Civil Rights

Elder Statesman: An Interview with Larry Elder

He was a promising young lawyer when he quit to start a business. It thrived. So he sold it, moved across the country, and became Los Angeles's most controversial talk radio host. When Larry Elder talks about opportunity, people listen.

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Larry Elder may be the Next Big Thing in talk radio. Not only that, the 43-year-old self-styled "Sage from South Central" may be the next–if not quite the first–libertarian host to boast a national listenership. Over the past two years, Elder, who appears weekdays on Los Angeles's KABC/790 from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., has gained a wide and growing audience by pushing libertarian views on everything from drug legalization to gun control, prostitution to public school education, gambling to taxes, affirmative action to government pensions. He delights–and infuriates–audiences with outspoken opinions, in-depth knowledge, satirical impersonations, and good-natured humor. Many of his shows revolve around racial issues and his basic message–despite racism, hard work pays off–enrages and engages listeners who alternately brand him an Uncle Tom and a truth-teller. He has recently come under attack by a South Central-based group that branded him "without doubt, the most racist, anti-Black talk show host in Southern California." The Talking Drum Community Forum has called for an advertising boycott of Elder's show, resulting in some sponsors pulling their ads–and others publicly supporting the controversial host. Meanwhile the whispers about syndication deals–for both radio and television–keep growing louder.

Although born and raised in Los Angeles, it's been a long round trip back home for Elder. After graduating Crenshaw High School, he entered Brown University (with, he readily admits, a boost from affirmative action). From there, he went on to University of Michigan Law School and a job with a prestigious Cleveland firm. Stifled by the lock-step progression of the legal profession, he created his own successful legal headhunting business. After 15 years, Elder turned the day-to-day operation over to an associate and began immersing himself in the classical liberal canon, and reading other books he'd always meant to read. He also landed a job hosting a PBS public affairs show and, later, a talk show on Cleveland's Fox affiliate. A chance meeting with L.A.-based radio and TV personality Dennis Prager led Elder back to the City of Angels, whose residents have been paying close attention ever since.

Elder spoke with Senior Editor Nick Gillespie and L.A.-based writer Steve Kurtz at the magazine's offices late last year. Elder is a lively, energetic personality; after two hours of conversation, he started asking us questions. He blends hard facts, personal anecdotes, intellectual honesty, and a good dose of humor into excellent conversation.

Reason: Journalists usually call you a "black conservative." You've described yourself at various times as a Jack Kemp-style "bleeding-heart conservative" and as a "libertarian." So which is it?

Larry Elder: As we use it right now, the term conservative typically means somebody who wants to reduce spending, reduce taxes, reduce the size of government. But it also has come to mean somebody who feels that government has an active role to play in our private lives. So, if that's the definition of a conservative, that ain't me.

What I am is somebody who believes that government is way too big, and people are being taxed way too much. The government is assuming responsibilities it should not be assuming. The government is intruding in our private lives. Republicans ought to be talking about ending farm subsidies. They ought to be eliminating the Departments of Education, Energy, and Housing and Urban Development. They are taking a pocket knife to a problem that requires a machete.

Social Security should be part of it, too. To me, it's an improper role of the government to take current workers' money and give it to somebody else. I would like private safety nets. This would have to be done in the context of the dramatic reduction of taxes so people have more disposable income.

I'm very critical of Republicans, but I understand the politics of reality. The fact is that people talk out of both sides of their mouths. They say on the one hand they want the budget to be cut and on the other hand, don't cut my stuff. Don't take my homeowner deduction away. My old man is on Medicare–don't take that away. I got an aunt that's on Medicaid, don't take that away. I want to keep Legal Aid. People talk out of both sides of their mouths.

Reason: Are you a registered voter?

Elder: I'm a registered independent.

Reason: How did you come by your beliefs, what were your influences?

