RIP ‘Loveline’

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Photo: Jeff Kravitz/Getty Images

“Loveline,” the call-in show that made Adam Carolla, Dr. Drew Pinsky, and sex-question talk radio famous, aired its final broadcast last night after three decades on the air in some form. There wasn’t much warning — the news that Dr. Drew would be resigning his post broke only last week. And there was little fanfare to the last show. I wailed to my friends about it all morning, and most of them were surprised to hear “Loveline” had still been on the air.

But the show was a cultural touchstone for any “’90s kid” who remembers sneaking a portable radio into her bed at 10 p.m. on a school night to tune in, or stalling in her car after driving home from a date to hear the answers to the always-fascinating questions from callers. Kathy Griffin and Andy Dick stopped by last night’s final show, and Dick summed it up wonderfully: “Do you know how many people need this show because their parents don't talk about sex to them?" That was especially true in the late ’90s, before WebMD became what is today, before a therapist could exist in an app on your cell phone. More than one person has told me that “Loveline” was how they learned what orgasms are.

The show never again became as popular as it was then, when guests like Blur and Fiona Apple came on nightly. More recently, you could tune into the program via a live video stream to watch Dr. Drew fiddle with his phone while he answered listener questions in a sometimes-rote way. Who could blame him? He got along with his co-host, Mike Catherwood, but the spiky banter he had with Carolla (who departed in 2005) wasn’t present. In 1998, callers routinely waited on hold for an hour and a half to ask Drew and Adam about their crushes on cousins and abusive fathers and zoosexual relationships. If someone sounded like their life was especially messed up, Adam and Drew would “gamble” on the caller’s past: a dollar from Adam for “alcoholic father who left her at age 4”; a dollar from Drew for “sexual abuse from a member of the immediate family.” Sometimes callers would wait so long after getting through screeners that, by the time Adam implored Drew to “Sell the hell out of the next call” and the pair picked up, they would hear only snores (the show aired late, usually 10 p.m. to midnight, depending on where you lived). In 2016, the show practically begged for callers (a recent post on the Loveline Facebook page: “Do you have a crazy vacation sex story?” Dial in!).

A couple of nights in the past few years when I was up late and thinking too much about what all my personal relationships meant, I thought of “Loveline” and punched the call-in number (1-800-LOVE-191) into my phone, but I always stopped before I could sputter out my question nervously, thinking of Drew, bored by what must have been his thousandth call about boyfriend trouble. Nothing could shock him. I couldn’t bear the thought of a man who I’d come to see as part therapist, part caring uncle — a man whose advice I so deeply trusted — being possibly uninterested in my drama. I had to hang up.

You can still listen to the best years of “Loveline” archived on lovelinetapes.com. It’s filled with gems. (A personal favorite: Ice-T discussing his newfangled website featuring live girls dancing. The World Wide Web was nuts.) And the two hosts have a podcast together, The Adam and Dr. Drew Show, that will continue.

But this show’s being gone feels significant. Mahalo, “Loveline.” You were good.