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Thread: My Personal Tribute to Art Bell As a Very Long Time Listener Part 1

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    United States Avalon Retired Member
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    Default My Personal Tribute to Art Bell As a Very Long Time Listener Part 1

    I think Art Bell deserves more of a send off than a few well meant 1 liners. Can I, as an old timer, share my experience of the Art Bell phenomena? Many people on the internet now seem to have been in diapers when Art Bell was at the height of his radio career, so perhaps this testimonial I wrote the day after he died will help “youngsters” understand what Art Bell was all about.


    Art Bell was a big part of my life in the 90's. I worked long days as a computer engineer for a major corporation. My job was full of stress and I could not relax even at night. I would dream about computer code! I had relentless dreams trying to fix and decipher software language that constantly changed in the dream and made no sense. Art Bell was a welcome escape.

    Bear in mind that at that time YOUTUBE did not exist with a plethora of alternative interview shows. The concept of podcast shows on the internet was years in the future. Art Bell was on the cutting edge for even having an internet website, complete with a forum (another rather new idea at the time) for listeners to discuss the shows. Art promoted the idea of listener Art Bell clubs throughout the country. People would come together locally and discuss Art Bell and his guests. Often in large cities some of Art's guests would show up and have informal chats with the group. Imagine meeting Robert O. Dean or Budd Hopkins personally.

    Art Bell was a real phenomenon at the time because (younger people need to understand this) THERE WAS VIRTUALLY NO INFORMATION ON THE PARANORMAL OR UFOS ANYWHERE ELSE! There had been IN SEARCH OF, a half hour program in the latter 70’s hosted by Leonard Nimoy (who I met once in a department store). There had been a TV show SIGHTINGS for 1 hour a week in the 80’s. This seemed to meld into a show called ENCOUNTERS (if I recall correctly).

    But Art was there late every single night, plus for an hour on Sunday evenings on his show DREAMLAND, now hosted by his friend Whitley Strieber. Art Bell was the first truly national radio personality who was willing to discuss any aspect of the strange without making childish jokes to debunk his own content. He filled a vacuum in the collective mind, and filled it very well. Even though I had to wake up at 6:00 a.m. to go back to work, I would often sit up (almost a zombie) listening to Art Bell. I just cannot over emphasize how revolutionary he was at the time!

    One thing Art Bell did seemingly as a marketing ploy was to promote that his show was revealing the HIDDEN TRUTH (copyright pending…). I believed it at the time. Many people did. Of course, this has now become a cliche and you can go on YOUTUBE and watch "revealed truth" from any different angle, such as right wing conspiracies, religious fundamentalism, left wing fears, wild eyed conspiracies of all kinds, Doom Porn and just a buffet of "revealed truth" to suit your fancy. If you don't like one version of the "revealed truth" you can now easily find another version to support your pre-existing beliefs. There is now a smorgasbord of revealed truth out there to suit your fancy for you to choose from.

    But when Art Bell hit the scene, he pretty much owned the paranormal genre in a big way. People even wrote songs about Art Bell and the show, such as Crystal Gale who wrote Midnight in the Desert.


    The music Art Bell used on the show was often from the 70’s with a few tips of the hat to the 80’s and 90s. This often dated music was reborn and branded as being part of the Art Bell experience. Here is a playlist from the show.


    Art Bell at his height was a cultural force! The listener felt like he/she was taking part in a leading edge movement to uncover hidden truth. In this time of a plethora of such shows everywhere, it may be hard for younger people to understand. But again, there was nothing else of this kind anywhere then. I remember dark nights commuting from San Francisco to my home out in the East Valley. Cocooned in my car with the glowing radio dial, there was something so comforting about knowing that Art Bell was out there on the air, sort of America's Dad with his smooth calm voice and his very responsive remarks and questions to whatever the guest had to say.

    One very clever person used clips from old shows with the word "TRUTH" and called it the truth song. Listeners wrote songs such as “If I’m Abducted, Don’t Let it be The Greys”. And old time listeners will recall the satirical commercials Art played routinely on the show. A couple examples:
    1. Greys Be Gone Spray” to make you repellant to the little Grey invaders.
    2. “Fresh Insects” raised on an insect farm for quick delivery to your Reptilian Lover

    And don't forget the legitimate ads that paid for the show for products that would make late night TV $19.95 ads blush. There was one advertiser who dipped roses in gold, if memory serves. Another was promoting a magnet based water filter. The eccentric sponsors were part of the fun before the show was sold to a corporate network.

