Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Thrillbilly Death Match

I'm not really sure what I want to say about this. It sorta shook me a bit today, and I think I should say something. I'm just not sure what.

It was a long drive, nearly 4 hours from Portland out to Pendleton. I had a motion to argue, and we decided that it would be more affective if I were there in person, rather than on the phone.

I drove out Tuesday night, late, in the rain. I ate on the road. I listened to bad 80s music on the satellite radio.

The motel was basic and fine. No frills. No cockroaches. Coffee maker, but no coffee filters. I pulled in at 11:30 and quickly outlined my arguments for Wednesday morning.

I went to bed at 1:00 and got up at 6:45. I was in court by 8:00, and back on the road around 9:00.

The hearing went well. Opposing counsel seemed fixated on a single losing point. I look forward to the judge's decision.

The ride home was mostly uneventful, except for my choice for lunch, the small diner was called "Spooky's" and yes, I went there for the name. I mean, I used to be a big fan of Sambo's when I was a kid...


I was about 100 miles from home, when I changed the station to Howard 101, it was near noon, and time for that remarkable hillbilly radio moonshine called the Bubba the Love Sponge Show.

I've discussed this show before. It's a show made by smart guys to sound like they are dumb guys. They discuss everything that I am not: NASCAR, football, Professional Wrestling, and S&M... I do not fit at all into their demographic, yet I listen whenever I can. The show is remarkable.

And, it was no less remarkable today, although in ways I had not anticipated.

The caller had asked for protection, meaning that he wanted his voice disguised. I knew that much from the electronic twang when he spoke. The caller also seemed out of sorts, laughing first then crying.

Something was amiss. The crew was not its usual surly self.

As I drove, the story unfolded. the caller had lost his job, his wife and his daughter. He had large debts and little money. He was overweight, drunk and had a gun on his lap.

Of all the people to call, this nut called Bubba.

Now usually, when I tune in, I expect to hear an interview with a UFC fighter, a porn star, or Bubba using a tazer to "shock the puss." This however, was something different.

The caller was unhinged, and I expected to hear a loud bang and a thump at any moment. Rather than make light of the situation, though, Bubba surprisingly took the highroad. For nearly an hour and a half, without the assistance of caller ID to alert the police, Bubba and his crew pleaded, cajoled, and bargained with the man to put the gun down.

It was a struggle, and the man mad several despondent declarations along the way. He was determined. He wanted only to get drunk and then blow his brains out on Bubba's show. He had been planning it for 8 days.

Could the whole thing have been a hoax? Sure, the thought crossed my mind. However the sense of urgency, and barely-contained panic indicated that this was real.

They tried everything, but eventually, after a great deal of time, Bubba's argument that a suicide on his show would cause him a great deal of pain and misery finally carried the day. The man, whose daughter was a teenager, didn't care that his death might hurt her. H didn't care about the rest of his family or his friends. However, the thought of hurting Bubba, in the end, saved his life.

The final stretch of the drive flew by. I was nearly back at the office when the situation came to an end. I felt exhausted. Not for lack of sleep or the long drive. Rather, being caught up in this passionate struggle to save a life simply took the wind out of me.

So there it is. I'm not sure what to make of it. Maybe you all can figure it out for me.


  1. Which is morally superior?

    That you were entertained by listening to someone who’s life was so miserable that he would make such a spectacle out of it and might even snuff it while you were listening, and then by some extension you could be there and be a part of his death?

    Or that is was all faked?

  2. I think you were just excited that if the man actually did go through with it, you would be sueing the show for emotional distress. I know how you lawyers think.

    You know, it would not surprise me at all if this type of thing would be common place in the future. A radio station dedicated to providing its listeners with fresh suicides every hour on the hour. Imagine the sponsors that would line up. Liquid draino, the NRA, gillete, acme rope company...

  3. Kudos to Bubba. I think Howard Stern would have convinced him to do it.

  4. Bubba2:38 PM

    Next week I'll have on a gal who is going to drown her kids. Make sure to tune in folks!

  5. Anonymous4:54 PM

    What happened to all of your readers, Brian?

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

  7. Without a doubt this was extremely compelling radio. I was only able to hear the first 50 minutes of the call. Thank you for filling me in on the outcome.

    I've copied text from your description (crediting/linking you obviously) onto a post about the incident on my blog here:

  8. "Kudos to Bubba. I think Howard Stern would have convinced him to do it."

    Howard actually talked someone from jumping off the George Washington Bridge in NYC some years ago. Live on the air as well.


Be compelling.

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