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Conservative talk show host Glenn Beck rose to nationally syndicated television and radio host with his knack for creating controversy.
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Over the next decade, Beck zigzagged across the country, cutting his teeth as a radio personality in cities such as Seattle, Louisville, Washington D.C., Phoenix and Houston. Success came early. By the age of 21, Beck was commanding a salary of $70,000.
With the money came an ego. And with the ego came an increasingly brazen on-air attitude. His antics played up certain racial stereotypes, while his attacks on the competition were relentless. In one memorable prank, he covered his rival's house with stickers advertising Beck's radio station.
Beck was also slowly infusing his shows with a more patriotic flair, a change that had been sparked by the U.S. bombing of Libya in April 1986. The changes also served as the first sign of Beck's political transformation, moving from a man whose views were often socially liberal, to something a little more right leaning. "I wasn't just pro-choice, I was pro-everything, until I started taking everything off the table and began looking at things and asking if this view was consistent with that view," Beck has said.
But like his mother, Glenn Beck's life was plagued with issues. He liked his alcohol, and he liked his drugs (he would later claim he smoked pot every day for 15 years straight, beginning at the age of 16). He had an affinity for harder narcotics, too, and by the time Beck had turned 30, his addictions—combined with a series of failed morning programs with big ratings expectations—had turned him into a near has-been in the radio business.
His marriage to his first wife, with whom he shares two daughters, had also ended. Beck, trying to make it at a radio station in New Haven, Connecticut, had gone so far as to contemplate suicide before he pulled back and tried to right his life. He attended his first Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, gave up smoking marijuana, cut his long hair, and decided he needed to go on a spiritual journey.
He read voraciously, and entered Yale's divinity school for a short time on the recommendation of his friend, Senator Joe Lieberman, whom Beck had gotten to know during the politician's first run for senate in 1988. The journey eventually landed Beck at the doors of Mormonism, a new marriage, and a renewed interest in radio, though not in the Top 40 sector he'd built his career around.
When his contract ended in Connecticut, Beck chose not to renew it, instead pulling up stakes and relocating with his new wife Tania to Tampa, Florida. There, Beck delved deep into talk radio, using the controversy surrounding the 2000 presidential election to catapult his show up to No. 1.
Then came 9/11, and Beck had an even bigger issue to shout about. He also had more people to shout to, when he was offered a syndicated national afternoon show. By 2004 Beck, who had moved his operations to Philadelphia so he could be closer to his children, was broadcasting The Glenn Beck Program on 150 stations. Two years later, the Glenn Beck brand reached even greater heights when CNN hired him as one of the stars of the recently revamped Headline News.
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