    Both the guests and the listeners were strange and eccentric. OPEN LINES allowed callers to be on the air. Art Bell seldom had an interface between the caller and the live show. If you called, you got into a queue and went right on the show without any censorship or vetting. This resulted in some classic calls. Some examples. First, a candid recording of an Open Lines show:


    1. The guy supposedly flying a plane into Area 51 and being shot down as we listened.


    2. The terrified guy who supposedly worked at Area 51 who was on the run for what he knew.


    3. Anti-Christ Callers. Such people are a dime a dozen now, but back then encouraging the Anti-Christ to call in to chat was shocking.
    4. Actual “Men in Black” callers
    5. Actual Aliens living on Earth callers
    5. Actual Time Travelers from the future (John Titor)
    6. Actual Satanists
    7. Actual Vampires
    8. Shadow people caller encounters
    9. Alien abduction caller experiences
    10. NDE caller experiences
    11. JC the intolerant religious fanatic who felt that William Shatner was a Canadian spy sent here to steal technological wonders from the set of Star Trek (was JC really just a good amateur actor?).
    12. There was a guy who told us he spent 5 years as a wolf, part of a generational family curse invoked when he stepped into a particular pool in the woods at the insistence of his dad.

    All such topics were NEW then. Thanks to Art, these topics are now mainstream to the point that we can find shows about the paranormal everywhere online


    But even in the zenith of my faith in Art Bell, I began to feel frustration. Why oh why did Art Bell keep showcasing Ed Dames, the so-called Remote Viewer who sold remote viewing instructional kits? The man reminds me much of David Wilcock today. So many wild stories, and always negative. Dames got the knick name Doctor Doom. Even on the Art Bell official forum, listeners mused about why Art Bell seemed so connected at the hip to Dames. Did Dames have something on him (conspiracy theory)? Did Art have a heavy investment in Dames mail order "remove viewing" kits? Or was Ed Dames simply great radio? When Ed Dames remote viewed Satan, it became a classic show. I confess I became extremely angry with Art Bell due to Ed Dames. Ed claimed that the final apocalypse of humankind would come when gay people were legally allowed to marry in churches. This was an appalling attack on gay people, but Art let it slide without saying a word. Only in a later show did Art feel obligated to make a comment distancing himself from the earlier conversation, much as the vicious Laura Ingraham made a tepid apology for trashing the Parkside teen who survived a mass murder gun attack at school, leading him and others to call for some control on semi-automatic AR-15s. Laura found this appalling and lashed out at him personally, lost over 22 sponsors and made a rather jaded apology to save her show. Back in 1998, I began to hold Art Bell in the same low esteem for his personal right wing views. Art even thought that meditation was bad because it opened you up to demonic possession. Come on, Art.

    [I respect if conservative readers disagree with my political views above, but please read on, since this does not color the rest of the article].


    Then there was "Doctor Reed" with the frozen alien burrito. He claimed that he was on a hike with his dog and came upon an alien. The alien turned his dog into beef jerky with a ray gun. Reed killed the alien and kept him in his garage freezer. The story became more and more silly, with Reed opening the freezer one day and the dead alien was screeching. Then secret government agents became involved (rejected scripts for the X FILES). Art had this guy on repeatedly, even after evidence was sent to Art about how this guy was a total fraud. I still cannot really understand Art's psyche such that he would be very connected to certain guests, even when they were obviously frauds. I guess again that Art thought it was “good radio”.


    Then there were so many shows with the god awful Sean David Morton and Bruce Goldberg. Hoagland is another example. Hoagland did make good radio. Hoagland came up with lots of entertaining wild stuff, like the time TARGET advertised shirts on TV for $19.50. Hoagland had a fixation on that number, thinking it had deep occult Illuminati qualities that even influenced government NASA space launch dates and times. Because of this innocent commercial, he told listeners to go to TARGET, ask for the manager and say "I am here for the secret Illuminati meeting". LOL I am sure TARGET store managers across the nation had a few choice words for Hoagland after that incident. I think even Art Bell seemed a little scared when Hoagland pulled that stunt. Moving on, Art had an exclusive on the actual sounds of hell!


    Art Bell became the victim of at least 2 scandals. There was a bad period for Bell when Ted Gunderson, David Oates (reverse speech shtick) and someone named Robert Stephens began to post salacious things about Art Bell. David Oates had been another darling of the show until a falling out with Bell. Bell wanted clear literal reverse speech clips whereas Oates often shared metaphorical quotes that could mean anything. Oates was not invited to the show any longer. Oates and friends then came out with some very sleazy claims that Art had once been involved in a molestation arrest. Eventually, Art prevailed in court and Oates came on the show as part of the court settlement to publicly recant his story. You did NOT cross Art Bell. He was a fighter! Art took no prisoners. He exacted supreme judgment and punishment.

