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Lynn Samuels: liberal tweaker of liberals, 1942-2011

Like lots of New York radio listeners circa the late 1970s, I first heard Lynn Samuels when she was a regular host on Pacifica station WBAI. A classic talker from the free form era, Samuels mastered a kind of earthy stream of consciousness discourse, which drifted from Vietnam to who was buying the toilet paper for the station this week. From ‘BAI Samuels moved on to WABC in the 1980s, and then Sirius XM radio. I moved to California and more or less forgot about her, that is, until the news came in that Samuels has died.

She passed on Christmas Eve, it seems. One of her last Christmas podcasts can be heard via “I just hate everyone,” Samuels declares. “Merry Christmas.”

In truth, Samuels didn’t hate everyone. She didn’t even hate anyone. Perusing through her online oeuvre, her approach comes back to me. Samuels was a populist liberal—a raunchy feminist New Dealer with little patience for the identity politics and far left romanticism of the 1970s. Instead, she found her politics in the absurdity of daily life.

“North Carolina man is in critical condition!” Samuels disclosed on WABC in 1983, bemusedly reading from a newspaper article, “and his wife has been charged . . . ”

“You think this is funny, Lynn?” her co-host soberly asked as she broke down in laughter.

” . . . with setting his genitals on fire!” Samuels continued.

“What she do, pour gasoline on him?” he speculated.

“No. Come on. This is a woman doing it! She used nail polish!” she corrected.

In 1990, during an on air firefight with conservative talker Barry Farber over the US invasion of Panama, Samuels called President George H.W. Bush a dictator and drug runner. In more recent years, she found common ground with the right in her hatred of President Barack Obama. Samuels castigated Obama for what she saw as his elitism, espoused Birther opinions about his place of origin, and also sympathized with Juan Williams’ famous commentary on Muslims at airports.

“All you liberals that listen to me, all you people that complain that I’m not liberal enough,” Samuels began, “if you’re in an airport, and there are people . . . I don’t even have to see them in Muslim garb; people that are obviously from the mid-east, particularly if they’re getting on the same flight as you, doesn’t that make you nervous? It makes me nervous!”

And yet even in these contentious and controversial moments, Samuels’ affection for people always came through.

“And nobody likes Muslims as much as I do,” she added, “well, maybe other Muslims.”

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15 Responses to Lynn Samuels: liberal tweaker of liberals, 1942-2011

  1. gene December 27, 2011 at 1:43 pm #

    Lynn’s show was a window into another persons life. She talked of every day things. She was working on retireing in Arizona.She was fun; her show was fun. She’s gonna be missed. I miss her already.

  2. Tom December 27, 2011 at 2:38 pm #

    Lynn Samuels was a breath of fresh air in this politically correct society run wild. She was the ONLY reason I kept my sirrius subscription active, I certainly didn’t keep it for that Moron Howard Stern. He is so over-rated. Lynn provided a voice to people like me who are just plain DONE with the corruption we used call America. Nobody else spoke about the total collapse of our society like Lynn. She will be missed by a lot of people but I doubt you hear a word on the main stream media about her death! COWARDS…ALL OF THEM!!!

  3. Jon December 27, 2011 at 3:38 pm #

    I loved listening to Lynn, I was always stoked when I could catch her show

    because I would usually be working during it. I was seriously shocked this a.m. when I heard Richard Bey eulogizing her! I still can’t believe it! I will miss you dearly Lynn! R.I.P

  4. kevin lathrop December 27, 2011 at 4:03 pm #

    This morning I read about Lynn’s death with shock and sadness. The article in the Times suggested she had a small family. That’s wrong. We listeners were her family, and I miss her as part of mine.

  5. Jonn Jonzz December 27, 2011 at 5:08 pm #

    Lynn was all radio schtick. She did not believe a word of what she said.

  6. Elga December 27, 2011 at 6:13 pm #

    I loved listening to Lynn Samuels. Her loss is more significant to NY than many will realize, except for those of us who ‘got it’ and got her. She was a strong voice who braved political controversy regardless of the cost. I am very sad to hear of her passing. Kudos to siriusXM for providing her the forum she should have had on local radio!