Elder: I've been accused of being a late convert to conservatism because it's "hot." It's a marketing edge in radio and as a black conservative, it's man bites dog. I went back and got some of my old high school papers, one of which was a book report on Booker T. Washington's Up From Slavery. This was in 1968. I set up the term paper by saying that my classmates refer to Booker T. Washington as an Uncle Tom but he was anything but. He used to talk about self help and not relying on government and hard work wins. That philosophy is the core of what I believe right now.

I was born in the Pico-Union area, which is primarily Latino. And then when I was 7 years old, I moved to South Central, not too far from where Reginald Denny was beaten. My father was a school dropout raised in a single-parent household. He was effectively thrown out of his house when he was 13 years old by his mother and her then-boyfriend and began working. He was a cook boy, shoeshine boy, hotel bellhop. He went into the service where he learned how to cook, came out, and went home to the South to get a job as a short-order cook and nobody would hire him. So he moved to California because he thought people were more liberal. Nobody would hire him. For the whole time I was growing up, my father worked two jobs as a janitor, and he cooked for a private family on the weekends, and he went to night school to get his GED. He was a bad ass. He was the hardest working man I've ever known. That was my role model. My father was never home and when he was home he was in a bad mood. He had a work ethic that was beyond belief.

My mother had one year of college, which for a black woman of her age–she's 70 years old–is like having a Ph.D. from Harvard. She was an avid reader and she always worked with me. My mother told me that I was going to go to Stanford when I was in third or fourth grade. I didn't know what it was.

My father is a Republican. He's the only black Republican I ever knew and until I got into practicing law I never met another one. So I always heard another point of view. My mother was a Robert Kennedy/John Lindsay kind of liberal. She has evolved as most people do when they get older. But over the dinner table, I would hear both sides. I think Republicans and Democrats essentially have two very simple philosophies. Republicans believe hard work wins. Democrats believe the system is rigged. And from that premise, I think, their policies flow.

Reason: So do you think the '94 elections were meaningful?

Elder: Absolutely. They were a sea change. They said to both chambers of Congress, "We've had enough. Government is spending too much."

Reason: Do you have any hopes for the '96 elections?

Elder: It looks bad.

Reason: Any particular candidate you'd endorse?

Elder: Yeah, Margaret Thatcher. And you work out the logistics of that. With Jack Kemp as vice president and I'm there.

Reason: What do you like about Kemp?

Elder: Well, he never should have taken the job [as secretary of housing and urban development] unless his intention was to shut the agency down. He is ideologically impure the way all of them are. But Kemp is talking about growing the economy as a way of alleviating poverty and alleviating pain. That's a positive message. That's a very powerful message.

Jack Kemp cares. The fact that he went into the inner cities and talked to them about hope and investing in their own neighborhoods. That's the kind of rhetoric that I think convinces blacks that major issues in the country–such as how we spend our money and to what extent people are taxed–have a direct impact in their own lives. He is able to convince people of that.

Reason: You say you admire Kemp because he gets blacks to invest in their own communities. But in a piece you wrote for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, you once skewered the very idea of race-based commerce. Is that inconsistent?

Elder: I don't think it's inconsistent. What I am critical of is anybody that says, "Patronize my business because I am black, because I am a woman, because I am a Jew, or because I'm anything." You should patronize me because I offer the best damn service or the best damn product there is. That is not inconsistent with imploring people to start businesses in their own neighborhoods. And so to the extent that Jack Kemp is saying that, I think it's a good message.

Then again, I once got a letter where someone said, "I tailor shirts and I'm a black guy who started this business tailoring shirts. Why don't you write down your shirt size, your sleeve size, and give it to me? That way you'll be supporting black businessmen." Well, that's just crap. Tell me it's cheaper, tell me it's going to be more convenient for me, but don't try to make me feel guilty and get me to patronize you just simply because you're black, any more than you would like if McDonald's argued, "We're a white-owned business so white people should report to our business."

Reason: What's the state of race relations in the United States?

Elder: Essentially, they're excellent. In our quotidian, day-to-day lives, people get along just fine. You walk up to the store and you see an integrated line. There's a black checkout clerk there and you get your stuff processed. We're all getting along just fine. Most middle-class blacks live in integrated neighborhoods.

Reason: But if you go to Chicago, or Detroit, or Los Angeles, segregation is still everywhere.

Elder: So what? Frankly, people choose to live where they're comfortable. I mean, if the housing patterns were a result of discrimination on the part of real estate agents then that's one thing. But I see no evidence of that. Most of my friends who live in the Baldwin Hills and View Park areas of Los Angeles–which are predominantly black bourgeois areas–chose to live there because they want to live with other black people.

Reason: So you don't think there is redlining in real estate and bank loans?

Elder: It's crap, nonsense. Does redlining exist in the sense that there are certain geographical areas where insurers are less likely to insure, or people are less likely to live or invest in? Yeah, but there are also economic reasons for that. When you burn down your neighborhood, that's going to make insurance companies a little skittish. When [Rep.] Maxine Waters [D-Calif.], having witnessed a conflagration, refers to it as an "uprising" or "rebellion," rather than as a riot, and I'm in an insurance company and I'm listening to this, I'm a little concerned.

When I talk about blacks and whites getting along well, I'm talking about interaction. Is there a gap between the way blacks view America and the way whites view America? Absolutely. A huge gap. That's the significance of the O.J. Simpson trial. It shows how very differently blacks view the amount, extent, and intensity of racism in the country. I was struck by a Times Mirror poll that asked blacks to respond yes or no to the following question: In America, if you are willing to work hard, you can prosper. It was something like that. Blacks earning $50,000 a year or more said no to that proposition more frequently than did lower-class whites.

Reason: What explains that?

Elder: What explains it is a seething feeling that is fanned by black leadership that the system is rigged–"They're out to get you"–the great white oppressors lurk in the corner and will strike you down when they have an opportunity. That's the way a lot of blacks feel and it cuts across economic class. Blacks for the most part believe that racism remains a huge problem in America, that America remains corrupt, and the criminal justice system remains corrupt.

Reason: But didn't the O.J. Simpson trial show there are racist, incompetent cops?

Elder: Are there racist cops? Yeah. Are they pervasive? Not even close. Who's the bigger danger to blacks: the vicious minority of young black punks and thugs that terrorize the overwhelming majority of law-abiding innocent people in the inner city or the Mark Fuhrmans of the world? The burglar bars on every third house in the inner city aren't to keep Mark Fuhrman away.

Reason: But what about racism? What about something like the Denny's case, in which black Secret Servicemen were refused service?

Elder: A guy called me up the other day on the show. He was a black guy, owns his own business, and he flies first class all the time. On three occasions while flying, he feels he was a victim of discrimination. I say, "Tell me about one instance, sir." "Well, the plane was overbooked," he says. "A stewardess came up to me and she said, 'Sorry, sir, let me see your ticket.' I showed her my ticket, it was seat four, and she said, 'Well, this gentleman has seat number four.' She asked me to give it up." I asked the caller, "Did you give it up?" He said no. So he didn't give it up anyway. That was his evidence of discrimination while flying first class. I said, "Well, how do you know what went on in the stewardess's mind? Maybe she saw somebody who was less likely to give her a hard time, maybe because you're soft spoken, maybe because you're diminutive. I don't know. You don't know."

But let's assume that it was racism. I asked the caller, "How many years have you had your business?" "Seven years." "You fly first class all the time." "Yeah." "How many times would you say you fly a year?" "Three times, four times, a month." "So we're talking about 30-40 times a year, times seven. So you've flown first class 300 times and you've named three incidents that have happened to you that you think are racist. So 297 times nothing happened." So what are we talking about here–or when you mention the Denny's thing? How many times do you suppose the Secret Service agents have gone into a restaurant in their lives, how many times have they been refused a seat? So, it happens one time. These guys are probably 40 years old. So we go to war for that? I mean, I don't get it.

