Tuesday, May 28, 2013


 Three new blogs from The Lion:

I sat with all of them...argued, sometimes at high volumes, with them.  I appreciated their intelligence and most were pretty funny.  Pete Wilson, Duane Garrett, Lee Rodgers and now Gene Burns, provided thousands of hours of entertainment, analysis, discussion and a forum for the Bay Area unmatched by any other radio station or area of the nation.  I miss them, and the passing of Gene adds to this feeling of loss.

     Gene was the living definition of a "gentle-man".  He was courtly and courteous as well as funny and acerbic.  I should have resented him, or been jealous, since his tenure at KGO involved him getting every plum assignment I desired.  He was the morning host while Ronn Owens wasn't around and when Jim Eason left, he was given his slot.  He was able to be so successful because he had the perfect radio voice, temperment and an ability to inform while he entertained.  He was the consummate professional.

     Long before he was a talk show host, Gene was a newsman.  He was a reporter and news director at a number of stations in New York and he understood how news was collected and reported.  It would give him a perspective on the news he would use for the rest of his talk career.  Gene owned Boston.  He also loved Boston.  He took a risk by syndicating his show and eventually got an offer from KGO he could not refuse.  We were the lucky recipients of his opportunity.  Oh, he killed here too.

     Gene had the best racket in radio.  He hosted a weekday talk show just so he could do what he truly loved the most, a weekly food and wine show on Saturdays.  Gene was the real deal.  He was a good friend of Julia Child.  He was a friend with the top chefs and vintners in the world.  He was a James Beard award judge.  He had forgotten more about cooking and wine than most "experts" knew.  The Saturday show was his pride and joy.  It was also a great deal for him.  KGO paid Gene to eat out.  He would go out and try new restaurants and report and review them.  He publicized the incredible wineries of Northern California, many small and unheralded at the time, that soon would be household names.

     Going out to dinner with Gene was a treat.  Unfortunately, I didn't get too many opportunities.  He was a raconteur and could wax on about histories and characters of both the food and wine being served.  He introduced me to Pecorino cheese and Pinot Grigio wine, and I had my first sip of Grappa because of Gene.

     Gene was proud to be a libertarian.  He didn't like the Democrats or the Republicans.  He ran for president on the Libertarian ticket and his politics were about getting government out of our lives and leaving us free to live as we wished.  Social and political issues were all filtered through this perspective.  At a time of heightened nationalism and uber-patriotism, after September 11th especially, Gene was not afraid to take a stand in opposition to the Bush administration's actions in Afghanistan and Iraq.  He clearly articulated the false logic, failed arguments and tragic consequences these policies caused.  He was not a bleeding-heart liberal.  He was a thoughtful critic of a government out of control.

     One of my favorite memories of Gene was when we all gathered for an All-star remote from the Flint Center in Cupertino.  The place held about 1,500 people and it was filled to the gunwales with hundreds still waiting outside.  Tensions were running high as the debate would be about the U.S. policy in Iraq.  Five people with very strong personalities, big egos and loud voices sat on the stage.  As the rhetoric and heat increased, time after time, Gene's comments were trenchant, but always tinged with some humor or a quick line.  He was at his best.  It was so much fun.

     With Gene working 7-10 pm and me working 10p-1am, we saw each other allot.  He was always kind and open and funny and we exchanged ideas about topics and the news of the day.  It was also clear Gene had health issues nearly his entire time at KGO.  I don't know how he maintained the joy for life he had given the various parts of his body which failed him over the years.  A fall, in the stateroom of a cruise ship, almost killed him and I don't think he was ever fully recovered.  I also think the summary and compassionless way he was let go from KGO hurt him a great deal.

     I will always remember a number of disparate things about Gene.  I will remember his Christmas cookie drive where listeners sent in their favorite cookie recipes and he picked the best and showcased them on KGO.  The cookies were so good.  I will remember Gene in heated, intense arguments with a caller only to end the call not with an attack on the caller's ancestry or intellect, but rather with Gene summarizing the encounter by saying, "...that's why God invented chocolate and vanilla ice-cream."  When Gene did criticize a public figure or someone in the news, he would mention their lack of "testicular fortitude" which was one of the worst pronouncements he could hurl.  It's a phrase I love to this day.  It is so elegant and genteel a way to talk about someone lacking the balls to do the right thing.

