Those who hated Ralph Barbieri during his 28-year run at KNBR found him unlistenable. On Monday evening, even his biggest fans had to admit his hour-long interview on 95.7 FM “The Game” was a tough listen.
“Excuse my voice. I had a bad case of laryngitis last night,” Barbieri said at the beginning of the interview with Brandon Tierney and Eric Davis. Barbieri, who in a $10 million lawsuit filed today claimed that he was harassed and eventually fired by Cumulus due to illness/disability, blamed an illness for the way he sounded. Yet, what he said (and how he said it) failed to effectively further his cause.
What is his cause? Generally speaking, you can find that in the complaint Angela Alioto (who made a very questionable decision in letting Barbieri speak today) filed today. Mostly, he’s bitter at his old bosses: Lew Dickey, Bill Bungeroth and Lee Hammer. He repeatedly bashed all three for treating him poorly during his final year at KNBR, particularly after letting them know that he had contracted Type 2 Diabetes and Parkinson’s Disease.
Barbieri (who wore an A’s hat to the station today) played the woe-is-me card for an hour straight. In the process, he admitted to arriving late for work on several occasions. “We never once prepared for the show,” Barbieri said of his days working with Tom Tolbert, because they preferred to keep things “spontaneous.” If you played this interview for someone who’d never heard of Barbieri before, especially considering his voice was raspier than ever and extremely difficult to understand, he or she would wonder how The Razor stuck around for 28 years.
His voice aside, some of Barbieri’s stories were overly long and not really relevant to much, especially when he hearkened back to his Sport Magazine days with a meandering story about Bill Walton and Patty Hearst. The interview took another odd turn near the end, when Barbieri talked about Kim Basinger sending someone around looking for “a specific dog collar” in an effort to prove he isn’t star-struck. Sorry if I confused you; that’s the best I could do with the material provided.
“Lee Hammer never came in and said, ‘Gee, I’m sorry,’ ‘Too bad,’ nothing.”
“I had never been talked to that way in my life.”
The second of those quotes came when Barbieri talked about Bungeroth, who Barbieri called a “poor man’s Alec Baldwin.” Barbieri even brought a sound prop to help make his case: they played the famous “coffee is for closers” scene from Glengarry Glen Ross — a curious decision on The Razor’s part, to say the least.
Tierney asked Barbieri if he misses radio. “I do, but I don’t miss Hammer and Bungeroth.”
Support from former co-workers
“Almost not at all,” Barbieri said when Tierney asked if anyone from KNBR had called him and wished him good luck or said they would miss him.
“I’ve had TV offers. I don’t want to dress up, man.”
There’s a chance Barbieri will never again talk into a microphone on terrestrial radio, which would probably mean we won’t see or hear from him again if he doesn’t want to do TV. It’s difficult to imagine 95.7 FM “The Game” will hire Barbieri after today’s appearance, especially after he snuck in an Amici’s ad at the beginning of the second segment and even (purposely?) screwed up the signoff:
“Angels fly because they take themselves lightly. KNBR … oops. 95.7, the sports leader.”
Barbieri also didn’t sound like he had a very high opinion of the FM station earlier in the interview, during this exchange:
Barbieri: “(Bungeroth and Hammer) were very concerned about you guys.”
Tierney and Davis: “They should be.”
Barbieri: “I didn’t think they should be. I didn’t think (you) guys would be here once (indecipherable) … but they were really concerned.”
The “chimp” promos
Davis brought up the commercial series 95.7 used to play which portrayed Hammer as a chimp, hoping Barbieri would take the bait. Barbieri said he had never heard the promos.
The basis of the lawsuit
“If they want to fire somebody, they can fire him. But they can’t fire him because they’re sick. It’s the law in California. They can’t fire me because I have Parkinson’s or Diabetes. Any flaw that they saw in my performance, when I was tired, they mentioned the times that I was tired, there were times when I didn’t seem like I had enough energy or this or that, and those are all directly attributable to the Parkinson’s and to the Diabetes. Angela (Alioto) knows the law. But they can’t fire you for being sick as long as you can prove you can still perform on the air.”
Overall, it was another strange chapter to this saga. Whether or not Alioto and Barbieri have a case, I have no idea. But from what was said to how he said it, Barbieri’s appearance on The Game may have given KNBR and Cumulus more in the way of ammunition than reasons to fear an impending court battle.