If Dan Rather referred to a woman appearing on his evening news show as “that girl,” there would be more than a few objections and not just from women’s rights organizations. I wonder how many objections went sent to the CBS network for a segment of Howard Stern’s televised show on Saturday night, November 14, 1998. Probably not many.
The usual response to Stern by disgusted people is that he is beyond the pale, depraved, crazy and unreachable. So, of course, Stern becomes more depraved, more violently vulgar toward women and driven to keep topping his past repulsiveness.
Since his television debut on Saturday night, up against Saturday Night Live, has not measured up to his bragging that he would put that 25 year show out of business, Stern has had to keep pushing the envelope as his ratings slip.
On Saturday, November 14th, having arrived at a Pittsburgh Hotel for the new Labor Party’s Convention, I turned on the television and saw the following Stern exhibitionism. What appeared to be a single mother, unemployed and seeking a job as a singer, was induced to come on the show and be beaten by Stern with a fish on her bare bottom. In return, she would be allowed a minute or so to sing her song, hoping that someone in the viewing audience would offer her employment.
Stern, in turn, ridiculed, humiliated, insulted and interrupted her. She could hardly carry on and at one point, after he started beating her naked bottom and saying she smelled like the dead flounder he was wielding, she started to walk off the stage. it did not appear staged. Stern and his handlers persuaded her to return, bend over a chair and the gloved Stern proceeded to beat her on her behind repeatedly while face down she blurted out some lyrics.
While whipping her, Stern laughed hysterically as he noted “the entrails and blood” oozing from the mutilated fish onto her behind.
Having finished his sadistic task, he snidely told her she could get up and sing her song. She started to do so, after mumbling some pathetic praise of Stern and his sidekick Robin. Even such obeisance by an obviously shaken woman did not quiet Stern for the minute or two she was singing. He kept interrupting to humiliate her modest singing skills, and at one point told her to hurry up and finish because he had to go “measure his genitalia.”
Now, no one would have seen Stern on CBS television — and people who watch him say that other shows are as bad or worse -without the approval of top CBS officials, President Mel Karmazin, outgoing Chairman, Michael Jordan and the CBS Board of Directors. They are the responsible ones.
Let’s put the First Amendment issue aside, by stipulating that the courts place the Howard Stern Show within its parameters. There is still something called prudence, judgment or a sense of decency, even if CBS officials were not aware that pre-teenagers, in some numbers, stay up Saturdays to watch late night shows, especially when their parents are out socializing.
CBS officials exercise their judgment to stop all kinds of programming that would really upset their advertisers — such as a weekly hour show on corporate crime, fraud and abuse, or a weekly show on civic activities of college students against overwhelming opposition, or a weekly show on horrible working conditions in numerous mines, factories, and fields of agribusiness.
Instead, CBS officials put Howard Stern on their network and relay the program to their affiliates, not all of whom are using the tape. With his ratings far below what he and CBS expected, Mr. Stern keeps pushing the envelope of deviancy, sado-masochism and abuse of women further and further.
In a letter I’ve asked CBS President Mel Karmazin to explain why he has approved the use of his network for such depravity to be broadcast over the public’s airways by his affiliate stations. These stations use the airways rent free from the Federal Communications Commission.
Howard Stern has succeeded in transcending his opposition. He is so gross, so beyond any possibility of persuasion, self-restraint or redemption, that, it seems, the women’s rights groups or any defenders of the common, public decency have given up.
When Mr. Stern finishes his shows and returns home, according to press reports, his wife and children find him to be a well-behaved, faithful husband and father. He’s doing it, not just for money, but for a great deal of money and for the notorious thrill of being an heir to the traditions of the Marques de Sade.
Isn’t it time for a systematic rejoinder by those who worry about the commercial entertainment marketplace’s invasion of much of what keeps a society uplifted?
By the way, you can write to CBS President Mel Karazin at 51 West 52nd Street, New York, NY 10019.