By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Russ Martin is a jackass.
He's a vulgar, pompous bully who for years physically and psychologically tormented his Dallas radio co-workers to gain fame and fortune.
"Stuff he'd say to us on the air he wouldn't say to us in the hall, because he's a coward," says J.D. Ryan, Martin's radio right-hand man for 25 years. "To him everything was a bit, but eventually he crossed the line. It became personal. He made it clear that being successful wasn't enough. For him to be truly happy, those around him also had to fail miserably."
Russ Martin is a hero.
He's a talented, wildly popular, temporarily shelved talk-show personality and tireless philanthropist who for years promoted animal rights and raised money for the families of fallen policemen and firefighters.
"I consider him a friend, and I've always respected his unique style," Dallas Police Chief David Kunkle says. "He always came to the defense of the cops, sometimes when nobody else was. Sometimes even at the expense of his own popularity."
Russ Martin is a perpetrator.
He is accused—via Cause No. 1120508—of kicking, pushing and pulling out the hair of ex-fiancée Mandy Blake in July 2008.Martin pleaded no contest to misdemeanor charges in Tarrant County on July 10. Initially arrested for felony aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, he for months boasted his innocence. But, according to two sources close to Martin, after a brief reconciliation during which Blake moved into his $3 million Frisco mansion and wore his $30,000 engagement ring, the couple broke up in late June, causing him to fear she might be a "loose cannon" on the witness stand. By accepting a plea bargain, a two-year deferred adjudication probation, Martin avoided a trial and possible jail time. If he completes his probation—which includes a $1,000 fine and battering intervention counseling—there will be no conviction on his record.
"When we're able to work out a plea to get someone counseling, we're going to take that position," Tarrant County District Attorney's Family Violence Unit chief Sean Colston said after the deal. "We consider a situation where someone is going to be monitored for two years a good resolution."
But above all else, Russ Martin is an enigma.
A shining ray of hope...
"Every time I see Russ, we hug, I cry, and I thank him," says Joann Jackson, who received a $5,000 check from the Russ Martin Show Listeners Foundation when her police officer husband, Brian, was killed in the line of duty in 2005. "What he does is amazing. It's essential. He's a lifesaver."
...shrouded in a deep, dark aura.
"Russ is a miserable person," says Lori Miears, ex-fiancée of a former Martin show cast member. "I've seen random acts of kindness from him, but I've never met anyone that genuinely likes him. Or vice-versa. Honestly, I wouldn't want him within 30 minutes of my mother."
For the first time in his life, Martin has been muzzled, grudgingly banished from yakking on the station he successfully slapped on the Dallas radio map. He's all but muted, granting a recent fluff-piece interview to WFAA-Channel 8 but denying months of multiple requests—through his attorney—for a sit-down with the Dallas Observer. At one point in the process, Martin—through friend Trey Trenholm—stipulated that the Observer reveal one of its sources of information pertaining to him in return for an interview. The Observer declined. Martin canceled an ensuing interview last week, citing kidney stones.
It wasn't supposed to be this way for one of the most compelling, crude voices in the history of Dallas radio. In Martin's grandiose vision, he'd be immensely popular, totally isolated and wholly unchallenged in controlling everything. All the time. Forever. But waning ratings, his high-profile arrest and, ultimately, CBS' decision to flip 105.3 FM's format from "contemporary adult talk" to "sports talk" last December 8 re-routed history. (Full disclosure: I have worked part-time co-hosting shows for KRLD-105.3 FM The Fan since January.)
Though he'll be paid his $1.1 million salary through April 2011—he even received his scheduled 10-percent raise in the spring—on a contract being honored by CBS if he'll merely sit down and shut up, Martin is determined to remain relevant.
He does this through his Web site—www.russmartin.com—where, in a sleeveless T-shirt and blue-tinted shades, he delivers typically agitated, condescending messages.
"Not a Goddamn thing has changed!" Martin said in a video posted in June before a backdrop montage including nude women and his arrest mug shot. "I still got jackasses working for me."
He does this via Twitter tweets, reminding the 2,700 followers of his perverted, potty brand of humor with updates detailing everything from farting while on a treadmill at the gym, flashing his scrotum to a random female and, yes, his masturbatory habits. "Todays twitter from the sh#tter," Martin wrote on May 1. "Done w/studio in my house. Internet service died so I had to whack off to a Hammacher-Schlemmer magazine."
And he does this on a hot June 27 afternoon by hosting a classic car show/concert at his Russ Martin Automotive in the Sam's parking lot at Coit Road and Bush Turnpike. Here, the man who once had hundreds of thousands of local listeners hanging on his every smartass syllable and a stable of underling hyenas poised to titter at his one-liners and smooch his royal ass is reduced to toting a cumbersome cardboard box across a searing Plano parking lot in preparation to entertain 150 people. On a 103-degree day that feels like 130, Martin painstakingly transports the heavy box of plaques before grabbing his Batman-logo guitar and hopping up to join his 10-piece Russ Martin Show Band onstage, which today is two flatbed trucks under a giant inflatable promotional gorilla.