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Dr. Drew Pinsky on Why He’s Ending ‘Loveline’ After Three Decades

In ending the radio staple, Pinsky admits he hasn't been paid in over a year.

Dr. Drew Pinsky wasn’t ready to give up the nationally syndicated radio show “Loveline,” even though he hasn’t been paid a salary in over a year.

But when co-host Mike Catherwood departed at the end of March, Pinsky knew it was time to finally pull the plug. After 32 years of dispensing relationship and health advice five nights a week, Pinsky will host the final episode of the call-in advice show on Thursday night.

“It’s been strictly pro bono for a year, and virtually pro bono for two years,” Pinsky said. The host agreed to eliminate his salary in order to keep the show alive. “I took a profit share, whatever was left over. And there was nothing. My feeling was that it was something I enjoyed, something I was deeply committed to.”

Pinsky said he also valued, as he aged, the ability to keep his “hand on the pulse, hearing in real time what’s going on with young people in this country. I would hear everything first. I’m going to really miss that, knowing what’s going on in young people’s lives today.”

Still, after Catherwood exited last month, “it wasn’t clear that [Los Angeles flagship radio station] KROQ was terribly interested in continuing the program five days a week,” he said. “I thought, rather than drive this thing into the ground, it was time.”

Pinsky continues to host a mid-day radio show with Catherwood on KABC-AM in Los Angeles, and will now expand a podcast he records with comedian Adam Carolla, who co-hosted “Loveline” with Pinsky between 1995 and 2005.

“It’s bittersweet,” Pinsky said. “I’m looking forward to having a good night sleep for the first time in 20 years and getting out of my chronic jet lag. And it will be nice to go to bed at a reasonable hour and wake up at a reasonable hour. I’m getting old and it’s hard to be up late like that.”

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Pinsky still dabbles in medicine, but he gave up his addiction medicine practice about five years ago. That’s when he finally embraced the fact that he had become a media star. “I looked in the mirror and said, ‘OK, you are officially doing television and radio. That’s your primary job.’ I really resisted it all those years,” he said. “I felt my job was to be a doctor first and media was the tail. It was a couple of years ago that I said, all right, its OK to admit to myself that I am on to my second career.”

Now, besides the KABC show and podcasting, he hosts a daily show on HLN (the talk-centric CNN sibling). “Every day is a jigsaw puzzle,” Pinsky said. “Right now I’m hauling ass between KABC and CNN, to get over from a live radio show to do a live television show. I don’t mind it. I tell everybody, no one understands how challenging and stressful practicing medicine is. This all feels like vacation to me.”

Pinsky and Carolla also hosted a TV version of “Loveline” at MTV in the late 1990s. He doesn’t have an ownership stake in “Loveline,” which CBS Radio controls. “But if someone came along and wanted to resurrect it and figure something out, I’m all ears,” he said. Pinsky’s podcast with Carolla will feature a similar
format, but focus on overall problem solving questions, not just relationship issues.

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Even though the business model for “Loveline” appears to have vanished in recent years, Pinsky marveled at how long the show lasted. (Co-hosts through the years have included Jim “Poorman” Trenton, Riki Rachtman, Ted Stryker, Carolla and Catherwood.) “I’m surprised at that, given the advent of the internet,” he
said. “It used to be radio was the place that young people gathered to get their information. When I started out, no one would talk to young people about HIV or AIDS. I looked around and radio looked like a powerful way to shape culture in a healthy way.”

Pinsky said today’s young people are more educated about sexual health. “STDs were mysterious back then,” he said. “They were called venereal diseases and shrouded in shame. The term ‘safe sex’ hadn’t even been coined yet.  Dr. Ruth was on at the same time, but she had it so wrong. Kids know what they’re doing, they just don’t know the biological consequences of what they’re doing. Adults in America were asleep at the wheel.”

“Loveline’s” focus later shifted to topics of sexual abuse, abandonment, neglect, ruptured families and drugs and alcohol. More recently, the focus has turned to prescription drug abuse.

For Thursday’s final show, Carolla will return to co-host, while other familiar guests and visitors will call in. “I don’t want to make too much out of the final show,” he said. “We’re not saying farewell, we’re saying ‘find me on KABC with Mike’ and ‘find me with Adam on the podcast’ — and maybe Loveline will come back one day.”

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