As you may recall, my first run as a political talk show host didn't end so well. It was a Thursday afternoon—December 27, 2018. I'd just finished a show and the station's bosses called me to the conference room to say . . . "Get out—and don't come back!"
Well, they were a little more subtle than that. But that was the gist. Bottom line—after almost two years on the air, they unceremoniously fired me. Apparently I was just a little too progressive for the progressive radio station. Happy New Year!
By the way, this column has a happy ending, I swear.
Once fired, I entered my Moses-in-the-desert phase of existence. Not that I'm likening myself to a towering biblical figure—it's just an analogy. The thing is, I'd fallen in love with talking politics with people on the air. And then—bam—I'd been cut off. Cold turkey.
Making it worse—there was tons of stuff to talk about. I mean, just think about some of the wacky shit that went down in the weeks since I got fired. The mayoral race zipped along. One alderman—Ed Burke—got indicted. Another—Danny Solis—got outed for wearing a wire on Burke. According to the Sun-Times, Solis was swapping his approval on zoning requests for Viagra. Man, I could have talked about Danny and his Viagra for days.
So, I was like this political junkie wandering around the streets of Chicago, looking for someone—anyone—to talk politics with.
Stick with me, folks. That happy ending really is on the way . . .
You go through several stages of grief when you've been publicly fired—at least, I did.
I went through this weird week or two when I didn't want to be seen or heard between the hours of two and five in the afternoon—when my old show aired. 'Cause people might think—oh, poor guy, he doesn't have his show anymore.
I took to taking long walks in the neighborhood at that time of the day. Once I wandered over to the local library and who did I see? Political activist Sameena Mustafa, a regular on my old show. "Oh, my god, Ben, isn't it a coincidence that I see you at the very time you should be on the air," she said. "Except you're not on the air 'cause—you got fired!"
OK, she didn't remotely say anything like that. I'm sure she wasn't even thinking it—but I was. To make it worse, Sameena was clutching several books by W.E.B. Du Bois, the brilliant African-American sociologist and activist. You know—serious reading.
In contrast, I was holding London Boulevard, a sleazy mystery about an ex-con who gets drunk, snorts coke, beats up bad guys, and has wild sex with beautiful women. Though not necessarily in that order.
Hell, if I'd known I'd be bumping into Sameena, I'd have checked out Marcel Proust's Remembrance of Things Past—which falls into the category of epic novels I plan to get to one of these days. At least she'd think I was making good use of my free time.
Trust me—this really does end happily . . .
I must admit there were those who openly rejoiced at my misery. Like the guy who wrote an e-mail along the lines of—so, you got fired, huh? Welcome to the real world, pal!
You know, he sort of has a point.
But most people offered encouragement and advice. I even got an unexpected offer of assistance from Bob, one of my Trump-voting friends. (Yeah, I've got a few.)
Bob: Are you and your family going to be OK financially?
Me: Yeah, we're good.
Bob: 'Cause, if you need some help—let me know.
Don't tell Bob I told you this—but I got all choked up when he said that. The progressives fired me, and the Trumpster offered me assistance. The world works in mysterious ways.
And now, the happy ending—or endings . . .
Anne Elizabeth Moore, my editor at the Reader, had a great idea for a podcast called the Back Room Deal. It would feature Maya Dukmasova—ace Reader reporter—and me, talking politics from the studio in the back room of the Lumpen Radio station in Bridgeport.
They sat us down one Friday afternoon in January—and we spent almost five hours gabbing about aldermanic races. It was a blast—and there are more Back Room Deal podcasts to come.
If that's not happy enough, consider this . . .
I'm back on the air.
The Reader, the Sun-Times, the Chicago Federation of Labor, and several local unions have joined forces to sponsor The Ben Joravsky Show.
Yes, yes, I've wandered out of the desert.
We'll be podcasting live from 1 to 3 PM Tuesday through Friday on the websites of both the Reader and the Sun-Times as well as the Sun-Times's YouTube channel. Plus, you will be able to find our shows wherever you download podcasts.
We'll start Wednesday, February 27. As I write this, it's before the election. But by Wednesday, I'm pretty sure we'll have a runoff (or recount) to discuss.
My former partner in crime—producer Dennis, aka Dr. D—will be joining me. I'll regularly bring on writers from the Sun-Times and Reader to talk about the latest headlines.
And many of my favorite guests from the old show have promised to return—including Monroe Anderson ("talking Trump, Trump & Trump") as well as Ed Maher and Ryan Kelly and Stacy Davis Gates and Joanna Klonsky and—well, pretty much everyone will be back.
I'll make sure to keep the collection of Proust on my desk for Sameena's return.
Talking politics with cool people—OK, so maybe it's not as "nice" as the ending Danny Solis had in mind. But it's a happy one for me. v