Friday April 13, 2018

Late night listeners lose an American original and storyteller. 

The Webmaster of this Page was one of those listeners.

Art Bell transcended the earthly plane on Friday the 13th. 

The late-night talker peaked perhaps in the late-1990s and early-2000s, when his show appeared on more than 500 stations and 15 million tuned-in nightly. He provided an experience like nothing else on the radio at a time when everything on the radio sounded like everything else on the radio.

Art Bell lulled the listener into believing that Art Bell lulled the listener to sleep. And he did until voices calling from Area 51 or the year 2063 jarred listeners into consciousness. Favorite subjects included shadow people, chem trails, space aliens, and time travel. 

His calm attitude, patient questions, and ability to tease substance from nebulous statements of callers and guests gave his show a relaxed yet serious atmosphere. This earned him praise from those who declare that the paranormal deserves a mature outlet of discussion in the media as well as the approval of those simply amused by the nightly parade of bizarre, typically fringe topics. Ed Dames, Richard C. Hoagland, Terence McKenna, Dannion Brinkley, David John Oates, Whitley Strieber and Robert Bigelow were all regular guests. Some of Bell's regular guests continue to appear on Coast to Coast AM now hosted by George Noory.

Bell sounded stranger than his menagerie of guests and callers. The man of mystery teased massive announcements with great frequency. He retired multiple times in very public ways citing very private reasons. Listeners grieved when his love Ramona passed away; they stood flummoxed when he remarried three months later, a period of delay two months longer than his waiting period between wife #2 and Ramona. He abruptly moved to the Philippines. He occasionally spoke of vague threats against him and his family. He sounded to his listeners as the type of person who might wear shades and a strange mustache, keep multiple cats as pets, and live in Pahrump, Nevada.

My favorite Art Bell moment came in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. A caller offered his unsolicited advice to the U.S. military on how to best respond to the attacks. He earnestly suggested dying the clouds above Afghanistan with a sort of red food coloring. Our ability to make it rain blood, presumably, would ward off thoughts of a future attack. Another host might mock; Bell marveled.

The host giving unscreened callers a forum, uncredentialled guests the floor (for hours!), and new life to Giorgio Moroder’s “Chase” and the entire Gordon Lightfoot catalogue all help explain his extraordinary success. More so does timing. Broadcasting in the wake of Waco and the Oklahoma City Bombing and contemporaneously with The X-Files, conspiracy theories found a massive audience. But even more than broadcasting in that time in history, broadcasting during a specific time of night — which witnesses our imaginations turn on when the lights turn off — catalyzed his popularity. It helped that evangelists and paid programming provided the competition. But the presentation and content of the show, rather than its weak-sauce rivals, attracted listeners in the darkness when all seemed possible.

Their fidelity did not mean a belief in the words said on the broadcast. They tuned in not for the truth but for a good story. Adults still want storytellers, preferably ones offering the most fantastical tales, to send them to sleep. Art Bell told them stories when parents and older siblings no longer would.

The show tweeted a comment from its current host, George Noory, who described Bell as “a legend – a radio icon who went against the grain and developed an amazing show called 'Coast to Coast AM.' His impact on my life is beyond words. He will be missed, but I know he is now on another journey.”

Bell broadcast “Coast to Coast" from his radio station, KNYE, in Pahrump NV.

During Bell’s National Radio Hall of Fame induction in 2008, his former business partner, Alan Corbeth, said no one was better than Bell at understanding “how to create theater of the mind.”

“From the Heartland of America to the Gateway to the West”, radio listeners mourn this weekend. The a.m. band lost one of its last great personalities.


R.I.P. Art Bell 1945--2018

We are profoundly saddened with the news that the creator and original host of Coast to Coast AM, Art Bell, has passed away at the age of 72 at his home in Pahrump, Nevada.

While serving in the US Air Force in the Vietnam War, he indulged his childhood passion for radio by operating a pirate station that played anti-war music otherwise unavailable on official channels broadcast to American servicemen.

Following his time in the service, his love of radio led him to working as a disc jockey for an English-language station in Japan where he set a Guinness World Record for broadcasting an astounding 116 hours straight.

This was no mere radio stunt, however, as it served to raise funds to rescue over 100 Vietnamese orphans left stranded by the conflict in their home country.

Upon returning to the United States, he entered the world of talk radio with an overnight program on KDWN in Las Vegas.

After noticing that episodes covering conspiracy theories and paranormal topics generated considerable interest from listeners, Bell transformed the show from political talk to discussion of these often-verboten realms.

Syndicated nationally in 1993, Coast to Coast AM soon became a juggernaut and bonafide radio phenomenon.

During the 1990s, when The X-Files had people wondering about the world of high strangeness, Art Bell was the voice of that world, introducing millions of radio listeners to a vast array of paranormal topics and the researchers that studied them.

Over the course of countless programs throughout the decade and into the 2000s, Art Bell captivated listeners by way of his intellectually-curious and open-minded conversations with guests who were attempting to find answers to the paranormal mysteries which baffle us all.

Although he retired from full-time hosting duties at the end of 2002, Art returned to occasionally helm Coast to Coast AM programs on weekends and later launched his own satellite radio program, Art Bell's Dark Matter, as well as an internet-based endeavor called Midnight in the Desert.

As founder of Coast to Coast AM, his role in crafting and shaping this program can be felt to this day in elements like the iconic phone lines emanating from East of the Rockies, West of the Rockies, and the always-unpredictable Wildcard Line, as well as the annual Ghost to Ghost AM Halloween specials and, of course, C2C's signature opening theme song.

We extend our deepest condolences to Art Bell's family and friends. We celebrate him for his brilliant creation of Coast to Coast AM and the many unforgettable moments he shared with us over the years.

As he begins his journey on the 'Other Side,' we take solace in the hope that he is now finding out all of the answers to the mysteries he pursued for so many nights with all of us.