Coast To Coast: Art Bell (W6OBB) is dead at 72

(Source: Chicago Tribune)

Art Bell, a radio host best known for a paranormal-themed nightly show syndicated on hundreds of stations in the 1990s, died at his home in southern Nevada, authorities said Saturday.

Nye County Sheriff Sharon Wehrly announced in a Facebook video that Bell died Friday in Pahrump. He was 72. An autopsy will be conducted to determine cause of death, she said.

Bell hosted the popular radio talk show “Coast to Coast AM” before he left the airwaves in 2002. He broadcast the show from his radio station, KNYE, in Pahrump.

The program focused on Bell’s conspiracy theories and his fascination with the paranormal and unexplained phenomenon such as UFOs and crop circles. He served as his own producer, engineer and host, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Fans, including celebrities like William Shatner and singer Josh Groban, took to Twitter to praise Bell. Groban recalled staying up late to listen to the host’s “one of a kind” voice and how “his shows were so weird & spooky but somehow managed to hold off your skepticism.”

Former business partner Alan Corbeth said during Bell’s 2008 induction into the National Radio Hall of Fame that nobody was better than Bell at understanding “how to create theater of the mind…”[…]

Click here to read the full story at the Chicago Tribune.

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8 thoughts on “Coast To Coast: Art Bell (W6OBB) is dead at 72

  1. Gary

    I grew up listening to sports talk radio with my dad. One night I decided to tune in on my own, and I stumbled onto Art Bell by mistake. I must have been about 13 or 14. For the rest of that summer, much to my mom’s annoyance, I was up until 4am listening to Coast to Coast. Once school started back up, I rigged up some analogue timers to record the first 45 minutes on one cassette, then the next 45 on another. Somewhere in there, Art convinced me to ask for birthday presents from C. Crane. Next thing I know, I’m getting QSL cards from Ecuador and thinking about summer internships with international broadcasters. Then I end up working for one. It’s not a stretch to say that he shaped my career. I got out of the listening habit somewhere during the string of retirements, but I always got excited for the comebacks. And I was thrilled when, during his last run, he was back at his best.
    I’m truly saddened that he’s gone.

    Reply
  2. Lou

    I guess Art now knows if there are aliens, life after death, and who shot JFK. He was one of a kind and will be missed.

    I spent many nights as a teenager and young adult listening to Art. There was nothing that could come close to a nighttime drive out in the “sticks” with Art on the radio. A fluctuating AM signal, crazy conspiracy theories, and awesome bumper music = perfection.

    -Lou from West of the Rockies…….

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  3. VR2HF / K7DAN

    I first met Art face-to-face when he moved to the Philippines after his marriage to Airyn. Before that there were countless evenings with him and others on 3840 KHz and other frequencies at night after his Coast to Coast radio show. And I had the opportunity to visit Art and the family in Pahrump a couple of times in recent years. During CES in in Las Vegas in 2017 I planned to visit again, but got super sick and ended up staying mostly in my hotel room for four days. Part of what got me through that was Art talking with me and giving some suggestions about my condition on 2 meters through a local remote base on simplex.

    On a personal level what amazed me about Art was how much he loved ham radio and his ham radio buddies. He really cared about us and allowed us to be part of his world. This very special and amazing man went out of his way to make US feel special and amazing. It was clear to me that he just wanted to be a regular guy on the ham bands having fun, playing with radios, antennas and all the rest the hobby has to offer.

    There will never, ever be another Art Bell. On a professional, personal, and hobby level he was one of a kind. So long, Art. We will indeed miss you…de K7DAN

    Reply
  4. Dan Srebnick

    My favorite memory of Art goes back to a show he probably did about 20 years ago. I don’t remember the exact date, but he announced one night that if aliens were really trying to contact us we should agree upon a common radio frequency. He threw a frequency out on the air and said that people should listen in case the aliens call. So I listened.

    Sure enough, after some time listening to static, someone turned on a transmitter and started playing the sounds from Close Encounters of the Third Kind. I don’t know if it was transmitted by Art himself, but what a prankster.

    Reply
  5. DanH

    Sad news. I haven’t heard Art for a few years. The last time I heard him was during a live show on Midnight in the Desert on 5080 kHz. Reception was good in northern California after 10:30 or 11:00 p.m. or so. He ruled late night AM radio for a while, didn’t he? I spent quite a few late night hours during the ’90s at the garage workbench restoring wooden boat parts while listening to UFO yarns and other wacky nonsense on Art Bell. I don’t listen to amateur radio so I never heard him there.

