More Messages: The Berg Legacy

On November 13, Chad Conrad Castagana, 39, was arrested on charges related to threatening letters sent to a slew of notables, including Senator Charles Schumer, Speaker of the House to be Nancy Pelosi, gazillionaire Sumner Redstone, MSNBC personality Keith Olbermann and yukster David Letterman. According to an article in Radar, the envelopes included a powdery substance that turned out to be harmless and, in one instance, a reference to a Denver talk-radio personality who's been in the grave for over two decades.

The Radar piece reveals that Castagana wrote a letter intended for Jon Stewart, host of The Daily Show, but wound up sending it to a completely different Jon Stewart who just happened to live on New York's Upper West Side. At any rate, his faux-anthrax-sprinkled missive read in part, "Do you know Alan Berg? You should. Death to demagogues."

Of course, many in Denver don't need to be reminded about Berg. A fire-breathing radio talk-show staple -- and good friend of current KHOW yakker Peter Boyles, who mentions him frequently -- he was assassinated in 1984 by members of a white-supremacist group known as the Order. The shocking story was fictionalized in a pair of Hollywood films. Talk Radio, a 1988 release starring playwright/actor Eric Bogosian and directed by Oliver Stone, imagined the final hours of an unmistakably Berg-like character. And in Betrayed, another 1988 offering, director Costa-Gavras and screenwriter Joe Eszterhas kicked off the story of a Midwestern Aryan portrayed by Tom Berenger with the murder of a Chicago radio personality also inspired by Berg.

In recent years, Berg references in popular culture have tapered off, but he hasn't been entirely forgotten, as Castagana's threat indicates. Longtime media observers around here remember Berg for the way he lived -- but crazies elsewhere mostly seem interested in how he died. -- Michael Roberts

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts