For a decade, Art Bell had the ears and minds of late night AM radio with Coast to Coast, his talk show exploring high weirdness of all kinds—from extraterrestrial conspiracies to doomsday scenarios, remote viewing, and Bigfoot. Sometimes, Bell himself became part of the "real life" X-files he addressed on the show. In 2018, a few years after retirement, Bell died at his high desert home (and former studio) in Pahrump, Nevada of an accidental overdose of prescription drugs. But who was Bell? What did he actually believe and how much was he humoring his far-out guests? From a profile by Jesse Robertson in the Los Angeles Review of Books:
In what he termed "the Quickening," a quasi-millenarian interpretive frame for Coast's diverse subjects, Bell observed that in "many areas of our lives the gravity of events seems to be intensifying," leading towards monumental change at the turn of the century. "The world is not the same, not a place to feel safe in."[…]
What exactly Bell believed was admittedly hard to pin down. He leaned libertarian but was a self-described "political mutt," having supported Republican Barry Goldwater in 1964 and independent candidate Ross Perot in 1992, warmed to Bill Clinton, and enthusiastically voted for Barack Obama. Despite engaging with theories of illicit governmental activities at the highest levels, it seemed he could never decide whether governmental reform or abolition was the solution. Speaking to Skeptical Inquirer in 1998, he was adamant that he regarded Coast's subject matter as "absolute entertainment" that was broadcast for one reason: business.
On air, however, Bell developed sociological and scientific theories and detailed his own UFO sightings. Most importantly, he let people talk. He didn't cut his guests off or interject unnecessarily — except when he interrupted white supremacist Tom Metzger to say, "I am married to a brown-skinned Asian woman. What does that make me?" To which Metzger replied, "A traitor to your race."
Coast's participatory format allowed for folkloric narrative construction and community formation that transcended Bell's role as its host. The ambiguity and, at times, contradiction between Bell and his programming didn't change what Coast had become for its listeners — in fact, it was so in spite of it.