have back when Rush was doing that bit, because it means something that an observant Muslim is obligated to do. So if Rush was to start going on about there being too much farding in cars, whoever is running WLS these days would have far more problems with it than he would back when Rush did it.

I loved Rush when he was just in a playful mood, and here he is — I mentioned earlier Andy Williams singing Born Free, which Rush would embellish with the sound of gunfire whenever he did an environmental story. And actually, Andy liked it. And I know at least one of the two writers whom I mentioned on this show the other day, Don Black, also had no objection to it. But Rush liked to do little embellishments of the pop culture tradition. Here he is, this is a great first line from Rush. Here he is in festive mood.


RUSH: Just moseying over here to the yule log to warm up, a little chilly here in the studio tonight, and I was wrong. They do actually make your TV set turn into a fireplace. Isn’t it a miracle? And as we see on our own fireplace, this one has the flames go down a little bit low, too, necessitating a fast-forward to get another log on, which we may or may not do later in the program. Ladies and gentlemen, come with me now as we go over to the audience area of the program. And will the lovely and gracious Janice from Reston, Virginia, please join me. She is going to be our conductor. Janice, let me get my hand-held. I forgot to bring it over here. There we go. Janice, you are here from Reston Virginia, is that right?

JANICE: Hmm-hmm.

RUSH: Okay. Now, do you have any professional experience in singing?

JANICE: Yes, I do. (laughing)

RUSH: Was this —

JANICE: Sorry.

RUSH: Let me — don’t apologize. Don’t apologize. We throw the doors open here every night, and we get professionals from all walks of life. Wait ’til you hear this. We had planned to sing a Christmas carol tonight, ladies and gentlemen, and we were going to rehearse the audience — I wasn’t gonna be a part of that as the star of the show, you have, you know, underlings do that. Well, I’m back in makeup, and I was sitting in there, “Boy, they’re great, they’re really great.” So I came out here and I actually rehearsed them myself, and how were you chosen to be conductorette?

JANICE: Raised my hand. (laughing)

RUSH: Okay. So they asked?

JAINCE: They asked, yeah.

RUSH: Okay. Now, let me also, ladies and gentlemen, share with you the tune. I’m sure you’re all familiar with the song God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen. Now, there’s a little side note to this. Most people think it’s God rest ye, merry gentlemen. As in God rest ye, comma, merry gentlemen. It’s God rest ye merry, comma, gentlemen, because not all gentlemen are merry, as we know, especially in this era. (laughter) Well, what is the name of this feminazi group here, somebody — women’s something or other? The Women’s Action Coalition, thank you, is a local feminazi organization. And they are running around to Grand Central Station and in other noted public areas here in New York and singing Christmas carols where they’ve rewritten the lyrics to reflect their rage and their anger and their overall angst at how unfair life is treating them in America today. We wanted to send a video out to — (laughing), ah, we’re just having more fun than a human being should be allowed to have, aren’t we?

JANICE: Yes. Absolutely. (laughing)

RUSH: So we wanted to get videotape of these people singing but they’re doing it even now as we tape, we wanted to go to their rehearsals, they found out who we are, they shut the door. So we thought we’d sing it for you ourselves. And wait ’til you hear this rendition. This is very good. So Janice from — by the way, do you want your last name out? I won’t ask if you don’t want it.

JANICE: Sure. Rexton.

RUSH: Janice Rexton from Reston. (laughter) Virginia. Are you a big Redskins fan?


RUSH: Yeah, well, they gotta win. They have to win against the Traitors on Saturday. It’s in their hands. The Los Angeles Traitors. All right. Now, the song, is God rest ye merry, gentlemen. I mean, here is a traditional Christmas song, one of the greatest Christmas songs ever. The lyrics have been bastardized and totally distorted by these angry — you tell me if these are not representative lyrics of angry, upset women. Go ahead, Janice, lead our group.

JANICE: (Singing.)
“Don’t rest so merry, gentlemen. There’s much to cause dismay.
For women’s lives are limited, by unfair rank and pay.
Continuing repression whether black, white, straight or gay.
Oh tidings of action and change. Action and change. Oh tidings of action and change.”

