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Making a better Glenn Beck

Life has been series of successes, struggles

Published: Sunday, Dec. 2 2007 12:06 a.m. MST

Glenn Beck's life is all about talk - the radio and TV host has made a career of sharing his opinion of the world with the world.

Jennifer Ackerman, Deseret Morning News

The first thing you learn about Glenn Beck, the syndicated radio and TV talk-show phenomenon, is that he is usually doing several things at once. This morning, for instance, he's eating breakfast while doing an interview at the Grand America Hotel in Salt Lake City, biting off words and a croissant at the same time.

"Hope you don't mind if I eat while we talk," says Beck, who, as usual, is pressed for time.

Multitasking is Beck's M.O. On airline flights, a writer sits next to him recording or taking notes as Beck speaks for a book Beck is "writing." On a drive from Salt Lake City to Idaho during a family vacation, an assistant slides into the seat next to him to record his words for the masses again.

During his daily commute from Connecticut to New York and back, he responds to e-mails, reads newspapers and books, does phone interviews and researches show topics on videotape.

To fit everything in, he often eats lunch and participates in conference calls while walking from his radio studio to the Time-Warner Center.

"I've never been so tired," says Beck.

Besides hosting a daily three-hour radio talk show, the 43-year-old Beck also hosts, writes and produces a daily one-hour TV show, "writes" and records books (two of them at the moment) and a blog, serves as editor and chief of Fusion Magazine, and writes and produces comedy stage shows and fully orchestrated Christmas shows, including one that will come to Salt Lake City Saturday, in addition to making hundreds of speeches around the country each year.

Beck himself has become an industry, all of it based on sharing his opinion of the world with the world. It's talk, talk, talk, talk. His radio and TV discussions, delivered with a style that is alternately bombastic, self-deprecating, caustic, silly and humorous, cover everything from politics, "American Idol," parenting and political correctness (a favorite target) to Islamic extremism, selecting a video with his wife on a Friday night, the upcoming season of "24," adoption and anything else you can imagine.

Along the way, he has opened up his own life to the world and invited everyone in. His alcoholism, his recovery, his mother's suicide, his divorce, his Mormon conversion, his remarriage — no subject is off limits.

"People get invested in not just what he thinks but how he is living his life, his challenges, what he does for fun," says Christopher Balfe, CEO of Beck's Mercury Entertainment Group.

"The Glenn Beck Program" boasts the third-largest radio audience in the nation, attracting more than 5 million listeners a day on 280 stations. Another 1 million people watch Beck's show on cable's Headline News each weeknight. Beck's Web site, GlennBeck.com, receives more than 3 million visitors a month. Some 125,000 people have seen Beck perform one of his live stage shows.

How big has Beck become in just six years since he made the leap from DJ to talk-show host? After calling out President Bush on the Iraq war on the air one day, he received a phone call from the White House. "The president would like to meet with you for an hour," a White House official told him. He flew to Washington for a one-on-one, off-the-record meeting with President Bush. (More on this later.)

Over breakfast in Salt Lake City a few days later, Beck shakes his head in disbelief as he ponders the turn of events that led him from a 12-step program to the Oval Office.

"If I were not to stand in awe of my life, I would be a most ungrateful son of our Heavenly Father's," says Beck. "It is a full-fledged miracle."

Beck's story is familiar to anyone who listens to the show. Only a few years ago he was an ornery disc jockey who was studying religion and philosophy and searching for some deeper meaning in his life while recovering from divorce and alcoholism. He found that meaning in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and his second wife, Tania.

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