Friday, October 07, 2005

I Will Always Love Phil Donahue


I got to talk to Phil Donahue tonight on C-SPAN's phone call marathon (25 straight hours and Phil was the first guest). It might not seem like a big deal to you, but it ROCKED MY WORLD!

Let me preface this by telling you that last spring I got to speak to him very briefly (and hysterically) in a theater lobby but I mostly made a fool of myself. Afterward, I was paralyzed. I literally couldn't breathe, couldn't speak, and started to cry. What was THAT about?

After thinking for awhile, I realized how important Phil was to me for, probably, oh... 30 years or more. When I was kid, staying home during summer vacation, I always watched Phil and he raised my pre-teen consciousness so much that I had a lifetime interest in current affairs and I even became a social studies teacher.

In an earlier career, I was a reporter and I was assigned to cover Phil's appearance in Seattle (remember how he used to travel all over the country with his show?). He really WAS thinner in person, he had a great gag where he used the microphone to mime throwing holy water on the audience, and the women LOVED him.

Once he had raised our conciousness, Phil was the guy we all wanted as our boyfriend, husband, father, son-in-law. Damn that Marlo Thomas! Why did she have to be so beautiful? And smart? And liberated? AAAARGH!

In the summer of 1980, I attended a revival of "Camelot" at the Lincoln Center starring Richard Harris. The theater only had aisles on the side and Phil and Marlo were seated dead center in one of the first few rows (they wisely seated themselves just before the lights went down). Intermission was a zoo. It was the week of the Democratic National Convention and the place was teeming with political luminaries. Did anyone care? Hell no! While Phil and Marlo stayed put, audience members snuck into their row for autographs, photographs, or just to gawk. It was a kinder, gentler version of today's celebrity worship and they were the Jennifer and Brad of their day.

Today, as so many of us stand paralyzed and silenced, bullied into inaction by hateful talk radio hosts and mean-spirited crooked politicans, Phil reminds us that he was the first to encourage us to speak up for ourselves. What an empowering metaphor for women in the 1970s. How could he not be irresistible? We knew Phil would love us for our minds.

He also didn't shy away from being candid about his own internal conflicts with his church, his kids, and his first marriage. His charm got us through the awkward and difficult moments on the show and his dramatic flair punctuated the important ones. Most important, Phil showed us that we should talk to each other . . .and that we should also listen. That people are smart enough to figure stuff out if they have good information and that our Democracy demands that we do.

Phil formed my political and moral center and I count myself lucky that he was a liberal. Tonight, Phil said most media entities are deathly afraid of being called "liberal" -- that's how effective conservative smear tactics against the left have been. I wish he could find a way to re-enter the public arena and remind us all what it means to be a PROUD liberal in the manner of Roosevelt, Kennedy, Carter, and, yes, even Clinton. Maybe he can help us find our voices again.

I'm always going to wish to see more of you, Phil. Marlo may have you in her apartment, her marriage, and her life, but I'll always keep you in my heart.


At 8:01 AM, Blogger Loganite said...

I am so glad you got a chance to call Phil Donahue and speak with him again. Having experienced the theater-lobby situation with you, I know just how important he is to you.

We should all be so lucky to have a role model like that.

-- L.

At 6:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey-great points raised in your commentary--thanks much for putting it so well!

At 3:17 PM, Anonymous laurie said...

Congrats on C-span and Phil. 23 years ago, Ralph Nader, my idol (oh my....until 2000)walked up to me after he gave a speech and said "Will you help me defeat the insurance industry?" I just stared at him, unable to speak, and he, a busy man with few social skills, turned away and moved on to the coherent among us.

Did you catch Phil smack down O'Reilly the other night? Phil's always been a hero for our country, and to me. Because of the things I learned on his show, our sons didn't get circumcised, they were breastfed fir years, I learned day care was bad for them, and we learned homeschooling wasn't just for weirdos. I learned before they were born not to assume they were straight.

Back in the era of Phil's daytime show, a person could just present information. A liberal wouldn't be exoriated for endorsing that kids be raised by their own parents and an American wouldn't be called a traitor for wanting a president who didn't lie us into wars and give all our money to his friends!

Thanks for your blog.


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