|Radio host thrives |
on Savage attacks
|By DAVID HINCKLEY|
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
The latest estimate by Talkers magazine is that Savage has more than 8.5 million listeners a week, tying him with Howard Stern as the third-most listened-to host in America, behind Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity.
On WOR, 6-9 p.m. nightly, his show has inched ahead of WABC (770 AM) - the only WOR show to do so.
He didn't do this moderately.
Liberals? His latest best-selling book is unsubtly titled, "Liberalism Is a Mental Disorder."
He likes some of President Bush's policies until you get to immigration and Iraq, battles Savage charges Bush is too lily-livered to win.
In 2003, gay groups helped kill Savage's MSNBC show by convincing sponsors to leave after he told a caller, "I hope you get AIDS and die."
He said he didn't know his mic was live.
He jabs other talk hosts, including Hannity and Limbaugh, whom he sometimes calls "Hush Bimbo" - though he says it's not personal, just political.
"They sell themselves short when they swallow and spit out the Republican line," he said. "To them, everything Bush does is great. How is that humanly possible, to agree with someone about everything? They lose credibility. Plus, it's boring."
Savage calls himself a "true conservative" who would "practice random acts of violence" in countries that harbor terrorists and round up all immigrants who don't support America.
Some call this bigotry that promotes a dangerous us-and-them mentality.
"More and more people see I'm right," Savage said.
And oh, by the way, he also enjoys both argument and competition.
For instance, he loves being ahead of WABC, which dropped him in 2003 when he left its sister KFSO in San Francisco.
"What ABC did was outrageous," he said. "Not to mention stupid. So this is sweet."
Savage traces his fighting spirit in part to his youth.
"I went to school in the Bronx," he recalled. "Going to the bathroom and getting out alive was a major victory. That's also where I started talking fast."
And being funny.
"That's one of his strengths," said Talkers editor Michael Harrison. "He mixes contemporary politics with old-fashioned Borscht Belt humor. He can be deadly serious or he can be playing with you. Sometimes it takes people a while to realize that."
"I take things to an extreme sometimes," Savage said, "to make a point."
And if a fight breaks out, well, that's okay, too, as long as it stays on the radio.
"A guy came to my table at dinner the other night and insulted me," he said. "I got up and left. I said, 'I know where this is going,' and if it does, I'm the one who's going to end up in jail."
He doesn't brood over things like that, he says, though he admits he occasionally thinks it would be fun to get back on TV.
"I'd do it differently this time," he said. "Radio talk doesn't work on TV. I'd do a variety show. I'd set it in a bar, with good-looking women and dogs walking around. I'd be the bartender. Uncle Mike. We'd talk like people talk in a bar.
"With maybe a little politics."