While many in the public eye work hard to avoid labels such as "unpredictable" and "iconoclast", Gene Burns embraces them gleefully. Gene Burns celebrates the richness of the English language, challenges cherished opinions and enthusiastically tilts at windmills. His bosses grumble that both his words and telephone calls are too long! His producer begs him to change topics in the midst of a long raging debate. His detractors label him too opinionated. While listening respectfully, the successful broadcasting veteran begs to differ. "Free speech is an American parlor sport and intellectually based verbal combat is the essence of its exercise", he says. Adding, "citizen activism is at the very heart of democracy".
Burns was on his way to becoming a trial lawyer when fate intervened during a summer break in Hornell the western New York State town in which he was raised. He was serving as the chairman of a Young Citizens Committee embroiled in a battle with the local Chamber of Commerce over the advisability of building a new parking lot. As such he appeared on a local radio station. The station manager liked what he heard and despite his vehement disagreement on the parking lot issue offered Burns a job as News Director. The very citizen involvement he urges today, more than forty years ago set him on his career path. Incidentally, the brash Young Citizens Committee prevailed. The parking lot referendum was overwhelmingly defeated.
In 1995, Gene headed to KGO-AM 810 in San Francisco where he continued the well regarded Gene Burns Program and debuted the west coast edition of his popular weekend program, Dining Around with Gene Burns.