THE RE-EDUCATION OF "RUDE" JUDE ANGELINI
By J.C. Gabel
Photos by Jason McDonald
This story originally appeared in ISSUE1. Click here to buy the print edition
“Growing up, at least once a year, I’d just snap,” writes radio host and former TV talk show provocateur Jude Angelini in his first short story collection Hyena. “I’d hold my shit together all year long, then something would set me off, and I’d get arrested or fight the police or fight my principal, or get expelled, or have some nervous breakdown. And as I was losing it, I’d know in my head I was doing something extremely dumb. But I’d just keep going, because I had to. I couldn’t help myself. I had to see it through.”
In spare prose, Hyena documents years of debauchery, shitty day-jobs, and dreams, and earlier aborted attempts of getting “[his] ass outta Michigan.” Angelini’s characters are the desperate people one might encounter in the “vast everythingness” of Middle America—the heartland—barely scraping by in the way that Denis Johnson’s characters do in his early short story collection Jesus’ Son. While Johnson’s stories are fiction worked and re-worked into near-perfect prose, Angelini’s stories are rawer and “100 percent true,” and read more like Bukowski-inspired essays, or rants from an unbridled and self-professed ‘Ketamine head’.
Angelini is not shy about his “accidental” radio career on Sirius Satellite Radio’s “The All Out Show,” which he co-hosts with rapper, Lord Sear on the Eminem-owned Shade 45 channel.
“The book is inspired by good records—records that were made to be albums, not whatever it is we’re supposed to give a shit about today, each story is like a songs, building on one another,” Angelini told me over coffee. Jude was sharply dressed and seemed supremely lucid compared to his on-air and in-print personality. “What connected them, for me, was the music that was playing in the background, as I was trying to write these pieces, high as fuck on ketamine or vicodine. The next morning I would sometimes look at what I wrote the night before and think to myself, ‘What the fuck is all this about?’ It was like tapping into my subconscious thoughts. They weren’t clear, but I could finally make sense of them.”
After self-publishing Hyena through Amazon.com author services, he turned to his tens of thousands of social media followers and the millions of listeners, who tune into his weekly “All Out Show.” The first five print runs totaled 7,000 copies, and sold out in less than three months, an astonishing feat for any first-time author without the literati publicity machine in Manhattan behind your book. Ultimately, Angelini managed to get the attention of the mainstream publishing world.
”Remember,” he tells me, “I’m marketing this book to an audience that doesn’t fucking read.” That was when Simon & Schuster’s imprint Gallery Books decided to pick up the book and run with it.
“An author that I edited named Karyn Bosnak worked with Jude years ago when he was on the Jenny Jones Show, suggested that I take a look at his essays, which I happily did,’ says Allison Callahan, an editor at Simon & Shuster told me via email. “I knew that the book had such larger potential, and that in order for him to reach a wider audience he was going to need distribution outside of the online retailing realm. That’s where we came in.
“I was drawn to the raw honesty Jude presents in his essays,” she says. “Though they are by turns hilarious, filthy, scary, and crude—each one hits you like a bullet. His voice reminded me of early Bukowski stories—disaffected, edgy, honest.”
So who is buying Angelini’s book if he himself tells me that his “audience doesn’t read?” Are Rude Jude readers the husbands of suburban housewives buying 50 Shades books at Target?
Callahan, who oversaw the S&S reproduction of the Hyena, thinks she has a better idea. “The listeners to Jude’s radio show—at least the ones with online presence—were admitting to never having read books for pleasure before,” she says. “But Hyena made them want to read more. He was striking a nerve in a whole subset of his audience, but they were forced to go online. We made a deal with Jude, published a trade paperback of his book, and it has since gone to sell beautifully in all sorts of retail channels.”
You may remember “Rude” Jude’s early days as a regular on “The Jenny Jones Show,” which taped throughout the 1990s and early aughts, at the NBC Tower, opposite floor to “The Jerry Springer Show,” in Chicago.
Angelini first appeared on “The Jenny Jones Show” as a guest in 1997-1998. The ratings for his first appearance, where he fended off a panel attesting to him being a bully—they were so promising, by trash talk show standards, that they made him a regular fixture on the show, usually as a disruptive force to be unleashed as a brash, no-bullshit, older brother figure, who walks out on stage, disarms any hand-waving or back talk, and verbally smacks the shit out of you.
