So there I was, innocently perusing the aisles of my local Safeway, when there, next to the magazine rack, from the shelf of pulpy supermarket paperbacks leapt that horror of modern publishing: the vanity detective/mystery novel. Specifically, cast thine eyes upon this latest hard-boiled masterpiece, Michael Savage’s Abuse of Power. At first, my mind wouldn’t put together the spectre of “Michael Savage” and “Detective/Mystery/Thriller”; one of these things is not like the other. But upon flipping the book over and reading the blurb on the back, Mr. Savage’s patented authorship became all too clear.
(A quick note: in the following paragraphs, I’ll make a more thorough examination of Michael Savage’s character and personality. But for now, allow me the conceit of dispensing with Mr. “Savage’s” stage name/nom de plume, instead reverting to his given name of Michael Weiner–“weiner” being so much more fitting.)
Let’s look at the first paragraph of the manly blurb prose that really reaches out to grab the detective/mystery/thriller novel lover:
“Jack Hatfield is a hardened former war correspondent who rose to national prominence for his insightful, provocative commentary. But after being smeared as a bigot and extremist by a radical leftist media-watchdog group, he ultimately loses his job and finds himself working in obscurity as a freelance news producer in San Francisco.”
And voila, Mr. Weiner’s unmistakable trademarked paranoid, passive/aggressive style is unveiled.
Michael Weiner is famous for his radio show that takes the nutbaggery and ultra-right-wing conservatism of Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity and mixes in a healthy soupcon of passive/aggressive victimhood and academic paranoia to produce a uniquely whiney and viciously angry tone, with an overriding theme of picking on the little guy–like autistic children for example.
But he didn’t start out in radio. No, no–Mr. Weiner came to the wide world of conservative hate radio from…ACADEMIA! By his own generous and rather narcissistic reckoning, Michael Weiner was the ‘top researcher’ in his field of Nutritional Ethnomedicine, an offshoot of botanical medicine. He was actually somewhat of a bohemian in the late 60s, with close relationships to
Timothy Leary, Alan Ginsberg, and many others in the San Francisco North Beach Beat Poetry scene. However, like so many nutbag conservatives, he became petty and venal upon being denied a career achievement. At UC Berkeley, he had applied to become Dean of the Graduate School of Journalism–without having any real-life experience in actual journalism.
One wonders why, indeed, he picked this particular academic field, when clearly he was infinitely more qualified as a biologist or botanist. I’ll wager that he was displaying his now legendary passive/aggressive “poor me” stance by picking a traditionally liberal school like Journalism, knowingly applying for a job for which he was unqualified, and then wallowing in the resulting victimhood when he was denied. In fact, he brought an unsuccessful lawsuit against Cal, claiming that it was his political conservatism that was responsible for his not being chosen as Dean of Journalism.
He then took this whiny paranoia all the way to the bank with a radio show tellingly based in the Bay Area, where all of his foes at Cal Journalism could eat his dirt. In fact, while he lives a conspicuously lavish lifestyle in lush Marin, he almost daily rails against the liberal forces in the very liberal Bay Area that constantly conspire to cause him hardship. It’s rare for a show to go by when he doesn’t threaten to decamp for more conservative environs like Idaho or Utah upon learning of some dastardly liberal happening in progressive San Francisco.
I used to listen in on Mr. Weiner’s radio show in the same way that one is drawn to a particularly gruesome car wreck–you just can’t look away. Mr. Weiner has one of least radio-friendly voices in the industry; his extremely nasal and whiny voice features an especially grating Brooklyn accent that becomes even more irritating when he exhibits his trademark apoplectic anger whilst spitting and railing against those that would dare to challenge his supremacy. Although he has permanently aligned himself with the nutbag ultra-right-wing, his academic past is so at odds with the resolutely anti-intellectual meatheads that dominate his conservative realm that I imagine that he must privately despair at the idiocy of his most viral fans, and having to publicly embrace the “I’m With Stupid” credo of the Tea Party/Pitchfork Brigade.
For you, dear reader, and the annals of this blog, I even have a tale of a personal encounter with Mr. Weiner. In 2006, I used to wait tables at Kokkari, a very plush and fancy upscale Greek restaurant in San Francisco’s Financial District. Kokkari has long been a favorite of San Francisco’s social and political elite; it wasn’t unusual to see then-mayor Gavin Newsom, members of the Getty and Danielle Steele/Traina clans, Willie Brown, and teammates of the SF Giants and 49ers mingling with the titans of SF and Silicon Valley industry.
Mr. Weiner was not a regular, or even an occasional customer. But one busy Saturday night, he showed up at 8:00 without a reservation, and loudly demanded a table. Our maitre d’ was instantly aware of Mr. Weiner’s identity, and I privately knew him to be no fan of Mr. Weiner or his conservative talk radio colleagues. Still, our maitre d’ most likely would have tried his best to accommodate Mr. Weiner were it not for his almost instant eruption of vitriol and epic rudeness. Mr. Weiner was politely told that a table would be made available in 15 minutes or so, an extremely generous feat of front-of-the-house slight-of-hand, given the 1 hour-plus wait quoted to everyone else, including the high profile social and political elites there that evening.
I’d worked enough busy Saturday nights to observe the behavior of this rarified strata of society, and it will surprise many of you unfamiliar with their native mannerisms to learn that almost all of these high-powered players would graciously wait at the bar to be seated. The Kokkari bar was, indeed, where many the back-room deal went down, well-lubricated by the dry martinis and scotch favored by that set. But Michael Weiner was not of this clique, and he possessed, instead, the coarse manners of the typical loud-mouthed arriviste, in full flower as he began to loudly insult our maitre d’, making crude reference to Weiner’s assumption of his sexuality before launching into that old favorite chestnut, “Do you know who I am!?!”
At this point, I had stealthily positioned myself within sightlines of the host podium so that I could hear and see the goings on, and I was rewarded by the image of Mr. Weiner’s sweaty and florid face contorted into a cartoonish image of hateful anger. This is what he must look like on a daily basis as he spews forth his malicious venom from behind the curtain of radio. By now, he was attracting the bemused attention of most of the well-heeled and connected patrons of the Kokkari bar, all of whom recognized Mr. Weiner if not by sight then by whiny and nasal voice.
Weiner, slowly becoming aware of the results of the scene he was creating–not the desired awe and respect but instead, smug amusement from the 1%ers who would never accept him–became ever more infuriated and animated as he began to punctuate his ravings with waving arms and clenched fists. None of this had any effect upon our heroic maitre d’, who milked the situation for all it was worth and remained a cool customer in dramatic contrast to the tremendous meltdown occurring right in front of him.
Mr. Weiner went on with his Angry Spitting Guy act for maybe 2 minutes more until finally, he realized that he would be getting no immediate table at Kokkari that night. In what I assume was an attempt to save face, he loudly exclaimed that “this isn’t the end; I can shut this place down with 30 seconds on my radio show!” We were all shaking in our shoes. He spun around and grabbed the woman whom I assumed was his wife and banged out the door. The room was quiet for a beat, then erupted into loud laughter and applause. Alas, this was well before the age of Twitter, so this incident did not create the viral internet shitstorm it surely would have in today’s instant social media environment. But I’ll always fondly remember that night–with heart-warming Liberal Elitist pleasure.
In recent years, Mr. Weiner has become too paranoid and fanatically angry for even this liberal’s Schadenfreude. While I was initially drawn in by the sheer incongruity of Weiner as hard-boiled detective, this interest quickly dissipated. That’s why I didn’t even crack the pages of Abuse of Power; the back-cover blurb told me all I possibly needed to know.