Radio Rudy Vs. Ferret Man

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The following exchange occurred on Mayor Rudolph Giuliani’s weekly radio show on WABC-AM on July 23. The caller was David Guthartz, a ferrets’ rights activist who was upset by a June 29 directive by the city’s Board of Health making it illegal to keep ferrets and a range of other animals as pets.

Mayor Giuliani: We’re gonna go to David in Oceanside.

David Guthartz: Hello, Mr. Giuliani, we speak again.

Giuliani: Hi, David.

Guthartz: Let me introduce myself again, David Guthartz, executive president of New York Ferrets’ Rights Advocacy. Last week when we spoke, you said a very disparaging remark to me, that I should get a life. That was very unprofessional of you. Here we’re trying to get something seriously done–

Giuliani: I, I–

Guthartz: Without you talking over me, we’re trying to get something very seriously done–

Giuliani: David, you’re on my show. I have the right to talk over you.

Guthartz: But here’s the thing: We’re trying to get an important issue taken care of where the city is violating state law and I asked you last week if you care about the law.

Giuliani: Yes, I do care about the law. I think you have totally and absolutely misinterpreted the law, because there’s something deranged about you.

Guthartz: No, there isn’t, sir.

Giuliani: The excessive concern that you have for ferrets is something you should examine with a therapist. Not with me.

Guthartz: Don’t go insulting me again!

Giuliani: I’m not insulting you. I’m being honest with you. Maybe no one in your life has ever been honest with you.

Guthartz: I happen to be more sane than you.

Giuliani: This conversation is over, David. Thank you. [Mr. Giuliani cuts him off.] There is something really, really, very sad about you. You need help. You need somebody to help you. I know you feel insulted by that, but I’m being honest with you. This excessive concern with little weasels is a sickness.

I’m sorry. That’s my opinion. You don’t have to accept it. There are probably very few people who would be as honest with you about that. But you should go consult a psychologist or a psychiatrist, and have him help you with this excessive concern, how you are devoting your life to weasels.

There are people in this city and in this world that need a lot of help. Something has gone wrong with you. Your compulsion about it, your excessive concern with it, is a sign of something wrong in your personality. I do not mean to be insulting. I’m trying to be honest with you and I’m trying to give you advice for your own good. I know you, I know how you operate, I know how many times you called here this week. Three or 4 o’clock in the morning, David, you called here.

You have a sickness. I know it’s hard for you to accept that, because you hang on to this sickness, and it’s your shield, it’s your whatever. You know, you gotta go to someone who understands this a lot better than I do. And I know you’re real angry at me, you’re gonna attack me, but actually you’re angry at yourself and you’re afraid of what I’m raising with you. And if you don’t deal with it, I don’t know what you’re gonna do. But you called here excessively all week, and you called here at 3 o’clock in the morning. And 4 o’clock in the morning. Over weasels. Over a ferret.

So I know this is difficult and tomorrow one of the newspapers will write how mean I am and how cruel I am and all this other stuff, but I believe, because my father and mother taught me this, that you should be honest with people. And I am giving you the benefit of 55 years of experience having represented hundreds and in some cases thousands of people on either side in the courtroom, having handled insanity defenses and cases.

You need help! And please get it! And you don’t have the right to call here at three o’clock in the morning, harass the people on my staff, because of your compulsion. So, David, see what you can do to get help. But we can’t help you. We don’t have the professional expertise to help you. Now we’re gonna move on to Richard in the Bronx.

–Greg Sargent

New Fiction, In Brief

Eating the Candy Hospital , by Lorrie Traggert. Knopf, 234 pages, $24.95. In the story “What It Might Have Been Like,” a university professor imagines what her life might have been like had she not chosen to become a university professor. In “Were I to Stop Right Now,” a fiction writer wonders what would happen were she to stop writing the story she is now writing. In the already (and justly) famous title story of this collection, a college student who must undergo a hand transplant operation fears, against all logic, that her intelligence lies in the hand she has lost. Ms. Traggert is at her very best throughout this collection of delicate, interwoven tales, showing that playful irony and heart are not always at odds with each other.

Some Guys , by Joseph Meade. Rob Weisbach Books, 201 pages, $22.95. In the disturbing “Car Wreck,” an advertising executive buys a pickup truck on a whim and abandons his wife and children, only to die in a car wreck. In the bleak “Sniper’s Kiss,” two teenage lovers in a suburban town vow to stay together forever, only to be shot dead by a sniper hiding in a tree. In the troubling “This, Forever,” a professor takes a rifle to class with him and shoots four of his students, then gives a lecture as if nothing much had happened. (“I noticed that my students were perhaps more attentive than usual”) Using his customary “flat” style, Mr. Meade, a creative writing professor at the University of Virginia, has turned in his darkest, most chilling collection yet.

This Terrible Land , by Frank Miller. Doubleday, 413 pages, $25.95. In this broad, impressive novel of Canada’s Gaspé Peninsula–the “terrible land” of the title–an orphan loses his job at a canning factory, an old woman turns to murder and a young girl leaves to become an international singing sensation. The book’s weaker chapters deal with the singer’s rise to the top, despite the sharply observed portions detailing corruption among music industry executives (“flim-flam men with cellular telephones,” writes Mr. Miller) and radio programmers (“idiotic bastards with stains on their shirts”). The real subject, however, is the Gaspé landscape itself–”a pot of black mud and green water, as cold as any refrigerator,” writes Mr. Miller.

dream homes , by B.F. Doyle. Random House, 225 pages, $24. In an unnamed suburban town near an unnamed city, the citizens seem to be upstanding members of a closely knit community–but when they leave the public sphere for their “dream homes,” the terror begins. This daring, shocking novel–Ms. Doyle’s third–challenges the very foundations upon which our society is built. The author gives us a woman who sticks pins in her husband’s nose; a husband who punches his brother-in-law in the face; a boy who kills an infant “in a fit of amusement”; and, perhaps most disturbing of all, “an upright citizen, male,” who runs around his house “in his boxer shorts, with his chest hair showing, screaming profanities until daybreak.”

Tuckerstown Blues , by Carol Hansen. Putnam, 198 pages, $22.95. At the outset of this delicious novel, the mousy, hesitant Eileen Jameson has grown weary of being “the friend”–that is, the sort of woman who plays second fiddle to other women. Among her acquaintances in the seaside haute rental community at Tuckerstown, Bermuda, are the following women: Maggie Tagnaube, a “handbag princess” who attracts trouble and men “in equal measure”; Lotte Hendersen, a “Scandinavian sorceress” who “loves to make love”; Frances McRae, a dog trainer with “kissy lips and a teasing space between her front teeth.” Ms. Hansen, who wrote Swimming to Shore (1994) and Good Night, Ladies (1992), is an expert chronicler of how women do subtle battle with one another. When the heroine of Summertime Blues finds herself “making the choice of no choice at all” as her Bermudian summer wanes, the reader nods in gentle agreement.

–Jim Windolf

Radio Rudy Vs. Ferret Man