  7. MATTHEW BRIGGS December 27, 2011 at 7:43 pm #

    i was shocked and infuriated when i heard a sirius announcement yesterday praise lynn samuels as it reported on her death on christmas eve. on saturday i tuned into to hear lynn’s show, but instead of lynn there was other programming, which i thought , and now wish, had been only for the holiday!

    months ago, sirus took away one of my two reasons for signing up for sirius four years ago—i signed up as soon as i discovered that’s where lynn samuels was! now that she is gone, they have called her a legend, but they tossed the legend out of sirius left–which i have not listened to since the day her show was taken off the weekly format on that channel, and given what she called her “part time job on stars on saturday and sunday!

    i think the guys who run sirius are jerks, and that sirius left wihtout lynne in the day format, is a bunch of boring yahoos who range from alex the old hypo, to tom, the self-impressed guy who loves to used big words and make you think that he’s as bright as he thinks he is, to ed, whose spiel can be heard on msnbc every night!

    i will miss lynn samuels it wass an over thirty year habit, that fortunately there was no cure for! rest in peace, lynn samuels, you were by far, and your politics and edge aside– the most entertaining, enchanting person on radio.

    your show was like a visit with an enchanting friend. like every one else, i can’t believe that she is gone, jsut as i couldn;t believe that the jersk at serious took her daily weekly show away from her! to all the two faced tributes from sirius now that lynn is gone–i wish she was here one more time to tell you all what you could do with them!

  8. stephen December 28, 2011 at 5:08 am #

    I have listened to Lynn Samuels for years and just loved her. I could listen to her for hours. I can remember her telling me to put my 4 year old son on the air. She was funny, eccentric in a great way and a true new yorker right out of a Woody Allen play. I am shocked her never asked her to be in one of his movies as a classic Aunt he might have had. She would have been perfect. One day she could be a liberal and then the next day a conservative on a topic, but she was always creative and entertaining. I am pretty conservative and have listened to WABC for quite some time, but I will miss her a lot. She always had a different perspective which was good on WABC… She was respectful to her other hosts and never got too full of herself. She could talk about going to the Laundramat and make it facinating and funny. I will miss that…we all need an aunt like that.

    She will not be forgotten.

  9. Darren December 28, 2011 at 9:29 am #

    I am at a loss of words Lynns show was my favorite on Sirius

    Became a big fan RIP Lynn you will be missed

  10. Alan Scuderi December 28, 2011 at 3:01 pm #

    My political views are to the right, but, I enjoyed her show and appreciated her views. I will miss her show.

  11. Hillary December 28, 2011 at 6:36 pm #

    I am still in shock over Lynn’s sudden passing! I have been fascinated with Lynn for over 30 years. I don’t remember Lynn ever discussing a heart condition. Is anyone else out there questioning how she died and if there was foul play? I will miss you Lynn every time I turn on the radio. 🙁

  12. Zack December 28, 2011 at 8:41 pm #

    man listened to her through college and b4 she was the best gonna miss her “fat bottom girl you make the rockin world go round” Queen!!!!!!!!!

  13. Chip Gass December 30, 2011 at 11:07 pm #

    I’m very sorry for Lynn’s death, she should have lived many more years. I will miss her.

  14. Andrew Krents January 5, 2012 at 9:17 pm #

    I’ve been listening to Lynn (cannot even use the past tense) since the early 80s on BAI and also new her slightly through the music and media world–and always enjoyed crossing paths with her.

    She was the last breath of fresh air any of us are likely to hear emanate from a mainstream media outlet. Listening to her was a pleasure as it was not even really listing–you were having a dialog with her–from a nod of the head, to talking back at the radio–this was radio that fully engaged the listener by turning the experience into a dialog with her.

    Lynn there will never be another one like you. May you rest in peace. You left us all too soon.

  15. jeff smith January 13, 2012 at 10:03 pm #

    lynn you were a true enjoyment for me as a trucker,you told it just as it was LIKE IT OR NOT!!!!!!! I’m sitting here all teary eyed KNOWING there will NEVER be no one else like you!!!! I hope wino is it jeremy you said or whoever took you off sirius LEFT is proud of what they did lynn!!!! GOD BLESS THEM you’ll ALWAYS be in my heart lynn!!!!!!!!!! WE LOVE YOU REST IN PEACE I can think of a worse place for jeremy

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