For my money, the single most talented voice in the modern history of talk radio is retiring later this month. Not "one of" the most talented -- the most talented.
Neal Boortz began his career in radio while in college at Texas A&M, but his long stint in commercial radio started as one of the many individuals he would, over the years to follow, continually cut off: opinionated callers. Boortz in the late 1960s was a frequent caller to a local Atlanta talk show, and when the host died unexpectedly, he went from brash caller to brash host.
But Boortz's rise to the Radio Hall of fame (he was inducted in 2009) was not a jump from one rising radio market to another. Nor was it, for a good many years, all that lucrative. The truth is that Boortz, who dubbed himself everything from "The Talkmaster" to "Mighty Whitey" is an extremely shy and introspective person. In large gatherings, unless forced to, he will cling to the perimeter of a room away from others. In private, he is known to be extremely polite and unassuming. So now Boortz's cover is blown.
And while Boortz's politics of Libertarian mixed in with a large dose of conservative Republican leanings can sometimes be interpreted more as harsh and tough than most who have such large stages on radio, the man who will soon retire from his top-10 position among talk radio hosts is quite the opposite.
Always a soft touch for those in tough spots, Neal Boortz often quietly put his money and time where his mouth was not. He raised funds for the hungry, gave private donations to kids needing toys for Christmas, helped out many a family who had lost a spouse and had children to feed and mortgages to pay. Boortz never let most folks know of this "softer side" because, on the air, he was truly what I would term the personification of "intelligent chaos."
It was chaos because over the many years leading to his syndication in 1999, and certainly thereafter, Boortz would utter just about whatever came into his mind. He constantly called public schools "government schools," deriding their quality and calling them "tax-funded child abuse." He put just about everyone and everything in his target, ranging from Islamic extremists to Southerners devoted to the Confederate flag. He was, as he proudly proclaimed, an equal opportunity offender.
But what made Neal Boortz the best to ever preside over the phenomenon America now identifies as "talk radio" was his razor-sharp mind and equally sharp wit.