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AP : Goodbye Gaybo : Ireland Transfixed by End of Broadcasting Era

vendredi 21 mai 1999

Source : AP

From The Associated Press :

Goodbye Gaybo : Ireland Transfixed by End of Broadcasting Era

DUBLIN, Ireland (AP) — For 37 years, he has amused, enthused and sometimes annoyed his legions of viewers.

Now, talk-show host Gay Byrne — a broadcaster synonymous with the history of Ireland’s main television station, RTE — is finally retiring, and the nation is in mourning.

Known universally as Gaybo, the 64-year-old broadcaster was expected to draw a record audience in Ireland for his final show Friday, with untold others watching in neighboring Northern Ireland and on Irish-themed cable channels worldwide.

It’s hard to compare "The Late Late Show" to other talk shows, or cut-to-the-quick, smart-alecky Byrne to other hosts. The show’s format is a hybrid almost unlike any other — a mix of serious politics, light entertainment, panel discussions and audience participation in examining the leading topics of the day.

His two-hour live program offered plenty in the way of performances : For example, in the late 1970s, he put a then-unknown Irish rock band called U2 on the air.

But, more importantly, for nearly four decades, the program provided a populist touchstone for the issues driving Ireland from a rural, conservative Catholic nation to the economically thriving, outward-looking and liberalizing society it is today.

"Late Late" served as an early forum for discussing sexuality and the Catholic Church’s dominant role in society, with the dialogue driven speedily forward by its host.

The lyrics to the show’s theme song, "It started on the Late Late Show," often proved all too true.

"He forced us into changing many things," said Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern, scheduled to appear on the final show Friday.

Byrne once noted that it was a rare week when he wasn’t condemned from church pulpits or the subject of a local council resolution. Opinionated and a lightning rod for controversy, he gave voice to those who questioned the grip of the Catholic Church on Irish life.

In 1966, for example, one guest called the then-bishop of Galway "a moron." The same year, another guest revealed on the show that she had not worn a nightgown on her wedding day, leading to complaints from a bishop that such a topic was inappropriate for television.

Byrne began hosting "The Late Late Show" shortly after state-run RTE hit the airwaves in 1962.

For weeks, his imminent farewell has been the talk of Ireland, most especially among the 700,000 or so viewers — almost a fifth of the country — who helped "Late Late" top the ratings.

Several TV critics have suggested that RTE should ax its flagship program because nobody could fill Gaybo’s shoes. One even christened the post-Gaybo era "RTE A.G. (After Gaybo)."

Typically, the man himself called it all hogwash.

"The cemeteries are full of supposedly irreplaceable people," he said Friday before his final broadcast. "As far as I’m concerned, the show must go on."

Up to the end, Byrne managed to make banner headlines, with last week’s show featuring an interview with a newspaper columnist and Supreme Court judge’s wife who spoke frankly about her 27-year-old affair with long-married former Prime Minister Charles Haughey.

RTE’s managing director, Joe Mulholland, noted in Friday’s Irish Times that Byrne allowed nobody "to get in the way of keeping ’The Late Late Show’ at the heart of debate and controversy and, indeed, of life in this country."

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