I don’t know about you, but it seems as though every week, another of the people who have been a part of my life in one way or another – dies. The media are filled with their obituaries.
These aren’t people I knew personally but who have been a part of my life because of their professions – writers, actors, comedians, politicians. They are people who are known through the media because of their work, and over the years, I have enjoyed and loved their work.
As happens with people like that, fans like me often feel we ‘know them personally,” and when we learn that they have passed, it feels like a personal loss.
It’s happening a lot lately; perhaps it’s just a matter of age – theirs and mine! But it’s still depressing and often makes me feel as though I’m losing a part of my life, but at least I have the memories.
It happened again this week. As I scanned the news on the internet, I saw that author and humorist P.J. O’Rourke had died. He was 74. I hadn’t thought about him in ages, assuming, as we often do, that he was living his life somewhere and all was well. Well, it wasn’t. He had lung cancer, and it took him. The news shook me. I felt as though I’d lost a friend – and in a way, I had.
Why? Because during the ’60’s and ’70’s I became a fan, having read most of his books (he wrote 20), which were irreverent, sarcastic and to-the-point as he skewered the duplicity of politics. They were also funny in their mockery of politicians and government.
In fact, after I read the obituary, I went to my library and saw that I own 11 of P.J.’s books! I’d read them all plus others I got from the library. To say I’m a fan is putting it mildly. The titles speak for themselves. “Parliament of Whores” explains the government, and his description of the political conventions is priceless! “Holidays in Hell” reveals the hot spots of war he covered. “Give War A Chance” speaks for itself!
O’Rourke’s career spanned covering foreign wars for radio and print, as well as being editor-in-chief of National Lampoon, writing for Rolling Stone, appearing on NPR as well as “60-Minutes” and his freelance writing for many other publications.
He was ascerbic and sarcastic – never hesitating to skewer the pompous in government and politics. Associated Press said he “refashioned the irreverence and ‘Gonzo’ journalism of the 1960’s counterculture into a distinctive brand of conservative and libertaian commentary.”
The death of O’Rourke reminded me of another loss I felt deeply – that of Rush Limbaugh. He died a year ago Thursday, Feb. 17.
He was 70 and also died of lung cancer.
When Rush died, he had the largest radio audience of anyone – 15.5 million listeners a week – culminating 32 years in radio virtually all as No. 1! While others are trying to replace him, no one has really succeeded, and I doubt anyone will. He had a special talent to reach listeners with his sarcasm, wit and smarts. Whether you liked his politics or not, his talent could not be denied. The ratings showed that.
I first heard Rush when he was hired by KFBK radio in Sacramento, California, in 1984. He went from there to New York to his syndicated show, and it was history from there. I was a fan from the beginning, and I never wavered as he moved to greater success.
His program was carried on the ABC stations in San Francisco, which also aired my talk program. I was an avid listener to Rush, though I never had the opportunity to meet him in person. But that didn’t matter. As with people like that, we feel we know them as we listen to them in our cars, homes and offices.
I had the same feeling of loss when Rush died as I felt when hearing about P.J. It was like losing a friend. We had spent so much time together via the radio – learning things, sharing information, perspective, laughs and sometimes tears.
I’ll not forget this week. I’ve lost two people who expanded my vision of the world and sprinkled it with laughs. You can’t replace that. You can only try to remember and read their books to refresh your memory.
I’ve been lucky to have them in my life, and that pleases me.
Thank you, Rush. Thank you, P.J.
What worries me is – who’s next?
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