East Bay Express on Bill

Ten years ago Bill Clinton was president, baby backpacks were fashionable and Sovietologist Bill Mandel was a fixture on KPFA, your left-wing, listener-supported local radio station. Maybe you’ve heard of this 87-year old broadcast legend. Many people have — people whose names look better and more important in bold than yours or mine, like Pete Seeger, Ed Asner, Alexander Cockburn, and Daniel Ellsberg. All of these folks have signed a petition demanding that KPFA management give Mandel his old show back — the one he had a decade ago before being shitcanned for blabbing about internal station politics and violating the station’s gag rule, or so the story goes.

The Monday before last, thirteen Mandelphiles, including dissident members of KPFA’s Local Station Board, turned up at the Berkeley headquarters to present the aforementioned petition to Roy Campanella II, the station’s relatively new general manager. One problem: He wasn’t around. New to the area — Campanella migrated north from KPFK in Los Angeles — he had to run off to deal with the home-movers at the same time the Mandelphiles had told him they’d be coming by. “I was a bit shocked that he didn’t come,” agitator and LSB member Riva Enteen says. “I really think it was disrespectful.”

But Campanella, son of the Hall of Fame catcher, doesn’t get why anyone was surprised by his absence. “I talked to Bill the night before,” he explains, “and he understood why I couldn’t be there.” As to whether KPFA would give Mandel his old show back, Campanella made it sound highly unlikely. The GM did note, however, that soon after he got the KPFA job he approached Mandel without any prodding and offered him the chance to do on-air commentaries again. Mandel refused because he wants to have his regular talk show again, and nothing less, Campanella said.

Asked why he turned down Campanella’s seemingly reasonable offer to do three-minute spots, the venerable radio diva sniffed, “I’m not a sound-bite artist, but an analyst.”