May 26, 2017

MORT AND ME


A few weeks ago I was in NYC for the premiere of a new movie at the Tribeca Film Festival. ‘EVOCATEUR’ is a documentary about Morton Downey Jr., the volcanic right wing talk show host from the late eighties. Last year in Miami I taped an hour and a half interview for the film. With a movie you never know how things will end up and although I took friends along I warned them that I just might pop up on screen for a brief soundbite. I’d said the same thing to friends before the premiere of ‘Bruno’ and was pleasantly surprised when I turned up in a five-minute scene. On the other hand I worked with Clint Eastwood for a week on ‘Magnum Force’ and was completely cut from the final print (yet I STILL get residuals!). Ya just never know… There were interviews and photos on the red carpet but as we entered the theater one of the producers grabbed my arm and warned: “Prepare yourself. You’re in a lot of this movie.” And surprisingly, I was. I wasn’t one of Mort’s close friends. I didn’t directly work with him. But I did have a good crow’s nest view of his rise and fall.

I knew Morton from Channel 9 where we shared a studio; I hosted PEOPLE ARE TALKING live in the mornings and at night they would push my set back, roll his in from the opposite end and tape his show. We had lunch together the first day he showed up at work and a year and a half later I was in that same cafeteria when word flew through the building he was cancelled. We did go carousing and drinking together a few times and the first time I went to ELAINE’S it was at Mort’s invitation to sit round his table. Shortly after his cancellation I was sitting next to him the night he punched Stuttering John in the face and smashed his tape recorder! (Which oddly is not in the film.) The movie is very well crafted with jaw dropping clips from the broadcast and graphic-novel style animation that pushes the story sublimely beyond reality. Some may have a problem with the use of animation in a documentary but as one who was there, albeit on the periphery, the era did seem surreal and the animation is true to that spirit if not the literal truth. The movie paints an unsympathetic picture of a very troubled man, haunted by Oedipal issues, lashing out at the world. Yet like many out of control celebrities and rock stars there was something vulnerable, wounded and child-like about him despite the bullying, despite the insensitivity to others. And of course, there was charisma, at least for awhile. There is still a theatrical excitement to watching Mort, an electric and thrilling spontaneity. I don’t think we’ll be saying the same about Limbaugh or Beck in twenty years.

Evocateur: THE MORTON DOWNEY, JR. MOVIE


The movie draws parallels to modern political media but doesn’t belabor them. On this issue I was quoted in The Daily Beast: “In our culture, we always had one guy who was an off-the-wall conservative, like Mort,” TV host and Downey pal Richard Bey told The Daily Beast. “Back then, people didn’t take them seriously—they were P.T. Barnums of conservatism. But now you have a whole party that is of that ilk. People take our modern versions of this political commentary—Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh—seriously, and even worse, politicians take them seriously.”

It was great to see Mort’s in-studio bodyguard Dave Giegold, who just a few years later held the same job on THE RICHARD BEY SHOW. He looked great and pretty much the same as he did 15 years ago pulling overheated guests apart on air. Sally Jesse Raphael was there too but avoided me like the plague.

SALLY JESSE RAPHAEL STAYING AS FAR AWAY FROM ME AS SHE CAN!

As Mort’s career ascends the movie is exhilarating, surprising and energized. As he self-destructs its a sad story and less engaging. I never saw someone rise and crash so quickly in this business. He made Brett Butler’s TV career look like Lucille Ball’s. As I say in the movie: ‘He rose like a rocket and he fell like a stick”. From beginning to end the MORTON DOWNEY SHOW lasted a little over a year and a half.

In the end this is not the kind a car crash that fascinates oglers. Watching Morton, cancer stricken through sagging, dying flesh renounce chain smoking and anger is like watching George Wallace paralyzed in a wheel chair, grasp the hand of his black nurse and renounce racism. Both men saw the light but there’s more painful pathos than satisfaction in seeing someone find it so late, far too late.

The film ends at his funeral, where its noted considering his tremendous popularity and fan base, there is a paucity of mourners. Ironically, ‘MORT’ is the French word for death.

Spoiler alert: The truth about Morton’s alleged bathroom attack by neo-Nazi’s is conclusively revealed by his best friend and its just what you’d expect.

After the movie I spoke with this best friend for a few moments. “Off camera Mort always seemed like a nice guy to me,” I told him. “Generous, friendly, always giving gifts, picking up tabs. It just seemed to me that this whole process overwhelmed him, carried him off like a tidal wave. He couldn’t handle it. Like Lindsey Lohan. Or like a miner who strikes gold after twenty years and blows it all in a night at Miss Kitty’s Saloon & Whorehouse.”

