CAPTAIN CONSERVATIVE

LOOK OUT, ALL YOU LIMOUSINE liberals and pablum pukers and googoos soft on commies! Watch it, media dirtballs! Captain Conservative, the red-white-and-blue avenger of the radical right, is on your case, and he plans to take no prisoners. He’s rough, he’s tough, and he teaches aerobics in the morning.

In real life, he is KLIF radio talkmaster David Gold, a mild-mannered, nappy-haired, scrawny man of thirty-eight who listens to Tony Orlando and Dawn and watches “Love Connection” on the tube. He is a gourmet chef, a wine connoisseur, a trivia expert, a fitness nut, a seeker of romance who savors its disappointments. He possesses a sense of humor and, off the air, occasionally concedes he may be wrong.

But stick a KLIF microphone in front of him and station a Democrat across the desk and he becomes a foaming, mad-dog right-winger, an angry mass of nerve endings. He transmogrifies into some weird, mutant combination of G. Gordon Liddy, Jimmy Swaggart, Jesse Helms, and Morton Downey Jr. He is shrill and strident, obnoxious and mean. And he is, arguably, the most potent radio voice in the greater Dallas area.

“Other than the politicians, my show is the most influential political outlet in this city,” Gold insists. “The Op-Ed pages in the newspapers? Nobody reads those. Kevin McCarthy [another KLIF talk show host]? He’s funny, but people don’t take his liberal pablum puking seriously. I have more clout than anyone!”

Braggadocio aside, Gold may well be right. In notoriously conservative Dallas, where patriotism reigns second only to money, Gold’s dragon-breathed fanaticism passes for the voice of reason. Even those more temperate in their views often switch to his show from 3:00 to 600 in the afternoon, They fume quietly in their cars or dial the station only to be cut off abruptly when they disagree with Captain Conservative. But they listen.

Though KLIF is only number twelve on the hotly competitive Dallas airwaves, its listeners are an impressive lot. Research shows the station’s audience is the most affluent in the market, with a median household income of $43,040. Listeners are predominantly twenty-five to fifty-four years old, employed in professional or managerial positions, and college-educated. They live in high-priced homes in the suburban ghettos of far North Dallas. About one in five of their expensive cars boasts a cellular telephone.

Next to sportsmeister Norm Hitzges, David Gold is their favorite catalyst for the diatribe that passes for dialogue on Dallas talk radio. Program director Dan Bennett says Gold commands the largest audience share of any KLIF blabmaster. In real numbers of listeners, he falls second to Hitzges only because more people tune in during the shave-shower-and-shine time when sports talk takes the air.

“David is a real asset for us,” Bennett says. “He has a big following out there, and the people who listen to him are people who care about issues and have a real effect on what gets done. They’re not all movers and shakers, but you’d be amazed at how many of this city’s decision-makers are among the regulars who listen to his show.”

Authors of issue-oriented books beg to appear on Gold’s program for the publicity value. Often, they wind up wishing they hadn’t. On one recent show, for example, Mark Hertzsgaard touted his book, On Bended Knee, and came away with his tail between his legs. “His premise was that the press has not been tough on Ronald Reagan,” says Gold. “I Just went ballistic on him. I really let him have it. I mean, I’ve never heard anything so ridiculous. The media have been on Reagan like sharks on raw meat ever since he was governor of California. I’m reasonably tolerant of uninformed or ignorant opinions, but this guy was selling a book that was so outrageous, I just couldn’t keep quiet. I guess I almost shouted him off the air.”

National political figures also are among Gold’s guests, usually via remote telephone hookup. Many of them, such as Democratic consultant Bob Squire, find themselves being called names and shouted at. But Gold admits that a couple of prominent Democrats have bested him on the air.

In an exchange with former vice presidential nominee Geraldine Ferraro, for example, Gold hardly laid a glove on his guest. “I went into the room and said to David, ’What is wrong with you?’ ” Bennett recalls of the Ferraro interview. “She seemed to just have him eating out of her hand. His fans really ate him alive on that.”

The Rev. Jesse Jackson is another who charmed the talkmaster speechless. “Jackson really got the best of me,” says Gold. “He just totally disarmed me. He’s an amazing person. He’s so good and it’s so difficult to pin him down if he doesn’t want to be pinned down. Every time I said something, he would just say, ’We’re not really that far apart,’ He didn’t want a confrontation, and I really didn’t know how to handle that.”

