[../../../_private/magazine_tmp.htm]San Diegans' Feelings
Run Deep on Limbaughmania
Pix To Come
The legions of listeners reveled in each other's presence after tuning in by themselves for so long.
An old-fashioned country picnic-turned-political-hoedown drew more than 500 people for Rush Fest West, a celebration of the spirit and ideology of conservative radio talk-show host Rush Limbaugh.
For a Saturday afternoon in August, Fallbrook's Live Oak Park was the site of political speeches against a backdrop of American flags, political memorabilia, barbecued chicken and a life-size cutout of Rush himself.
"He tells you things the way they are and he says it in a way that's not totally serious," said Tony Villeli of Bonsall as he peddled Clinton bumper stickers with the "C" transformed into a Soviet hammer and sickle. "He makes it fun."
Laverne Houston traveled from Temecula to the Rush mecca of the West.
"I flipped on the channel one day and I said, 'There's someone who's talking my tune,' " she said.
Other Limbaugh fans talked about family values and berated President Clinton, but mostly they gushed praise for Limbaugh and his conservative political agenda.
Doris Ham of Fallbrook, who attended Dan Kay's Bake Sale in May - the Limbaugh-inspired festival in Fort Collins, Colo. - organized the local gathering. The Colorado festival drew tens of thousands of conservatives from around the world.
The Limbaugh fans came out in force. In addition to the picnickers, there was an Encinitas couple selling diplomas from the Rush Limbaugh Institute; Ham collecting signatures on a 12-foot greeting card; and a La Mesa sign painter who brought a gift for Rush - a saw blade he painted with the message, "Rush on the cutting edge."
KCEO AM 1000 in Carlsbad carries Limbaugh for North San Diego County and plugged the event for Ham. Program Director John Van Zante sat at the picnic tables among his radio audience for what turned out to be bigger event than organizers had expected.
"The thing with Rush is he's so entertaining that if someone disagrees with him politically there's still entertainment value in the show," Van Zante said. "It's got the highest ratings of any show on the station. He's informative, entertaining and obviously filling a need."
Nels Thornberg, an unemployed painter in San Marcos, contended the rest of the media and its coddling of liberal Democrats created the need.
"I'd a lot sooner have Rush Limbaugh coronate the next president and not have the media coronate our next president," Thornberg said. "There's only one Lord; but Rush Limbaugh is an American icon, a gift from God."
Limbaugh's ideology as well as persona was on display. Fans wore dollar bills folded in the shape of lapel ribbons, an accessory they called "deficit-spending awareness ribbons." The talk show host ignited the fad as a protest against Clinton's budget. A marble importer distributed dartboards with a choice of targets to affix to the centers: photographs of Clinton, First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala and Vice President Al Gore.
Local conservative politicians such as 66th District Assemblyman Ray Haynes, (R-Murrieta), used the picnic as a stumping ground for pro-business, pro-school voucher initiative speeches, with proper deference to Rush, of course.
"I'm a Dittohead from way back," Haynes told the crowd. "I finally found someone on the radio I agree with, and I've been listening since 1989."
Dittoheads are Limbaugh fanatics. The moniker Dittohead stems from a show during which callers kept repeating raves about Limbaugh. Finally, Limbaugh tired of the echoes and told callers to say "Ditto."
"Ditto is shorthand for I'm an idiot too, I have no original thoughts," said Brian Keliher, publisher The Flush Rush Quarterly.
Keliher sat in a La Jolla restaurant, far from the Limbaugh minions in Fallbrook and even farther from their taste in talk-show hosts.
In April, Keliher published the first edition of The Flush Rush Quarterly, a 12-page Limbaugh lampoon.
The publication's slogan reads "The Way Things Really Are," satirizing Limbaugh's best-selling book, "The Way Things Ought to Be."
To Keliher and many of his 4,500 subscribers nationwide, Limbaugh is not entertaining, informative or a gift from God, but rather a purveyor of misinformation who needs to be combatted.
"It's like battling a cancer," he said. "It's not necessarily the most pleasant experience; but you have to do it."
The way Keliher sees it, Limbaugh's attacks on environmentalists, feminists and homosexuals demand a response, lest they be mistaken for truth.
"He's a pig," Keliher said.
The 32-year-old writer's agent talks in the same sarcastic tone as his fledgling journal. The Flush Rush Quarterly is a reflection of its editor and publisher, who said, "His book was put on the best-seller list and somebody put it on the non-fiction side by mistake."
The summer 1993 edition features an article pointing out similarities between Limbaugh and pop singer Michael Jackson, the untold story of Dan Kay's Bake Sale and assorted factoids, such as the number of times Rush Limbaugh said, "I," "me," "myself" and "Rush Limbaugh" in a five-minute period during an April broadcast: 74.
With his girlfriend and his father, Keliher compiles the Rush grist on a computer in his San Diego office, where he also tapes segments of Limbaugh's show daily for future reference.
"Our goal is to show what a clown Rush Limbaugh is so when we stoop to his level we know where we're coming from," Keliher said.
While accusing Limbaugh of being mean-spirited, The Flush Rush Quarterly can be pretty biting itself. One page features a caricature of a whale with Limbaugh's head and a riddle: Q. What's the difference between Rush Limbaugh and a whale? A. 50 pounds and a sportcoat.
Keliher has received an overwhelming response. More than 100 radio stations, from Anchorage, Alaska, to Miami, Fla., have interviewed the editor. The Washington Post printed an article on Keliher and syndicated columnist Mike Royko gave the newsletter some ink on the nation's editorial pages.
Yet taking on such a popular talk-show host incurs wrath from many quarters. In the most recent Flush Rush, Keliher printed a sampling of the messages left on his voice mail:
"Listen here, you f-- liberal. You better get off Rush's case. If you don't, we'll blow you away, pal. Understand that, you f-- right-wing liberal. Leave him alone, or you are a dead man."
And: "I live in Florida, and I think you suck, you left-wing pinko dopes.''
Despite the death threats and hate mail, Keliher is not discouraged.
"It's been so much fun," he said.
Keliher said the project represents his first foray into politics, but that Limbaugh and his fans are too easy - and sometimes too threatening - a target to ignore.
"The average Dittohead hasn't picked up a book since seventh grade," Keliher said scornfully. "They pick up Rush's book, and they're instantly an expert on foreign policy and domestic policy. These people who used to watch TV and drink beer are now calling their Congressmen."
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