Tuesday, August 31, 2010

19 Wrestlers Die Under 50 in 20 Months




Popular independent wrestler J.C. Bailey is dead at 26 years old.

To recap, 2008 was a light year for professional wrestlers dying. I count only four of them under 50 years old: "Mad Dog" Mike Bell, Steve Bradley, Rollin Hard, and Chase Tatum. Each was under 40 actually, but it was a slow year when the business needed a slow year following the Chris Benoit story. Let's not forget that, in addition to Chris and Nancy Benoit, 2007 saw the deaths of Brian Adams, Devil Bhudakhan, Sean Evans, John Kronus, Sherri Martel, Moondog Nathan, Biff Wellington, Scotty Williams, Angel Azteca, Mike Awesome, and Bam Bam Bigelow.

Now, just since January 2009, 19 wrestlers under the age of 50 have died:


01/13/2009 Cousin Junior/Moondog Cujo 48



01/16/2009 Paul E. Normous 43
03/13/2009 Test 33
03/22/2009 Abismo Negro 37
03/22/2009 Steve Doll 48
06/13/2009 Mitsuharu Misawa 46
06/29/2009 Espectrito Jr. 35
06/20/2009 La Parkita 35
08/05/2009 DJ Rizz 26



11/05/2009 Adam Firestorm 32
12/05/2009 Umaga 36
12/30/2009 Steve Williams 49
01/10/2010 Ludvig Borga 47
04/01/2010 Chris Kanyon 40
06/18/2010 Trent Acid 29
06/24/2010 Toni Adams 45
08/12/2010 Lance Cade 29
08/27/2010 Luna Vachon 48
08/30/2010 JC Bailey 26


None of these of men and women were stars a la Chris Benoit, and none of them took anyone else with them, but many warranted more coverage than I remember them getting. With the recent death of CZW wrestler J.C. Bailey, I think it's safe to say the McMahons at least aren't the only problem.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The 9 Greatest Serial Killer Nicknames

The world has seen a hell of a lot of serial killers. With most comes an appropriate nickname, usually coined by the media, but sometimes used by the killer himself (or herself). A lot of these nicknames are boring. Every stupid nurse who murders a bunch of his or her patients is labeled The Angel of Death. There are plenty of those. It must be hard to stare at their blank faces and not snuff 'em. Still, how about a new nickname for one of these ghouls, like the Convalescent Killer or the Pillow Talk Slayer?



Then there's the simple practice of taking the area the murderer focused on and adding "killer" to it, such as "The Green River Killer" or "The Baton Rouge Serial Killer." Well, in that case, you'd best be hoping a second killer doesn't one day pop up in those places, because he'll be nothing but a sequel: The Green River Killer II. Electric Boogaloo.



Then there's the plain silly. William Heirens was labeled "The Lipstick Killer" because he wrote a message in lipstick at one of the crime scenes. Boy, I'll bet he regretted that once he heard what people were calling him. I'll bet he was made fun of back at the serial killer headquarters - "Hey, it's the Mascara Murderer!" "Watch out! Here comes the Rouge Ripper!"



What about Colin Ireland, the Gay Slayer? His name came from his choosing homosexuals as his victims, but it sure sounds a lot like he's the gay one. You also had Gerard John Schaefer, who snatched up the nickname "Florida Sex Beast" before Ted Bundy even had a chance. And Jerry Brudos, who had the awful, creepy nickname, "The Shoe-Fetish Slayer."



There was also Altemio Sanchez, "The Bike Path Rapist." Well, I don't care if the word rapist" follows it, "Bike Path" makes you sound like a nine-year-old. You were just skipping along, killing people while on your paper route.

There are also the many beasts, monsters, and vampires. But these are the nine greatest nicknames enjoyed by the world's serial killers.


9. Nannie Doss - The Giggling Granny/The Jolly Black Widow



You would think that Nannie Doss was a completely likeable woman. What's not to like about a grandmother who's always laughing and baking apple pies with five tablespoons of rat poison baked in?