Not every opinion shaper clamors to match wits with Gold on the air, however. Democratic Congressman Martin Frost refuses to submit to the abuse and invective Gold heaps upon his so-called “guests” of a moderate bent. Congressman John Bryant, another Democrat, has turned down every invitation since the day he offered himself as a target and, in Gold’s words, “Just completely lost it” on the air.

The one person Gold would most like to interview is U.S. Senator Edward Kennedy, who has declined all invitations to appear. Gold aches to challenge the Massachusetts Democrat on Chappaquiddick, on national policy toward the contras, on minimum wage laws, and on the senator’s championing of the working man “when he has never worked a day in his life.” Says Gold: “He’s the embodiment of everything I dislike. To be able to go at him in a fair way but in a probing way would be a show worth buying tickets to.”

“A lot of people figure there is no point in being on his show if they’re just going to be insulted and he won’t give them a chance to make their points anyhow,” says county Democratic Party Chairman Sandy Kress. “They’d rather speak in some more rational forum where, even if people disagree, they will be courteous enough to listen.”

Despite his feeling that Gold treats dissenters rudely, Kress appears often on the David Gold program. It is his job, Kress says, to rebut Gold’s frothing jeremiads against all things Democratic. “He is preaching to the choir,” says Kress, “but I think it is important for that choir to at least hear a different point of view. The show is like a pep rally that David holds every afternoon. In this political season, he became so partisan that I wondered if it shouldn’t count against campaign spending for the George Bush people. As Democratic chairman, I can’t afford to have his audience hear nothing except David calling every Democrat the lowest kind of scum.”

Kress adds that Gold sometimes “has been courteous enough to let me make a point.” But as the recent presidential campaign heated up, he says, the talkmaster grew increasingly belligerent, putting Kress down and shouting him down. “Maybe he knows that his case has holes in it,” Kress says. “Maybe he thinks that by interrupting me and shouting over me he can keep the facts from getting out.”

Gold admits to no such insecurity. He is, he insists, simply the keeper of truth, justice, and the American way. Even though he says of Kress, “I really love the guy,” he is sure that the Democrat is mush-minded and wrong. He brooks no argument, abides no contradiction.

“I am an ideologue,” Gold asserts proudly. “I believe in things very strongly. When an issue comes up, I really don’t have to think about it too much because I have a fixed set of beliefs that I can fit it into. I guess I’m somewhat dogmatic, but it’s the way I see things. I know what’s right and wrong in politics, and I know what is best for this country.”

Gold’s critics dismiss such pronouncements as bombastic zealotry, but even they must admit that Gold does his homework. Always thirsting for information to support his ironclad notions, he watches congressional sessions on cable TV’s C-Span channel and sets aside three hours each day to pore over the dozen or so newspapers delivered to his door. Page by page, he thumbs through The Dallas Morning News, the Dallas Times Herald, The New York Times, USA Today, the Moonie church-owned Washington Times, and various others. Anything that catches his eye, he razors out and squirrels away for use on some future broadcast,

“David can quote you chapter and verse on everything having to do with an issue going back to the dawn of recorded, history,” says Kevin McCarthy. “He can probably tell you how every congressman and senator sitting today voted on every question thai has come up since that person was elected. His memory is incredible.”

Says Gold: “I don’t have a quick wit on the air like Kevin does. I can’t Just wing it every day. I have to depend on what I have in my head. I’m compulsive about information.”

In fact, Gold seems compulsive about most aspects of his life. His world contains no room for ambiguity, no tolerance for flaws, Everything he does, he does with passion. “I want to be the best at whatever I’m doing. I don’t see any point in Just getting along. I want to keep pushing myself to be better, pushing myself to the limits of my own ability.”

The best example of that pushing, he says, is found in his passion for physical fitness. “I am obsessed with running. My life revolves around running. It’s even more important to me than politics. I’m addicted to the high, the endorphins. It makes me feel good. I feel lousy if I don’t run at least thirteen miles a day. I know it’s compulsive, and I really can’t explain it. But it’s important to me.”