The other part of the equation is black paranoia, which is rampant in this country. Maya Angelou was interviewed on David Frost and she said that she's an avid Jeopardy! watcher, as am I. She said that she watched Jeopardy! and, in the last two years, she hasn't seen a black person on it. I watch it and I've seen a number of blacks. Not commensurate with the population of blacks, but certainly a number of blacks, and a black kid almost won the teen tournament. So she's just flat out wrong. More important is the implication that Alex Trebek and the boys are some- how conspiring to prevent qualified black applicants from getting on Jeopardy!, even though we know that Wheel of Fortune, which is produced by the same people, has lots of black people on it. It's just absurd. As I say on the air, another chapter of the continuing saga called In Search of the Great White Oppressor.

That rhetoric has got to stop, the constant search for the great white oppressor has got to stop. A lot of this anger coming from inner-city blacks stems from a prevailing theory that the greater society not only doesn't even care about blacks, but actively seeks to hurt them. When Maxine Waters calls the L.A. riots an uprising; when she says, "no justice, no peace"; when Jesse Jackson suggests that the difference between crack and powder is evidence of a racist criminal justice system; when Al Sharpton stands up before the Million Man March and says that O.J. is "home" now and that there are hundreds and thousands of black people behind bars and we can't rest until they are home, too; when people like Maya Angelou make the remarks she made about Jeopardy!; when people like Bill Cosby suggests that he "has a feeling" that AIDS is part of the plot to exterminate the black race–my point is that nothing's going to change much until black leaders stop such reckless, careless, conspiratorial nonsense. Say you're a 9- or 10-year-old kid who wants to study and you just now hear Bill Cosby say that AIDS is a government plot against blacks, or Al Sharpton say that black people are thrown in prison for no apparent reason, or you hear that Alex Trebek discriminates against qualified applicants for Jeopardy!, you're going to figure, what's the point?

Reason: You're skeptical of the very notion of "black leaders," aren't you?

Elder: Yeah, the whole thing is kind of condescending. As I've said on air, who is the German-American leader? Who is the Italian-American leader–in the sense of having a point of view, a perspective advocating a set of policies that are going to be beneficial to that group? When Antonin Scalia was nominated for the Supreme Court, there were lots of articles about how proud Italian Americans were of him. But with blacks, it's always like, "Here is a savior, here is somebody who is going to really set the record straight." Jesse Jackson is perceived as a savior. Al Sharpton is perceived as somebody who is down with us, out for us, backing us up.

Here's a microcosm of a lot of things that we're talking about: Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton saw the different penalties for crack cocaine and powder cocaine as Exhibit A that the criminal justice system is racist. I'm not saying I accept the different penalties. Unlike Jackson or Sharpton, I think the drug war is bogus. Philosophically, I think that if somebody wants to sit around and get stoned that's up to him or her. And if that ruins your life, so be it. Any government intrusion ought to be viewed with great skepticism and this is another example of that.

On a practical level, add up all the costs of the drug war: all the people robbing and maiming and shooting and stealing in order to get money to support their drug habit, lost work when your car gets stolen by somebody who wanted it because he or she wanted to sell it for drugs, police protection, border patrol. William F. Buckley estimates that the drug war is costing the American taxpayers $205 billion a year. Our prisons are full of people for drug trafficking, many of whom never committed a violent crime.

So I'm for drug legalization. But if you are running a war on drugs, don't tell me that different treatment for crack and powder has to stem from racism. The fact is that many people believe that the crack trade is a violent trade. It certainly can be proved that in the mid-'80s, when crack became a drug of choice of the inner city, murders went up.

Reason: So how do you get out of a cycle where all discussion is focused on race, whether or not it's relevant?