Doss may have been a bit of a piker in only murdering family, including four husbands, her two children, her mother, two sisters, a grandson and a nephew. This puts her only a little above Andrea Yates, for Pete's sake. Anyone can kill family. Most of us think about it all the time. But she did have not one, but two great nicknames, and I don't mean the Fran Drescheresque name "Nannie." Between her "Giggling Granny" moniker and "The Jolly Black Widow," why has there never been a movie made about this silly woman? She was also given the name "Arsenic Annie, which would make one hell of a musical. Doss died in prison from leukemia in 1965. Wasn't so funny then, was it, Nannie?


8. The Zodiac Killer



Oh, sure, you might think of astrology as incredibly silly, what with the horoscopes, or horrible scopes, always appearing right below the latest Cathy cartoon, but was there ever as cool a thing as the puzzles the Zodiac left for police in San Francisco in the late 1960s? You might not think much of the zodiac. I mean, it does seem just a step above being The New York Times Crossword Killer or The Dear Abby Slayer, but this guy made it work.

And the fact that he was never captured only adds to the mystique. If the San Francisco media had just called him "The Murdering Ass with All the Stupid Symbols," he wouldn't be nearly as romanticized as he is today.


7. Dennis Rader - BTK



He of the very chantable, pro wrestling-type nickname. Just don't call him "the Bind, Torture and Kill Killer." This makes him the serial killer equivalent of ATM Machine and PIN Number.

Like Mr. Zodiac, BTK evaded police from his very first murder in 1974 all the way until 2005. He was also known for writing letters to police and the media. Had the Kansas man not written again in 2004, he might still be at large. But how cool is it to be a serial killer with a nickname consisting only of letters, especially when those letters stand for what they stand for? No wonder he wrote again after all those years and was arrested months later.


6. David Berkowitz - the Son of Sam



He's been glorified in song and film. They even named a serial killer law after him. He was one of the lucky murderers who nicknamed himself and had the name stick.

Berkowitz murdered at least six people in New York City in the mid-70s, leaving behind letters that referred to himself as "The Son of Sam," Sam being his neighbor Sam Carr, whose Labrador retriever Harvey, Berkowitz claimed, was possessed by a demon and had commanded that Berkowitz kill.

This lead to many questions at the time, such as how this made him Sam Carr's son, and why did they never question this evil dog? I mean he was at least as culpable as Manson was in the Tate-LaBianca murders. Didn't anyone ever think that this Sam guy named the dog Harvey after the six-foot white rabbit who commanded Elwood P. Dowd to kill? Dowd never bought Harvey's story, but Berkowitz was just too gullible.

The weird thing was that the two actual sons of Sam Carr were each dead by 1980, one from an apparent suicide, the other in a car accident. Berkowitz is still in prison, where he has found Jesus, God bless him.


5. Peter Stumpp - Werewolf of Bedburg



You may never have heard of Stumpp, who supposedly committed his crimes in Germany circa the 1580s. Apparently he was a wealthy farmer with a couple of children, and he may have had an incestuous relationship or two somewhere along the way, with both a distant relative and his own daughter. But that last part is easily forgivable since Stumpp was a practitioner of black magic. He even had a magic belt given to him by Satan himself, that, when worn, turned him into a mighty, vicious wolf, Hence his name, "the Werewolf of Bedburg."

From there the legend gets a little crazy. Stumpp was an insatiable bloodsucker of everything from humans to goats and sheep. He confessed (albeit under threat of torture) to killing and devouring 14 children, one being his own son, plus two pregnant women and their fetuses. Oh, and he had sex with a succubus, the lucky bastard. For his crimes Stumpp was brutally executed. All of this may seem a bit harsh, but what else was there to do in Germany in 1580?

Centuries later there was Albert Fish, the Werewolf of Wysteria, but that just sounds like he was a character on Desperate Housewives, killing people is a very silly fashion.


4. Nikolai Dzhumagaliev - Metal Fang



Okay, so you have a Russian serial killer. Already pretty cool, right? But this one has white metal false teeth. It's already the stuff of graphic novels! But wait, theres more! He's a cannibal, see, and he murders women with an axe, then serves them as dinner to all of his friends! And his name? Metal Fang!