There is a Rude Jude clip reel, a “Best of Jenny Jones” You Tube video that is essential viewing, to truly understand the pre-internet Jude from the Jude of today.
This much is clear after Hyena is re-published by Simon & Shuster Angelini appears past all his previous vices—at least in person, he is. On the page, you’d think otherwise. He tells me he’s more relaxed than he’s ever been.
“I guess he ‘calms down’ a little with each year,” his sister Rachel tells me matter-of-factly through email earlier this year. “I remember when he first moved to New York City in 2004, he started drinking, which was a great shock to me. I thought "Oh no! What's wrong with Jude? He's turned to alcohol!" He always drank water with lemon at the bar. But I guess he did it in attempt to ease social anxiety in a new city.”
As to the beginnings of his radio career and how he got on Eminem’s radio network?
“Marshall (Eminem) remembered me from ‘The Jenny Jones Show,’” Angelini says, “and that I was from Michigan, outside Detroit, and that led to me auditioning for this gig 10 years ago.” Jude even ends up in some of Em’s lyrics from “The Drug Ballad.” Angelini maintains that he’s always had a loose connection to the white rapper who grew up not too far from where Jude was living and hanging out, as a young person, outside Detroit, in Pontiac. “Marshall lived through that same bit in Michigan coming up.”
“The truth is,” he says matter-of-factly, “I was washing dishes at a raw food restaurant in West Hollywood before I got this gig on the radio. My humor may be extreme, but being on the air and getting paid well to do my show four hours a day.”
Angelini hates the word “shock jock,” but he’s aware that his 10-year-old radio show is rooted in that genre of entertainment, and it flows smoothly into his short story collection. He’s using the same fodder from the show, but he’s trying to put it into digestible prose.
An early piece in the book introduces us to a porn star. She quickly moves into the topic of pissing on the air. “Pissing in cups, pissing on dudes, dudes pissing on her. The whole nine,” Angelini writes. After a music break, live on the air, she straddles his leg, lifts her skirt, and pushes her panties to the side. “A long, hot, steady stream of piss hits my leg,” he writes, “runs down my ankle, down on my foot, to my toes and onto a [garbage] bag. Angelini, who gets turned on by the situation, takes the girl home, they take “E” and “fuck.” (They do). “These porn chicks and their hard fucking,” he writes. “They come into the studio and we gotta give ’em vibrators that hit like jackhammers cuz their clits are so blown out.”
The biggest controversy in “The All Out Show’s” history came when Angelini called out Floyd Mayweather for pussy-footing around fighting Manny Pacquiao (who he’s since beaten, handily), but Mayweather’s intense reverse-racist screed response is worth a listen if you haven’t heard it. This happened in 2009 year. (Mayweather, for the record, loses his shit once he realizes that, in a moment of on-air honesty, his feet are being held to the fire by a white dude… he just can’t handle it and snaps.)
More recently, Angelini made a much-talked-about appearance on Howard Stern’s show, the insurmountable king of shock jock radio. Stern, like many folks, had listened to Rude Jude for years without realizing he was, in fact, Caucasian. After he found this fact out, he decided to have Angelini on the show to meet him on the air—and they got on great. Howard Stern’s take-away line (which is true these days) is that Rude Jude looks like he could be an “accountant.”
A few days later, I visit Angelini on the set of his show at the West Coast studios of Sirius Satellite Radio off Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills. The small radio production room is tucked away in a non-descript office building you’d never look at twice. It has room for two or three live guests, as evidenced by the closely placed microphones hovering over a few empty chairs when I walked in. I sit in one of them, hoping not to disturb the show, which is live and in progress.
The day I stopped by Whoo Kid, a hip hop dj, is in the New York City studios, and most of the second hour revolves around how much “pussy” Whoo Kid has been getting. Angelini, meanwhile, largely creates his part of the show alone in a small studio room in LA, and he likes it this way.
“The All Out Show” also has regular guests, like most on-air talk shows that run for several hours. The AOS runs for four hours daily.
