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Lynn Samuels, 69; brought liberal, female voice to radio

new york daily news/file 1988

Lynn Samuels was fired three times (and rehired twice) at WABC for comments considered subversive.

NEW YORK - Lynn Samuels, whose brash political opinions and unrestrained New York accent made her an unmistakable voice in the male-dominated world of political talk radio, died Saturday at her apartment in New York. She was 69.

Ms. Samuels, one of the first women to host a political radio show, was found dead by police, who investigated after she failed to show up for a scheduled show on SiriusXM Satellite Radio, a company spokesman said. No cause of death was announced.

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Friends said she had seemed well last Friday night, when they exchanged e-mails with her. The police indicated that there was no sign of foul play.

Ms. Samuels made her name on WABC radio in the 1980s and ’90s as the voice of liberalism in a lineup composed mainly of right-leaning men, including Rush Limbaugh. For several years, Limbaugh took over her chair and microphone at the end of her shift.

They got along fine, she once said, by chatting about television shows and movies.

She received most of the hate mail sent to WABC in those years for her defense of President Clinton, environmentalists, gun-control advocates, the Democratic Party, and Tinky Winky’s right to his sexual identity, whatever it was. (She brought it up mainly to mock the Rev. Jerry Falwell’s contention that Tinky Winky, a character from the children’s television show “Teletubbies,’’ was “role modeling’’ a gay lifestyle.)

Unlike most of her fellow radio hosts, Ms. Samuels was also adept at holding an audience’s attention with a distinctively intimate style of personal commentary. She talked about members of her family, old boyfriends, her phobias, and how she spent her time off the air.

“To tell you the truth,’’ she once said, “I don’t like talking too much once I leave this booth. I’m talked out.’’

Her take on life was often gloomy. A favorite word was “doomed.’’ Being contrary sometimes seemed as important to her as being right. When she worked at the ultraliberal, listener-supported radio station WBAI, she was considered something of a right-wing nut by some staff members, against whom she conducted on-air, internecine warfare over control of station programming in the 1980s.

At WABC, she was fired three times (and rehired twice) for comments considered subversive and bordering on the incitement of proletarian revolution.

On Sirius XM Satellite Left, a subscriber-based channel for a left-of-center audience, where she began working eight years ago, she inveighed against illegal immigrants and turned viciously critical of President Obama.

“She could be very hard to deal with; she wouldn’t listen to reason,’’ said John Mainelli, a longtime friend who, as program director at WABC, hired her. “But she did her homework. She was funny, compulsively candid, and you just couldn’t help listening to her.’’

For years, Mainelli said, he tried to convince Ms. Samuels that she could become a national talk radio star if she damped down her Brooklynese.

“I know what that means,’’ she told him, he said. “That means I’m too Jewish.’’ Then she said what she thought of people who used phrases like “too New York.’’

Lynn Margaret Samuels was born in New York in 1942. Her mother was a schoolteacher. Her father worked in the entertainment business, although several people who knew her for years said Ms. Samuels had been extremely private and almost never spoke of her family. They said she left only a sister and two nephews.

Bob Grant, the talk radio host who was a colleague at WABC, said Ms. Samuels was “funny, smart, and original.’’

“What I admired about her was, she wasn’t afraid. With all these right-wingers around,’’ he said, referring to her view of him as well, “she just said what she had to.’’

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