Bill Handel is among the most popular local talk show hosts in the country.
“The Bill Handel Show,” which has been on KFI-AM (640) in Los Angeles since 1993, is often the top-rated program in the 5 a.m. to 9 a.m. period, reaching a million listeners a week. It is followed on the Clear Channel station by Rush Limbaugh’s syndicated talk show.
Handel combines outrageous humor with thoughtful commentary in a blend of Don Rickles meets Dan Rather. He is a loud-mouth commentator in the “shock jock” tradition whose acerbic, comical rants on politics, current events and pop culture, are surpassed in size by only about a dozen of the most successful nationally syndicated radio shows. His “Handel on the Law” segment, a legal advice show syndicated nationally, is a top-rated weekend program that has aired since 1985, five years after Handel graduated from Whittier Law School.
Handel calls himself a centrist, but openly supports classically liberal causes. He backs gay marriage, gun control, abortion rights and stem cell research. "Rush [Limbaugh] people think I'm a left-wing, wacko commie," Handel told The Times in an interview in 2006.
In January, after 345 people were trampled to death at the annual hajj Muslim pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia, Handel performed an on-air skit about hiring a traffic reporter to avoid the carnage in the future. Arab American groups protested and Handel, although defending his right to satirize even tragedies, eventually said he was sorry.
Handel has been called racist, misogynistic, homophobic, anti-Latino, anti-immigrant, a fascist, a left-wing kook and despite his Jewish heritage, an anti-Semite.
Handel’s father emigrated from Poland to Brazil, where he met his wife. They moved to the San Fernando Valley when their son was 6. Handel attended Cal State Northridge.
In 1980, just out of law school, Handel founded the Center for Surrogate Parenting Inc., one of the first legal practices of its kind in the nation. His legal expertise in the then hot-button topic of surrogate parenting earned him repeated invitations on the morning television news and talk radio circuit. What became clear from these many appearances was Handel, love him or hate him, had a knack for galvanizing listeners.