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MANY IN UTAH RUSH TO EMBRACE RUSH

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Rush Limbaugh may be on the road to becoming conservative Utah's next folk hero.

Limbaugh's daily radio and television program have put the man's ideas on the lips of people at work, at home and even at local church meetings. Three local restaurants have opened "Rush Rooms." In May, Limbaugh "ditto heads," as Rush supporters call themselves, chartered a bus from Utah to join thousands of Limbaugh supporters in Fort Collins, Colo.Wednesday at a "Rush Room" opening in Los Hermanos Restaurant, 2020 E. 3300 South, Sam Grove ate Mexican food and talked about how he got hooked on Limbaugh's program a year ago.

"I enjoy him. He is talks about getting back to basics - the things that made America great," said Grove, a political science student at the University of Utah who has attended all three "Rush Room" openings.

Grove is among a cadre of die-hard fans. He even drove all night to attend the Limbaugh-inspired "Dan's Bake Sale" in Colorado. Dan Kay of Fort Collins held a bake sale to raise money so he could subscribe to Limbaugh's newsletter. The event turned into a "conservative Woodstock," attracting tens of thousands of Limbaugh fans from across the nation.

Limbaugh's daily three-hour "Rush Limbaugh Show" is the most popular talk show on radio, simulcast to 560 stations across the country and reaching a cumulative weekly audience of 15 million. His book, "The Way Things Ought to Be," has sold more than 2 million copies in hard cover.

Widely regarded by those on the left as "the most dangerous man in America," he derides liberal politicians; feminists, whom he calls "femi-Nazis"; animal-rights and environmental "extremists"; multiculturalists, minority and homeless advocates; and other representatives of "anti-capitalism, secular humanism and socialism."

Favorite topics include the National Education Association, Hillary Rodham Clinton, the Kennedys and President Bill Clinton's broken campaign promises.

According to John Marks of KALL-910 Radio, which broadcasts the show, the talk-show host's listening audience has been increasing. As many as 18,000 Utahns tune into the show during part of the three-hour radio program, according to ratings from the first of year.

At the same time, his syndicated, half-hour "Rush Limbaugh Show," launched in September 1992, is the hottest new talk show on television. In most areas, it is shown in the evening, ranking third among all late-night offerings.

In his 2 p.m. Utah time slot on KTVX Channel 4, Limbaugh ranks third behind talk show host "Oprah" and soap opera "Days of Our Lives," according to May's Nielsen and Arbitron ratings. Arbitron says that the show attracts 24,000 households or about 18 percent of the audience at that time. Nielsen gives the show 16 percent of the audience.

Taking a cue from other areas of the nation, the three restaurants, with the sponsorship of KALL, have established "Rush Rooms" featuring Limbaugh from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. in "Rush to Lunch" specials. People eat and talk.

At the Los Hermanos opening, in an ironic twist, KALL personality Tom Barberi, who often speaks from the opposite end of the political spectrum, attended, joking that given President Clinton's recent record he was even starting to believe Limbaugh.

Another man said he didn't agree with Limbaugh but listens to help build arguments against his ideology.

At least one Utah entrepreneur is hoping to cash in on the local and nationwide Rush craze with a video about "Dan's Bake Sale."

Mike Agrelius, a Limbaugh fan from Orem, has created Politically Incorrect Enterprises to help market the video. Those who join receive a video and are given "the right to buy politically incorrect items, laugh at the president and agree with Rush Limbaugh."

He's also asking Limbaugh's managers to cut a deal to help market the video, which features rewritten rock songs, including "I'm Addicted to Rush" and "We Will Rush You," and a song directed at the Clintons that says "every step you take, every breath you take, Rush is watching you."

Not everyone is a fan. Even some Utah conservatives are tuning Limbaugh out. Dee Tingey, Bountiful, who is a longtime activist in the Independent Party, said he liked the show when it first started.

"All that he does now is brag up himself," Tingey said. "When he says something, I like it but he only spends five minutes of the program on world problems."