To some extent, the same kind of single-minded quest for excellence informs Gold’s other consuming interests, notably food and wine. As a chef, he says, ’T love to plan a meal and coordinate every course in terms of flavors and colors and the total sensual ex-perience and then bring it together with perfection. The pinnacle of cooking is French cuisine, and I guess that’s what I specialize in. I love to impress people with floating islands and soufflés and really difficult things like that.”

The one area in which Gold’s intensity has not brought success is his love life. He cannot form enduring relationships with women, he says, no matter how hard he tries-and he tries very hard indeed. “David is one of the most earnest seekers for true love that I have ever seen,” says McCarthy. “He pursues love with the same enthusiasm that he brings to the politics of the New Right. He just wants to be in love so much, and he works so hard at it. And it just doesn’t seem to work out for him.”

Gold agrees that his love life is disappointing. He was married for three years, he says, to a woman with whom he had “absolutely nothing in common. We had to learn the hard way that opposites do not attract.” Since then, romance has been a long, determined chase with precious little to show for it. “I guess I just didn’t grow up to be the kind of man who goes home every night to a Smiling wife and happy family.”



BORN IN PHILADELPHIA IN MAY 1950, Gold apparently grew up an unhappy Alexander Portnoy in a middle-class, Jewish family. His father was a certified public accountant, conservative because he was a businessman, but not “ideological,” Gold says. His mother, of whom he speaks with unexplained distaste, was a travel agent. The only other child was a brother, four years younger.

“I suppose Philadelphia was a good place to grow up,” David Gold says now, “but I’m not that fond of it. I decided to go to college at the University of Colorado he-cause it’s a beautiful place but also because I really wanted to get away from home-far away. I think of Colorado as home now. I feel like that’s where I grew up.”

As a youngster, Gold took up hero worship of Philadelphia journalist Jack McKinney, who wrote a sports column for a daily newspaper, critiqued opera, and hosted a late-night radio talk show. By the age of twelve, David Gold had decided that talk radio would be his future.

“I used to keep the radio under my pillow at night and listen to this guy all night long,” Gold recalls. “I thought I could do a show like that some day. My mother could never figure out why I was sleepy all day. I didn’t do too well in school because all I wanted to do was get home and take a nap.”

Gold entered the University of Colorado on a baseball scholarship, but his career as an athlete didn’t endure. “I discovered I was mediocre, real mediocre. When I got to college I was overmatched, and I just decided to forget it.”

Instead of playing baseball, he studied journalism, chased coeds, and worked as an unpaid disc jockey at an underground radio station, a one-turntable operation located above a Chinese restaurant. There, Gold says, he learned everything he knows about the technical side of radio. “At the time, it seemed like a bunch of crap.” Gold says, “but it was my first real opportunity.”

As an undergrad, Dallas’s best-known right-winger took a turn at liberalism. He dressed like a hippie, spoke out for civil rights, and opposed the war in Vietnam. It was, he says, what everyone was doing, so he tried. it, too. For a while it was fun, and he met a lot of women. Eventually, though, his natural distrust of government and what he saw as simplistic views of world affairs tugged him back to the conservative camp.

“My awakening came when S.I. Hayakawa, the president of San Francisco State University (and later, U.S. senator from California], came to the campus to speak. All these liberal students threw chairs onto the stage. I mean, these were the people who went running around yelling about civil rights and freedom of speech, and they wouldn’t even let the man talk Just because he was a conservative. I figured, if that was what being a liberal was all about, I didn’t want any part of it.”

With a bachelor’s degree in journalism, Gold enrolled in the University of Miami School of Law. But in his second semester, he caught hepatitis and was hospitalized for several weeks. Continuing his legal studies would have required repeating courses. “I said, ’Stick that,” and went back to the University of Colorado. They gave me credit for the law study toward my master’s degree in journalism.”

In graduate school, Gold worked as an overnight disc jockey, playing jazz for a Denver station. As he neared graduation in 1974, the young jock persuaded the manager of another Denver station to let him take over a talk show. He started on a weekend shift at exercise. His wife was an aerobics instructor, and he took it up in hopes that it would help bind them together. It didn’t, but Gold discovered that “teaching aerobics is a great way to meet girls.” He taught for four years, three of them in Dallas.

