Doug Urbanksi wants to make this clear: He isn’t like any other talk-radio host.
Unlike Rush Limbaugh, who reminisces about the radio set he got for his fourteenth birthday, or Glenn Beck, who imitated the voices from a “Golden Age of Radio” album his mother gave him, Urbanski didn’t grow up fantasizing about getting his own national radio show.
But he’s getting one anyway.
On Monday, Jan. 24, “The Doug Urbanski Show” premiers on 50 affiliate stations, under the auspices of America’s largest radio network, Westwood One.
If Urbanski’s name sounds familiar, that’s because he’s been dubbed “America’s Guest Host.” He’s filled in for almost all the big names, from Laura Ingraham and Rusty Humphreys to Michael Savage and Rush Limbaugh.
Doug Urbanski describes himself matter-of-factly as a Hollywood insider, one who “has flown on the Sony and Warners corporate jets.” He’s married to television producer Diane Wilk. Actor Gary Oldman is his longtime business partner. And most recently, Urbanski starred in the Oscar-nominated movie “The Social Network,” portraying (of all people) Harvard President turned Obama czar Larry Summers.
That said, “Hollywood conservatives hate me,” Urbanski bluntly informs WND.
The “conservative capitalist Catholic” insists that he’s the real thing – unlike those self-styled “Friends of Abe” who meet semi-secretly in Los Angeles, congratulate each other for voting Republican and “think they’re part of show business because they were on a series once.”
Urbanski has no trouble speaking his mind, unscripted and at length, which is one reason that he’s a natural for talk radio.
Urbanski’s life wasn’t always so glamorous. He grew up in New Jersey, a Polish American kid who started working at age 15 as a roofer, a railroader and picking up garbage in shopping malls.
Urbanski then moved to Greenwich Village and attended New York University back when it had, he says reverently, “the finest theater department in the world.” In his senior year, he produced his first Broadway play. Hollywood was the next logical step. Urbanski went on to produce, among other movies, the Academy Award nominated film “The Contender,” and the critically acclaimed “Nil by Mouth.”
All that time, his core conservative values never wavered – except once, and then only briefly. He tells WND:
“When George W. Bush was first elected, there was an incident involving a plane shot down in China,” Urbanski says. “I thought Bush handled it badly, and up until then, I’d been a big supporter. I’d voted for him. I thought he should have made it into a big incident, been more presidential.
“I had dinner with Peggy Noonan, and I told her, ‘I’m no longer a conservative. I’m so turned off by Bush right now, I’m going to become a liberal,’” he recalls.
“Don’t try this! Bad things will happen to you,” Urbanski quickly adds, when recalling his aborted trip to “the other side.”
He tried immersing himself in leftwing thought, but he gave up pretty quickly.
“The more I tried, the more impossible it was to be a liberal,” he explains, “because I’m a logical person.”
That’s part of Urbanski’s thesis about why conservatives dominate talk radio:
“My theory is that listening to radio engages a part of the mind where logic dominates,” he says. “That’s why liberal radio has failed – apart from being most destructive force on earth; if you doubt that, just look around and you can see it – because liberalism by definition isn’t logical.
“That’s also why conservative talk radio converts listeners,” he adds. “You’re listening to stuff that has a logical foundation.
“The other reason is that,” before talk radio came into its own in the 1980s, “conservatives were a disenfranchised audience,” he suggests.
Pointing to the mainstream media’s coverage of Chinese President Hu’s recent visit to the White House as an example, Urbanski notes with palpable disgust, “The media in this country acted, not just like an arm of our government, but like an arm of the Chinese government!”
Urbanski warns that “those who want to silence talk radio” may not bring back the dreaded Fairness Doctrine, but instead employ the all-powerful regulatory apparatus that has so successfully, and stealthily, built the modern leftist nanny state.
He predicts that the same do-gooders who made it illegal to use a cell phone while driving will declare “listening to talk radio in the car” equally “dangerous and distracting.”
“I rule out nothing as far as the left is concerned,” Urbanski adds.
So how did Urbanski end up working in that most “logical” of media?
“Being in the entertainment industry,” Urbanski explains, “I’ve met and known anyone I’ve ever wanted to. Everyone is one phone call away. When you’re high profile, you get access to people. I was friendly with Laura Ingraham and her then-producer Lee Habeeb. One day in 2005, I got an email from Lee, asking me to come to D.C. and fill in for Laura while she got chemo on Friday. So I did.
“I didn’t think much of it for about six months, then Mark Masters [the president, CEO and part owner of the Talk Radio Network] came to visit and asked me to fill in on TRN shows, like Michael Savage,” he says.
“Then last June, I got the call to do Rush Limbaugh’s show while he was on his honeymoon,” he adds.
Urbanski was asked back to do Limbaugh’s show and says now he would have gone right on guest hosting to his grave rather than seek a show of his own.
Yet here Urbanski is, about to not only helm his own program, but do so in what he calls “suicide alley” – Rush Limbaugh’s bulletproof noon-to-three p.m. timeslot.
That was Fred Thompson’s slot, too, but the folksy former presidential candidate’s dedicated fan base of “Fredheads” couldn’t help him snag a firm foothold in the ratings.
So Westwood One is replacing Thompson with Urbanski, who knows what he’s up against.
Without mentioning names, Urbanski makes it clear that since he’s morphed from guest host to competitor, not all the stars whose seats he’s kept warm are delighted.
“I’m a fan of all these people,” Urbanski says, almost audibly shrugging over the phone. “They helped me form my own ideas. My job was to go in and make sure their listeners weren’t disappointed, that they felt secure, happy and addressed.”
He must have done a good job, too, having racked up about 200 fill-in shows in the past five years.
Urbanski then explains the approach he’s taking with his own program. Westwood One executives have told him they’ve never had a host who is going in, knowing exactly what he wants to do.
First off, Urbanski says: “No guests.”
Considering his bulging Rolodex, the vow seems counterintuitive.
He adds – again, without mentioning any names – “No golf. No football. No complaining about Chris Matthews by name. And no mentioning all the other conservative hosts out there, either, except on my very first day.”
In fact, Urbanski insists, he won’t even mention his own name on the air, unless he has to.
On that first show, Urbanski plans to tell listeners to expect “vitriol and hate” – a teasing nod to the progressive fantasy of what conservative talk radio is like.
“I don’t come from the world of radio,” Urbanski says. “I don’t know the business, and I’ve kept myself away from it on purpose. People have seen fit to hire me. This isn’t what I do for a living. I’ll do what I do. The hardest thing is not to sound like anyone else.”
He adds confidently, “I think there’s enough room for everybody.”
Even in suicide alley.