Dick Tracy: A remembrance of Rush Limbaugh
Felicia was scanning her cell phone over lunch yesterday when she announced: “Rush Limbaugh died.”
Rush and I go back a long way, with widely divergent political views, but we had a friendly relationship from 1984 when he landed the morning talk show role at KFBK radio in Sacramento until he became a nationwide conservative spokesman.
And I gave him his first award for broadcast excellence!
I was writing a weekly “On The Air” radio column for The Sacramento Bee as a sideline to my gardening reporting on Saturdays when Rush came on the scene.
His predecessor, Morton Downey Jr., had unintentionally insulted an Asian-American politician who was best pals with my boss — and owner of KFBK — and found himself unemployed.
Rush started off with a bang and soon blew his local talk show competition off the air. I laugh now at my candor when he came to the office for an interview and I asked: “Do you really believe this stuff you’re saying?”
He did. And so did listeners. Big time. (Remind you of anyone?)
One week I was facing deadline with a column about a dirty trick a local station was playing with on-air talent, but they got wind of it and corrected the error. In a panic I created “The Dickie Award” for various categories — including news/talk — and Rush won. Easily.
Thus he became host of “The Award-Winning Rush Limbaugh Show.” In later years, of course, he garnered other awards, such as the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Donald Trump. He once even spent a night in the Lincoln Bedroom at the White House.
Our paths crossed many times over the years, including once at the Sacramento Tomato Festival in Old Sacramento, where he wore his black suit (to conceal his weight) in sweltering heat. My son and I waved a greeting and saw a young man approach and pull what looked like a submachine gun from under his shirt and say: “OK, Limbaugh, you’ve had it!”
I was rooted to the spot. I was going to witness a murder!
But it was a water pistol.
And once, when he was starring as a speaker at a huge broadcasters convention in Boston he was approached by my cousin, Michael Keith (a broadcast journalism professor at Boston University) and asked: “Do you still have your ”Dickie“ award?
Startled, he asked: “How’d you know about that?”
“My cousin gave it to you,” Mike replied.
Rush smiled and shook his hand.
S’long, my friend.
Dick Tracy, who lives in Grass Valley, is a member of The Union Editorial Board. His views are his own and do not represent the views of The Union or its editorial board members. Contact him at EditBoard@TheUnion.com.
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