Salute to Rush Limbaugh
By Marc J. Rauch
Exec. Vice President/Co-Publisher
THE AUTO CHANNEL
I first became aware of Rush Limbaugh around 1985 when he began appearing in local Nutri/System TV commerials in the Sacramento market. His opening line was something like "It's me, famous talk show host Rush Limbaugh for Nutri/System Weight Loss Centers." It caught my attention for three reasons: First, he was not a famous talk show host. I was a big talk radio fan since the 1960's, and I never heard of him. Second, the first name "Rush" is an unusual name. Third, he was standing inside a pair of pants that looked to be about 10 sizes too large. Rush was clearly a large man, but standing inside these clown pants it was obvious that he had been a much, much larger man before he became a Nutri/System client.
Even though I was, at that time, the Creative and Marketing Director of the area's largest advertising agency, we didn't know who Rush was. Rush had recently been hired by radio station KFBK to replace Morton Downey Jr., after the station fired Downey. Downey was himself a highly controversial radio talk show host, who went on to become a highly controversial TV talk show host. It was these commercials, not his conservative politics, that brought Rush to the attention of talk radio audiences in California's capital city.
I first worked with Rush at TV station KSCH in Sacramento that was managed and co-owned by Bob Gordon (my co-founder and co-publisher of THE AUTO CHANNEL). I was the station's Director of Creative Services. We had a daily game show called "JACKPOT BINGO," and Rush was one of our two regular substitute male hosts when our regular male host was unavailable. On at least two occasions, I directed the video crew in simulcasting Rush's morning radio show live over our morning programming.
At the same time, Rush's wife (his 2nd wife) was a sales rep for a local printing firm. It was the printing firm we used to print the station's promotional materials, and she was the rep I worked with. After Bob and I left KSCH, I produced and directed several TV commercials for a local appliance store that used Rush as their advertising spokesman. We talked about politics, sports, and marketing and advertising. His off-air personality was quite different than his on-air personality. He was introspective, and not at all the self-assured "talent on loan from God" person that marked his talk show character that he became known for. As I wrote in my first book "MARCeting," Rush reminded me of the professional wrestlers I had had the opportunity to work with when we were shooting promos for the wrestling TV shows we used to broadcast. Despite their larger-than-life tough guy/gal TV image, they were all sweethearts. In fact, the gruffer and nastier they were in their wrestling roles, the nicer they were when the cameras were turned off. That was Rush Limbaugh to me.
I never again met with Rush in person after we both left the Sacramento market. However, I was a regular listener and ardent fan for the next three decades. I laughingly recall Larry King claiming in the early 1990's that he had no idea who Rush Limbaugh was, or what he had said on-air. Larry's late night radio listeners would often call and tell Larry what Rush said earlier that day (King's bent was generally opposite that of Rush), and King's regular MO was to demean other radio personalities as being inconsequential by not acknowledging their existence. This went on for a long time. He did it regarding Howard Stern, too. Eventually, Larry King was given a national syndicated morning time slot opposite Rush. It was the left's attempt to derail Rush's soaring popularity. I don't recall how long King directly competed against Rush, but Rush's show killed King's; to the point that biographies of Larry King don't seem to even mention this as part of King's radio career.
Rush Limbaugh was a great radio broadcaster. He ranks right up there with Joe Pyne, Alan Burke, Bob Grant, Long John Nebel, Barry Farber, John Gambling, Tom Snyder, Howard Stern and Don Imus. And there was a time in the '90's when Rush's musical parodies, comedy bits, and spoofs were as witty and entertaining as anything that Stern and Imus ever broadcast.