Lionel (radio personality)
Michael William Lebron (born August 26, 1958), popularly known as Lionel, is a nationally syndicated American radio and television personality. The Lionel Show debuted in 2000 and was nationally syndicated on the WOR Radio Network, broadcasting from the studios of WOR 710 AM in New York. Beginning in May 2007, he hosted a daily three-hour radio talk show on Air America Radio. Lionel was a consistent performer for Air America, and drew weekly audiences of approximately 1.5 million people.
On March 22, 2010, Lionel began a nightly commentary on New York's WPIX Channel 11 and is currently a regular contributor to the morning and late night newscasts, as well as the station's legal analyst. LionelMedia.com launched on June 23, 2010, containing Podcasts, audio, video and other material.
Born in Tampa, he attended Jesuit High School. After graduating magna cum laude from the University of South Florida in 1980, Lionel worked as a District Aide for Florida United States Senator Richard "Dick" Stone and in his unsuccessful campaign for reelection. Lionel graduated from the Stetson University College of Law, and as trial lawyer worked as both prosecutor for the Hillsborough County Florida State Attorney's Office (13th Judicial Circuit), and a criminal defense trial lawyer thereafter. He began his radio career hosting a show at WFLA 970 AM in his hometown of Tampa from 1988 to 1993.
For years, Lionel had been a frequent caller to local shows, eventually becoming a "chronic", which is industry vernacular for frequent callers. He was noted for using various aliases and personas to get on the air. His most enduring moniker, "Lionel", alludes to Francis Lionel "Lion" Delbuchi, the character played by Al Pacino in the movie Scarecrow.
When WPLP (WFLA's rival station across Tampa Bay) offered Lionel a talk show, he declined, due to WPLP's rather meager offer-- and his trepidations about how a radio show would affect his law career. In October 1988, WFLA management gave him an irresistible offer to move behind the microphone as a Sunday afternoon radio host. In January 1989, his show moved to middays (9am to 12pm), Monday through Friday. Seven months later, he took the afternoon drive slot, where his lively mix of current events and dry humor proved to be a ratings success. In 1993, he was hired away by WABC 770 AM, a major talk radio station in New York City when a former ABC network president, Jim Arcara, heard Lionel's show while vacationing in Florida and lured him to the Big Apple. He set ratings records for WABC as its morning-drive host during the mid-1990s. For a time, Lionel did both morning drive and afternoon drive for a period immediately following talk radio legend Bob Grant's departure from WABC.
In the late 1990s, toward the end of his tenure at WABC, Lionel also hosted the CourtTV law show Snap Judgment. He also provided daily updates on WCBS 880 AM during the Clinton impeachment process. In 2000, he began his national radio show, The Lionel Show, originally syndicated by Premiere Radio Networks through 2001. His show was then syndicated by independent Rex Broadcasting until 2003, when it was picked up by the WOR Radio Network in New York City. It was broadcast six days a week (9 pm-midnight ET weekdays, and 5–8 pm ET Saturdays). In 2000 and 2001, in addition to his radio work, Lionel was a morning host on an Internet-based talk radio site, eYada.com until 2001.
From May 2007 to January 2010, Lionel hosted a daily three-hour radio talk show on Air America Radio. Moved from the 9 am to noon (ET) slot on May 26, 2009, Lionel returned to Air America to host a show from 6 am to 9 am EST and remained until the network closed on January 25, 2010. In both 2007 and 2009, Talkers Magazine included Lionel on their list of "The 100 Most Important Radio Talk Show Hosts in America" at number 23, and estimated the show's audience at 1.75 million unique listeners per week. The magazine described him as "a uniquely witty and intellectual personality" and "defying categorization".
He released a comedy album titled You Don't Look Like You Sound in 1996, and fronted a bluegrass band called Lock 'n' Load. Lebron wrote a book, "Everyone's Crazy Except You and Me... And I'm Not So Sure About You: America's Favorite Contrarian Cuts Loose". It was published by Hyperion and was released on August 5, 2008. On March 22, 2010, Lionel began a nightly commentary  on New York's WPIX Channel 11. In August of 2012, Lionel began hosting the morning show on The New IQ 106.9 in Philadelphia from 6am to 8:30am.
Originally espousing a largely libertarian political philosophy, Lionel describes himself as a political apathetic. He personally eschews such labels and repeatedly criticizes those who hold opinions simply out of allegiance to a word like "conservative" or "liberal." He repeatedly professes the notion that the left-right paradigm is but an illusion.
Many of his stances, such as opposition to some forms of gun control, are not shared by most liberals. He opposes the death penalty on the grounds that the justice system is far too unreliable to be entrusted with that power, and favors decriminalization of drug use and of prostitution. He supported gay and "intragender" marriage, not a popular view among social conservatives. He strongly opposed the Iraq War since around 2004. He asks callers to take the Lionel Challenge: Try explicating or describing a political philosophy or point without using a label. Some, he contends, find it impossible. During a discussion on his show about illegal immigration to the United States, Lionel stated his ancestry was Afro-Puerto Rican, Sicilian, Scots-Irish, German and French.
During the first decade of 2000, while a talk show host of WABC Radio, Lionel appeared as a standup comedian and political commentator on Long Island. He appeared as a guitarist with his band named "Lock and Load," a reference to his greeting of phone-in callers, until the reference became socially inappropriate.
In-jokes and other miscellany
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- Theme song: Lionel adopted "Nina Morena" by the Gipsy Kings as his theme song, and he plays it at the top of every hour after commercial breaks. The song's opening line, which sounds like "Lionel!" repeatedly, caused him to "fall out of his chair" the first time he heard it. The closing theme song is "Soul Makossa" by Manu Dibango.
- Barstool Diplomacy: The type of diplomacy advocated by those who endorse the use of overwhelming military force, not excepting nuclear weapons, as the first move.
- The monkey's dead, the show's over ... sue ya: Lionel's end-of-show catch phrase, used since the early 1990s. "Sue ya" is a reference to his former profession. "The monkey's dead, the show's over" was originally spoken by a defeated political candidate in Tampa when asked for an election-night comment about his failed campaign. Lionel saw the quote in the next day's newspaper and has used it since.
- The Lionel Show YouTube page
- Aircheck from Lionel's first-ever radio show
- C-SPAN Q&A interview with Lionel, September 21, 2008
- "The 100 Most Important Radio Talk Show Hosts in America"
- "Lionel on the Iraq War May, 2005 on WOR"
- Lionel bio at the WPIX website
- "Tampa's Lionel Heading To Air America". Tampa Bay Business Journal – Michael Hinman. 2007-04-10. Retrieved 2007-04-10.
- "WOR Radio Network's Lionel Moves to Air America". Radio Online. 2007-04-09. Archived from the original on 2007-09-30. Retrieved 2007-04-11.
- "The Top Talk Radio Audiences"
- "2009 Talker's 250, Featuring the Heavy Hundred". Talkers Magazine. February 2009. Retrieved 2009-03-21.