Elder: To straighten out race relations, whites have to stop condescending to blacks. They have to tell blacks frankly and candidly why they are scared: "We're scared because 45 percent of those arrested for violent crime in this country are black. I'm scared because I've been mugged by a black person. I'm scared because my purse has been taken by a black person. I'm sorry, but when I go into the inner city and interact and go to Raiders games, I've had some negative experiences. That is why I am afraid." That's not irrational, that's dialogue. But whites don't do that. They either deny it or don't want to talk about it or they say something very condescending: "It's horrible that I feel this way, it's terrible, but I don't know, I'm fighting the feeling." It's a horrible, horrible condescension that comes from whites that prevents blacks from confronting the truth.

Here's what I mean about condescension. A third of all blacks believe that AIDS is a plot against them. Why aren't scientists–white and black–writing op-eds to the Los Angeles Times saying this is bullshit? Why are white people rolling over and playing dead when blacks make assertions that are just totally unfounded and offensive? To me, it gives it an aura of legitimacy. And I submit to you that at kitchen tables across America, black kids are listening to mommy and daddy talk about these kinds of things as if they are plausible and you leave the table with an attitude that you can't do anything anyway.

Reason: Wasn't there a time when the system was rigged?

Elder: Yeah. It's not anymore. And that's a problem when I make the argument that I just now made to you. I frequently get a phone call from people who say things like, "Well, what about Emmett Till?" or "My great-grandfather tried to vote one time and they told him not to vote." Well, fine. You can regale me with a lot of stories, but we're talking about 1995.

Reason: You've written that America owes a debt to blacks and that 30 years of affirmative action hardly makes up for slavery and Jim Crow. But you're against affirmative action. What pays off the debt?

Elder: America owes a debt to black people: When blacks were freed they should have been compensated, but they weren't. There's nothing that can be done about that now.

I think what America has done in paying on this debt is affirmative action. And frankly, that's 30 years of failing to hold blacks to the same standards of behavior as they would expect their own sons and daughters to adhere to. What America owes black people is a statement that we are going to evaluate you based on your talents. America owes the commitment not to discriminate. All a state can be is just in its own time, and America must attempt to be just in its time.

Reason: By your own admission, you've benefited from affirmative action and it didn't turn you into a self-hating individual. So what's wrong with it?

Elder: I think there was a statement to be made: The welcome mat is here. A lot of institutions historically discriminated against blacks and for a certain period of time, to demonstrate our sincerity and our commitment, it was appropriate to vary standards to achieve some degree of diversity.

Reason: Did you benefit from having lower standards?

Elder: I think it is likely that my résumé would've looked different if I was subject to the same standards as everybody else. Having said that, I did very well on my SATs.

Reason: How do you think you would have done without affirmative action?

Elder: I graduated number seven in a high school class of 250. Not number one or two, but it ain't bad. I certainly would've gotten into a competitive school regardless of my race. I am prepared to admit that I benefited from affirmative action. I am not prepared to admit that I would have been jobless, homeless, and illiterate had affirmative action not been in effect.

One of the problems with affirmative action is that it has primarily benefited people who are already prepared. What it did for me was to kick me from one level into another level. Without it, I wouldn't have gone to Brown–I probably would've gone to a Big Ten school. But it ended up creating higher failure rates, too. When I was in Brown, a disproportionate percentage of blacks failed. Many of them came from schools that were not as good as mine. I could tell by how little most of the other black kids read, how little math they knew, that they weren't going to be able to make it–and they didn't.

So what happened? You grab a bunch of people who would've been successful at a certain school and put them into a sort of blue-chip track, a great percentage of them fails, and they get very angry. The kids at Brown were falling behind and all were pissed off. They were confused. Their attitude was, "If you weren't going to let me make it, why'd you put me here?" It wasn't said that way but that was roughly the general feeling. And I saw the same attitude when I was at Michigan Law School. The statement that the door was open had to be made, but I wonder whether it was worth it.

Reason: You're against affirmative action quotas but you do support anti-discrimination legislation.

Elder: Morally, quotas cannot be defended. Even Hubert Humphrey–who did a lot of the heavy lifting for civil rights legislation–did not perceive a need for race-based affirmative action. I am really quite torn. As I said earlier, a statement had to be made. But why should some 18-year-old white kid who did very well on his SATs and whose father came from a blue-collar background be penalized because we now think UCLA should have a particular statistical population of blacks and Latinos? Why should the 18-year-old be screwed because of that? I find it very difficult to defend that.

