Alex Bennett - an American Broadcasting Legend (repeat performance)
This is a repeat of my chat with Alex Bennett.
Alex Bennett is an American radio personality and talk show host, known for his mix of left-wing politics and humor. He currently hosts a show Tues-Fri on GABNet.net at 10pm ET.
Bennett was born in San Francisco and adopted his on-air name as a tribute to his late father, Alexander Schwarzmann.
During the 1960s, Bennett worked at radio stations around the country, including KILT in Houston, where he used the on-air moniker James Bond and did his show using an English accent, and WLOL in Minneapolis, before gaining major market attention in 1969 at WMCA in New York. He initially started as a disk jockey, later evolving into a talk show host during the station's transition from its Top 40 "Good Guys" music format to the pioneering "Dial-Log" all-talk era. Bennett brought a progressive rock radio sensibility to the teenage-oriented station, still playing album cuts of music as his talk show evolved, and openly discussing topics ranging from his love life to his participation in various countercultural events, such as Consciousness III, before giving his Yogic sign-off "Namaste" ("The God within me sees the God within you"). In 1969, Bennett flew to London to investigate the rumor of Paul McCartney’s death. He later became friends with John Lennon, who appeared on his show.
In 1970, Bennett and his wife-producer Ronni moved their show to WPLJ, still in New York. By late 1971 the couple split. Ronni went on to produce for ABC’s 20/20 and Barbara Walters. Today, she writes a blog on aging and what it's really like to get old, Time Goes By. Guests on Bennett's WPLJ show included rock stars, comedians, and left-wing, anti-war activists.
An early video pioneer, Bennett produced Midnight Blue with Al Goldstein of Screw magazine for a New York public access cable channel.
In 1980, Bennett returned to his native San Francisco to host a morning show for album-oriented rock station KMEL. Bennett found success by featuring standup comedians as his guests. Before they became famous, performers Bob Goldthwait, Whoopi Goldberg, Dana Carvey, Ray Romano, and Jay Leno were guests on Bennett's program. The popular show aired on three San Francisco area radio stations throughout the 1980s and 1990s: KMEL, KQAK, and KITS. The Alex Bennett Show changed stations due to management/consultant conflicts (KMEL), a format flip (KQAK), and, finally, a station ownership change (at KITS, where he did two stints). Bennett also briefly hosted talk shows on KNBR in San Francisco and WIOD in Miami, Florida (the latter, a very sour experience), in between his Bay Area morning show gigs. During the 1980s, Bennett was the original host of public television’s Comedy Tonight.
While at KMEL, Bennett’s mother, Ruth, achieved fame as the world’s oldest album-oriented rock disk jockey when she hosted a Sunday night countdown show on KMEL from 1982 to 1983. Bennett hosted the station’s morning show, and Ruth continued at KMEL for a year after his departure for KQAK. Ruth passed away in 2005 at the age of 100.
The radio show was unique in that it featured a live in-studio audience consisting of listeners who were invited to just walk in off the street. In addition to featuring comedians on his San Francisco radio shows, Bennett produced a number of live comedy shows. The earliest ones included his KMEL/KQAK newsman Joe Regelski and were called "Alex and Joe Shows". He also did remote broadcasts of his morning show, known as "Breakfast with Bennett."
A technology aficionado, Bennett took advantage of the early growth of the World Wide Web. After leaving FM rock radio in the late 1990s, Bennett created an Internet radio show for Play TV that ended when the company went out of business. He also developed an early website, The Surfing Monkey (along with Chuck Farnham, David Biedny and Jesse Montrose), which featured, among other things, a series of articles written by an inmate on Death Row at San Quentin. The prisoner, identified by the pseudonym Dean, reported on daily prison life in a series called “Dead Man Talking”. Bennett is personally opposed to the death penalty. He also voiced the Starbase Commander character in the 1992 release of Star Control 2 by 3DO.
Bennett briefly returned to radio in 2001 to host a technology-oriented midday talk show for CNET Radio at its San Francisco flagship affiliate, KNEW). Bennett's attempt to return to general AM talk radio was hampered by his outspoken left-leaning political views (though he temporarily hosted a morning show on KNEW when they changed their format to a talk format in 2003). Station managers at the time only wanted to hire right-wing talk show hosts.
In 2003, Bennett returned to New York and started his show on Sirius Left on April 19, 2004. He talked about politics, entertainment, and personal matters. He has also served as a substitute for syndicated talk show host Lionel on several occasions and was a frequent pundit on Fox News and MSNBC.
Then in at the end of June 2013 Alex was let go after 9 years with SiriusXM for unknown reasons both to him and his audience.
The following Monday on July 1, 2013 he began GABNet™ a talk network with a new concept for talk where using Skype, he would create a roundtable discussion with up to 9 callers at a time. He dubbed it "talk like you've never heard it before. It survives to this day along with other shows on the network Tues-Fri at 10pm ET at GABNet.net.
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