    Another bad period was when some people blamed Art Bell for the suicides of members of the Heaven’s Gate cult after Art promoted the spurious idea that Hale Bopp was being accompanied by a space ship. The Heaven’s Gate cult members believed that the Hale Bopp space ship was coming for them. But to be picked up, they had to leave their bodies behind. Frankly, although a lot of people blamed Art for this disaster, he was just doing what he always did, sharing wild tales and promoting them for entertainment value. This time it backfired on Art big time. But at least Art and Whitley Strieber put the faux remote viewer Courtney Browne in his place. This clip is representative of the situation.


    ART BEGINS HIS RADIO DEPARTURES: I admit that I became very cynical about Art Bell in the late 90’s due to his repeated drama queen departures from his own show. First, he left suddenly without warning because his teen son had been sexually assaulted by a male substitute teacher. The teacher was later convicted in court. Of course, I can understand that first departure to support his son.

    But Art would subsequently come back and depart in equally melo-dramatic ways. Art claimed he had fallen and hurt his back, which made it impossible for him to sit through an entire show due to the agony. So sometimes Art would leave the show in the middle of a broadcast, requiring the network to run an old show from that point. The problem is that later the same night, Art would FOR HOURS be on short wave radio, laughing and chatting with people. There were suspicions at the time that perhaps Art was using his back pain as some sort of negotiation tool (like calling in sick) to get a better deal from the network. I cannot substantiate that at all, but it was a rumor making the rounds on the internet so I am sharing it now.

    Regarding the network, Art started out on a home spun network. His show really had a strong flavor of counter culture and ad hoc programming, like a tiny pirate station broadcast from off-shore. But then Art Bell sold the show to a major network which led to being part of the right wing Clear Channel network. The show seemed to become more glossy then with the addition of countless commercial breaks. Art's original show could go on for 5 or more hours with just a handful of commercials. Clear Channel cut it down to 4 but loaded the show full of commercials. This began the period where Art would dramatically leave the show, then eventually return again.

    Discerning members of the audience began to feel disrespected.

    Art finally left Coast to Coast radio permanently. After fulfilling a non-competitive contract clause, he joined SIRIUS FM to do a similar radio show. But this lasted only a few months before he again walked out. The internet buzzed with the news that he had walked out presumably because that company would not allow people to hear Art's show FOR FREE. Art's complaint made no sense to me because SIRIUS FM is obviously a pay to listen network. That is how they make money. How could Art have missed that obvious fact? Yet Art demanded that they made an exception for him and allow anyone to hear his show because he felt that he wasn't getting enough call ins. This is what we were told at the time. And the listeners were 50 50 on this. There is always a cadre or posse of born again fans (like Trump supporters?) who deny reality and simply believe. Then there were the 50% who were getting fed up with Art's antics. Many of them had subscribed to SIRIUS XM only to hear him.

    I think the final straw for many long time listeners was when Art began the new Midnight in The Desert Show. Art left SIRUIS XM with yet another non-competitive clause that kept him off the air for at least a year. He asked his old website administrator, Keith Rowland, to create a radio network for him. Art’s new show, Midnight in the Desert, would be the flagship of a new network with subscriptions available online. But within only a few months of starting yet another show, Art suddenly he was gone again and some totally unknown young woman was hosting the show. Art claimed that he had received death threats against himself and his family unless he quit the show. He claimed that shots had been fired. The sheriff was notified.


    Yet Art kept his family out at the compound during this period instead of getting them to safety somewhere else. This snipper madman was never caught. But Art left his own show for the last time. Yet, appallingly, the very next day after he left the show (and this gun man was still out there presumably) what does Art do? He posts photos of his little daughter on the internet. People began to wonder if Art was losing it. A mad gunman had just threatened to kill your family, and you post close up photos of your daughter on the internet the day after you leave the show for the last time. As you might guess, many people thought that this gunman was a figment of Art's creative imagination. We can never really know but evidently Art never had any concerns about the gun man resurfacing again once he quit the show. Others suggest that perhaps Art always meant to create the show as a platform for this young lady Heather. He got it started and once it was stabilized at around 35,000 feet, he gave her the controls and parachuted out. We will never know.

    I do feel that his website master Keith Roland was given a real kick in the stomach.

