Michael William LeBron (born August 26, 1958), popularly known as Lionel, is a nationally syndicated radio talk show host based in New York City. Since May 14, 2007, he has hosted a daily three-hour radio talk show from 9 am to noon weekdays on Air America Radio  .
Prior to the Air America show, he hosted a nationally-syndicated show on the WOR Radio Network six days a week (9 pm-midnight ET weekdays, and 5-8 pm ET Saturdays), from the studios of WOR (710AM) in New York. The first two hours of the weekday show were carried live on WOR from 9 pm to 11 pm ET. The weekday show originally started at 10 pm ET. WOR moved it to a 9 pm start in November 2006, still carrying only the first two hours on WOR's radio signal (due to conflict with another WOR Show, Health Talk with Dr. Ronald Hoffman). The final show for WOR aired May 3, 2007.
Career[edit | edit source]
Lionel graduated from the Stetson University College of Law, and as an attorney worked as both prosecutor and defender. He began his radio career as a host at WFLA (970AM) in his hometown of Tampa, Florida from 1988 to 1994.
For years, Lionel had been a frequent caller to local shows, eventually becoming a "chronic", which is industry vernacular for frequent callers. His notoriety was such that he began using aliases and different personas to get on the air. His most enduring moniker is in honor of Francis Lionel "Lion" Delbuchi, the character played by Al Pacino in the movie Scarecrow. His calls were so entertaining that WPLP, WFLA's rival station across Tampa Bay, offered him a talk show; Lionel declined, both because WPLP paid very little and because he was afraid it would affect his law career. In the fall of 1988, however, WFLA management called and gave him an unbeatable offer to move behind the microphone, first as a weekend host and soon thereafter as part of the weekday lineup. When he did, he quickly became a ratings success, using a lively mix of humor and current events.
He was hired away by WABC (770AM), a news-talk New York City when a former ABC network president heard Lionel's show during vacations in Florida and lured him to the Big Apple. He set ratings records for WABC as its morning-drive host during the mid-1990s.
In the late 1990s, toward the end of his tenure at WABC, Lionel also hosted the CourtTV law show, Snap Judgment. In 2000, Lionel began his national radio show, The Lionel Show. It was originally syndicated by Premiere Radio Networks, but was dropped in 2001. His show was syndicated by independent Rex Broadcasting until 2003, when it was picked up by the WOR Radio Network in New York City.
In 2000 and 2001, in addition to his radio work, Lionel was a morning host on an Internet-based talk radio site, eyada.com. The site suspended operations due to disinterest in 2001.
In 2007, Talkers Magazine included Lionel on their list of "The 100 Most Important Radio Talk Show Hosts in America" at number 23, and tied for 13th place on their "Top Talk Radio Audiences" list.
He has released a comedy album titled You Don't Look Like You Sound and fronted a bluegrass band called Lock 'n' Load.
Philosophy[edit | edit source]
Originally espousing a largely libertarian political philosophy, Lionel has arguably adopted a more progressive stance, and his show has become increasingly heard on stations of a left-leaning nature. However, he personally eschews such labels and repeatedly criticizes those who hold opinions simply out of allegiance to a word like "conservative" or "liberal". Many of his stances, such as opposition to gun control, are shared by most liberals. He opposes the death penalty on the grounds that the justice system is far too unreliable to be entrusted with that power, and favors decriminalization of drug use and of prostitution.
He frequently targets his fellow talk show hosts, attacking conservatives for reading talking points as part of a "playbook mentality" and some fellow liberal hosts for boring audiences with excessive political dialog. Among his most frequent targets:
- Michael Savage: Routinely pronounced "Sauvage" by Lionel, the show that preceded his at WOR meant Lionel was frequently exposed to Savage's program. His current favorite is pointing out that Savage told his listeners that the sun was the smallest star in our solar system.
- Glenn Beck: Usually described as "the stupidest conservative on television" and "late to the party," Lionel usually dissects Beck's views and questions the logic of them.
- Bill O'Reilly: Lionel typically questions O'Reilly's arguments and emphasis on political issues of the day and considers him part of the "playbook mentality."
