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George CarlinA Tribute to George Carlin
(May 12, 1937 - June 22, 2008)

By Mariah Fleming

George Carlin was a Valley favorite who appeared in the 1960's to raves on the Ed Sullivan show. But when Carlin let his comic-in-a-suit career die, that's when he took a generation by storm. George Carlin died of sudden heart failure yesterday, June 22nd, in California. He was 71. He is slated to receive the Kennedy Center Awards Mark Twain award later this year.

George Carlin played to sold out concerts here in Arizona, in large part due to KCAC and KDKB program director Bill Compton. Like many of you, I first heard George Carlin's comedy on Bill Compton's KCAC and KBKD. Who knew those call letters represented the last free form radio stations on our dial? That kind of radio allowed no-holds-barred music, comedy and in the case of KCAC and KDKB, news coverage.

Today a "George Carlin" wouldn't have the radio support he needed to be heard. Thank goodness Phoenix has, a gem that honors the KCAC tradition of uninhibited 'real radio' freedom.

George Carlin

Many of us remember Carlin's "hippy dippy weatherman," first from the Valley's beloved, groundbreaking KCAC format and soon after when Carlin appeared in the early 1970's at the legendary Buster Bonoff's Celebrity Theatre. At the first George Carlin show I attended, he joked about the famous Celebrity Theatre revolving stage and thrilled us with unparalleled wit. Carlin dared to satirize the absurd power of words, most famously in his biting, uncomfortable and hilarious "Seven Words You Can Never Use on Television." This American treasure who seemed to revel in making audiences squirm as much as making us laugh, danced himself off the Celebrity stage with an Irish Jig.

Upon learning of Carlin's death I got the same feeling as when decades ago I found out that John Lennon had been brutally murdered. Someone came running into our band practice room to tell us. We all decided that it wasn't true. But when announcer Howard Cossell interrupted live sports coverage to broadcast the breaking news of John Lennon's murder, his shocked and somber tone broke the veil of denial. We stood in front of the TV, mute, as shock and grief stopped time for a few days.

With the death of George Carlin, who, like John Lennon was a visionary friend of our decade, we've again lost a kindred soul, someone who spoke for our time. George Carlin is suddenly and inexplicably gone, and many of us will cry our hearts out like we did for John Lennon. But with George Carlin's death, tears seem out of tune with what he was all about.

I can picture Carlin shaking his head at millions of fans as we wipe away the tears and imagine him in Heaven, beaming down rational thought laced with humor, something we sometimes seem to be lacking in this decade. Thank you, George. And I hope you wind up in a better place then where all those missing items from the clothes dryer go.