It’s “White People Wednesday” on the show. A long-time tradition, Angelini and Sear take calls from perplexed Latin, Asian and African American callers (among other ethnic minorities in the States), all of whom have questions or commentary about the odd-duck things white people do: “Why do lots of white people have herpes?”; “Why do white bitches pretend that they’re drunk?”; “Why do white people marry their own relatives?”; “Why do white people smell musty?”; “Why do broke-ass white people always vote Republican?”
Angelini reacts, off-the-cuff, in a rapid-fire response of slapstick silliness, poking fun at all things Caucasian.
Here’s another little taste from earlier that hour:
On-air producer in NYC: “Apparently, there’s a new prank, where you wipe your ass with a dollar bill, and then you place it on the street until someone picks it up, and then they get shit all over their hand.”
Angelini: “Have we turned into monkeys, have we devolved back into orangutans with feces jokes? Is that it? Is there more?”
On-air producer in NYC: “Yes, apparently this one 17-year-old kid took it to the next level. He was at a bar and grill with three Ball State football players… and when the waitress left the check, he went to the bathroom, returned to the table, and put the money right back in the black folder—which was all recorded. The waitress told police she saw the suspect laughing when she picked up the check and smelled a ‘foul odor.’ She said two of the [dollar] bills were covered in a brown substance that she later realized was fecal matter.”
Lord Sear: “Oh, god.”
Angelini: “Really. You fucking date-rapist-ass, football-playing, frat boy, fuck boy. Trying to show off for one another. Here’s some lady who is just trying to do their job, and you’re going to shit on the money and then give it to her? It’s not a meter maid, where you’re shitting on money, and sending it to the government… this is a woman that’s probably just trying to take care of her two kids cause her old man left her, and now she’s working at a fucking Denny’s… waiting on your bitch ass at 2 in the morning… you’re going to shit on a dollar bill… you no-class-having motherfucker. You motherless fuck.”
On-air producer in NYC: “The suspect was still there when the police arrived at the scene. He was taken to…”
Angelini: “And this idiot wasn’t bright enough to leave? That’s penalty, dawg. We don’t need anymore dumb motherfuckers like you, dude. We good on that.”
This tiny, temperature-controlled room serves as Angelini’s home base, Monday through Friday, from 1-5 pm PST, as he records his live show with co-host, Lord Sear. They’ve been on the air together for over 10 years. Their version of Robin Quivers is a 20-something, sassy Asian girl named Sam Ingallinesi (referenced earlier as an on-air producer), who, like everyone else sans Angelini, is based in New York. She helps steer the conversation onto new topics while Sear and Angelini verbally undress and assault one another, all the while taking live calls from national listeners.
Angelini’s show is the third largest call-in satellite radio show; Howard Stern, of course, being number one.
The most telling parts of Hyena relate back to Angelini’s family, his mother and father in particular. Jude is visibly emotional as he relates a version of a story in the book over cups of coffee when I see him again, a few months later.
Like most of us, he doesn’t want to perpetuate the character flaws he might have inherited from his parents. Yet hearing him talk about his father, in particular, leaves the impression that his memories of him are more cautionary tale than nostalgia for his childhood. “Don’t end up like this dude,” he tells me at one point. “I’ll leave it there.” The hairiest parts are in the book, and most relate back to his “pops.”
Here’s Angelini’s father on the birds and the bees:
“Jude, listen to me,” my father says. “The ladies love it when you go down on them. You lick their clitoris till they go crazy and cum.”
I tell him, “I don’t care what the fuck they do, I ain’t eating no pussy.”
He says, “You will.”
I say, “I won’t.”
He says, “Oh, you’re gonna eat pussy. You’re going to lick it clean.”
“Look, Pop, I’m not eating no motherfuckin’ pussy—chill out with that shit!”
Later in the book: “My pop’s a big-ass Italian from Leominster, Massachusetts. He says ‘cah’ instead of ‘car’ and ‘bah’ instead of ‘bar,’ and he claims he knows people in the Mob. He was always telling stories about Porky Valeri getting his hand smashed to bits with a ball-peen hammer, and how his buddies took some Puerto Rican into the mountains, shoved a funnel in his ass, poured battery acid in it, and then threw him down the hill.”
