Salon is doing a three part series on how Glenn Beck got to be the shining example of douchebaggery that he is today.
“Black guy” impersonations were just one sign of the young Beck’s racial hang-ups. Among the few recordings of “Captain Beck and the A-Team” archived online is a show from February 1986 in which Beck discusses that night’s prime-time television schedule. When the subject turns to Peter Strauss, an actor known for starring in television’s first miniseries, Beck wryly observes, “They say without [Strauss’ early work] the miniseries ‘Roots’ would never have happened.” Clydie Clyde then chimes in with an exaggerated and ironic, “Oh, darn.” The throwaway dig at “Roots,” which chronicled the life of a slave family, wins knowing chuckles from Beck’s co-hosts.
Beck’s real broadcasting innovation during his stay in Kentucky came in the realm of vicious personal assaults on fellow radio hosts. A frequent target of Beck’s in Louisville was Liz Curtis, obese host of an afternoon advice show on WHAS, a local AM news-talk station. It was no secret in Louisville that Curtis, whom Beck had never met and with whom he did not compete for ratings, was overweight. And Beck never let anyone forget it. For two years, he used “the big blonde” as fodder for drive-time fat jokes, often employing Godzilla sound effects to simulate Curtis walking across the city or crushing a rocking chair. Days before Curtis’ marriage, Beck penned a skit featuring a stolen menu card for the wedding reception. “The caterer says that instead of throwing rice after the ceremony, they are going to throw hot, buttered popcorn,” explains Beck’s fictional spy.
Despite the constant goading, Curtis never responded. But being ignored only seemed to fuel Beck’s hunger for a response. As his attacks escalated and grew more unhinged, a WHAS colleague of Curtis’ named Terry Meiners decided to intervene. He appeared one morning unannounced at Beck’s small office, which was filled with plaques, letters and news clippings — “a shrine to all that is Glenn Beck,” remembers Meiners. He told Beck to lay off Curtis, suggesting he instead attack a morning DJ like himself, who could return fire. “Beck told me, ‘Sorry, all’s fair in love and war,'” remembers Meiners. “He continued with the fat jokes, which were exceedingly cruel, pointless, and aimed at one of the nicest people in radio. Glenn Beck was over-the-top childish from Day One, a punk who tried to make a name for himself by being disruptive and vengeful.”
Louisville is where Beck began experimenting with another streak that would become more pronounced in later years: militaristic patriotism and calls for the bombing of Muslims.