     I had hoped to re-connect with Gene when I came home.  I would loved to have discussed this experience...share what I have learned...describe the scandal which this system is and the billions of tax dollars wasted each year on this prison/industrial complex.  He would have understood and it would have been a fascinating exchange.  I also thought how amazing, after years of food which has no taste, is of the lowest quality with incompetent preparation, it would be to go out with Gene to the restaurant of his choice and luxuriate in the food choices he would have made.  Alas, this is not meant to be.

     There is no higher compliment, than to refer to someone as a "gentle-man".  Gene Burns left this world better than he found it.  He fought for his principals, but never lost sight of the humanity of the people he opposed or disagreed with.  His class and intellect and heart will be sorely missed.

     Eternal rest grant unto him oh Lord and let perpetual light shine upon him.  May he rest in peace.  May his soul and the souls of the faithful departed rest in peace.



  1. What a beautiful tribute. Thank you.

  2. Amen, Bernie. Thank you for your thoughtful and loving tribute. I listened to KGO this morning for the first time since the sad event two years ago and cried as callers shared their memories. Then I thought of you: another who's voice I miss and looked you up on line. God bless.

  3. My two boys, growing up, listened to Gene and also you, Bernie. They would make me turn off their radios, so they could go to sleep. We all learned so much from both of you.

    Rest in peace and comfort, Gene

  4. Thank you Bernie. I would have loved to hear you voice your comments and stories about Gene gathered in the KGO studio with your former colleagues. Of the losses you listed, all of them were hosts I listened to regularly. Now we have lost Gene but will treasure the audio files left behind to remind us of how we loved him. And maybe a miracle of divine intervention sometime in the future will give us your voice back on the radio again. Be well.

  5. Amen to you too, Bernie...your words and your insight help ease the pain...

  6. Yes, Gene may have been against the wars, I don't recall his exact positions. But I do recall being the first caller to speak with him after the attacks of 9/11.

    Gene was recovering in a hospital bed, listened to KGO religiously, and was beside himself with anger and rage at the KGO hosts who were blaming America for the attacks! I believe the host who has subbed in for him may have been Sean Nix... whoever the substitute host was, they had on several Saul Alinsky America haters from Berkeley... and boy, did Gene tear them a new one!!! I was so glad that Gene was back!! A voice of reason, with perspective.

    Yes, Bernie, I bet prison food is tasteless... probably the same or better than what soldiers get who are fighting for us in the Middle East. Such is the plight of prison. It's called punishment, and you're even in a minimum security prison, right?

    Gene's failing body were given to him by God, and by an act of fate (accident), not by a repeated personal choice.

  7. Bernie,
    This was truly beautiful. Your feelings are my feelings. Thank you for expressing them so well.

  8. Thank you Bernie for writing about Gene. When I first heard the news, it made me very sad. Once again I was reminded about how much I miss the old KGO. I am going to print out what you wrote about Gene for my elderly mother who doesn't have a computer. She will really enjoy reading your words. We are both big fans of you! God bless you Bernie!!

  9. From your reporting of the Oakland Hills fire, through the years of evenings of you and Lee, you and Dwayne, you and Gene, I was blessed to have their and your voice on 810. Thank you for all those years, and your kind words now, and I hope to hear you in some medium in the future, Bernie. Take care...

  10. Thank you Bernie for bringing back the memories. You, and Gene and Ray were companions for my husband and myself for years. After my husband died I used you three as my company on lonely nights--laughing or arguing, out loud, with all three of you. I feel the lose all over again with the passing of Gene.--it is an era gone but the memories still live with me and so many others. Take care Bernie, I look forward to hearing your voice again some day.

  11. I learned of Gene's passing listening to Pat Thurston the next day, I immediately thought of you. I have been looking forward to your comments about this remarkable human being.

    I believe Gene was a humanist of the highest order. He treated everyone with dignity and respect even when his voice was betraying his professional delivery.

    Your on air interactions with Gene and all the other members of KGO was the absolute best programing in radio history. Sadly, it is a golden era which will never be heard again.

    I join you and the others in sadness with the loss of your friend, Gene Burns.

    - Maguid

  12. I miss intelligent--provocative talk show radio. like KGO. I sometimes wonder if shutting down the talk show format was'ent politically motivated/influenced by the far right..i am not a conspiracy theorists.. but kgo talk used to bring out news you would not get anywhere else..it really brought information to the bay area community and isn't that what the public airwaves are suppose to provide? now there is nothing to fill that void. i keep waiting for some other entity to fill that void because there is an audience for intelligent talk show progressive format like theold kgo..

  13. Bernie, I still listen to God Talk every Sunday! Church of the Holy Donut Member! #...........