When hate-talk radio's Michael Savage urinated on beloved San Francisco newspaper columnist Herb Caen's grave during Caen's 1997 funeral, it was obvious that right-wing talk radio had reached the bottom of the barrel. Sadly, it's remained there.
I was alerted to this vile stunt by one of my newspaper readers in the Bay Area. I quickly turned on the radio and tuned back and forth between Caen's memorial service, which was being broadcast live to tens of thousands, and "The Savage Weenie" using restroom sound effects to electronically simulate relieving himself. When I called the radio exec in charge of the major station that aired Savage's bile-a-thon to complain, he shrugged it off.
Why Savage's despicable stunt that lowered the already earth-bound radio bar even further?
To get ratings and attract attention, of course. But also, for revenge. It seems Caen had upset Weenie (his popular nickname, his little-heard given name being Weiner) a few weeks before. Caen had printed an item in his famous three-dot San Francisco Chronicle column about Savage having a run-in with a man in a wheelchair in a local restaurant. That's our Weenie!
Savage...the only guy who could make Rush Limbaugh look like a class act.
I've had the sad journalistic duty of writing about this pathetic-but-popular hatemonger longer than anyone, ever since this braying bigot first surfaced on San Francisco's top-rated radio station, KGO, 15 years ago this spring and I began reporting on how annoying he was in my Bay Area radio/TV column. Savage was my annual year-end pick as Disgrace to Broadcasting for years because of his venomous attacks on gays, lesbians, immigrants, and Democrats, whom he still calls "vermin." I finally gave up and "awarded" Weenie the Perpetual Trophy. Savage currently has a T-shirt for sale at his web site that reads: "I'd Rather Be Water Boarding." Cute.
Until the disgraceful Caen grave desecration, Savage's bizarre heckling of another class act, local public-radio host Michael Krasny, had been his personal low I'd reported.
Krasny was giving a garden-variety inspirational graduation speech at Redwood High School in Marin County in the mid-1990's. (Redwood is comic Robin Williams' alma mater).
Savage, who routinely refers to liberals as "mentally ill," began heckling Krasny, a popular and well-regarded English professor/author and a rare class act in talk radio. Krasny later called Savage's classless, attention-getting stunt (which I reported on the front page of the San Francisco Examiner ), as "oratorical penis envy." Savage even admitted to me later that he'd embarrassed his daughter, who was graduating, with his tirade. (I was a registered Republican at the time, so that's presumably why he assented to an interview).
Recently, a profanity-filled 2001 video of Savage and his charming wife surfaced on the net - and is attracting lots of Comments. What is shows, while hardly surprising, caused Savage to spin it on a recent show, claiming the filmmaker who posted it "was trying to make me the bad guy." As the five-minute film says: Watch it and judge for yourself.
A few lowlights:
--A film crew from the popular Fox show "Cops" was on a routine ride-around with two San Francisco policemen. The SFPD officers are questioning two homeless men for apparently using a doorway for a public convenience.
-- The Weiners, fresh from dinner at a SanFran restaurant, happen upon the scene. The teeny-tiny radio host begins screaming at the film crew, "Stop racially profiling the police! Another Commie trying to bother police!"
--Mrs. Weiner, meanwhile, sticks her face in the camera and says sweetly, "You don't like it when someone gets in YOUR space, do you?"
--"I almost got arrested," Savage admitted on his toxic-outfall radio show.
-- "You're garbage! You're street shit!" Savage yells as the homeless pair.
"They're not bothering me," says one SF cop evenly.
"Well, they're bothering ME!" Weenie proclaims in his trademark wide diphthong.
-- "Go back to Russia, you fucking assholes!" he yells at the amazed and bemused film crew. (One of the cops tells the crew that Savage is "out of control." ).
-- "He threatened my wife!" Savage then yells at the cops with typical understatement. The officer tells the curiously popular syndicated radio loudmouth, "You really need to move along." (At this point, it's surprising the Savage Weenie HADN'T been arrested for making the cops' job even harder).
So, just another typical day out of the office for the king of hate talk, whom I've nicknamed The Human Emetic.
I used to think Weenie only acted like a jerk on the air, that it was a crass act.
But after watching this just- unearthed episode of "The Streets of San Francisco," it's clear that it's no act.