    Reply
  6. The Professor

    When I moved to New York City (and thought I was a hot shot, I guess) I came with a bunch of clips from newspaper and magazine stories I had written while living in Florida. I shopped ’em at every magazine in New York that I wanted to write for.

    An editor from the New York Times Magazine actually called me back. We had a great lunch and she wanted me to propose a story idea to their board. This was in 1997 when the syndication of Art Bell’s “Coast to Coast” program was at a crescendo, and he was about to debut on New York radio on WABC. So, as I was a big fan of Bell’s show and he was becoming a rising star he seemed like a great topic for a national profile.

    In 1995 I wrote a cover story for the alternative newsweekly in Tampa about a UFO conference being held there. And using the fledgling technology of the internet of the time I attempted to get up to speed on the latest interplanetary spaceship business.

    As a side note, before the web was available in everyone’s home, computer savvy types would share information and files by accessing computer bulletin board systems (or BBSs) by dialing their computers into isolated networks through phone modems and sharing files and information. And UFO conspiracy “information” was rampant on all these servers, and when the internet started to become popular this stuff was quickly absorbed by new websites. So there was quite a bit of text available online about UFOs and related topics when the world wide web became easy access. And while browsing this material, the Art Bell radio show was mentioned more than a few times.

    So when I found out Art Bell’s show was coming to the Tampa Bay area I was a little psyched, wanting to hear this oddball Nevada talk show host live. And upon finally tuning it, I was hooked right away. His show was compelling, ridiculous and good-natured all at the same time. Great late night radio fodder.

    Upon moving to New York I kept up with Bell’s show by the primitive audio streaming of the 1990s, listening to his show from KEEL in Shreveport and other online radio stations of the day. Then I heard he was coming to New York terrestrial radio, and I was happy to not have to access lo-fi realaudio streams just to hear him.

    So, more than most New Yorkers I was very familiar with Art Bell and his compelling broadcasting style, and twenty years ago having a conspiratorial broadcaster begin to dominate overnight radio seemed like a real story. And maybe it was…

    I don’t remember exactly how I did it, but I somehow got a message to Art Bell that I wanted to do a profile of him for the New York Times. And a few days later he actually called me up. And he actually woke me up, and half asleep I suddenly found myself talking to Art Bell. Kind of poetic in a way.

    I don’t know about you, but I’ve had to man up for business phone calls quite quickly from a dream state a few times, and my call from Art Bell went well. He was game to be interviewed or even observed for a New York Times story. And I can’t tell you odd it felt to pose questions to somebody I’d heard interview any number of oddballs on the radio for years. But he was great, easy to talk to and he seemed to be open to more than superficial questions.

    This was all very exciting, and I immediately submitted my story idea to the Times, as well as the fact that he had agreed to be interviewed. But long story short, they said no. The New York Times Magazine has as editorial board, and for all those established old codgers I was just an unknown writer wanting to write about a crackpot radio host. And then all the sudden I was getting kicked out of a less than legal Manhattan sublet and I got busy doing other things to make a fast buck. And my clips got old and the internet happened and… here I am.

    Nonetheless, Art Bell was a great broadcaster. He was able to present off the wall guests with offbeat stories and weird ideas while somehow mainlining his own credibility, and providing an interesting radio show in the process.

    And he was a weird dude- retiring from radio four or five times, and later begrudging George Noory and his version of “Coast to Coast” after he sold the show to Clear Channel. But in retrospect he was a super talented talk show host who obviously loved hosting the totally unique radio show he created. And however you felt about his guests or his topics he made it fun to listen to what he was doing. His grasp of talk radio dynamics was brilliant.

    And although George Noory or all of the other “Coast to Coast” hosts I’ve heard since Art Bell backed away from the microphone aren’t bad, nobody really captures that same magic. He knew how to milk callers for both raw information and raw entertainment. And his comic timing and innate curiosity was spot on.

    Ever since he went off the air, I’ve missed him. And I miss him on the radio now. Even more.

    Oh, one other note to add. I ran into that New York Times Magazine editor a few years later at some Lower East Side restaurant. And by then she had heard plenty about Art Bell and said that my proposal to profile him would have been a great idea, but that she was only one member of their editorial board back then and couldn’t approve it without their support. And she didn’t work for the Times any longer anyway.

    Anyway, that’s my Art Bell story. He was one of my favorite radio weirdos. A flawed giant.

    Reply

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