It was Kazakhstan in the early 1980s, and Dzhumagaliev was having a great ole time with all the hacking and cannibalizing until his snitchy, buttinsky friends found a human head and some intestines in his refrigerator and ratted him out to the cops. Like many slashers, the grand total of kills for ole Nikolai ranges from the confirmed seven to perhaps as many as 100. Needless to say, Dzhumagaliev was found to be completely insane and was placed in a psychiatric hospital. He escaped in 1989 and eluded capture until 1991. Then they released him in 1994! To this day he's a free man and living in Eastern Europe with relatives who check their fridge and freezer regularly.


3. The Cleveland Torso Murderer



This is a tricky one because it sounds like he traveled to various circuses killing men billed as "The Human Torso," like Prince Randian on the cult film Freaks.

Also known as "The Mad Butcher of Kingsbury Run," the CTM was also never caught. In fact, most of his victims were Jane and John Does. The official body count is 12, all during the mid 1930s, which includes the lead detective in the case. But he could have murdered as many as 40 during a 30-year span, for all anybody truly knows. Per the nickname, most of the victims were beheaded, and their torsos were often cut in half.

The inability of famous detective Eliot Ness to capture CTM cut Ness's career short.


2. Sergei Ryakhovsky - The Hippopotamus



The Russian-born Ryakhovsky murdered at least 19 people between 1988 and 1993, but did the press give him the nickname "the Moscow Butcher?" Nope. "The Monster of Moscow?" Don't be silly. Due to his thick neck and pasty skin, and just his overall despicable bulk, he became "The Hippopotamus." There were some who called him "The Balashikha Ripper," but once the hippo moniker started going around, this commie might as well have been trying the eat marbles with his mouth controlled by little children.

King Hippo, who was also a necrophiliac, was supposed to face a firing squad in 1995, but apparently he was too easy a target. He's still serving life in a maximum-security prison.


1. Cayetano Santos Godino - The Big Eared Midget



If U.S. cities were more like Buenos Aires and Moscow and gave serial killers awful names, rather than cool ones, we might just see less and less of them.

This little fella was born in 1896 in the capital city of Argentina. At just 16 years of age he began setting buildings on fire and murdering children. Did the people of the city start calling him "The Buenos Aires Killer?" Heck, no. Due to his small stature and large ears, he was called "petiso ore judo," or "big eared midget." He died in prison in 1944. But don't cry for him. He's number one on this silly list.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

And now...The Top 5 Pre-Dr. Laura Racial Oopsies

5. Michael Richards





Most fans knew Michael Richards as a comedic actor, especially as Kramer on Seinfeld, but they didn’t know he did stand-up. After November 12, 2006 everyone knew Richards fancied himself a stand-up comic. Richards was performing at the Laugh Factory in West Hollywood, California, and, when a member of the crowd heckled him, Richards told him to shut up, then used the N-word six times while screaming at the man. A cell phone camera caught the whole incident, and Richards went on an apology tour like no other before him. Even Jerry Seinfeld appeared on The Late Show with David Letterman to do damage control.


4. Howard Cosell



Cosell was one of the greatest sportscaster ever. He did boxing (Down goes Frazier!), Monday Night Football, the 1972 Olympics in Munich, baseball (The Bronx is burning), and told the world that John Lennon was killed during a Dolphins-Patriots game. He had one of the most recognizable voices in our culture.

But in September of 1983, after Washington Redskins receiver Alvin Garrett caught a pass and ran down the field, Cosell exclaimed, "Look at that little monkey go.” He drew heavy criticism for this, even though he had used the term ”monkey” for other quick and small non-black players, like, um, that one guy.



3. Jimmy ”the Greek” Snyder



CBS fired Snyder in 1988 after he spoke to a television reporter at a Washington D.C. restaurant. ”The black is a better athlete to begin with,” Snyder said. “Because he's been bred to be that way. Because of his high thighs and big thighs that goes up into his back, and they can jump higher and run faster because of their bigger thighs. This goes back all the way to the Civil War when during the slave trading, the owner, the slave owner, would breed his big black to his big woman so that he could have a big black kid.”

