You’ll see him in your nightmares, you’ll see him in your dreams
He’ll appear out of nowhere, but he ain’t what he seems
You’ll see him in your head, on the TV screen
And hey buddy, I’m warning you to turn it off!
He’s a ghost, he’s a god, he’s a man, he’s a guru
You’re one microscopic cog in his catastrophic plan
Designed and directed by his red right hand
—Red Right Hand
by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
Taken at face value, Glenn Beck’s journey from Top-40 shock jock to respected political pundit appears to be one of the most unlikely tales in the annals of American broadcast journalism. But upon closer examination, you come to realize that this is not your typical “rags to riches” story. Beck is not a “self-made man”—he’s a made man, whose rise to fame was facilitated through his powerful connections in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. There is much to suggest that they (the LDS), and quite possibly the Central Intelligence Agency, played the most significant role in resurrecting his once broken career and advancing him to his current superstar status.
To understand this, one must first become acquainted with Beck’s early days in radio. Beck got his first radio job at 15 at a newly launched FM station in Seattle, Washington. The station was owned by First Media, a Mormon company headquartered in Washington, D.C. and run by hotel magnate Dick Marriott.
In 1982, Beck moved to another one of their affiliate stations in Provo, Utah. Beck was somewhat of an upstart who was considered an outsider (or “Gentile” as non-Mormons are frequently referred to) who drank booze and smoked clove cigarettes.
He didn’t fit in well and only lasted six months before moving to Washington D.C. and taking a job at another First Media station. There he gained a reputation as a “brash, outspoken guy” with a dark sense of humor—but not political. He was also known to be a heavy pot smoker and it was here that he began his decade long cocaine habit.
By the end of 1983, another Mormon, Jim Sumpter, became Vice President of First Media and moved Beck to Corpus Christi, Texas where he was given his own morning drive program at their leading Top-40 station. Beck’s show was called “The Morning Zoo” and this is where he developed his shtick employing fake voices and sound effects while delivering a wacky and often irreverent brand of humor between songs, news, weather and traffic reports. Beck’s favorite character was “Clydie Clyde”, a Kermit the Frog/Yoda-esque voice that you can find traces of in some of his more recent rantings. Beck’s boss was Arnold Malkan, a hot-tempered Republican attorney engaged in a bloody ratings war with a competitor. In addition to legal wrangling, Malkan directed Beck and his crew to engage in guerilla style pranks and other hi-jinks against the staff of the other station. The whole chaotic atmosphere in Corpus Christie cultivated an intense party scene that Beck participated in with complete abandon. But he still managed to keep his radio career in check. By 1985, Beck was a polished and professional DJ who had the experience and ratings success to market his wares to other markets.
A struggling station in Louisville, Kentucky hired Beck on for their 4-hour morning drive slot. The show, called “Captain Beck and the A-Team”, was even more crude and vulgar than his previous persona. Beck was known to “attack” fellow disc jockeys in the area and would even test the limits of political correctness using toilet humor, fat jokes, racial impressions and calling for the bombing of Muslims.
It was during his years at this Louisville station that Beck began his transformation into what we now see today. According to an article written by Alexander Zaitchick for entitled “The Making of Glenn Beck”
The birth of Glenn Beck as Radio Super Patriot can be traced to the morning of April 15, 1986. This was the morning after Ronald Reagan ordered U.S. warplanes to bomb Moammar Gadhafi’s Tripoli palace in response to the bombing of a Berlin nightclub frequented by U.S. servicemen. Beck sounded stoned during the show — and given his later claim to have smoked pot every day for 15 years, might have been — but even then his politics were anything but tie-dyed. After opening the show with a prayer and Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA,” Beck played patriotic music through the morning. The only track receiving multiple plays was a New Wave-ish spoof titled “Qaddafi Sucks.” The song was a huge hit with listeners, dozens of whom called Beck to tell him how inspired they were by his patriotism. Caller after caller applauded him for “standing up for America.” When someone argued that Reagan should have dropped more bombs, Beck agreed. “I personally don’t think we did enough,” he says. “We should’ve went over there [sic] and bombed the hell out of ‘em”
During this stage of his career, Beck’s drinking and drug abuse reached a crescendo. He was very depressed and even considered suicide. By his own account “There was a bridge abutment in Louisville, Kentucky, that had my name on it. Every day I prayed for the strength to be able to drive my car at 70 mph into that bridge abutment. I’m only alive today because (a) I’m too cowardly to kill myself … and (b) I’m too stupid.”
All of these things ended badly for Beck, who was fired after taking the station down to third place in the ratings.
Beck moved on to Phoenix, Arizona in 1986 and took another morning slot to replace an older DJ who was considered staid and boring. Beck’s presence injected knew life into the station but his reputation as a megalomaniac jackass made him few new friends among the staff. Beck became notorious for guerilla style antics, one of which resulted in his arrest, when he and a fellow jock stole Christmas decorations in the city of Scottsdale with the intention of transplanting them to Phoenix, which had no such decorations due to budget restraints. Beck’s energy and prankish mischievousness proved very successful for him and the station. But despite this, Beck became restless and moved on.
Next came Houston. It was 1989 and Glenn’s heavy drinking and cocaine usage once again worked against him in a major way.