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Sucker-punches from Lush Rambo
by Andrew Barbano
Mar 11, 2012 | 549 views | 0 0 comments | 2 2 recommendations | email to a friend | print
“Call me a sumbitch, just spell my name right.”

So advises the old politician’s version of “any publicity is good publicity.”

Lush Rambo (so dubbed in 1988 by his better, Travus T. Hipp), has thus once more scored big, sucking in naive souls from the president to Shelley Berkley.

Entire books and websites have been devoted to debunking this guy but none of it works because he has everybody playing his game.

Legendary author Damon Runyon again stands ignored: “One of these days in your travels, a guy is going to come up to you and show you a nice brand-new deck of cards on which the seal is not yet broken, and this guy is going to offer to bet you that he can make the Jack of spades jump out of the deck and squirt cider in your ear. But, son, do not bet this man, for as sure as you are standing there, you are going to end up with an earful of cider.”

I won’t reiterate Rambo’s most recent infamy. However, I will post some of my warnings from 20 years ago with this column at You also can listen to a clip of my show from the year I defeated him in the ratings.

His moonhowling dogmatic diehards refuse to believe that their guru is devoid of moral conviction. It’s all an act and it started here. Twice.

Oldtimers might remember a Mapes Hotel lounge singer called Sean Morton Downey (1932-2001). I once rented an office from him down in Gomorrah South.

By the mid-1980s, Sean was doing a talk show on KFBK, the Sacramento, Calif. version of KKKOH. He used the name of his famous big band-era father and became Morton Downey, Jr.

Along with Denver’s Alan Berg (a Jew murdered by white supremacists in 1984), Sean pioneered the now-familiar outrage-spewing talkmeister.

Sean pushed the envelope like nobody the dumb farmers of California’s central valley had ever heard.

His former colleagues told me he was already hanging by a thread when he called a prominent businessman, the developer of the Old Sacramento tourist attraction, a “chink.” (Others say he used “Chinaman.”) His firing launched two national careers: Downey’s TV show and you-know-who.

Then the story comes back to Reno. Broadcast consultant Bruce Marr, who lived here at the time, advised KFBK management to try this guy Limbaugh from Nebraska.

When he got to Sac, he was clueless and ventured onto the air performing an over-the-top lampoon of the canned Downey. California’s capital city is just Fresno with lobbyists and the rednecks bought Limbaugh’s comedy routine as real.

No dummy, the former disc jockey rode the horse in the direction it was already going. So a man of no particular personal, moral or political conviction began his journey toward becoming the nation’s most influential racist, bigot and woman-hating Republican reactionary. (He’s not a conservative, having frequently failed to correctly define the term when asked.)

What explains the gullibility of a substantial percentage of the public? Alas and alack, many will believe whatever reinforces their existing prejudices and ignore all facts to the contrary.

I proved it. On my Nevada and California talk radio shows, I twice pulled the Lush Rambo put-on. (My Sacramento/San Francisco station was a 50,000-watt big boomer covering the west from north L.A. to Alaska.) One day, I announced I was going to do an act. For the duration of the show, I would play a right-wing moonhowler Reaganaut coercive.

I was absolutely amazed at the response. Caller after caller checked in to praise me for finally seeing the light. I repeated the put-on warning every five minutes, but they refused to hear it! I was now a trusted convert to their twisted causes. And that’s how Nebraska Rush became Lush Rambo, simple as that.

Trying to rationalize irrational behavior causes critics to play his game and look plumb dumb in the process.

Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Las Vegas, issued a call for Limbaugh to be pulled off the air, a familiar slowball that right-wingers always hit out of the park by preaching the sanctity of free speech. Even the Reno Gazette-Journal fragged her for it.

U.S. Senate candidate Berkley needs to read a little Gomorrah South history. In the early 1950s, Sen. Patrick McCarran, D-Nev., tried to put the Las Vegas Sun out of business by getting advertisers to cancel en masse. Young publisher Hank Greenspun sued McCarran and won. Today, the Greenspun empire is worth billions and McCarran is just a street name vaguely remembered for his commie-hunting debauches with Sen. Joseph McCarthy, R-Wisconsin, and a law still allowing insurance companies to conspire to fix prices.

Rep. Berkley played Limbaugh’s game and lost. She needs to hire new campaign consultants after she washes the cider out of her ears.

Support the Nevada citizen TV project

Help re-establish a people’s TV channel hereabouts by contributing at ReSurge.TV or contacting me.

The Barbwire TV show is still in reruns. Check the expanded web edition of this column at We are making progress. Your support is both needed and appreciated.

I’ll keep the cider warm.

Be well. Raise hell.

Andrew Barbano is a 43-year Nevadan, editor of and producer of Nevada’s March 31 César Chávez Day celebration. Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Tribune since 1988. E-mail
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