Snyder passed way in 1996, unable to witness Michael Irvin stealing his bit years later, in 2006, when he said that Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo’s athletic ability can be attributed to his African-American heritage, and that his maternal relatives were doing it with ”slave brothers.” Of course, Irvin apologized, but Al Sharpton had already forgiven him, the silly goose, and responded by placing his finger over Irvin’s lips, saying, ”Sssshhh,” and giving Irvin a great, big hug.



2. Don Imus



Like radio comedians from Opie and Anthony to Howard Stern, Imus has long made off-color jokes about sex, race, and what have you. But as he veered more toward politics, more people were listening, there to pounce when he said something wrong. On April 4, 2007, Imus said about the Rutgers Girls basketball team, ”That's some nappy-headed hos there.” And you would have thought he was a Duke Lacrosse player accused a raping a woman because activists around the country wanted him fired, if not hanged. Imus was fired by both MSNBC and CBS Radio while in the middle of raising money for children with cancer, but he was hired by ABC Radio Networks just a few months later.



1. David Howard



In what is undoubtedly the silliest example of how touchy we are about race, David Howard, the then-Washington D.C. mayor’s aide, made the mistake of using the word ”niggardly” absolutely correctly in 1999. He used the term, meaning ”miserly,” while describing fiscal matters with some black colleagues. Well, they wanted his head after that, and Howard resigned, only to be offered his job back when everyone looked the word up in a dictionary.

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Top 20 Pre Dr. Laura Racial Oopsies Part III, 6-10

All right. Now we're in the Top 10. The top ten pre Dr. Laura racial oopsies of the rock era.


10. Doug ”The Greaseman” Tracht


There are funny comments. There are misunderstood comments. And then there are just plain stupid ones. In 1998 James Byrd, a black man, was dragged behind a pickup truck by two white supremacists and then murdered. In February 1999, after playing a Lauryn Hill song, disc jockey Tracht said, "And they wonder why we drag them behind trucks." That pretty much ruined whatever career the Greaseman had going for him, and authorities had to check the back of Tracht’s own truck for scratch marks.


9. ”Dog the Bounty Hunter” Duane Chapman

After serving 18 months in prison for first degree murder, it shouldn’t have surprised anyone, I suppose, that Chapman later somehow landed a television show. Nor should it have surprised anyone that he would tell his son he couldn’t bring his black girlfriend to the house because, well, the family uses the N-word a little freely. A phone conversation between Chapman and his son about this very topic was recorded and released to the public. A&E cancelled the ”Dog the Bounty Hunter” program soon after, and Dog later claimed he wanted to be buried next to slaves. A group of African-American gathered around him with shovels, and Dog said, ”I meant after I die.”





8. Rob Blair

This is a particularly jovial one. Las Vegas weatherman Blair was giving one of his typical forecasts in January of 2005. He told viewers on KTNV Channel 13 what the weather was going to be for the Martin Luther King Jr. weekend. Only it didn’t come out that way. Somehow, perhaps combining the words ”King” and ”Junior” (It can happen), Blair referred to the assassinated civil rights leader as ”Martin Luther Coon.” Woo-wee. Blair was fired before the sports segment even came on. Dr. King could not be reached for comment.

Mike Greenberg of ESPN would later steal Blair's bit.


7. Senator Trent Lott

Senator Lott just wanted to say something nice about his old friend Strom Thurmond. But in December 2002, some people thought what he said what perhaps a little bit racist. ”I want to say this about my state,” Lott said. ”When Strom Thurmond ran for president, we voted for him. We're proud of it. And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn't have had all these problems over all these years, either.” Maybe he meant that Thurmond might have been killing terrorists one by one with his bare hands. But it sure sounded a lot like, ”We wouldn’t have all these high-falutin’ darkies like we’ve had since.”



