Radio provocateur Dr. Laura Schlessinger raises a ruckus with controversial talk about gays
As host of radio's most popular self-help show, Dr. Laura Schlessinger says it's her mandate to bring "wit, wisdom and no whining" to her 18 million listeners. But her opinions on homosexuality—she opposes state-sanctioned gay marriages and has called gays "biological errors"—are neither witty nor wise, say a growing number of critics. San Francisco's board of supervisors is considering a resolution demanding that Schlessinger soften her remarks. Gay-rights groups have taken out newspaper ads in protest. And www.StopDrLaura.com, a Web page devoted to persuading Paramount Studios to cancel a syndicated Dr. Laura television show set for this fall, said it scored two million "hits," or visits, its first week. "If someone referred to African-Americans or to Jewish people as 'biological errors,' they'd never have a talk show at Paramount," says Washington, D.C., lawyer John Aravosis, who helped set up the Internet site.
By early March so many angry calls had flooded Paramount offices that lines had to be rerouted to the switchboard. Producers at the studio's hit sitcom Frasier also voiced their displeasure. Mean-while, at the New York City premiere of the lesbian-themed HBO film If These Walls Could Talk 2, Ellen DeGeneres called Schlessinger "dangerous"—but added that "she has a right to her opinion." And Bill Bradley, the former senator, while campaigning for President, said in a Web broadcast that Dr. Laura's words "make me sick to my stomach."
Schlessinger, a feisty 5-ft., 100-lb. aikido black belt, is both fighting to weather the storm and counterattacking. First she hired a crisis-management firm. Then on her March 7 show she denounced her critics and declared herself "the lone voice out there standing up for Judeo-Christian principles."
Hail Hall Rock and Roll
How sweet it was. At the 15th annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony on March 6, Paul McCartney welcomed James Taylor—who was signed on the Beatles' Apple record label in the '60s—into rock's top ranks. "I wrote Paul a letter and asked him if he'd do that," Taylor said afterward. "It sort of bracketed things nicely—to have him sign me in the first place and then be here tonight." McCartney took the stage at New York City's Waldorf-Astoria Hotel around midnight to reminisce about the old days, noting that he and Taylor "had a lot of good times back then—I think."
Some of the other honorees included Earth, Wind & Fire, Nat King Cole, the Lovin' Spoonful, Billie Holiday and Eric Clapton. Melissa Etheridge inducted soulful songstress Bonnie Raitt, calling her "a woman so secure that she hasn't felt the need to change her hairstyle for thirty years." (Raitt's voice, Etheridge added, is "sex on a plate," presumably a good thing.) "I'm the only woman this year, so I'm really happy," said Raitt, who brought along her father, Broadway legend John Raitt. "I'm representing musicianship as well as my ovaries."
Now Pitching: The Invisible Man
Does the voice behind the sizzling French fries sound vaguely familiar—someone you last heard booming from the Dolby Digital speakers at the multiplex? Could be. Hollywood's top stars have long made anonymous voice-overs for TV commercials. The current crop includes Randy Quaid as Colonel Sanders in those Kentucky Fried Chicken ads. See if you can match the uncredited stars with the products they plug.
A James Coburn
B John Goodman
C Gene Hackman
D Chris Noth
E David Duchovny
F Donald Sutherland
G Lauren Bacall
H Jeff Bridges
I Martin Sheen
1 Fancy Feast cat food
2 American Red Cross
6 Burger King
8 Taylor Made golf clubs
9 Salomon Smith Barney
Answer: A3, B6, C7, D2, E4, F5, G1, H9, I8
with Katie Couric
Today show cohost Katie Couric underwent a colonoscopy on the air last week, part of her continuing efforts to promote colon-cancer screening. (Her husband, Jay Monahan, died of the disease at the age of 42 in 1998.) The response was positive, said a show spokeswoman, with viewers calling to compliment her "class" and "tremendous guts." On March 6, Couric, 43, brought the awareness campaign to the Senate Special Committee on Aging in Washington, D.C., where Scoop attended her press conference.
What did you tell your daughters about your Washington trip?
They're 4 and 8. They're pretty little. I told them that I want to try to help people who have cancer or keep them from getting cancer. I don't go into great detail. My 4-year-old still asks why her dad got Kansas. Well, they don't really understand the full grasp of the disease, but when they get a little bit older I will talk with them about my efforts. I don't want to frighten them unnecessarily. I really want them to go about the business of being little girls.
Is testifying before the Senate about this very personal, emotional issue difficult? Are you nervous?
I feel so strongly and so passionately about this that I'm not nervous at all. I think I have an incredible opportunity to get life-saving information out to the public, so I feel empowered. It's the right thing to do. There's a certain amount of confidence and security that goes with those feelings.
You televised your own colon exam. What do you say to people who think, "Oh, yucko, Katie's gone over the edge"?
I hope they don't think that. My colon is actually quite attractive and it's not really gross. I think it was tastefully done.
Were you anxious?
I was a little anxious, especially since, unlike most Americans, I had a camera crew in the procedure room with me.
What's the reaction to your awareness campaign?
I think the letters and the feedback I've gotten from people that are paying attention to this message is certainly very, very satisfying and gratifying. They don't bring my husband back, but they do give me some solace in knowing that other families aren't going through this.
Don't Get Shorty
A mobster with naked knobby knees? Fuhgeddaboutit! So learned Juliet Polcsa, costumer for the hit HBO series The Sopranos, after putting gangland boss Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini) in shorts for a barbecue scene last season. 'Twas a major underworld faux pas, earning Polcsa a warning from a retailer who does business with real-life gangsters. "He says, 'Jules, a boss would never wear shorts,' " she recalls.
Polcsa would not reveal the man's name—the code of omertà and all that—but she did say he appreciated that she avoids Mafia stereotypes like fedoras and pin-striped suits and uses a look she calls "Mob realism." "It's not Mob chic," Polcsa says. "My guys aren't slick."
ON THE BLOCK
SEINFELD BY THE SEA
On Seinfeld he made do with a modest one-bedroom, but now Jerry Seinfeld is master of a far larger domain. The comedian agreed to purchase a 12-acre oceanfront estate in Amagansett, N.Y., from piano man Billy Joel, for around $35 million. Seinfeld won't have to worry about any Kramer-like intrusions here. His neighbors, designer Helmut Lang and financier Bruce Wasserstein, probably have their own cereal.