- Joe Scarborough: Lionel has had a love-hate relationship with Scarborough for years, formerly attacking him for his harder conservative views but now deriding him for the incorporation of entertainment news in his program in the last few years.
- Keith Olbermann: Lionel suggests that although Olbermann does tell it like it is, never mincing words, his efforts to be the next Edward R. Murrow are not successful.
Lionel also describes himself as a "bright", meaning someone who holds a naturalistic rather than a supernatural world view.
During a discussion on his show about illegal immigration to the United States, Lionel stated his ancestry was Black history in Afro-Puerto Rican, Sicilian, Scots-Irish, German and French.
In-jokes and other miscellany[edit | edit source]
- Theme song: Lionel adopted "Nina Morena" by the Gipsy Kings as his theme song, and he plays it at the top of every hour after commercial breaks. The song's opening line, which sounds like "Lionel!" repeatedly, caused him to "fall out of his chair" the first time he heard it. The closing theme song is "Soul Makossa" by Manu Dibango.
- Retarded Algonquin Round Table: A sarcastic reference to the original Algonquin Round Table, the "Retarded Algonquin Round Table" is a perhaps partially fictional collection of Lionel's less intelligent friends and drinking companions. Their idea of intelligent discourse is to repeat whatever they hear from Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, and right-wing bumper stickers.
- Barstool Diplomacy: The type of diplomacy advocated by members of the Retarded Algonquin Round Table. Usually involves the use of overwhelming military force, not excepting nuclear weapons, as the first move.
- Archie Bunker: A pseudonym for one commonly referred-to member of the Retarded Algonquin Round Table.
- The monkey's dead, the show's over ... sue ya: Lionel's end-of-show catch phrase, used since the early 1990s. "Sue ya" is a reference to his former profession. "The monkey's dead, the show's over" was originally spoken by a defeated political candidate in Tampa when asked for an election-night comment about his failed campaign. Lionel saw the quote in the next day's newspaper and has used it since.
- Stephen Baldwin: A frequent caller and fan of Lionel, Baldwin appeared as a guest on Lionel's show to tout his youth ministry. Baldwin is frequently derided by Lionel, suggesting listeners consider Baldwin's sanity if they replace the word "God" in his book with the name "Bob." Despite the comic jabs, Baldwin continues to phone the show at least once a month.
- Time Cube, the discovery of Dr Gene Ray. Lionel interviewed Dr Ray about the Time Cube several times on eYada, and also interviewed him twice on Air America Radio during 2007.
The following were specific to particulars of the WOR show:
- Pete Conlin (Beverly Hills): Pete Conlin was Lionel's usual "producer" at WOR, which is to say, telephone screener. Lionel almost always referred to him as "Pete Conlin (Beverly Hills)". Lionel explains that in an early episode of The Mod Squad the rich kid of the trio was introduced as "Pete Cochran—Beverly Hills". Pete Conlin's name was similar enough to the Mod Squad character's to trigger this memory, so he became "Pete Conlin (Beverly Hills)" (much to Pete's initial bafflement). Occasionally, Lionel references Pete's wife, calling her "Mrs. Beverly Hills."
- If You're Lucky: Lionel often ended the second hour of the WOR show by saying "More coming up in the next hour... if you're lucky!" This was to remind New York listeners that they would not hear the third hour of the show.
- For the benefit of our affiliates, if you suddenly hear a Valentine's Day show, you know what that means: Lionel's ongoing troubles dealing with WOR's listener call management software often meant "the phone lines have crashed." Lionel would abandon his WOR program with a "best of" rerun if the phone system could not be repaired within the hour. He regularly asked a producer to find the most dated show possible to run again.
[edit | edit source]
- Official Site
- Label for Lionel at ltradio.blogspot.com
- Air America on XM Satellite Radio
- Aircheck from Lionel's first-ever radio show - From BobLassiterAirchecks.com
- Streaming Radio Guide with a link to the Lionel Show
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- The Lionel Show. (May 3, 2007.) Hour 2