6. Ted Danson





Roasts are supposed to be absolutely brutal, with extreme putdowns, and sexual and racial jokes. But prior to Comedy Central’s roasts, the public had pretty much only seen the old Dean Martin ones, if any. So in 1993 when the world got wind that television’s Ted Danson appeared at a Friar’s Club roast of Whoopi Goldberg in blackface, well, he received more press attention than even when he was on Cheers. Like with Amos & Andy before him, this led to his television show Becker, about a doctor who performs surgeries in blackface.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Top 20 Pre Dr. Laura Racial Oopsies Part II, 11-15

We continue the countdown on the Top 20 Biggest Pre-Dr. Laura Racial Oopsies in the media since the Civil Rights Movement.


15. Dennis and Callahan





John Dennis and Gerry Callahan, the hosts of a sports radio talk show on WEEI in Boston, were having a simple, topical discussion in 2003, like all sports hosts do. They were reading a news story about a gorilla who had escaped from the Franklin Park Zoo and was found and captured at a bus stop. Dennis said, ”Yeah, he’s a METCO gorilla,” to which Callahan replied, ”Heading out to Lexington.” Well, METCO happens to be a state program that buses inner-city Boston students to nearby suburban schools. So, this little comment didn’t really float anyone’s boat in Boston. The two hosts were suspended for two weeks after Dunkin Donuts and Blue Cross Blue Shield pulled their advertising, as if the amount of cream the former puts in their coffee isn’t racist. Dennis and Callahan were forced to undergo sensitivity training, and METCO was given free advertising on the station.



14. John Rocker





Give it to Rocker, the former Atlanta Braves closer was an equal-opportunity offender. In 2000 the pitcher told Sports Illustrated exactly what he thought about New York City, equating a ride on the 7 Train with riding through Beirut, and referring to sitting next to ”some queer with AIDS.” But that wouldn’t put him on this list. No, sir. In the same interview, Rocker called then-teammate Randall Simon, a black man, a ”fat monkey.” Rocker had to learn - you can’t call people ”fat” these days.



13. Senator Robert Byrd



Many people are aware that Senator Byrd was a Klansman in his younger years. And he wasn’t just a member, he was the Exalted Cyclops of his local chapter. This despite having two perfectly good eyes. You just knew then that this kid was going places. So no one should have been very surprised when, in 2001, Byrd told Fox’s Tony Snow, ”There are white niggers. I've seen a lot of white niggers in my time. I'm going to use that word. We just need to work together to make our country a better country, and I'd just as soon quit talking about it so much.” If he had only said ”wiggers,” the ensuing controversy probably wouldn’t have happened.



12. Kelly Tilghman





How does this Golf Channel announcer become the only woman on this list ahead of Marge Schott? One simple word. In early 2008, when her co-anchor Nick Faldo joked about the other golfers needing to gang up on Tiger Woods, Tilghman took it a step further, replying, "Lynch him in a back alley.” Well, yeah, she was suspended, despite Woods saying he didn’t believe there was any hatred in the comment. She couldn’t be a racist; she’s just so darn cute.




11. Fuzzy Zoeller



This is what happens when you let blacks on the golf course when they’re not carrying trays. Masters and U.S. Open champ Fuzzy Zoeller decided, at the 1997 Masters tournament, to comment on Tiger Woods selecting the dinner menu for the following year’s Master’s Club Championship Dinner, being the champion this year. Zoeller said, ”That little boy is driving well and he's putting well. He's doing everything it takes to win. So, you know what you guys do when he gets in here? You pat him on the back and say congratulations and enjoy it and tell him not to serve fried chicken next year. Or collard greens or whatever the hell they serve.”


Wow. Pick that apart and count how many potentially offensive words and phrases are contained within. I found five. How many did you find?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Top 20 Pre-Dr. Laura Racial Oopsies, Part I - 20-16

Dr. Laura, Dr. Laura. Did you have to say the word nine times? Sure, that equals one verse in a typical rap song, but still. You're Dr. Laura. They nearly hanged Don Imus for "nappy headed hoes." What made you think you could survive it?



