City Paper is not for tourists
In New York City in the 1960s and ’70s, the quieter hours of the night belonged to Bob Fass and his cabal, the anonymous listeners who tuned in to his show on WBAI-FM each night from midnight to 5:30 a.m. “It’s probably one of the most private relationships that I have,” one says. Paul Lovelace and Jessica Wolfson explain how Fass’ intimate voice gave rise to mass demonstrations, police action, and the takeover of listener-supported WBAI—a corporate cousin of D.C.’s WPFW—by crusaders for identity politics. Fass’ gravelly, sedative voice and its lyrical dispatches are the highlights of Radio Unnameable, but Fass and other characters talk over gripping footage of Yippies, musicians, and New York at night. Even as Fass spawns a political movement, he doesn’t lose his personal nature. Clips from a night when a man called in announcing that he was committing suicide show Fass’ program at its best: Calm but electric, absolutely free, uninterested in stopping anyone who wants to talk. Radio Unnameable is a vivid portrait of an era that’s long gone, but Fass’ cadences and his connection to anyone who would listen ignite today’s imagination, too.