Don't miss legendary Phil Donahue or the Fighting Bob Fest kickoff at the Goodman Community Center on Friday night.
Body of work
Phil Donahue — yes, THAT Phil Donahue — has never been one to duck controversy.
A pioneer in daytime TV talk shows — his format is basically the one still used by the likes of Oprah Winfrey and Ellen DeGeneres — he interviewed personalities, tackled controversial issues and confronted public figures for nearly 30 years on the Phil Donahue Show, all of which earned him nine Emmys and got him elected to the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Hall of Fame.
His show was a hit for so long because he wasn’t afraid to dig into the issues that Americans were discussing — war, abortion, consumer protection and civil rights. He was one of the first network personalities to openly criticize the war in Vietnam. After he gave up his show in 1996, cable network MSNBC brought him back for a brief time in 2003 to do a talk-opinion show.
The network dismissed him after only a few months, contending that his ratings were too low against the likes of Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly. It was later learned from internal memos, however, that the real reason he was let go stemmed from worries that his views on war wouldn’t go over well just as George W. Bush et al. were pushing the U.S. into invading Iraq.
Indeed, the day before his show was canceled, Donahue did a long interview with actress Rosie O’Donnell, not about her acting, but about her views on whether the U.S. should go to war with Iraq. O’Donnell was outspoken in her opposition to invading another country and putting civilians — mothers and kids — not to mention our own young people, into harm’s way in what she viewed as an unnecessary war.
Although he is no longer a TV regular, the 76-year-old Donahue is still active and still spreading the word about the evils of warfare.
That’s why he’s coming to Fighting Bob Fest this weekend to help headline the annual daylong program of outstanding speakers and political activists, music, food and fun — a good, old political chautauqua like Fighting Bob La Follette used to attend.
But Donahue will not only be on the daylong program Saturday, September 15 — from 8:45 a.m. to 6 p.m. — at the Alliant Center’s Veterans Memorial Coliseum, he will be featured at the pre-Bob Fest kickoff rally Friday night, September 14, at the Goodman Community Center, 149 Waubesa Street, just off Atwood Avenue behind the Kipp Corp.
Donahue will show takes from the acclaimed documentary Body of War, which he co-produced and co-directed with award-winning filmmaker Ellen Spiro.
Body of War is a searing and emotional story about a young Iraq war veteran, Tomas Young, who joined the military after the September 11 attacks and after less than a week in Iraq was shot in the back and paralyzed from the waist down. The film documents Tomas’ coming home story as he evolves into a new person, coming to terms with his disability and finding his own unique and passionate voice against the war. It’s a look at a side of war that few people ever see.
That’s what Donahue finds so lamentable about our current wars. Less than 1 percent of Americans are fighting those wars, and the 99 percent go on with their lives as if nothing’s happening.
“In the middle of the most sanitized war of my lifetime, no one sees the pain,” he told CNN in an interview. “The American people are not seeing this and that’s a shame.”
You can see Body of War Friday evening at the Goodman Community Center, 149 Waubesa St. It all starts at 6 p.m. Seats are limited, so be sure to get there early.
And see you all on Saturday for the 11th annual Fighting Bob Fest. It promises to be one of the best.
(A version of this article originally appeared in the opinion section of the Capital Times.)
September 13, 2012
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Dave Zweifel is editor emeritus of the Capital Times and a FightingBob.com contributing editor.