One of my favorite talk radio hosts of all time (besides Jerry Williams of course) is Gene Burns. Gene was on WRKO in Boston and, with Jerry Williams (1923-2003) of course, kept WRKO #1 in the ratings for years in Boston radio, mostly during the 1980s. Talk radio now ain’t what it used to be, that’s for sure. But for over 15 years now Gene has been on KGO in San Francisco, his show from 7-10 pm PT, with the usual high ratings. However, he hasn’t been on his show for several months because of a fall he had that hurt his back and caused some bleeding in his brain. After rumors that he was leaving his show, he apparently won’t be leaving and will resume when he’s feeling better. Gene Burns has a history of medical problems and is 70 now. He made an appearance last week on his show filled in by Pat Thurston.
(UPDATE: Gene Burns is now on AM 910 KKSF in San Francisco.)
(UPDATE II: Early 2012, Gene had a stroke and has not returned to his show on KKSF.)
(UPDATE III: May 25th, 2013: Gene Burns died.)
If you’re familiar with Gene, you might know that he briefly was the Libertarian Party nominee for president in 1984, but withdrew because, as he stated at the time on his radio show, he didn’t like the way the LP hierarchy were running things (because they were pinheads, and still are — duh!). During the 1980s, Gene was a “principled libertarian,” being the most pro-private property, pro-freedom-of-association and pro-freedom-of-contract speaker I had heard. (In fact, in 1984, Gene Burns was quite enthusiastically endorsed for president by none other than Murray Rothbard!)
But Gene is not so much a “principled libertarian” in recent years, I’m sorry to say. In 2008 Gene Burns announced that he was frustrated with the LP, as it had “failed to gain meaningful traction,” and because he couldn’t “sit this one out secure in my Libertarian bubble,” he re-registered as a Democrat, and, while it doesn’t state it in his announcement, I believe he said he voted for Obama for president. I had also heard him in the last year say things like, “we need some form of nationalized health care,” and so on. In other words, Gene went from being that principled libertarian that I had learned so much from during the 1980s to, well, a left-winger, quite frankly, and it’s been disappointing, and it’s very sad. Others have noticed the changed.
However, I also heard Gene say in the past year, on the podcasts I had heard, many views that favor personal responsibility, such as leaving people alone on the roads who had not done anyone else any harm (such as “drunk drivers”), but cracking down on drivers whose recklessness actually did cause others harm, including teenagers. He also reiterated his support for “exiling dangerous people,” as in his suggestion during the 1980s of sending dangerous criminals off to some island and letting them fend for themselves (as an alternative to the State-imposed death penalty). So, there’s still hope in some ways.
Anyway, it sounds like Gene is recovering from his accident and will return to his radio show in San Francisco. He’s only 70, after all. These days, 70 is actually still quite young, as opposed to a few decades ago when 70 was still considered “old.” My Grandma Sylvia lived to be in her mid-90s with no major health issues, and passed away only a few years ago. Longevity is a good thing, if you’re in good health that is, but not so much if you have to deal with a lot of pain and suffering. Also, I occasionally listen to Steve LeVeille, the overnight host on WBZ in Boston, early in the morning, and on some occasions on Friday mornings during the 4-5 am hour, “Generosa from Peabody” calls in. She’s 98 and turns 99 in August. There’s a photo of the two of them together at a gathering. It’s nice to hear her call the show and give an update on what she’s doing.
If Gene Burns wants to return to radio, maybe he can consider returning to Boston, and see what the lefty nutsos like Deval Patrick and “Mumbles Menino” are doing to Massachusetts — I’m sure that will cause Gene to return to his libertarian way of thinking.