Jagoff of the Week: Steve Dahl
By Paul Durica. Illustration by Dmitry Samarov
This originally ran in our special Lumpen Field Guide to Chicago Jagoffs
Radio talk show host Steve Dahl pioneered the “shock jock” attitude, which is basically on-air jagoffery, in the 1970s, long before Howard Stern, to whom he’s often compared. Dahl makes it in the Guide, however, for his role in the July 1979 Disco Demolition Night at Comiskey Park. While the stunt, which basically encouraged Dahl’s listeners to bring disco records to the ballpark to be ceremoniously destroyed in the break between the two games of a doubleheader, was merely juvenile, it resulted in a very public expression of latent racist and homophobic attitudes among the city’s citizens, the wrecking of the playing field, and the White Sox forfeiting the second game to the Detroit Tigers (which one of these three results you consider the worst reflects your own level of jagoffery). Dahl is a jagoff because he planned the event so poorly, blowing up portions of the field and allowing a riot to occur, and then ran away from the chaos he’d caused, getting defensive when criticized for it and letting Bill Veeck, Jr., and others assume all the blame. Given the success of Disco Demolition Night, it’s surprising that Rahm Emanuel didn’t pair Dahl with Redmoon when planning the Chicago Fire Festival—at the very least, the fake buildings would been guaranteed to catch fire.
We will be running entries from the Field Guide on this website, one a week, until we run out, and then we’ll just make up some more.