Mort’s best friend seized my forearm and stared at me intently: “You’re wrong, Richard. He was not a nice man. He was not a nice man at all. He was a very, very bad man…and I could tell you stories.”

This was from his best friend.

And as I said, I was only in the crows nest.

For more information about funeral plans, just click here.

The Richard Bey Show “Best Of” Montage!

Some of the best scenes from The Richard Bey Show!

The Richard Bey Show Television Show Promo 2

This was the second of two promotional videos sent out to show why The Richard Bey Show would be a good addition to a station’s lineup. Along with commentary from Richard, the video includes numerous “best of” moments from the show.

The Richard Bey Television Show Promo 1

This was a promotional video sent out to show why The Richard Bey Show would be a good addition to a station’s lineup. Richard Bey and producers provide commentary. Video includes numerous “best of” moments from the show!

The Richard Bey Show – Preppies vs Guidettes

It’s a battle of fashion and style! A battle of manner and attitude! It’s the battle between preppies and guidettes! The guidettes have big hair, big nails, and big mouths, and this is their chance to take on the preppies! Each side makes their case to the audience then the “The Great Conversion” happens where preppies turn into guidettes and guidettes turn into preppies! Spoiler alert: hot preppies!!!

The Richard Bey Show – The Voice of Truth

You’re going to hear stories today from couples that are unsure of where their relationship is going. Terry is a newlywed who wants to know if her husband has ever cheated on her. Qourmina suspects her boyfriend of having a child with another woman! Theresa is pregnant with twins and suspects her husband of cheating on her with a coworker. Laura always hears about her husband picking up women at bars. One lucky liar goes for a spin on the Wheel of Torture!

The Richard Bey Show – Queen of the Trailer Park

They’ve come from trailer parks from all across America, but only one will be crowned “Queen of the Trailer Park”! Vicky’s life in the trailer park turned ugly when she refused to go out with the park owner! Darlene’s neighbors accused her of being a hooker! Sheila has lived in ten trailer parks, and one of her neighbors would peep on her and her husband having sex! Misty was in her trailer when a tornado hit! Kimberly says that “trailer trash” comes to her trailer to steal her stuff!

SIRIUS LEFT AND MORTON DOWNEY, JR.

Once again I will be filling in for Alex Bennet on SiriusXM Left all next week and Monday, April 2nd. The show is on Sirius XM from 7-10 AM on Channel 127, March 26-April 2nd. Please try to listen in if you can. The number for SiriusXM Left is 1 866 99 SIRIUS if you would like to call in.
And later in the month I will be attending the opening night of a new documentary on Morton Downey, Jr. which is making its premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival. I have not seen the film but I drove down to Miami last year for a long interview for it. Morton began his show the same time I began People Are Talking. We both shared the same studio at Channel 9; I would tape in the mornings and my set was pushed back for his show at night. Off camera, Morton was generous, funny and wild and back then he was one of a kind. And on-air we all knew Morton was just a joke, didn’t we? Considering Breitbart, Beck, Limbaugh and the other raving right-wingers it might have been one of those odd times when satire precedes the real thing. I believe THE RICHARD BEY SHOW was another example…and coincidentally both shows were created in the same studio!

The Richard Bey Television Show – Lyin’ King

The women on today’s show are in love with men who are such big liars that they could be crowned “Lyin’ King”! Lauren says Pedro really has four children and is married! Deon has been lying to Pat about having money and not cheating on her, but he still wants to marry her! Evelyn accuses Jerry of hooking up with his ex-wife! Keisha and Larry are planning on getting married, but Larry has been hooking up with a few girls on the side! The truth comes out when The Voice of Truth makes his appearance, and secrets are revealed in the Lyin’-ly wed game! The man crowned “Lyin’ King” gets a messy reward in the end!

The Richard Bey Show – Gargantu Gut vs Thunder Thighs Part Deux

Men with the biggest beer bellies – Mr. Gargantu Gut – women with the largest cellulite thighs – Ms. Thunder Thighs – compete in the second annual Gargantu Games on The Richard Bey Show! Guest judges include Grandpa Munster Al Lewis, radio talk show host Lisa Jean, wrestler Captain Lou Albano, and Nina Rose! Thunder Thighs finalists get messy in the “Saddlebags Push & Mush” wrestling game, and Gargantu Guts paint Pepto Bismol “Gut Prints” as they compete for the title! Finally, the women with thunder thighs help stuff the face of the big bellied men in the “Gargantu Gorge”! This show is a true Richard Bey Show classic!