Monday, April 09, 2007

Don Imus: There's no There There

I've heard the name "Don Imus" here and there over the years, getting himself into the news on the rare occasion by saying something terrible on his radio show. I never found the quotes attributed to him interesting enough to check him out, but during a recent vacation to Florida I watched his radio show (a bizarre concept in and of itself) on MSNBC. What I found was a ridiculous muttering man propped up at a microphone, his drawn face looking like the wax melting from the skull of museum dummy, with an even more ridiculous cowboy hat perched on his head and his beyond-ridiculous moppy hair sticking out from underneath. He carried on a banal repartee with a Paul Schafer wannabe in the studio. The rest of the assorted crew laughed intermittently when nothing funny was said. Then, every once in a while the camera would center on Imus who made an awkward gesture at the viewing audience with a gnarled finger, ushering in a procession of commercials. He does this to let the viewing audience know he hasn't expired utterly at the microphone. He's merely in a functioning coma, not rigor mortis.

What did Imus talk about on his show while I watched? Nothing that I can remember. Being fluent in English, I easily deciphered his affected mumbling; I understood the words that came out of his mouth. They simply did not engage me on any level, either positively or negatively. In fact, Imus was intensely more dull than the commercials that bookended his show.

Years ago, I saw an interview with Don Imus. I forget what the occasion was or who conduted the interviewer. But there sat Don Imus before the camera with a distinct expression of tharn in his muddled gaze -- deer-trapped-in-headlights expression. He muttered one-word answers to the interviewer as though he was from some other culture and had no concept of being asked questions by a stranger while being filmed. He seemed stunned and slow-witted, possibly hungover. At one point, the interviewer asked Imus if there was anyone in the world he loved. It seemed a stupid question, a softball lob that a more thorny and alert personality would have leapt all over. But Imus just stared warily into the camera like a rancher in 1903 regarding a bank manager. He muttered without moving his lips, "Ma-brudder." Don Imus loves his brother. It was a strange, humanizing moment -- a moment in which Imus needed to humanize himself because up until then he seemed like some inflated something that was merely losing air.

So, Don Imus, alleged titan of morning radio, recently uttered racials slurs. In typical Imus form, these comments were of a dull, inelegant nature -- not that there is an elegant way in which a person can reveal himself to be a racist. The words fell from his mouth with the muted thud of turds landing on a tiled floor. "Nappy headed hos" Imus called the girls of the Rutugers womens basketball team. For a man who's made a career out of saying terrible things, this observation of his was not only terrible, but launched at a completely undeserving target. Damn right, Imus should be fired. From what I saw and heard of him, how is it that he's still employed?

Good on Al Sharpton pulling Imus' pants down about this. Unfortunately, given the elaborate slickness -- and laughable pointlessness -- of the televised version of Imus' show there's clearly too much money in the man (how? why? who the hell knows!) for him to be fired. Hence the flaccid slap on the wrist his employer gave him -- a two week suspension. Lying in bed at home or sitting before the microphone in that science fiction radio studio, I don't think Imus will really know the difference. There's no there there. Which makes him a hard target to wring any justice from.

1 comment:

Rhea said...

Imus' comments were racist and sexist. He should be fired, not given what amounts to a two-week vacation. Sometimes I forget that "Talk Show Radio Host" and "Complete Jerk" are often synonymous.