This is just a peak into Angelini’s family’s folk tales. There are meet-ups with hookers, strip club serenades, down-and-out dive bars—some of which he patronized and some of which he worked at—as he was coming up, in and around “the shitty town of Pontiac, Michigan.”
“My pop used to work on the GM line, but lost most of the other jobs he held. He was constantly getting fired. My mother, on the other hand, was a hippie, and super sweet, but always working three jobs just to make ends meat. It was a sad fucking childhood, but we made do, and had some laughs along the way… but there was never any thought that I’d go to college,” he says sarcastically.
This first book was, in a way, therapy for Jude to get over a girl—a hair stylist artist named Julie—and to make amends with his troubled past by coming clean in unvarnished (and largely uneven) prose style. If you can look past the blatant sexism and racial (or ethnic) stereotyping (which he says he is doing on purpose), Angelini, like Howard Stern before him, can be irreverent and funny, when he wants to be, playing up stereotypes that many Americans pig-headedly admit to. Jude just exploits it. And Angelini and Sear at least address it, head on, with callers, on the air, every day of the week. (There’s even talk of a scripted HBO show, like Entourage, but through the eyes and daily life of Rude Jude).
When you “talk as good a game” as Rude Jude does in his book and on the air, I had to see for myself what a night on the town with Jude was like, more specifically, at a party with other people, some of which I already knew. How do they react to the off-air Jude Angelini? It turns out Angelini is far more conciliatory off the air; in fact, he’s quite the gracious host.
I roll up to his modest but spacious place off Hillhurst and Vermont in Los Feliz around 8 pm, one Saturday night, and was floored by the amount of classic records he had leaned up against almost every wall in his house. “I’m sick of hip-hop, yo,” he tells me. “When I get home, I want to listen to some motherfucking classic record records. They put me in the mood to have a good time.”
After slugging a few glasses of red wine, I watch Jude drink several cups of iced coffee from a mason jar laced with GHB (known primarily as a date-rape drug but also used for partying). He likes to mix it with caffeine cocktails he moved onto after “quitting vikes and K,” his usual go-to drugs.
As we hurry out into the cool LA night, Jude hails an Uber, and we head into the hills of Silver Lake, a mutual friend of a friends’ house.
The whole time we’re at the party, I watch everyone file in and out of the house. I am never quite sure who’s sniffing or popping what, but it’s clear that everyone is high as hell, having fun with their vice of choice.
Jude seems to be one of the only single men at the party, which may be why he paces in and out of the house, talking people up, “defending my honor,” he says, “about something.”
At least 30 minutes of the evening was spent defending The Eagles as a great rock ‘n’ roll band. Angelini, of course, wasn’t just in the minority. He was the minority: “At least they were good musicians,” he says. “The next time any of you sell several million records, then you can come and talk shit about them Eagles.” This kind of remark wouldn’t normally sting so hard, but we were surrounded by professional musicians—some of whom I knew from Chicago—and one of which just finished touring with Kanye West.
Several larges pizzas were devoured without me seeing one person actually take a bite, and time has flown by—several hours, in fact—without us even realizing it. Isn’t this the sign of a good time? Pretty soon, it’s 3 am, and Angelini and I duck out so we can walk and talk for a bit more. We take an Uber to Sunset and walk for a couple of miles back to his place.
For the next couple of hours, we listen to classic records like Fleetwood Mac’s Rumors, Rod Stewart’s first solo record, and Surf’s Up by the Beach Boys, many of which, he tells me, “inspired me to write these stories in Hyena.”
I take the mini tour of his apartment, as 5 am nears. Angelini pulls me aside in his bedroom, and points to a painting of a hyena on the wall. “That is where the book title comes from,” he says. “One night I was tripping balls and just stared at that painting, and boom, out of nowhere, it hit me that Hyena needed to be the title of the story collection. Hyenas are misunderstood animals—they’re thought to be cowardly scavengers, and in all actuality, they’re quite bright and skilled hunts. ‘Hyena’—as a title for my first book—became almost a metaphor, and it also serves as a mantra of sorts.”
And on that note, as I walked toward the door, he signed off with his signature tagline, “Hyena, go hard!”