“You’re On The Air”

“You should get the bloody hell to buggery off that radio station you

uneducated bastard. You’re the Village Idiot you rotten bastard.

Go home you stinking Village Idiot bastard”   

I copped the above classic “Bruce the Goose” spray, one of many, in 2005 after falling short of the angry man’s standards. My sin? I failed to offer the help he was seeking. His wife was in “severe” pain and “the goose” was ringing me for Panadeine Forte after storming out (again) of the ED of a local hospital.

Fatefully the clown Prince of talk-back radio callers, Bruce “the goose” Bennett, died in a Canberra Hospital just hours after John Laws who “owned” talkback radio, thanks to a crazy caller or ten, announced his first “retirement” on June 25, 2007.

Laws # 2But Laws, like most Sydney talk-back presenters, wasn’t keen to give “the Goose” oxygen. It was Sydney based Talk-back host Stan Zemanek who christened the Canberra based caller with the foghorn voice “the goose”. From the early 1990s Stan created entertaining radio by shrewdly needling the staunchly left-wing Bruce on his high rating networked night-time show.

An “act” which quickly became popular among Zemanek’s legion of fans. stan ZThe “act” provided Bruce with the oxygen he desperately needed to ease the stresses of his daily struggle with the mental illness which tragically surrounded him. He often failed to make any sense during calls and would mostly end the rant (regularly directed at PM John Howard) with a woody woodpecker call. He was after all a showman.

While an on air spray from “Bruce the goose” was always welcome – unsolicited off-air “recommendations” from other listeners  leave you speculating about the state of the mental health of a section of listeners to talk-back radio.

“Dear King Sleaze of Canberra Radio. If you don’t like living in a

Christian, democratic, civilized country you little Atheist  Prick….Piss

Off Scumbag”


The above “input” from an individual (couldn’t detect a gender) whose penmanship (?) was that of a poorly  educated elderly person, came at the rate of one per month. The several paged letters, scribbled on the old  Coles Embassy brand writing pad and filled with spelling and punctuation mistakes, were always an  interesting distraction from the correspondence of the “appalled” and “outraged” brigade. Even the one with a  crude (by both definitions) cartoon featuring Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), Yasser  Arafat and myself in a compromising position. The twisted author of these ravings stuck pretty much to the same theme. Anti ALP,anti Muslim and the Invasion of East Timor.

“You owe everyone in Canberra an apology for what you called that woman.

You don’t call anyone a silly old mole mate. You’re a Mole”

I’d confused this listener, who wasn’t listening, while speaking with a caller called “Robert” whom he took to be “Robin” and then caught the wrong half of our chat about the old Aussie saying “like an old mole at a Christening” and was certain I’d called “Robin” a Silly old Mole.

I’ve also been on the wrong end of a tongue lashing from Shirley Phelps-Roper, daughter of the recently departed founder of the Westbro Baptish Church, Fred Phelps and mega-mouthpiece for the cult in her own right. On the Homosexual debate…..she strongly suggested….”You’re sending them to Hell. You’re enabling them you jackass” …

You need a extremely thick hide if you are to survive the daily personal attacks of talk-back radio. I’ve watched several confident and experienced communicators literally run for the door after one shift.

If talkback radio practitioners were totally honest they would admit to the constant temptation to “milk” crazy callers if only for the promo which their radio station flogs relentlessly, depending on the quality of the “crazy”, for the next 24 hours.

So called “crazy callers” were the foundation on which John Laws built his unique and golden broadcasting empire.  IMHO to date, it’s John Laws then daylight in the talk-back radio stakes. And when it comes to talk-back radio callers, the frequently sullied term “compulsive listening” belongs to the late “Bruce the Goose” – until somebody else with his unique “talent” is allowed to get to  air.

Lord one’s on the way…It’s Fred and he’s got a bullhorn

When I hear of the outrageously unchristian shenanigans of the cult-like circus which is the Westbro Baptist Church of Topeka Kansas I automatically think of a 70s smash hit song by country queen Loretta Lynn.

Like Loretta’s lonely lament in the early 70s, the mob from the WBC and its founder Fred Phelps Sn, since the mid-90s has been hard to avoid.  The Coalminer’s daughter hit pay dirt with “One’s on the Way” and along the way helped make the capital of Kansas much better known than it was. The song, about a housewife dreaming amid the drudgery of her lot, of Jackie Kennedy’s new dance steps, Debbie Reynolds’ latest Vegas show and Bombshell Raquel Welch’s million dollar deal;  was written by Jewish songwriter Shel Silverstein who also wrote the slightly more sophisticated Marianne Faithfull hit “Ballad Of Lucy Jordan”

Here in Topeka the flies are a buzzin’..

The dog is a barkin’ and the floor needs a scrubbin’

One needs a spankin’ and one needs a huggin’…..

Lord one’s on the way…….


The Lord would most certainly be aware of “one on the way” ….whether there was a special welcoming committee formed to receive Fred is another question ….drumroll. … the Reviled Reverend of the Revelation…..the Granddaddy of God Botherers…..Pastor Fred Waldron Phelps Sn..

Phelps founded the WBC (mostly family members) in Topeka Kansas and skilfully manipulated the media (including more recently social media) into spreading his warped take on “the word”, by picketing the funerals of fallen American soldiers who the WBC deemed to be evil since the US Military had permitted gays to its number.  Scores of TV shows and documentary makers from around the globe converged on WBC. Famous British filmmaker Louis Theroux actually made several docos on the family, including one which featured members who’d been excommunicated or left the cult.


As for the possibility of a picket at Fred’s funeral….there won’t be one because there won’t be a funeral. That’s according to that other infamous mouthpiece of the WBC, Shirley Phelps-Roper, Fred’s daughter and to whom it is likely the Bile Bible-Bashing Baton will be passed.  “None of your business” was the quote given to Steve Fry, a journalist with the Topeka Capital-Journal newspaper, when he made the “routine” call to verify the passing of Fred.  Steve had covered the WBC as a part of his “rounds” for many years and had had to make the call many times in recent years due to a regular flow of anonymous tips to his newsroom that Fred had gone to God.


Fred’s fundamentalist freaks began their picketing party trick outside the newspaper one Sunday morning 20 years ago. Steve Fry recalls “the Rev. Fred Phelps led the way, holding a bull horn and cursing them to hell”.

Steve and I and countless others in the media have been thus cursed by various WBC members. I’ve had Shirley on my radio program a couple of times. And the new media man, non-family member Steve Drane, always had time to “talk to the folks down under” most of whom he contended were going to hell too.

With all the ungodly vile and vitriolic comments which have spewed out of the Phelps of Topeka Kansas thank God for the Muppets and their treatment of the song that first put Topeka on the map…..