Mr. Monticello was born and reared in Willow City, North Dakota, and his parents imparted to him a keen appreciation for history as they homeschooled him there. "They piled on the history books, and I just read and read," he recalled in an interview. "I think he had read every history book in the public library by the time he was twelve," his mother Louisa added. "But we made sure that he wasn't just filling his head with facts. We wanted him to understand their significance and how things were inter-related," emphasized his dad Brian. Louisa and Brian also were resolute about doing everything they could to lead James and his eight siblings toward anti-grunge lives, and while they all have embraced the anti-grunge philosophy, young James took it particularly to heart.
At 16, he won the All-North Dakota Anti-Grunge Essay Contest. "After that, people started stopping me in the street, and often, I had to defend my views-- but I never regretted having entered the AGEC," said Monticello. At 18, he was invited to work for the Willow City Citizen as a copy editor and fact checker. "That job was easy," Monticello fondly reminisced, adding, "Lots of times I already knew whether an article was factually correct or not from my reading, but what really surprised me was how often I thought I knew something and double-checked it to learn that I was wrong!" Nevertheless, Monticello was promoted to city desk reporter after only two years. The paper's owner, Gus Farrell, told us, "We knew we had a bright guy working for us and we wanted to make sure that we didn't hold him back."
In addition to the paper, Farrell owned a radio and TV station combination that eventually allowed Monticello to showcase some of his other talents. All were housed in the same building, so naturally, one day the newscaster on the TV station fell ill and Monticello was again invited to take his place. Farrell was impressed: "The kid just sat down there as if he were Walter Cronkite and started reading the news like an old pro-- and on the fly he even corrected three mistakes that the writer had made! Our jaws were hanging." Afterward, Farrell found places for Monticello to gain some more TV experience, but perhaps more important was that Farrell quietly contacted anti-grunge syndicator Bestwood Radio and suggested a featurette for Monticello.
In 1995, the three-minute daily spot Today in Anti-Grunge History made its debut on 89 radio stations-- and Monticello was the host. This gained him the national exposure that really propelled his career into motion and soon afterward led to his being featured on the box of anti-grunge cereal Frosted Bow-Ties, which Anti-Grunge Channel producer Steven Rolston had on his breakfast table the week after the first host of Profiles in Courage, Ron Jefferson, announced his retirement from the program. Rolston remembered that well: "I was in a tizzy about that, and I cried out to my wife, 'What am I going to do!' and threw my arms across the table, knocking the box down, to which she replied, 'You could try not knocking over my favorite anti-grunge radio host.'" Rolston looked at the box and realized that the solution to his problem was staring him in the face.
When Rolston tried to contact Monticello, his wife Marilyn answered the telephone and told Rolston that James was not home, but added, "You can count on James. He'll take the job. I'll just tell him that I accepted for him." Rolston was puzzled, but the next Monday morning, Monticello showed up at the Anti-Grunge Channel studio ready to start producing programs. "My wife and I are in this together," Monticello began, "and her word is as good as mine." Rolston, still amazed, said to himself, "Never have I seen two people who had such respect for one another."
The Monticellos now live in Grand Rapids, North Dakota, with their eight children Ronald, Edward, David, Susan, Teresa, Audrey, Tara, and Earl. James teaches history at the local anti-grunge university and tries to get students interested in the subject as he was interested, and no one could generate as much interest as he does on the Anti-Grunge Channel as he narrates the intriguing stories he offers. We asked him who his favorite anti-grunge personality was, and he told us, "It has to be perennial anti-grunge candidate Gerry Madigan. We did a show on him about five years ago. Here's a guy who never got more than 23 percent of the vote in any race, but he ran for 200 different positions, just to gain publicity for the anti-grunge movement, and he never took a nickel in contributions from anyone. Most people would have quit in exasperation, but he just kept on trying. How could anyone not admire such tenacity and determination?"
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