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Art Bell's Legacy In Radio, TV And Nevada Far Reaching

Art Bell questioned, but you didn’t hear him judge. He listened to almost everyone, from abductees to remote viewers. But what was his legacy?

At his peak, radio host Bell reached 12 million listeners a week. His late-night AM show touched on UFOs, abductions conspiracies, and other otherworldly phenomena.

With his resonant voice, he cast some doubt but always gave people a fair shake. He died last week at 72.

George Knapp, a Las Vegas television reporter and occasional weekend host of Coast To Coast AM, talks about the man behind the microphone.

“It’s audacious if you look back at it," Knapp said, "The idea that you could do four hours a night late night talk show about all these weird topics.”

But Knapp said it worked because Bell spoke to people who working the night shift, up with the baby, driving across country or just couldn't sleep.

“Turns out there were millions of people like this who were longing for this,” he said, “He really had his finger on the pulse of the public back then and saw something that few others thought would succeed.”

And what succeeded were stories and guests that covered just about every topic from alien abductions and the Kennedy assassination to musical guests and celebrities.

“He could really make the most of the medium and the guests who called in and the audience members who were every bit a part of the show,” Knapp said.

Bell allowed those audience members to tell their stories without judgment and without a snarky response. 

“A lot of hosts would be tempted to go ahead and tee off folks like that Art allowed them to speak their piece even if he really didn’t believe them at heart,” Knapp said.

But sometimes the people who listened to Bell on the radio started to intrude on his real life. He retired at one point because he believed someone was shooting at his house.

“When you take on those topics, it invariably involves people who are not always completely hinged,” Knapp said.

And fittingly - somehow - conspiracy theories have followed Bell after his death.

Knapp said after hearing of Bell death's death on April 13, which was a Friday. Friday the 13th. He received several messages asking if Bell had really died or whether the Nye County Sheriff's news release was a hoax.

Since then, the theories have become wilder. Some are saying the radio host is not really dead or that he was murdered. But as Knapp points out, the autopsy is not done and the cause of death has not been released.

“Of course, it’s only natural that Art would go out in a blaze of conspiracy theories about his own demise,” Knapp said.

George Knapp, KLAS-TV, Channel 8, I-Team reporter, occasional weekend host of Coast To Coast AM

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Joe Schoenmann joined Nevada Public Radio in 2014. He works with a talented team of producers at State of Nevada who explore the casino industry, sports, politics, public health and everything in between.