In terms of employment, I favor the current laws that we have, which say that if there is evidence of discrimination based on disparate impact, the burden of proof should shift to the employer. The employer could disprove if he or she had discriminated. I am willing to accept that intrusion because I think it is so important to say to people that we, the government, will not tolerate discrimination.

Should there be some sort of mandatory affirmative action program, even in the public sector? Absolutely not. That's one of the things I find curious about this whole argument. The California Civil Rights Initiative would not affect the private businesses at all. Almost all of the Fortune 500 companies have affirmative action policies. They have them for two reasons. First, most of them do business with the government. The government compels you to have some sort of affirmative action plan. The office of federal contract compliance comes through from time to time and asks how many blacks you actually have here. So they have to do it anyway. They shouldn't have to, it's wrong, but it's there. The other reason most private companies have affirmative action policies, though, is because it is just good business. When you are buying pantyhose and the consumer reads an article by the president of the National Organization for Women that this manufacturer of pantyhose discriminates against female executives, that manufacturer is in trouble. That, to me, should be the role of organizations such as the NAACP, the Urban League, etc.–the service of the watchdog.

Reason: But you do reject the idea that the free market will eliminate racism. And you think that the government should police marketplace discrimination?

Elder: Yes. I was in the headhunting business for 15 years. I have a friend who is in a similar business. She has clients that have told her not to send over black people: "Don't send me somebody black no matter how qualified. I don't want them in my house." She has told me this. I know it goes on. 60 Minutes did a piece on a headhunting firm in New York. Black applicants were asked to fill out the application in black ink and white applicants were asked to fill out the application in blue ink so that counselors could identify the race of the applicant.

Reason: And they shouldn't be allowed to do that?

Elder: No.

Reason: Now you're contradicting what you said earlier. Aren't you saying that government is needed to stop racism?

Elder: Why do we have laws to tell people not to do certain things? I mean, the fact is that most people are not going to murder, but it doesn't mean we shouldn't have a law that says don't murder. Most people aren't going to discriminate but that doesn't mean we shouldn't have a law saying you can't do it. There is some discrimination. Is it anywhere close to where Jesse Jackson thinks? Of course not. Is it anywhere close to what Maxine Waters is saying? No. Should we have a law that says that UCLA must admit people based on race or based on sex? No. But does that mean we should remove all laws in the books that would prevent ABC Corp. from summarily refusing to accept applications from a qualified black applicant? No, we should have a law that prevents people from doing that. Just like we should have a law that stops Joe's Eatery from preventing black people from coming in and sitting at the lunch counter. I recognize that's an intrusion to Joe's business, and that's the price that we pay in our society for having had historic discrimination, for being a sort of sick society where people are going to be skeptical about the rules. I should add that I think the threat of lost profits from discriminating is one of the reasons why I'm so adamant about the relative lack of racism in the marketplace.

Reason: Once upon a time you were a successful young lawyer in Cleveland. How did you get into radio?

Elder: People thought I was insane. I was doing extremely well at Squire, Sanders & Dempsey. I was well liked at one of the best law firms in America–at the time it was the ninth biggest law firm in the country. I wanted to make more money and I wanted to make it faster. What bothered me about the law firm was that you're in lock step. You can be the baddest guy in town and next year you'll be a second-year associate. You can be the baddest second-year associate in town, and next year you'll be a third-year associate. I didn't like that. I thought I was more talented and should be accelerated much faster. That was an unacceptable attitude to have in that system. I wasn't upset about it, that's just the way it was.

