Arthur “Art” W. Bell, III (born June 17, 1945) is an American broadcaster and author, known primarily as the founder and longtime host of the paranormal-themed radio program Coast to Coast AM. He also created and formerly hosted its companion show, Dreamland.
Semiretired from Coast to Coast AM since 2003, he hosted the show on many weekends for the next 4 years. He announced his retirement from weekend hosting on July 1, 2007, effective immediately, but will host occasional shows in the future. He attributed the reason for this latest retirement to a desire to spend time with his wife and new daughter born in May 2007. He added that unlike his previous “retirements”, this one will stand.
Bell also owns oldies station, KNYE 95.1 FM (“The Kingdom of Nye … Things That Go Pahrump In The Night”) in Pahrump, Nevada. He broadcasted from his home in Pahrump for his entire time as host of Coast to Coast AM except from June 2006 to December 2006, when he lived in the Philippines.
Bell’s original Las Vegas program was a political call-in talk radio show under the names West Coast AM and Coast to Coast 2000, but he tired of the format, believing there were too many such programs, especially in the wake of Rush Limbaugh’s huge success.
Broadcast facilities of KNYE in Pahrump, Nevada.
Bell abandoned conventional political talk in favor of topics such as gun control and conspiracy theories, leading to a significant bump in his overnight ratings; however the show’s focus shifted significantly after the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. Many in the media did not want to be blamed for inciting anti-government or militia actions like the bombing. Subsequently, Bell discussed off-beat topics like the paranormal, the occult, UFOs, protoscience and pseudo-science. During his tenure at KDWN Bell met and married his second wife, Ramona, who later handled production and management duties for the program.
According to The Washington Post in its February 23, 1997 paper: Art Bell was at the time America’s highest-rated late-night radio talk show, broadcast on 328 stations. According to The Oregonian in its June 22, 1997 paper, Coast To Coast AM with Art Bell was on 460 stations. At its initial peak in popularity, Coast To Coast AM was syndicated on more than 500 radio stations and claimed 15 million listeners nightly. Bell’s studios were located in his home in the town of Pahrump, located in Nye County, Nevada, hence the catchphrase “from the Kingdom of Nye.”
Observers regard Bell as a master showman, noting that he calls his show “absolute entertainment” and expressly says he does not necessarily accept every guest or caller’s claims, but only offers a forum where they will not be openly ridiculed. Bell was one of only a few talk show hosts who do not screen calls, but began screening calls in 2006. On the October 31, 2006 edition of Coast to Coast AM, (renamed for the night to Ghost to Ghost AM), Bell was asked why he was now using call screeners. The explanation given was for him to use unscreened open lines from the Philippines would require listeners to call there directly at enormous cost to them. He subsequently returned to unscreened calls upon his return to the United States.
His calm attitude, patient questions, and ability to tease substance from nebulous statements of callers and guests gave his show a relaxed yet serious atmosphere. This earned him praise from those who declare the paranormal deserves a mature outlet of discussion in the media as well as the approval of those simply amused by the nightly parade of bizarre, typically fringe topics. Ed Dames, Richard C. Hoagland, Terence McKenna, Dannion Brinkley, David John Oates, and Robert Bigelow have all been regular guests. Some of Bell’s regular guests, particularly Hoagland, continue to be regular guests on Coast to Coast AM now hosted by George Noory.
Bell’s own interests, however, extend beyond the paranormal. He has interviewed singers Crystal Gayle, Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard and Gordon Lightfoot, comedian George Carlin, writer Dean Koontz, hard science fiction writer Greg Bear, TV talk host Regis Philbin, Star Trek actor Leonard Nimoy, actor Dan Aykroyd, former Luftwaffe pilot Bruno Stolle, actress Jane Seymour, actress Ellen Muth, actor and TV host Robert Stack, human rights lawyer John Loftus, legendary disc jockey Casey Kasem and frequent guests physicist Michio Kaku and SETI astronomers Seth Shostak and H. Paul Shuch.
Beginning in late 1996, Bell was criticized for reporting rumors that Hale-Bopp comet was being trailed by a UFO. It was speculated that members of the Heaven’s Gate group committed mass suicide based on rumors Bell aired, but others dismissed the idea, noting that the Heaven’s Gate website stated: “Whether Hale-Bopp has a “companion” or not is irrelevant from our perspective.” Susan Wright notes, however, that Bell was also “one of the first to publicize expert opinions debunking the ‘alien companion’” said to have been shadowing Hale-Bopp.
In the Season 3 episode of Seven Days, “Sugar Mountain”, when Chrononaut Frank Parker reported that the “weapon” he found was a boy capable of telekenesis and pyrokinesis, Ramsey replied, “Oh, come on! You’ve been listening to too much Art Bell!”.
Though Art doesn’t like to discuss his political views on Coast to Coast AM, he has expressed support for gun rights and same-sex marraige.
Art believes the government is innocent of any involvement in the September 11 attacks, and after the attacks he put a picture of an eagle saying “God Bless George W. Bush and the U.S.A.” on his site.
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