This morning, I woke to the sad news that broadcasting legend Art Bell has passed at the age of 72. As I groggily processed the news, I checked various sources to make sure this wasn’t the latest internet death hoax but, alas, it is true. The greatest voice in the paranormal genre of radio (and audio) has been stilled.
Art Bell was THE originator of the paranormal genre of talk radio. Yes, broadcasting historians may say Long John Nebel did some paranormally-oriented radio at WOR in the 60s but Art Bell was THE man who proved that millions of people had an appetite to listen to ghost, UFO, and Bigfoot talk night after night after night.
As the originator of paranormal talk radio he was also, in a sense, the inventor of paranormal-themed podcasts as he served as an inspiration to so many of us who listened to him during our youth.
He was the Johnny Carson of our genre, and even if many of us do not realize it, podcasters on the paranormal can largely thank Art Bell for the opportunity to crack a mic and talk spooky stuff while having an audience.
In a sense, we are like the current “Jimmies” of TV talk show fame who should thank Johnny Carson every night when they say their prayers. Without the legendary enigma of a man who was Art Bell, do paranormal podcasts or talk radio for that matter enjoy the popularity they have today? I don’t think so.
Although none of us can come close to his skill or his delightful creepiness on air, I hope that together we all can keep a bit of that High Desert strangeness alive.
Perhaps, Greg Newkirk said it best when he wrote on Twitter today, “thanks for helping me become the weirdo I am today, Art.”
Thanks Art and I hope that you’re up there interviewing The Powers That Be and getting the real answers. Till we meet again on the Wild Card Line, Rest In Peace.