From Tampa, Gold moved to Miami, the toughest talk show market in the country. Radio there, he recalls, was “brutally confrontational, negative, and downright angry.” As a conservative voice, he was popular with the right-wing Cuban community, but he hated working in the city. He jumped at the offer to join the KLIF staff when the station switched format from country to talk in January 1986.

Since his high-pitched, metallic voice first assaulted local listeners, Gold has become a celebrity character in the life of this city. Even those who never have heard him on the air likely have heard about him. Among Dallas residents, one major gaffe made him infamous, if not famous.

That colossal blunder occured July 2, 1987, shortly after eighteen undocumented aliens were found dead in Sierra Blanca, Texas, locked inside a sweltering Union Pacific boxcar bound for Dallas/Fort Worth. “I don’t know if your mind works like mine,” Gold said on the air, “but those people got what they deserved.”

He added, “This ought to be a message that at least the elements will get you if the U.S. government doesn’t. And maybe this exercise. His wife was an aerobics instructor, and he took it up in hopes that it would help bind them together. It didn’t, but Gold discovered that “teaching aerobics is a great way to meet girls.” He taught for four years, three of them in Dallas.

From Tampa, Gold moved to Miami, the toughest talk show market in the country. Radio there, he recalls, was “brutally confrontational, negative, and downright angry.” As a conservative voice, he was popular with the right-wing Cuban community, but he hated working in the city. He jumped at the offer to join the KLIF staff when the station switched format from country to talk in January 1986.

Since his high-pitched, metallic voice first assaulted local listeners, Gold has become a celebrity character in the life of this city. Even those who never have heard him on the air likely have heard about him. Among Dallas residents, one major gaffe made him infamous, if not famous.

That colossal blunder occured July 2, 1987, shortly after eighteen undocumented aliens were found dead in Sierra Blanca, Texas, locked inside a sweltering Union Pacific boxcar bound for Dallas/Fort Worth. “I don’t know if your mind works like mine,” Gold said on the air, “but those people got what they deserved.”

He added, “This ought to be a message that at least the elements will get you if the U.S. government doesn’t. And maybe this will be a message to stay where you are. I have no sympathy for people trying to get into the country illegally.”

The remarks brought hundreds of complaints. A coalition of Hispanic organizations demanded that the talkmaster be fired. The Mexican consul general to Dallas, Oliver Farres, described. Gold as “one of those Nazis who don’t have any concern for human rights.”

Despite the outcry, program director Bennett says he did not consider firing Gold because “I don’t think it was a comment that deserved, him getting fired. I was on the phone to him during the break, and I really let him have it. But I know David off the air, and there’s no way he is a racist.”

Like Bennett, Gold insists he is no racist. “A lot of people who phone in call me a racist. It’s the new McCarthyism. But I’m not. I try especially hard to get black and Hispanic conservatives on my show. There are black conservatives I’d much rather see in the White House than George Bush. What I have a problem with is professional minorities, people who think they deserve special treatment just because they are black or Hispanic. I know individuals can overcome any problems that are out there.”

Because of his Jewish heritage, Gold says, he is especially sensitive to anti-Semitic remarks. But he will not tolerate comments he considers racist from anyone on his show. “If someone calls in and starts sounding racist, I dump them and go to the next call,” he says.

Gold apologized for his remark about the Mexicans in the boxcar, and he says now that the apology was heartfelt. Still, he finds little wrong with the sentiment he voiced. His remarks, he says, were aimed not at Hispan-ics, but at the abstract idea that aliens may invade our borders. “1 still feel strongly about our borders being out of control.. .That’s essentially what I was trying to say. 1 don’t have any regrets about that. I am a patriotic person and I don’t apologize for my patriotic beliefs.”

His position on the undocumented aliens comment is, perhaps, the essence of David Gold. He is genuinely concerned about people whether they are ethnic groups, friends, or political foes. He doesn’t deliberately hurt anyone, but he thinks most people are entirely too sensitive to his barbs. They take insults personally and react emotionally, while Gold sees the issues as abstractions. His point of view seems to be, “Why should you be hurt simply because I point out that you’re a political moron?” He is fixed in his positions, unrelenting in his contempt for divergent thought. His is a world of black and white, friend and foe, right and wrong. He admits it frankly.

Captain Conservative, he says, lives by one simple idea borrowed from Barry Goldwater: “Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.”

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