How does one even begin to diagnose the downfall of Chuck Baker? Let's begin with the easy answer: Arbitron ratings, which track how many people are listening to a radio program at any given point in time, tend not to lie.
And in the case of Chuck Baker -- the cantankerous, seriously feared and often-slanderous king of bombastic Colorado Springs talk radio -- quite simply, no one was listening to him anymore. Not enough to sell him, and certainly not enough to bankroll his rantings.
Last fall's ratings indicate that 1,000 people in this city of a half-million were tuning in to hear Baker's take on the current state of affairs. And that pathetic number was a benediction compared to previous ratings, which showed only 400 people regularly tuned in to listen to him last summer and 200 last spring. Only 700 were regularly paying attention to Baker's show last winter.
"For the last five years we have lost money on the format," said the station manager of KKCS 1460 AM, Jerry Grant. "I'm getting a lot of negative letters [from people] wanting Chuck [Baker] on the air, but as much as I'd like to accommodate that, someone has to pay the bills."
It is, in many ways, a pathetic end for Baker, whose career highlights included inspiring Fountain resident Francisco Duran to drive across the country to Washington, D.C. to fire bullets into the White House.
Baker is the man who gained prominence for attacking, sometimes viciously, not just public officials but private citizens. At the height of the anti-government Patriot Movement of the '90s, Baker supported a citizens'-led "armed revolution" and urged listeners to take out the "slimeballs" in Washington. One of his guests, a militia leader named Linda Thompson, successfully encouraged people on the air to shoot out traffic cameras along the interstate to "thwart" Big Brother.
During that time, Baker was the mother of all bombs. His show, On the Carpet, immediately followed Rush Limbaugh on KVOR 740 AM, and as the resident conspiracy theory king, Baker's guests included the likes of Rev. Pete Peters, who pontificates against Jews, homosexuals and people of color.
Gay bashing on his show was positively de rigueur, including one memorable incident in 1999 when Baker allowed an on-air kook to weigh in with the opinion that gays and lesbians should be killed outright.
Always, Baker denied culpability. In an emotional outburst immediately after the Duran incident, for example, Baker called the White House shooter a "jerk," a "wacko," a "creep" and a "piece of crap" who needed "psychiatric counseling" and then himself took a two-week vacation.
A month ago, Baker's home for the past five years, KKCS 1460 AM, abruptly cancelled his show, along with the rest of its talk show format that included syndicated radio stars G. Gordon Liddy and Michael Reagan.
The station has switched to a "classic country" format that so far almost mirrors its FM counterpart. And, though station manager Grant reports getting several pro-Baker letters, the absence of these conservative voices on the local airwaves has resulted in little notice, little fanfare and even less fallout.
One listener Helga, said she wondered why Baker somehow just disappeared.
"I called up the station and I said I was wondering if he finally died of the rabies because he was foaming at the mouth all the time," Helga said.
Another regular listener, Jim D., is relieved that his longtime nemesis is gone. Over the past decade, Jim D.'s feuds with Baker -- which began when the radio host called his elderly mother "vile" on the air -- became personal. "When someone calls my mother vile, it pisses me off."
These days, Baker is reportedly running the East Side Diner with his wife Sandy and still operating his independently owned advertising company. But the larger-than-life personality himself isn't talking.
In the past, Baker has always been happy to return phone calls from the Independent -- a newspaper that has, like everyone else, often been the target of his wrath. But not this time.
Any rumors of Baker's possible return to KVOR were quashed this week: "We have no openings right now," said KVOR program director Jim Arthur, whose station remains the only local all-talk format left. "We're not actively looking to change our lineup."
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