- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 9, 2005

A man identifying himself as “Cool Bruce” phoned Michael Baisden’s popular syndicated radio show, “Love, Lust & Lies,” last week to talk about losing his virginity.

The fortysomething man wished it hadn’t happened — and that he hadn’t fathered children — so young.

“I wouldn’t trade my kids for anything, but I wish I had waited, man,” Cool Bruce lamented to Mr. Baisden. “Now I’m telling my kids that. I wish somebody had told me.”

He wasn’t alone.

“It’s not just about sex,” another male caller said. “It’s about having that emotional and spiritual connection, and I didn’t have that.”

Finally, the host chimed in. “There’s a difference in making love for the first time with someone you connect with mind, body and soul, as opposed to doing it on the bathroom floor in a club with someone…whose name you can’t remember,” Mr. Baisden said. “We need to tell our sons that it’s so much more than just putting on a condom and going for it.”

And so it goes on a typical broadcast of “Love, Lust & Lies,” heard locally on WHUR-FM (96.3), where Mr. Baisden — divorced father and self-proclaimed “bad boy of radio” — holds court as the pre-eminent relationship guru for millions of urban music listeners age 25 and older.

A Chicago native, Mr. Baisden, 41, worked as a driver for the Chicago Transit Authority before finding success with his first book, 1995’s “Never Satisfied: How and Why Men Cheat.” Self-published after being rejected by several large commercial publishers, the book went on to sell more than 300,000 copies.

“Love, Lust & Lies” is free of the psychobabble that reigns on similar relationship call-in programs. Instead of trying to penetrate to the root of a problem, Mr. Baisden simply presents a topic and invites listeners to call in with their views and/or experiences. The host’s succinct judgments follow. He often sounds like a stern parent, cautioning, for example, “Girl, you ought to know better.”

Think Dr. Phil with a dash of soul.

Music is used to accent the dialogue. “I work really hard at finding the right mix of songs for each program,” explains Mr. Baisden. Last week he used “Poison,” Bell, Biv, Devoe’s 1990 hit about a wanton playgirl, to segue into a discussion of the link between blind lust and sexually transmitted diseases.

“Everything that looks good to you isn’t good for you,” warned Mr. Baisden, whose program is broadcast from Dallas and, occasionally, in New York.

His audience is predominately black and mostly female, although men are “surprisingly” tuning in, according to WHUR General Manager Jim Watkins. “We’ve had men call us to say, ‘That Michael Baisden — he’s making it hard on all of us,’” Mr. Watkins says. “So the men are listening.”

Whatever the audience makeup, the topics are often universal. Nothing is off-limits; no subject too controversial for the four-hour program, which airs weekdays from 3 to 7 p.m.

Past discussions have included such chatter-inducing fare as “Shacking Up! Do We Really Know What We’re Getting Ourselves Into?” “Mama’s Boys: Are Women Crippling Their Sons?” and the recent “Pimps in the Pulpit,” which took backsliding Christians to task.

Mr. Baisden has also chided women for accepting poor treatment from their significant others, last week posing the question, “If you don’t trust your man to offer advice to your child, then why are you still with him?”

Other subjects have been more sobering — from chats about living (and loving) with HIV to the bullying some diligent black students have suffered from peers who accuse them of “acting white.”

The Dallas-based ABC Radio Networks — home to conservative commentator Sean Hannity, veteran commentator Paul Harvey and, until recently, Tom Joyner, urban music radio’s top personality — began syndicating “Love, Lust & Lies,” now heard on 20 stations, Jan. 31.

“We look for someone who’s already a proven draw in a major market, someone who’s unique and has potential to be a winner,” said Ed Pearson, senior director of urban radio for the network. “Michael’s show is all of that … and he has the passion and the drive to succeed.”

And the guts.

After the surprise success of both his first book and his second, a novel titled “Men Cry in the Dark,” Mr. Baisden hosted relationship seminars (which doubled as sales platforms for the books). He soon became a sought-after guest on the talk show circuit, appearing on “The Ricki Lake Show” and “The View,” among others.

Next came a brief foray into TV as host of a show called “Talk or Walk.” It premiered the week after the September 11 attacks and was canceled after a single season.

Then, radio beckoned. In 2003, Mr. Baisden signed on as the afternoon drive-time host at New York’s KISS-FM (98.7) — a slot that pitted him against WBLS-FM personality and VH1 gossip diva Wendy Williams.

“People warned me not to take on Wendy,” Mr. Baisden said in an interview during a whirlwind swing through the District last month. “They said I’d be laughed out of town, but I knew we’d be successful.”

Within a year, Mr. Baisden’s ratings had eclipsed Miss Williams’, propelling him to the top spot in the time period in the nation’s No. 1 radio market (15 million listeners), according to Arbitron, the Columbia, Md.-based international media and marketing research firm.

Can he repeat that success here for WHUR?

The Howard University-owned station currently ranks third behind two other local stations offering urban music (WKYS-FM is No. 1, followed by WMMJ-FM ), according to data from Arbitron’s winter book for January through March. With 33 commercial radio stations and an estimated 3.8 million listeners, the Washington market, which includes the Maryland and Virginia suburbs, is the nation’s eighth largest, says Arbitron spokeswoman Jessica Benbow.

For all his success, Mr. Baisden still has his detractors.

“When Michael first came on, we got angry calls from some of our listeners who called his show a ‘black version of Jerry Springer,’” WHUR’s Mr. Watkins says. “You also had people who didn’t like the ‘Pimps in the Pulpit’ show. Michael must have sensed it because at the end of the broadcast he said, ‘This is probably going to be my last day on the air.’ Of course, it wasn’t. We got a tremendous amount of phone calls, and most were positive.

“But you know how people are about airing dirty laundry. We don’t want it told, but it needs to be said, and Michael does that.”

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