Todd N's Reviews > They Call Me Baba Booey

They Call Me Baba Booey by Gary Dell'Abate
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Nov 20, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: kindle

Of the two books I read this week by people in radio and that the New York Times didn't deign to review, this was the more satisfying book though not what I expected. I am a big fan of the Howard Stern show, and I generally have it on unless I need to concentrate on something work-related or the kids are close by. I am also a big fan of radio in general, and The Howard Stern Show is either the pinnacle of this medium or I've just heard Howard say it so many times that I have been brainwashed into believing it.

So when I heard Baba Booey was coming out with a book I was interested to hear more about the nuts and bolts details of how The Howard Stern Show operates. Instead I read about his experiences growing up on Long Island with a mentally unbalanced mom. It think she was bipolar, but this was before this kind of stuff was diagnosed.

There isn't a lot about the show that I hadn't already heard before -- the tape, the pitch, the teeth. I understand why hard core fans of the show are giving it such negative reviews.

One interesting part that I didn't know before was just how hard it was and how much crap Gary had to take just to break in to radio. Oddly, he credits a lot of his success to dealing with his unpredictable and unstable home life. [[[Aside: I sort of know what he means. My career didn't really start to take off until I was at Verity, where it wasn't unusual for someone to be screaming or crying in the halls and there was generally a weird tension in the air. But I felt oddly at ease there, or not exactly at ease but certainly able to understand and navigate the personal dynamics. As long as I'm digressing I'm going to mention my theory that without all the divorces in the 70's the culture in Silicon Valley wouldn't be possible. The hope that "There's going to be an IPO and I'm going to be rich and happy" is just the damaged adult version of "Daddy's going to move back home and we're all going to be happy." Baba Booey's writing about his early career is the closest thing I've read yet to this pet theory of mine.]]]

The book handles Gary's brother's death from AIDS beautifully. It's very touching and made me tear up at Posh Bagel (of all places) this afternoon. Some parts, like working in the record store and the lists of records, are pretty tedious and caused me to start skimming. I don't care what it was like to sell Thriller on the first day that it was available. [[[Another aside: It's weird that someone who prides himself on music knowledge and spent so much money collecting records would have such a pedestrian and mainstream taste. There was so much interesting stuff going on back then that you'd think he would have checked at least some of it out. Maybe he just left it out of the book. I do agree with him that the "story songs" from the 70s are awesomely bad, like "The Night The Lights Went Out In Georgia" and "Patches." Those songs take me back to being a kid, playing 45s and listening to AM radio. I can totally relate to Gary and his brother listening to the radio and playing records as an escape.]]]

After reading this book and the one by Aline Kominsky-Crumb I think I've read enough about growing up on Long Island to last me for the rest of my life.

As a great man once said to Peter Jennings: "Now lookee here...Baby Booey to y'all!"
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