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Aug. 9, 2006

“It's all across our lives
Like a weed it's spread
'till nothing else has space to grow
The devil's radio.”---George Harrison

          Remember those late ‘50’s/early ‘60’s propaganda films about the threat of communism? You know, there was always a cartoon sequence of the planet with dirty commie countries in red. The bass-baritone narrator would declaim about the “red menace!” and brass would blare like the theme from “Godzilla.”
          Time for an update. Change the color to green, and the title to “The Capitalist Menace!” No, that’s not quite right. We are beset with a form of capitalism no one ever quite envisioned. I have referred to it in ungainly fashion, as “capitalism without conscience” and “capitalism amok,” but I have a better name now:
          This film should be made, and it should be shown in every elementary school classroom. Bring back Alexander Scorby to narrate, or the late Thurl “Tony the Tiger” Ravenscroft. Peter Coyote, at least.
          Crapitalism is sworn to destroy you, your way of life, your family, your churches, your synagogues, your morals, your ethics. The invasion is insidious. Crapitalists are in your movies, the music you buy, the programs you listen to. They might be hiding under your bed!
          It is not news that somebody finally figured out that making money need have no socially redeeming purpose. Maybe it happened during the callous Reagan “me” years, or maybe it’s just an outgrowth of the American worker being sold out to international slave labor. Desperation, every man for himself-ism. Or maybe it’s just the worst aspects of human nature winning out, evolutionarily speaking.
          But it all comes down to this: if it makes money, it’s good. The rich and famous (that’s nearly redundant) are idolized, lionized, deified, all but beatified. Doesn’t matter how they made their bucks. “Outsourcing” (the greatest euphemism since "collateral damage"), technological alienation, taxes, inflation, deficit spending, war budgets, dot-com busts have created Huckster Nation. America the Loot-iful. Evidence? I give you. . .
          The infomercial. Infotainment. Advertorial.
          Is there a more odiferous manifestation of crapitalism than the theft of airwaves for profiteering? Advertorial? These are not words, they’re cons; marketing inventions. Give a name to a cheap trick---preferably in several syllables---and it acquires legitimacy, cache. As if it is a potent item/concept/phenomenon of our time. Infotainment? It’s. . .a. . .commercial.
          Kids grow up with these things now, accepting them as reality. Television---cable-less television---is almost entirely given over to half-hour slots featuring flop-sweating sleazebag punks yelling about how “placing tiny classified ads” can make you rich. Or hordes of middle-aged Amerryguns revealing how they averaged $20,000 a month by “investing in real estate.” (Read: buying up foreclosures. Read: profiting from tragedy.)
          Thank goodness for corny old Jack LaLanne, who only wants to sell machines that enable you to drink broccoli.
          You would think that people like to watch these crapitalist programs, and marketing types would probably claim that they do, judging by their popularity. But this is the old demographic ruse. Ratings are a measurement of what people will respond to, not necessarily what they like. There’s a sucker born every minute. Don’t touch that dial.
          It’s like everything else these days: if it can be more profitable, there’s something wrong with it. Magic Mountain, the amusement park in Valencia, doesn’t make as much money as a housing development might, so it will be torn down. Your house is worth $700,000, but if you demolish it and build eight condos, you can sell them for $700,000 each! Never mind the density. Never mind the neighborhood.
          And what’s wrong with that, crapitalists moan? It’s what the market will bear. Just this: most women can make a hell of a lot more money as prostitutes than at their present jobs, but you don't see most of them changing their names to Tiffany and advertising in the back pages of the L.A. Weekly.
          All of which finally brings us to The Beatles.
          Or rather, to Breakfast With The Beatles, the long-running (23 years) original Sunday morning Beatles radio program, here in L.A. It was started by the late and much-loved local radio lady, Deirdre O’Donohue, and has for the past five years been percolatingly hosted by Chris Carter. (Read The Rip Post Interview with Carter.)
          Twenty three years for a radio show? That’s even longer than a pause in a George W. Bush sentence. Longer than it took Larry King to marry and divorce three or four times. Longer than Oprah
          When you think of radio prime time, Sunday morning has always been about as lucrative as. . .well, there is no less lucrative time slot. People are hungover, snoring, just getting to bed, fornicating, watching televangelists, watching televangelists and fornicating, even sitting in church.
          Sunday morning radio was mostly a dumping ground for tax-exempt flim-flam artists---er, that is, radio preachers. Until “Breakfast With the Beatles.” Some programmer figured, maybe we can make a few bucks from those nutball Beatles fans who get up early to hear “Twist and Shout” for the ten-thousandth time. . .and. . .
          The Beatles, at least in Sunday morning radio, confirmed John Lennon’s assertion: they were bigger than Jesus. BTWB imitators sprung up around the country. Locally, the show racked up strong ratings and a hell of a lot of advertising. Listeners, it turned out, were not confined to old Beatles fans. A lot of people just found that it was rather pleasant to hear those bankably beautiful Lennon/ McCartney/Harrison harmonies on the most peaceful morning of the most peaceful day of the week.
          The show came to be taken so seriously---religiously, you might say---and O’ Donohue so loved, that the audience was invited to pick her successor. Carter was actually voted in(!), and promptly set about expanding the format (and popularity.) Along with The Catalogue came outtakes, rarities, rehearsals---sometimes so rare as to stun hard-core devotees of unreleased Beatles music. Like. . .me. I’ve heard Beatles music on Carter’s show that I’ve never heard anywhere else.
          And in the equivalent of a Papal blessing, Paul and Ringo have phoned in.
          Yet these really were not the best things about BWTB---not the guests, not the genuinely witty Carter, not even the music. The most important aspect was that this was creative, spontaneous live radio---something that is about as easy to find on the Clear Channel-dumbed down dial as homely, flat-chested young women in Woody Allen movies.
          Well, it’s done. “The End,” to quote the final Beatles song title. The Green Menace got it. We’re Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, we hope you have enjoyed the show. Welcome to Breakfast Without The Beatles. I'm your host, Mean Mr. Mustard.
          The station changed to a "bold new format" a few months ago, with the hilariously ironic name of “Free FM" (a clone of many other identical bold, new "Free FM's.") Last Sunday, Carter announced that BWTB is soon to be free of the FM airwaves. Sept. 3 is the final broadcast, despite solid ratings and ad revenue. Why?   
          Free FM owners Infinity Broadcasting's bold, new thinking is that they can make more money with. . . infomercials. Get-rich-quick schemes are replacing “Baby, You’re a Rich Man.”
          All the lonely people promptly phoned in, of course---tearful, outraged, shocked---and Carter took most of the calls personally (as he usually does.) The BWTB e-mail box is a mess. One listener created http://www.savebreakfast Carter has pledged to try to go elsewhere, but there isn’t much of an elsewhere left in L.A. infotainment---er, radio.
          So I am inviting you, the 23.7 weekly readers of The Rip Post, to do something. It does not matter if you care for The Beatles. It does not matter if you live in L.A. Call (323) 971 - 9710 or drop an e-mail to Free FM program director Jack Silver: 
          Take a small stand against the Green Menace. Take a small stand against Crapitalism.

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