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Progressive Talk Show Host Lynn Samuels Dies Christmas Eve at 69
Activist took on conservatives and President Obama alike
Years ago, when she was a left wing host on WABC, Lynn Samuels used to do a change-of-pace Christmas Eve show in which, among other things, she invited listeners to sing Christmas carols.
This year on Christmas Eve, Samuels died. She was 69.
No cause of death was immediately announced. Her body was discovered after she failed to report for her 10 a.m. Saturday show at Sirius XM radio and the company asked police to go to her Woodside, Queens, home.
On the radio, Samuels was exactly what much of the country thinks New York sounds like. She had a city accent she never tried to hide or soften, even when her bosses suggested it would prevent her from ever getting a radio job outside the city.
“This is who I am,” she said.
“She was unique beyond words,” said John Mainelli, her WABC program director and longtime friend. “I'm so glad I knew her.”
Samuels was a self-described progressive who often threw curveballs. She was a long-standing critic of President Obama, saying she didn’t believe he ever really had progressive credentials.
Her periodic unpredictability didn’t serve her well in today’s party-line talk radio, but helped give her a long run in the earlier, looser talk era.
Her criticism of conservatives often extended to her fellow radio hosts, but she would add that she liked a number of them personally. She became close friends with conservative host and writer Matt Drudge, serving for a time as his call screener.
Mainelli said he exchanged messages with her on Friday, at which time she said she would be doing both her Saturday and Sunday shows live this weekend.
“I am stunned,” Jay Diamond, her one-time WABC colleague, wrote on the New York Radio Message Board. “She sometimes got mad at me, but I loved her, and we were friends to the end. The world of radio, and the world in general, will miss this great talent, and great human being.”
Aside from politics, Samuels would devote long segments to cultural matters like books, music, a movie she saw or the merits and demerits of wearing foundation garments.
Her Christmas Eve show, which she said was not her favorite program, began as an attempt simply to do something fun and different on a night when most people weren’t discussing budget legislation.
Her own politics ran back to the activist movements of the 1960s, about which she often talked. Her radio career began around 1979 with a late-night show at WBAI (99.5 FM).
She moved to WABC in the late 1980s and remained there on different shifts for about 15 years. She was fired three times and rehired twice.
After WABC she struggled at times to stay in the city, taking a job in a laundromat while keeping her hand in radio at Sirius XM.
A very private person off the air, Samuels left no immediate survivors.
But the local radio world was saddened.
To the end, said Mainelli, she was “the same as she had always been - lively, full of curiosity, and happy, all existential things considered.”