RUSH: Very good! Give yourselves applause. (applause) Now, there is one thing. How we doing on time here? How we doing on time? Sandy, where are we on time?

SANDY: Six minutes.

RUSH: Six minutes total program left? Still plenty of time for our next surprise. Good. I want to redo this. Yes, ma’am, we do have another surprise. (laughter) The only problem with this was, these are angry lyrics, would you not agree, Janice?

JANICE: Yes, absolutely.

RUSH: Totally angry lyrics. And you people were happy. (laughter) Sounded like my church choir singing. I want you to sing this next time — this we didn’t rehearse. This is where you prove your mettle. This is where you have to spontaneously on the spot perform as commanded by me, the host. So what I want you to do, I want you to do — you’re unhappy. You women especially, the women’s lines are limited, be mad. Be mad. Be angry here. Show how filled with rage you are over how unfair life is in America. Are we ready? Janice, lead the group again.

JANICE: (Singing).
“Don’t rest so merry, gentlemen. There’s much to cause dismay.
For women’s lives are limited, by unfair rank and pay.
Continuing repression whether black, white, straight or gay.
Oh tidings of action and change. Action and change. Oh tidings of action and change.”

RUSH: Not bad. You were smiling too much, men. You are superb, Janice. Thank you so much for coming out in the audience and (applause) doing this — you all are great. That was great.


MARK: That was Rush on the old telly show. And he’s quite right there. It’s God rest ye merry, comma, gentlemen, even before you add the angry feminist lyrics.


MARK: Julianne Moore sent this to me. She says, “Can you go back to find one of Rush’s episodes about animal rights where he’d play the theme from Born Free with gunfire”? I think I mentioned this earlier in the show. “In 1990 I was horrified & fired off many ranting letters to Rush.

“I finally got it later that it was all a joke and he did love animals.” He adored animals! I made a cat album a couple of years ago, and as a courtesy… It had my cat on the cover of the album in a white bow tie relaxing at a nightclub with me. So as a courtesy, we sent it to Rush’s cat.

My cat sent the album to Rush’s cat, and Rush’s cat sent a thank-you gift back to my cat. I had no idea cats could have a UPS account. I was amazed. I didn’t realize. A whole feline correspondence opened up. Rush loved animals, but he also loved parodies, and that’s what made this show, fantastical parodies. Here he is talking about them.


RUSH: And we go back to the phones. We have Ron on a highway.

CALLER: Maha Rushie!

RUSH: He’s in Atlanta. Okay, great. How you doing, sir?

CALLER: Doing great. Listener since about ’92. Hey, listen, Rush. One of the things that makes your program so outstanding, obviously, besides your humble self, is the parodies that you come up with. I mean, nobody does what you do on a regular basis. And I’m curious about the creative process. Where do those come from? Do you think of them and say, “Hey, Mr. Paul Shanklin, make me a parody about this,” or do people send them to you? How do they happen?

RUSH: Well, the parodies had kind of an interesting life span. When the program first started, I was it. Every song, parody, and bit was something that I had prepped and stored up and wanted to use for a while. This inspired people to start sending things in.

And some of them were usable, and I did, ignorantly. I thought they were genuine contributors, and then later on I started getting bills and people demanding that I announce who did the parody. So I stopped accepting anything that was submitted. I learned early there was a big trick behind that, not just with parodies, but any number of things.

Where we currently are now, we have a satirist, “the white comedian Paul Shanklin,” who lives in Tennessee. He basically scripts these. He does the impersonations. He does the voice synthetization to facilitate the impersonations. It’s all a result of what happens on the program. That serves as the inspiration. Sometimes I have an idea and ask him to do it. But he submits. If I like it, use it. If I want some changes, change ’em. But they’re basically spontaneous, based on what happens in the news.


RUSH: The parodies, the satires have taken a fascinating — if I stop and think about it — road in the way they happened. You know, there are many phases. This program has gone through many phases. In the opening phase when it was brand new, nothing like it, nothing else out there like it, it was just hot as firecrackers going through the roof. I remember going to Atlanta to a football game and the whole stadium stopping and applauding. It was Busch Stadium in St. Louis. It was so brand new, there was nothing like it.

It was the first national conservative show, and it wasn’t just politics. We were making fun of liberals with parodies and all kinds of stuff. Then that dies down after it becomes more settled in, and the program is hopefully never static. It’s constantly growing and changing and adapting to all kinds of factors. The host gets older and more mature; the subject matter becomes more serious. Different power players in Washington and in the media are determining what’s discussed every day. It could never get stale if you stay hip to it and so the parodies are the same way.

Early on, when it was brand new… You know, success has many fathers and failure is an orphan. Couple that with robust naivete on my part. So the first two years, I mean, I’ve got all kinds of little helpers out there that I don’t know. People are sending me their thoughts on things, and most of it was up and up. Some of it I’d say, “This is really good,” and I would share it. Sometimes I’d identify it or not. In some cases, I found out that people sending stuff had their own websites, and I ended up being accused of copying and stealing from their website.

It was setup. There were other times where a spouse would say, “You know, you’ve used enough of this. Don’t you think you should start paying us?” This kind of stuff. “Wait. I’m just trying to be nice, for crying out loud. You’re going through the trouble of sending it and I’m trying to be nice!” So I eventually said, “To hell with it, the inclusiveness. It’s just gonna be me, only me. None of this other outside stuff. Being nice doesn’t work.” The parodies were the same way. There are things that were submitted over the transom.

One of the most famous parodies here that was not commissioned per se was the parody of Dion and The Wanderer, The Swimmer with Ted Kennedy, and that was submitted by a couple of guys in Albany, and… (interruption) Yeah. (laughing) It’s a great impression.

Dion DiMucci did the song but it was Ted Kennedy singing it. (song starts) Yeah, just a little bit here just to people flavor of what we’re talking about here. This was submitted over the transom from Albany. We didn’t know the guy. We played it over and over again. (The Philanderer) You know, every time we’d play one of these, it would inspire others.

We had a group from California called The Dave Smith Band, and they alerted us to Klaus Nomi. It was the massive-growth era. But the current evolution now is that Paul Shanklin is our official satirist and parody guy. He produces them. He’s the “white comedian.” He lives in, I think, Memphis or Nashville, somewhere in Tennessee. It doesn’t matter where he is, and it’s all derivative of what happens on the program. So it’s a collaborative process, but they’re not scripted in advance. A lot of it’s… The singers have to be hired and all that.

But the more improv it is, the better — and the sooner it gets done after an event happens, the better. Some of these things used to take three weeks to produce, and, by that time, you know, the issue is over and dead and gone with. (interruption) Oh, yeah, Born Free. That was just Andy Williams, and I just put a bunch of guns and bombs and explosions over it, tweaking the animal rights crowd. (interruption) Oh, Rush the Knife! Rush the Knife. This one… What a history!

A FedEx driver or UPS in Las Vegas created Rush the Knife based on Mack the Knife by Bobby Darin, and it is just classic. It still holds up to this day. We can’t play it because it’s owned by the estate of whoever it was that owns The Threepenny Opera, and we’re under threat (laughing) of jail if we ever play it again. So on anniversary shows we’ve stuck in like 20 seconds of it, fair use, and we just roll the dice under the philosophy it’s better to apologize than ask for permission. (interruption) Well, the Rush Hawkins Singers and Barbara Chenault Law.

That was over the transom, the opera singer, the soloist, the soprano from Dallas. The audience got into the program. The number of people buying billboards for Dan’s Bake Sale, Fort Collins, Colorado. Anyway, that’s an overview of the parody situation. But his question was about the creativity of it, I think, and it all is inspired by what happens on the program and creative juices flow from that.

For every parody that you hear, there are the probably two or three that are submitted that don’t pass muster. We’re kind of like Apple in that regard. We don’t use it until we’re ready to use it if it’s right. Sometimes we’ll test-market something we’re not sure of. And all of these are on display constantly for people that call the program and are on hold. That’s what we do is play the parodies, rather than elevator music, Muzak, put people to sleep.