The death of free speech aside, it's a time of healing in this great nation of ours. Dr, Laura, Mel Gibson. The Avenue Q puppets said, "Everyone's a little bit racist." Nonetheless, we all get outraged and protest and boycott. Where am I going with this? I present The Top 20 Pre-Dr. Laura Racial Oopies. Part 1 of a four part series, numbers 16-20.



20. Rush Limbaugh


The real question here was why, after the Dennis Miller debacle, did ABC and ESPN want Limbaugh as a football commentator in the first place? Nonetheless, the conservative radio host was silly enough, perhaps thinking he was on his own show, to make a racial remark on ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown in 2003. About then-Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb, Limbaugh said, ”Sorry to say this, I don't think he's been that good from the get-go. I think what we've had here is a little social concern in the NFL. The media has been very desirous that a black quarterback do well. There is a little hope invested in McNabb, and he got a lot of credit for the performance of this team that he didn't deserve. The defense carried this team.” Limbaugh resigned a week later, even though he began his controversial statement with an apology. See, even getting that out of the way first won’t help you later.




19. Bob Grant


What can you say about the longtime radio host? He has promoted the "Bob Grant Mandatory Sterilization Program" on his show, which calls for the sterilization of women receiving welfare payments during childbearing age. He has also, on numerous occasions, referred to black people as ”savages.” Grant has stated that he has only referred to black rioters as ”savages.” He once referred to former New York City mayor David Dinkins as "the men's room attendant at the 21 Club. You gotta love this controversial son of a bitch.



18. The April 2008 Cover of Vogue





Vogue magazine finally put a black man on the cover of their silly magazine, and, boy, did they ever pay for it. The simple picture of NBA star LeBron James and supermodel Gisele Bundchen was deemed as racist by many. After all, most photos of an excited, athletic black man and a beautiful white woman invoke thoughts of the film King Kong. One blogger wrote that James was ”perpetuating a stereotype (that of a brutal wild savage) that helped enslave, lynch and murder hundreds of THOUSANDS of our black men for centuries.” Jeez, and you thought he was just a basketball player. Vogue later stated they would never again put an African-American on their cover. Well, no, they didn’t, but they should have.



17. Al Campanis


Former Dodgers player Campanis was discussing his contemporary and former teammate Jackie Robinson in 1987 on the 40th anniversary of Robinson’s debut in the Majors. Nightline’s Ted Koppel asked Campanis why there were so few black managers and no black general managers back in the day. His response, the silly man, was that blacks "may not have some of the necessities to be, let's say, a field manager, or, perhaps, a general manager for these positions.” Campanis, showing off his knowledge of other sports, as well as physics, also stated that blacks are bad swimmers "because they don't have the buoyancy." Perhaps this is why Michael Phelps wins so many gold medals.





16. Marge Schott





You’d need a lot more space to fully discuss Schott, the former managing general partner, president and CEO of the Cincinnati Reds who died in 2004. She caused a lot of controversy in the 90s with her free use of the N-word, and other personality traits. It 1992 it came out that Schott had once referred to then-Reds outfielders Eric Davis and Dave Parker as her "million-dollar niggers.” People were outraged, mainly because she left out Barry Larkin, forgetting that Larkin was merely a rookie when Davids and Parker were on the team.


A former executive assistant for the Oakland Athletics told the New York Times that Schott had said, "I would never hire another nigger. I'd rather have a trained monkey working for me than a nigger," For what it’s worth, Schott also had a good go at the Jews, allegedly wearing a swastika armband in her home, praising Adolf Hitler, and referring to Jews as ”sneaky.” Rest in peace, crazy lady.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

R.I.P. Lance (Cade) McNaught, 1981-2010



This is just Linda McMahon's luck. Days after she wins the Republican nomination to run for the Senate, another former WWE wrestler dies. And at 29 years of age, no less. It is continuously and unrelentingly sad. Now wrestlers too young for me to have ever watched are dying. In June it was Michael Verdi, who wrestled as Trent Acid, dying at 29.