I always wanted to be paid for doing what I'm doing now. I wanted to be paid for thinking, for writing, for making commentary, and I knew that was a rough, tough way to go and that there probably wasn't a lot of money in it initially. I wanted to put myself economically in a position where I would then spend the time to pursue that–that required money. I didn't have enough devotion to just chuck it all and write for small-time publications and try to get a career that way. I wanted to make money, put it away, get a house, get a car, have a stock portfolio. I left the firm after three years, then I started and operated a legal headhunting business for 15 years. After having it for about six or seven years I put the day-to-day operations in the hands of the number-two person and I began reading and writing. I auditioned for and got a television show on PBS, which I hosted for six years. I can't say I had a plan. I literally picked up the phone and talked my way into getting this audition on PBS and they hired me. They just happened to be looking for a cohost.

I also starting writing opinion pieces for newspapers. I would send them to the Cleveland Plain Dealer and they would get rejected. I'd send another one and it would get rejected and then one got published and then the next three or four got rejected and then one got published and pretty soon, I began to develop an informal group of newspapers that would run my stuff.

Reason: And you read. What were you reading?

Elder: People I always wanted to read and had never had the chance. I read Ludwig von Mises, Friedrich Hayek. I read Huckleberry Finn, Tom Sawyer, Somerset Maugham, lots of things. I had never really read a lot of Ayn Rand. I read The Fountainhead. Brave New World. I just took off and read stuff I never had a chance to read. So I'm just cruising along, preparing for my weekly show on Fox, writing columns. I wrote a screenplay, I wrote a television series.

Then I began getting invited on radio shows as a guest because of some of the columns I had written, ones mostly to the effect that racism is not the problem in America–my pieces were usually pretty incendiary. A guy invited me on his show and tried to rake me over the coals and I kicked his butt. His programming director called me and asked me if I'd like to fill in for the guy when he went on vacation. I told him I'd think about it. I went home to my then-wife (I'm divorced) and I said, "They want me to do this radio thing for a week. She said, "What do you think?" I said, "I think of talk radio as facile, glib, superficial, and shallow." She said, "I think you'd be good at it."

So I sat in for this guy for one week and I had been reborn. It was just an incredibly exhilarating experience. I sat in a little room. It was gray and sort of dark and lights flipping, this microphone there and nobody else there. I asked the engineer, "I can say anything I want and get all the things off my chest that have pissed me off, right?" He said, "Yeah." So I let it rip. And I talked about many of the things you and I are talking about now. I made tapes and took out the best 20 minutes or so and squashed them together and sent them to the top talk stations in Washington and Los Angeles–the only two cities that I would consider moving to. I followed them up, nobody cared. I wasn't surprised. I didn't think that one went from four or five days guest hosting to prime time radio in D.C. or L.A. I wasn't surprised, or disappointed, or pissed. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

At the time–this is 1992–I also appeared on a local show called Morning Exchange as legal expert on employment matters. I came in one day and Dennis Prager, the TV and radio show host, was a guest and as they were undoing the mike I overheard someone say to Dennis, "When are you going back to Los Angeles?" I introduced myself to Dennis, told him I was from Los Angeles originally and what I was doing now. Dennis told me to send him my stuff and to get in touch with him the next time I would be in Los Angeles, that he'd put me on his show. When I got out there around Christmas, Dennis, true to his word, put me on. He told me I would be on for 15 minutes. I was on for two hours.

Then I was back in Cleveland and I wrote Dennis a very nice letter, carefully worded, and asked if he'd be so kind as to mention me to management. Dennis did and put me in touch with the program director, who never would return my calls. So December 1993 rolls around, and I was back in L.A. and he put me on the show again. Again for two hours. This time the president and general manager of the station heard me. I flew back to Cleveland and literally just as I walked into my office, [KABC Station Manager] George Green is on the phone. He said, "I heard you and you have the three things we look for in a talk show host: You take a position, you can defend that position intelligently, and have a sense of humor. The combination is awesome. Will you come back here and sit in for two nights for somebody?" So I got back on the plane to Los Angeles. Literally, I sat in for one night in the 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. spot and the next morning George calls my parents' house where I'm staying and he offers me a job.

Reason: Thank you.