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Posted by: TheSalmonKing, May 24, 2006, 12:39am
Imus sucker for treadmill television
America's 'celebrity bigot' is just one of the benefits of my exercise routine

Robert Fulford,
Published: Tuesday, May 23, 2006

On a recent morning, watching EuroNews news from Paris, I saw a gigantic pink penis being carried down a street in Japan on the sort of platform that usually holds a Buddha. This was the Kawasaki Fertility Festival, for which local craft workers carve penis sculptures out of giant radishes and nowadays, for extra impact, use modern materials like plastic.

It was startling, but it was also typical of what I think of as Treadmill Television, the multitude of channels delivered by digital television and watched by many of us while exercising. Some of us, condemned to travel on the treadmill through all eternity, consider digital TV's uncountable stations miraculous. Legions of stations keep you alert. It's essential to avoid tedium.

The strangest creature brought to me by digital in recent months, far stranger than the penis-toting Japanese, is Don Imus, a broadcaster well known in America but unavailable in Canada until digital brought him to us. Time magazine once listed him among the 25 most influential Americans and Larry King says he's a cultural icon, but he's best viewed as a specimen.

Imus, a naughty lad of mature years, deserves display in a collection of old-fashioned guy's guys. People tend to apologize for being addicted to him. Last year a doctor, writing to a medical journal about an opinion on autism that Imus was airing, began: "I feel the need to confess: I listen to Imus in the Morning. ... The guilt stems from my inability to reconcile my image of myself as a mature, thoughtful child psychiatrist with Imus's self-absorbed, insulting, misanthropic, chauvinistic, patronizing, ranting radio persona."

For many years Imus was hooked on cocaine and vodka, and when asked about something from 20 years ago he says he was so out of it that he can't really recall any details. He now has a ranch in New Mexico, where he and his wife run a regular program for cancer-afflicted children, one of his several children's charities.

He's never without a few obsessions. These days he's obsessed with the harm possibly done by ammonia and chlorine in cleaning products; he produces a non-profit alternative cleaner.

Imus did Imus in the Morning as a radio show for years and already had a national reputation when MSNBC put the program on television in 1996. A decade later it remains both a radio show and a TV program. Viewers watch it on TV but performers refuse to acknowledge that they are doing anything except radio; they even wear headphones. For TV viewers it's a peculiar form of eavesdropping.

The host, being a radio man, chews gum when he feels like it (most of the time) and nibbles on breakfast now and then. He yawns if so inclined, and can sometimes be seen discarding his gum. Unlike the stars of all other TV shows, he makes it a rule never to look into the camera.

Usually he wears a jean jacket over a T-shirt. The other day his shirt advertised Kinky Friedman for Governor; Kinky, who first became famous as the leader of a band called Kinky Friedman and the Texas Jewboys, is running for governor of Texas. He's an old pal of Imus's, though Imus recently said that he wished Kinky would stop putting his name in "those stupid books he writes." Kinky writes a mystery novel, now and then, to amused reviews.

When Donald Trump's son was born in March, the real Trump called Imus 20 minutes later to announce the birth on-air. Bill Clinton appeared with Imus three times in the 1992 campaign. George H.W. Bush, John Kerry and John McCain have all been interviewed. Journalists such as Tim Russert, Maureen Dowd, David Remnick and Andy Rooney show up often to trade opinions with Imus. They treat him with respect, which drives Imus's critics crazy. Those who don't like him think he's a homophobic, racist misogynist and deserves to be boycotted.

Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post explained his appeal for journalists: "Imus gets to viciously attack people we must be polite to," and simply spits out "whatever hideous thing pops into his head." In Kurtz's view, "Imus's sexist, homophobic and politically incorrect routines echo what many journalists joke about in private."

And maybe not just journalists. The Village Voice called him a "celebrity bigot," which it neatly defined as someone whose fame rests on expressing mass biases. Put another way, he's what Archie Bunker would have become if a career counsellor had steered him into talk radio. And I would barely know his name if I didn't watch him from the treadmill, further proof that exercise has its virtues.
Posted by: boredop, May 24, 2006, 1:28pm; Reply: 1
I understand Fulford's fascination with Imus.   There's a strange amalgam of "morning zoo" and intelligent discussion of current events that works for me.   And of course, Imus's self-absorbed obsessions that CAN  become too much, but are frequently fascinating.

While Imus in the Morning originates much too early for my west coast schedule, a little searching on the Internet has provided a California AM'er that streams the program appropriately for this time zone.

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