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HOME > Biographical > 100 New Yorkers of the 1970s > WESTSIDER BARRY FARBER
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Radio talkmaster and linguist


"Dull" is a word that could never be used to describe Barry Farber. He is a totally unique individual with so many far-reaching ideas that his conservative label seems to fit him poorly, even though it was as a conservative that he ran for mayor of New York last year and garnered almost as many votes as his Republican opponent Roy Goodman.

During that campaign, Barry quit the syndicated talk show on WOR Radio that he had hosted for 16 years. In March of this year his mesmerizing Southern drawl took over the 4 to 7 p.m. Monday to Friday time slot on WMCA (570 AM). The ratings have gone up at least 50% since he joined the station.

I meet Barry for an interview one August afternoon at a Chinese restaurant near the studio. To my amazement he orders the meal entirely in Cantonese. Then he withdraws a stack of index cards from his pocket on which are printed vocabulary words in Finnish, Italian, and Mandarin chinese — a few of the 14 languages that he studies during spare moments in his hectic work week.

The lank 48-year-old, neatly garbed in a pin-stripe suit, is surprisingly low-keyed in our hour-long conversation. Yet the verbal gems still trip as neatly off his tongue as they do when he's putting an irate telephone caller in his place, to the delight of radio listeners. Never hesitant to voice his opinion on any topic, Barry pounces on my questions with an eagerness that belies his calm exterior.

New York's reputation outside the city limits, says the widely travelled Farber, has gone way downhill in recent decades. "It used to be, where I grew up, that people would brag about coming to New York four times a year. Today they brag about never coming here. The large companies send their salesmen to Manhattan for a 45-minute conference like an Entebbe raid. … New York needs not a slow, gradual, ho-hum comeback. It needs a dramatic voice who is going to say that the city's priorities for the last 40 years have been wrong. New York is a sexy woman who's been running around in the mud. Turn the hose on her and she's going to regain her allure."

The tax revolt, he believes, "should definitely come to New York. You cannot expect to live as sinfully economically as we've lived, and avoid a rampage. The politicians have brought this upon themselves. And don't let them get away with telling us that they have to cut police, firemen, a............
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