MARK: (laughing) Do you know, I haven’t heard The Philanderer in whatever it is, 25 years, and I still knew every word. “I sleep around, around, around, around, around.” I’ll give you a tip if you want to submit any new parodies: The trick is always to stay as close to the original as possible. That’s what the great Allan Sherman who did whatever it was.

“When you walk through the park and get grabbed in the dark, that’s a moron,” and that was his tip, and it was true with all the Rush parodies, too, like Barney Frank singing Abba: I Am the Banking Queen. I must just add one other thing on the Mack the Knife business where they did it as Rush the Knife.

That litigious guy who stopped Rush using it, was basically the estate of Bertolt Brecht, the German left winger who famously said after the East German elections went badly for the commie statists that it’s time for the state to elect a new electorate or whatever it was. That was Bertolt Brecht, his estate. I’ve had trouble with them too.

The other reason I mentioned it is because I think the very first email I got from Rush just after I started guest hosting this show I think at about two in the morning he emailed me out of the blue, and I thought, “Oh, what’s it gonna be? Is this gonna be about the federal deficit? Is it gonna be about foreign policy? Is it gonna be…?”

No, he emailed me to agree with me that Bobby Darin’s record of Mack the Knife is a great record. It is, and I wish we could still hear Rush the Knife.


MARK: We might as well play this because I’ve had tweets and emails about it, and it has become a kind of light motif of today’s show. This was actually the first British song to win an Oscar by my old friends John Barry and Don Black and a huge hit for Andy Williams. But Rush liked to play it a little differently when there were environmental stories in the news. Go.

(playing of song)

MARK: Oh, yeah, is that lovely orchestral intro. Stand well back, foe.

(playing of song)

MARK: Okay. That’s enough of that. I’m having too good a time listening to that. And as we were talking about earlier, Rush absolutely loved animals. But that’s just a brilliant comic idea. And it was one of the many brilliant comic ideas he came up with in the beginning of the show and that stayed with the show for years and years and years.

You know, Rush and I are totally different when it comes to how we work. Rush liked to get into the studio very early, I think around 8:30 in the morning. So he’d be in the studios for three hours beforehand, before the show began, and I never like to do that because I find it tires me out and everything.

I always arrive about half an hour beforehand and what Team EIB does is play half an hour of those parodies down the line to me at Ice Station EIB, which I always make sure I’m in the studio for, because what it is is a way of immersing me in Rush world, through all the years.

Ali Limbali, the great Islamic equivalent of Rush on Afghan radio with talent on loan from Allah, and I always listen to half an hour of those parodies because it is the best way to immerse myself in Rush’s world, Rush’s viewpoint, Rush’s way of thinking. Nothing like it anywhere else.


MARK: Mark Steyn in for Rush as we remember a giant of broadcasting and the indispensable man to American conservatism for three decades. And Mike, who I’ve worked with for years in New York, Mike just told me that when they used to do the animal rights update and they’d crank up the old Andy Williams version of Born Free, that Mike used to actually do that live. He’d fire off the gunshots and the animals howling differently every time, just to make it more fun for the listeners, because it would be a whole new herd being slaughtered every time. And as I mentioned before, you know that Rush loved animals.

I just want to round out a thought when I said that years ago the very first email Rush sent me in the middle of the night, two in the morning or whatever, and I was sort of a bit startled by it, I could see Rush Limbaugh — so I didn’t open it immediately. I went downstairs, and I made a cup of coffee and then I sat down again at the laptop. And I opened it up. And there was this two-line thing saying about what a great record Bobby Darin’s record of Mack the Knife was.

And I had no idea, I just froze. I thought, what is this? What’s up with this? I was naturally suspicious. And I wondered for a moment, you know, what is this, some particularly subtle form of Nigerian email scam? And I didn’t know what to do. I thought, what if it is Rush, then he’ll be expecting me to respond to it, but what if it is a subtle Nigerian email scam? And eventually I contacted our late friend Kit Carson who was Rush’s chief of staff for many years, and he said, “No, no, that is a Rush email from a very — ” what he called “– a very deep, deep, deep Rush email address, you know, in other words, a highly personal one.

It paralyzed me with fear.

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