Friday, November 21, 2014

Outlaw Radio’s Celebrity Cult Following

(This article originally appeared in the July 9th, 2013 edition of the Century City News)

By Michael Douglas Carlin
The news that George Burns had passed away was just breaking when the original denizens assembled for the premiere episode of Outlaw Radio. Magic Matt Alan aka "Mr. Cigar" was hosting with Ronnie Schell, Jack Riley and Sam Denoff as the guests. The concept of the show is about as Americana as it gets - people sitting on the front porch drinking, smoking and talking, having a conversation about life. That day each guest remembered an encounter with George Burns who was known as a cigar smoker. Jack Riley said on live radio, “We drink, We smoke, We interrupt.” And the Outlaw Radio motto has lasted to this day.

Lori Downey Jr. produces the Outlaw Radio show, maintaining the same charm that was originally envisioned, bringing “down home” conversation to the airwaves. The guests are a steady stream of the who’s who of politics, show business, and people plucked from newspaper headlines. The show isn’t politically driven but it doesn’t skirt political issues either. It has become the radio show with a celebrity cult following with listeners tuning in from their various gigs around the world.

Matt is currently on Sirius Radio doing the Morning Drive in both Los Angeles and New York - the two biggest markets in the country. The Saturday show, Outlaw Radio, gives him a break from the normal routine. Recently, he took a few days off to star in the Burt Reynolds movie, Category Five, about five families weathering a hurricane.

Lori is the widow of the late Morton Downey Jr. Matt recalls meeting her, expecting to find a gold digger. Instead, he found a hard working, accomplished performer, who was totally in love with her late husband. They immediately became friends, then an item seven years ago when their friendship blossomed. The two are inseparable – they often complete each other’s sentences. Most men would be intimidated by the shadow of Morton Downey Jr. but Matt pays daily homage to the icon. Matt’s political views line up exactly, as does his sense of story when every day he creates what is great radio.

Radio was pronounced dead when television was born in 1956, but radio could not be more alive with today’s technological advances that have brought us Satellite and Internet broadcasts. Magic Matt and Lori are poised to benefit from the merging of all platforms. There will undoubtedly be opportunities in television soon as each of their shows is ripe for a visual outlet to augment the existing audio outlet.

“We drink, We smoke, We interrupt” has led to some great radio moments. One recent guest was Billy Vera, who wrote the quintessential break-up song, At This Moment. On that show there was a very public breakup happening that was totally unscripted. It sounds like a set-up but it wasn’t. Henry Hill was a guest on the show, and presented a painting he did of a rat. Pierre Salinger came on the show and told the story about being sent to Cuba to purchase 500 boxes of cigars for President Kennedy. When Salinger arrived back in Washington he reported to Kennedy that he acquired the cigars and watched Kennedy sign into law the Cuban embargo just moments later.

Meatloaf, Anna Nicole Smith, Rudy Giuliani, Dan Haggerty, Milton Berle, Ryan Stiles, Chuck McCann, Elliott Gould, Dom Deluise, and literally hundreds of other celebrities have appeared on the show. There have been arguments and reconciliations. Ten thousand cigars have been smoked and thousands of gallons of alcohol consumed but the laughter has never faded. Each of the current guests are funny and we are always only six days away from a new Outlaw Radio show that will make us laugh.

I ask about the influence of Morton Downey Jr. on the show and touch a nerve, but not for the reasons you might think. Recently a film has been released as a “so called” documentary on the life of this icon. Lori begins by telling me about the heart of Morton Downey Jr. who helped the homeless, gave people jobs and made their careers and championed freedom in America - none of which made it into this film. Opportunists (filmmakers) used unauthorized footage to sensationalize the life of Morton. The filmmakers interviewed disgruntled former employees and people with an ax to grind and didn’t really capture the essence of who this man was. Clearly he created a persona for television much like what Stephen Colbert and Jerry Springer have done. When the show was over he walked off the set as a real person. Lori is animated when she discusses her late husband and Matt looks on with admiration. We see that she loves Morton even now - we also see that Matt loves her. When the conversation turns back to the radio show Lori looks at Matt the same way… The secret ingredient in Outlaw Radio is love. Love for each other, the guests, and America. Outlaw Radio is Americana.

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