It’s 9:15 and I’m on the Schuylkill Expressway, just like every weekday morning. My radio is tuned to WPHT, 1210 AM. Normally I’m an NPR girl, but WHYY has the BBC Newshour on from nine to 10, and frankly, I can’t work up much interest in Bhutan. Nor do sports-radio windbags appeal; do any ladies listen to Angelo Cataldi who aren’t paid to? But Talk Radio 1210 has Dom Giordano. And even though he and I disagree on just about every topic under the sun, I keep finding myself tuning into him.
It’s the week before the election, three days after Hurricane Sandy, and here’s what Dom is hammering: Why is Governor Christie cozying up to Obama? What about those four dead Americans in Benghazi? Why is the President suddenly so concerned with rich people whose Shore houses have washed away?
Callers materialize out of his pool of thousands of daily listeners, to agree and disagree with him. Sam from Ventnor: “I’ve been working since I was 13. I’m sick and tired of bailing people out.” Linda from Clayton: “I’m tired of the liberal intolerance!” And Rosetta from Northeast Philly: “You should be fund-raising for hurricane victims,” she tells Dom, “instead of stirring up strife and being so hateful.”
“Just because there’s a hurricane,” Dom counters, “I’m supposed to stop talking politics?”
“God is in charge,” Rosetta says serenely. “He will reveal all.”
“Well, do you think He’ll reveal it before the election?” Dom demands, and I laugh out loud.
But when I reach the Center City garage where I park, I switch the station back to NPR. I don’t want the nice African immigrants who work there to know I listen to a guy who once described Obama as “a petty-thug Chicago politician,” and U.N. election overseers as “characters from the bar scene in Star Wars.” Whatever Dom Giordano appeals to in me, I don’t think it’s my better self.
This is what I know about Dom from listening to his show: He has a wife named Roe—for Rosemary—and a son named D.J. He used to be a teacher. He writes a column for the Daily News. Once a month he broadcasts from Harrisburg, with Governor Tom Corbett. Mitt Romney wasn’t his first choice for the Republican presidential nomination. He misses Joey Vento. He’s disappointed in Mayor Nutter and despises Joe Biden. He adores Samantha Pawlucy, a.k.a. Romney T-Shirt Girl, and Archbishop Chaput. He has solar panels on his home, thanks to one of his advertisers, that have cut his monthly PECO bill to nothing.
Here’s the thing, though: Just when you think you have Dom pinned down—red-meat Republican, hard-line Catholic—he’ll surprise you. He’s pro-contraception. He thinks some abortions should be legal. He admires James Carville and Ed Rendell. In fact, his belief system is so scattershot that after listening to him for months, I’ve come to think he’s putting it on—picking and choosing his stands to deliberately provoke. How else do you explain a guy who decries political correctness and yet raises holy hell when Pawlucy’s teacher teases her about a damned t-shirt?
But if he’s phony, he has to be crazy to think he can get away with it. Because Dom isn’t just a voice on the radio. He goes on vacation with his listeners—on cruises to Hawaii and Alaska. He throws parties for them, like his “Feast of the Seven Fishes” bash at Christmas, and shows up at events like the big Romney rally in Bucks County just before Election Day. If he’s putting his audience on—if he doesn’t believe what he says—his house of cards is bound to crash. Each day as I listen, I wait for the flub, the slip-up, the blunder—I, and all the liberals who call in and try to catch him out.
They never do.
I ask my friend Buzz Bissinger about Dom. Buzz hosts a show for WPHT, too—the weekday-afternoon slot from three to seven. “I like Dom,” Buzz tells me. “I’ve never seen anyone who works harder than he does. He’s always at the station. And he gets very good guests.”
I ask if he thinks Dom’s sincere. “My sense is that he’s very sincere,” Buzz says. “You can tell by his voice.” That’s the trouble, though: Dom’s voice is all I’ve got, and it isn’t enough. I need to see him. So when I hear about a rally he’s hosting in Ardmore—“We’ll be giving away a thousand Romney-Ryan lawn signs!”—I decide to stop by.