Rush Limbaugh has passed away.
Months ago, millions of Americans were heartbroken to find out that a beloved member of our family was diagnosed with a very serious form of cancer — and in a matter of hours, we were moved beyond measure when our beloved relation was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, our nation’s highest civilian honor, live on national television during the State of the Union address.
Because to so many of us, Rush Limbaugh wasn’t just a guy on the radio that we agree with. He was part of our daily life. He was someone we talked to five days a week, for three hours a day. We laughed with him, cried with him, seethed with him, and blew off steam with him. He was who we turned to when the events of the day seemed impossible to process, when tragedy happened, when the actions of the government were incomprehensibly stupid and unfair — he was there with us.
He was more than a friend. He was a member of the family.
In 1990 I was living in North Carolina with my wife and newborn daughter and driving long distances for auditions, trying to get my acting career started. Many of my trips were from Western North Carolina to Wilmington, NC, a 400-mile, 6 1/2 hour drive, one way. As you might imagine – this was pre cell-phone, pre-internet, pre-SiriusXM – there was nothing but the radio to keep you awake and alive. I would flip through the FM dial I got tired of singing along, and then over to AM, with mostly rural preachers and the odd Craigslist type show, people selling antiques or old appliances or cars, et cetera.
And then I heard this voice — this warm, jocular, joyful, sonorous, pleasant voice — talking about politics, the news of the day, the silly things he read in the news, playing funny song parodies — and he was making fun of DEMOCRATS. And at that time, this simply was not done.
And I thought, “Who the hell is this guy?”
For you young whipper-snappers out there, it is hard to understand what life was like before Rush. There was NO ONE, and I mean no one, like him. There was no Fox News, no Sean Hannity, not really even a talk radio format, not on a national level. Rush started it ALL. And the bond he built with his audience was based not on politics as much as it was humor. No one was funnier than Rush. He was fearless taking on the leftists.
Perhaps his greatest gift to us was how he modeled COURAGE in the face of the most vociferous hate from horrified leftists that anyone could imagine. Because he upset their system. He screwed up the bullying game they had going. And he showed us all that it could be done, that the world could call you all the favorite names meant to silence you — racist, sexist, bigot, homophobe —and you could laugh at it, and ridicule it, just like Rush did, and you would be fine.
He showed us all that the Left did not define him — or, by extension, us. And he talked to us like every single one of us was a dear friend — and in our hearts, we made friends with Rush.
And that is another thing the Left never will get right about Rush. It isn’t that we were all looking for someone to tell us what to think. It was that we heard Rush and thought “Finally, someone who thinks like I do!”
It is nearly impossible for me to put into words how much Rush has meant to me over the years. Working in Hollywood amongst the leftists in power, Rush was the thing I organized my day around. If I had a commute, I tried to schedule it so that I would be in the car between 12 PM and 3 PM EST so I could listen. I even bought a short wave radio from Radio Shack (Google that, kids) so I could hear Rush from anywhere on Earth, even if he was pre-empted by current events, etc.
I have heard from so many Rush fans since the announcement of his cancer diagnosis sharing their concern, and offering up their prayers, and telling me how much Rush means to them. I heard from a long haul trucker, for whom Rush was the best part of his day, who had to pull over his truck a couple of times that day and cry. And they write to me or call me because they think I have a special relationship with Rush because I hosted his show. Here’s an example:
“Hey Nick.. the news from Rush Limbaugh has hit me kinda hard. I grew up with him, starting in my dad’s car, and I lost my dad in the fall of 2018. I’m just some dude who’s listened to him since the early 90’s, but I know you have a relationship with him. If you have the chance to talk to him personally, please let him know that I and my family are praying for him.. he has generations who’ve listened to and learned from him…I guess it’s that way with a lot of you famous folks.. we feel like we know you and we hurt when you do, even if we’ve never met.”
My Twitter DMs and Facebook IMs and emails are full of these kinds of messages today, from people who grew up with Rush, who listened to Rush with their fathers or grandfathers — from people for whom Rush is not just some guy on the radio, but an actual member of the family.
I’m no different. I cried, and prayed, and worried for the future without Rush as well.
There is no question that I have been a very fortunate fellow. I have been able to forge a living for myself and my beautiful family by acting, which is a miracle in and of itself. But still, the most incredible, preposterous thing that has ever happened to me occurred on Dec. 27, 2017, when I had the honor of guest-hosting The Rush Limbaugh Show. It was a gift to me in so many ways. I’m not a radio guy. I was dragged across the finish line that day by the great Bo Snerdley and the amazing Mike Mimone, and it remains to this day the single most surreal event in my life. It’s an honor I still can’t believe I received.
I’ve also had the privilege of meeting Rush in person, of introducing him at a speech he gave to that top-secret Hollywood conservative group that has no name and in fact never existed. I have exchanged gifts with The Majarushie. A couple of times over the years he has seen a show I was in and written me about it. It always seemed surreal to me when I would shoot him an email and he answered it, or read it on the air, or when Bo Snerdley would text me. It felt like a dream, like it could not be happening,
But at the end of the day, I’m just like everyone else in Rush’s 30 million plus audience. We’re here now, after almost exactly 30 years — not just for politics, not for validation, not just to hear his take on the day’s events. We’re all here now because we love him.
And now that sad day has finally come for Rush, as it comes for us all. And I’m not prepared for it, and I never could have been.
I’m sure there are a lot of truckers pulling over to the side of the road to cry today, as well as people from all walks of life, all members of Rush’s family, all heartbroken, all not wanting the world to go on without our friend.
If it can ever be said about someone that he did not live in vain, that his life made a difference, that someone is Rush. He showed us the way. May we have the same courage that he had, to laugh in the face of hatred, to defend this country and what it stands for, and to do so with intelligence and humor — and love.
He loved us, his audience. We were family to him too.
God bless Rush Limbaugh, and God bless the United States of America.