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If you can judge a man by his enemies, Tom Barberi, who was fired Tuesday from his talk show after 34 years, should be content.
The iconoclastic talk jock on KALL-AM radio regularly lambasted Utah's dominant religion, its dominant political party and just about anything else that sought to dominate.
A regular target of scorn was Eagle Forum President Gayle Ruzicka, the velociraptor of Utah far-right politics. He once outraged Ruzicka's children by referring to them as her ''litter.''
Yet, when Barberi was on vacation, he sometimes turned his microphone over to Ruzicka, which she unabashedly took advantage of to push her conservative agenda.
''We had an interesting relationship,'' Ruzicka said Wednesday. ''Once when I was a guest on his show, everything I said, he happened to agree with.''
Barberi told Ruzicka, ''This isn't any fun. Say something outrageous so we can argue.''
Laughing at the memory, Ruzicka said, ''So I thought of something we didn't agree on, and we argued.''
Barberi said he could not discuss the details of his firing because he was working out a severance agreement with KALL. Though people in the business have said Barberi's ratings had been slipping in the past few years, Barberi denied ratings were at issue.
Station managers at KALL, which is owned by media conglomerate Clear Channel Communications, did not immediately return telephone calls Wednesday.
Barberi described the meeting Tuesday with his bosses as ''a little ambush.
''It was as cold and dispassionate and disrespectful as it could be,'' he said.
''They called me into the office and basically said, 'We are going in another direction.'
''I asked, 'Does that mean I get to sleep in tomorrow?' and they said, 'That's right.' ''
Competitor Doug Wright, who hosts a morning talk show at KSL-AM, said Barberi's career at KALL was unique in radio. ''The longevity is unheard of - to be in the business that long and at a station that long. He has been a stalwart. What a voice. What an impact.''
Barberi was a champion of a segment of Utah's population - non-Mormon and non-Republican - that often feels disenfranchised, Wright said.
''He gave a voice to those who sometimes feel like they are looking through the window. Tom had a gift at making people really think. Sometimes, people - if they could break through their anger at him - could see things in a different light.''
Laurie Wilson, who until July co-wrote a column with Barberi in The Salt Lake Tribune, said Barberi filled an important need in an often-too-homogeneous community.
It helped, she said, that he loved to be hated.
''He was outrageous. That was his style. He wanted to be the Howard Stern of our market - without the lewdness. If people disliked him, that meant they were thinking and it meant that he was effective.''
As much as she applauds Barberi's verbal bomb throwing, Wilson, a communications professor at Brigham Young University, admitted the guy could get under her skin.
''I always hated when he would advocate that communities didn't have the right to kick out porn video shops. And it would outrage me that he would say that BYU forced its students to do things they didn't want to do. He used to get my goat on those things.''
But Wilson says a community needs irreverent voices, ''or authority goes unchallenged.''
When Barberi heard that Wilson described his on-air bantering as ''fundamental to a democratic republic,'' he laughed heartily. ''She said that?''
Marketplace of ideas aside, Wright lamented the realities of the radio business, with which Barberi apparently collided. ''If a radio station radically changes course, you can get thrown over the side. It has nothing to do with gifts, talent and skills.''
In a message on Barberi's phone, wife Melanie Barberi assures callers, ''Tom will be back on the air soon. We are just not sure where.''
Wright said Barberi likely could find another station in the Salt Lake Valley. ''He still has marquee value. He's an institution here.''
Not surprisingly, Ruzicka, who once sent Barberi a box of chocolates after he roasted her, has a completely different idea.
''I guess Tom has a place in the world - maybe not a place in my world,'' Ruzicka said.
''I absolutely think they [KALL] do not need him. They need me, not him. I would rather have my voice out there than his.''
Then, only half joking, she said: ''Mine is the voice of truth.''