    As noted, Keith Roland was commissioned to create this entire NETWORK with Art Bell's new show as the flagship. Hoagland and Jimmy Church had shows on that network. Keith invested a lot of time and effort into this, probably along with finances. Then after a few months, Art Bell just pulled the plug on the flagship show. When this happened, Keith seemed confused about what to do online. He solicited advice from current subscribers. He finally decided to keep going with Heather running the faltering flagship. Many people cancelled their subscriptions (me included), although perhaps things are going well now. I don't know. Heather still seems to be running Art's show. However, with so many free shows of high quality free on YOUTUBE on these same topics, I am rather curious who would continue to pay for an unknown talent.

    Therefore, I think Art Bell really damaged his "brand" by coming off as a Prima-Donna at the end. He was like a romantic suitor who courted his audience over and over for a short period, then dumped the audience for 1 dramatic reason after another. Maybe Art had reached a point where he loved the IDEA of being on the radio but hated the reality of the daily grind as age crept up on him?

    End of Part 1

    ¤=[Post Update]=¤

    Part 2

    I purchased the commemorative CD package put out by Keith Roland and Art Bell at one point. This contains the music written about Art and used on the show, logos (there were a steady stream then of pictures of Art against creative backgrounds), and many other features. I have 10 binders full of CDs of the Art Bell shows. I haven't touched them in years, but now they seem poignant and I will be listening to them.

    Will Art Bell be remembered? Except for students of radio, probably not. Who remembers Arthur Godfrey, Jack Paar, Steve Allen, Walter Winchell, Drew Pearson, even Johnny Carsen! A recent survey says that many young Americans do not even know what the Holocaust was (what do public schools teach?!?!). I predict that as the boomer generation departs this world, Art will just be a chapter in a scholarly book on radio history. But that is OK. I don't think Art intended to have any bronze statues erected to his name (although I would love for some rich eccentric to do so and create a library - as we do for each President - to preserve all his shows). Pop culture moves on for better or often for worse nowadays. We are all born into a period of history, live through it to the best of our ability, hopefully retire and then pass on. Art Bell was a major source of wonder and comfort for many of us during that journey in the 90's.

    Art Bell coined the term THE QUICKENING. He felt that something momentous was coming. In actuality, life still moves on as usual, always on the edge of despair yet great hope. But perhaps the Quickening has come for Art. Maybe death is the real Quickening.

    POST SCRIPT: This story could have had a happy ending if Art Bell and the network had found a new host more on par with Art Bell. Instead they chose George Noory. Coast to Coast became a dumbed down product. The host seemed to know nothing about the paranormal. Instead of intimate conversations, we heard stilted interviews using prepared questions that often ignored any hooks the guest may have provided in their previous response. Incredible areas for further discussion were routinely ignored as George just went down the list of questions his staff prepared for him. George went to calls often quite prematurely. It seemed like he just didn't know what to say after a short time so he handed it over to the callers. The guests were often brilliant and interesting, but their potential was lost by a relatively clueless host. Nonetheless, over the years the older crowd may have left (I still subscribe) and the younger people don't seem to notice any decrease in quality. They seem to adore George and flock to conferences where he is a speaker. George is coming to my town in a couple weeks. I wouldn’t go to see him if I had a free ticket. I admit that Coast to Coast is still sometimes brilliant. I particularly like the guest hosts George Knapp, David Schrader and Jimmy Church.

    Jimmy Church seems in a league with Art Bell in terms of natural radio talent and guest interaction. While Jimmy is very much a flim flam man like a circus carny (and he adores David Wilcock and Corey Goode as much as Art adored some nefarious people), but he has that old time spirit.

    Jimmy knows what he is talking about and does not need a script prepared for him by a staff. He can just shoot the bull for 2-3 hours without cue cards. I do wonder where Coast to Coast would be today if Jimmy had been given the reins right after Art left. There is no ultimate search for the truth on C2C, but some of that old time intimacy would have been maintained. Jimmy has his own show modeled after C2C called FADE TO BLACK. He refers to listeners as Fadernauts. Yeah, this may all be quite cheesy, but it brings back the Art Bell inclusion of the audience into a "movement". I miss that on the now very glib sanitized C2C.

    The End
    Last edited by ArizonaSilver; 18th April 2018 at 00:43.

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    France Administrator Hervé's Avatar
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    Default Re: My Personal Tribute to Art Bell As a Very Long Time Listener Part 1

    Mod Note: I have moved 8 posts out of this thread to High Horses Out of the Art Bell Tribute Thread. as being off-topic derailments.

    "La réalité est un rêve que l'on fait atterrir" San Antonio AKA F. Dard

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