Art Bell, 1945-2018

It’s interesting the people we get to know when we’re not trying. That’s exactly how it was with Art Bell, who passed away at his Pahrump home in Nye County, Nevada on Friday the 13th (he’d have enjoyed the irony) and with whom I had the pleasure of being acquainted.

Interestingly, it happened while I wasn’t doing radio – I was working for a newspaper and Art was visiting a local radio station that carried his show, “Coast to Coast AM.” Invited to interview him for the paper, the man practically interviewed me instead.

Ever the entertainer and formidable conversationalist, Art had me laughing as I tried to take notes without a lot of success. He literally was ‘the most interesting man in the world,’ not to take anything away from Dos Equis beer or Jonathan Goldsmith.

Unfortunately, the story I’d written never got published as I was fired before the article’s deadline. And it was ignorant of me to chuck my notes.

So, here’s sort of an update:

He was the founder and the original host of the radio program ‘Coast to Coast AM’ as well as its companion show ‘Dreamland.’ Art took on semi-retirement in 2003, but couldn’t stay away from broadcasting, continuing to host on the weekends.

He finally announced his retirement from weekend hosting in July 2007, though he did guest host from time to time through 2010. I know this because by then I was a news reporter and announcer at the radio station carrying his program.

“This time, it’s for real,” he said, adding that the reason for his retirement was to spend more time with his new wife and newborn daughter. From June to December 2006, he lived in the Philippines, (coming back every so often on business) but returning there in March 2009, because he couldn’t get a U.S. visa for his wife.

Art told me at the time of our sit-down that radio broadcasting was ‘an addiction,’ and so I wasn’t surprised when he returned the airwaves in July 2015, with a new show, “Midnight in the Desert.” He eventually retired from that show in December of the same year because of security concerns.

People were trespassing and taking pot-shots at his home. “I’m not only tired of the harassment, I’m frightened for my family,” he told me in January 2016, during our last conversation, adding, “I believe whoever’s doing this, wants me off the air permanently.”

Over the years, Art pointed out that he was born on Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, where I’d been stationed; that he shared the same birth date of June 17th with my son; he returned to the air with a new on July 20th, my birth date; and the we were both inductees of the Nevada Broadcasters Association’s Hall of Fame. Art had a way of drawing lines through people’s lives that intersected with his, thus making us feel special, if not important.

God-speed, Art, from somewhere beyond “The Land of Nye.”

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