For Art Bell fans hoping for a return to radio, it’s been a long and bumpy ride

Art BellThe bumper music for “Coast to Coast AM” often asks the question “Wanna take a ride?” Art Bell’s fans have been on a ride for some time now, with many anxiously holding out hope that the former “Coast to Coast AM” host will one day return to radio.

Yesterday, many of those fans were disappointed when Bell posted the following message on Facebook:

I guess it is time to end any further speculation that I will return to the air anytime soon. I have given (2) very solid offers a lot of thought and have turned them down. My reasons are many, though I am profoundly sad at the current state of the show, both offers would have been direct competition with Coast and anger is the wrong reason to proceed. Also I really do not want to destroy what I built despite it’s current state. Asia will be in first grade in the Fall and getting up very early, I would be up late and sleeping late, I would not see much of her or Airyn. Life is short and I want to spend what I have left with my Family. I hope my friends understand…

This is the second time this year Bell announced he has turned down an offer(s) after previously hinting at the chance of a return. On both occasions, Bell stated it would not be right for him to take such offers with anger towards “Coast to Coast AM” as his main motivation.

Bell, known for his repeated retirements and returns has surprisingly been consistent since his last “Coast to Coast AM” broadcast on Oct. 31, 2010. He hasn’t been on the air.

There never was an official announcement by Bell or the program. When fan’s later questioned why Bell wasn’t filling in during any of the winter holiday shows that year, regular host George Noory made quick mention to the fact that Art was wanting to spend more time with his family and that he has probably retired for good.

Things got interesting after Bell joined Facebook in 2011. At first, Bell was mostly coy, insisting that even though he was now retired, to never rule anything out. It was last summer when Bell finally began to air his grievances against the show.

The first surprise post was Bell declaring “I wish my name was no longer associated with what Coast has become!”

Bell later clarified his wish for Premiere Radio (the Clear Channel owned syndicator of “Coast to Coast AM”) to no longer air the classic “Art Bell – Somewhere in Time” programs. Bell hinted that he would soon exercise his right to free speech if Premiere didn’t cease airing those shows. Since then, those programs continue to air and despite Bell talking about no longer being under contract with Premiere and some talk about turning down other offers, he hasn’t really exercised that free speech.

At best, I was more or less a casual fan of Bell as a young teen, listening to “Coast” when up late on summer vacation or when listening to his Sunday evening “Dreamland” shows. At that age, I had a sense that most of the callers and guests were likely making it all up, but it still made excellent “theater” — something that is completely lost when when listening to Noory’s modern day “Coast” shows.

With each time Bell announces that he has turned down an offer, one would have to think the chances of a return become less likely. It’s been interesting to observe Bell’s fans on either the Coast Gab forum or the People who Miss Art Bell Facebook group. Many of his fans have slowly realized the day he returns to the air will never come. Some have speculated that Bell is deliberately steering his fans in a roundabout direction simply to generate buzz. Many, however, still hold out hope for a return, in any capacity — full-time or part-time; terrestrial, satellite or podcast.

While Bell has always been somewhat of an odd individual, I tend to doubt he is deliberately steering his fans towards a dead end. If anything, I would guess he would love to return to the air full time, at age 40, as opposed to near 70.

Intentional or not, Bell is steering his fans on a ride all right. And for those holding out hope, there’s no end in sight.

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