Lance McNaught, who wrestled as Lance Cade, is dead at the same age. Fortunately for McMahon WWE had released Cade a year or so ago. So they can use their "He didn't die on our watch" line. Still, you can bet she and Vince are hiding this weekend.

I saw Cade wrestle maybe a couple of times when catching one of the WWE's shows. So for me this wasn't like when Chris Kanyon or Test died recently and I watched them over a period of years. But it is no less tragic. No one should die under 30, especially an athlete, but it still happens all too often. At least Kanyon made it to 40.



Well, rest in peace Lance, along with the rest of them. It's ironic that WWE has had a wrestler for nearly twenty years now called The Undertaker, whose catch phrase is "Rest in Peace." Not only is he still wrestling in the organization, but he'll probably live to be 100.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Stern-Portnoy Connection

How radio’s most successful shock jock based his act on one of the funniest novels ever written.



Philip Roth’s 1969 novel Portnoy’s Complaint is considered one of the funniest in American literature. The story consists entirely of narrator Alexander Portnoy at his psychiatrist discussing his problems: his doting Jewish mother, the anti-Semitism which he believes surrounds him, his sex life, and so on.

Howard Stern, in addition to seeing his own psychiatrist, vents for four to five hours a day on his radio show, and has for twenty-five years. Stern was a nationally syndicated radio talk show host from the mid-80’s until his departure to Sirius Satellite Radio in 2006. He earned the label “shock jock” for his often sexual and racial humor.



Upon reading this literary classic, I was struck by the sense that perhaps some or most of Stern’s act has been fabricated and based on Philip Roth’s brilliant novel. Stern was fifteen years old when Portnoy was published. As a bright boy growing up Jewish and hoping for a career in comedy, how could Stern not have read this book? And what percentage of his fans even knows it exists?

The interesting thing is that no one cries about being ripped off more than Howard Stern. For almost twenty years Stern has labeled every other deejay in America and abroad as his “clones,” from small-market jocks to stars like Don Imus and Rush Limbaugh. Forget that Imus, Steve Dahl, and Dave Rabbit were doing Stern’s type of radio long before he did. Stern has gone so far as to claim that many television shows steal from him. Programs as diverse as MTV Unplugged, The View, Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader, the entire Reality TV genre, Friends, and Beavis and Butt-head were all somehow taken from Howard Stern’s lofty brain.



It is, however, common knowledge within the radio industry that Stern himself has pilfered a few concepts here and there. It was two disc jockeys in Portland, Maine who first did a bit on the air called “Butt Bongo,” which Stern then started doing on his program and turned it into a successful video called “Butt Bongo Fiesta.” Fartman, for years Stern’s signature, originally appeared on a National Lampoon album in 1979, three years before Howard introduced the character on his show. In his first book, Private Parts, under the chapter heading, “Yes, I am Fartman,” Stern had the nerve to date the character back to his own childhood.

But it is where one would least expect to look, where many a Stern fan would rarely even venture, the literary world, that you will find the greatest example of Howard Stern’s thievery.

I should mention that I have the utmost respect for Howard Stern as a radio personality. I was an avid fan for eight years, from 1996 to 2004. He is indeed something of a pioneer, who, directly or indirectly, influenced many after him, even current shock radio top dogs Opie and Anthony. Stern could even be called a comedic genius who has employed many great comedians over the years, from Billy West to Jackie “the Joke Man” Martling to Artie Lange.





Family and Jewishness

Among Portnoy’s biggest complaints is his family: his doting mother, who checks everything from Alex’s wardrobe and fingernails to his stool; and his yelling, constipated father. “The Jack and Sophie Portnoy Debating Society,” Alex calls them, and the house he grew up in, “that lunatic asylum.”

Stern’s own family has long been fodder for his show. He has told many stories of his father screaming at him (Ben Stern screaming “Shut up! Sit down!” at Howard became very popular when Stern’s film Private Parts was released in 1997), and his mother doting on him to the point of checking his underwear and taking his temperature rectally into his teens. The latter is mentioned in Private Parts.

Like Stern, Alex, a Jew, takes issue with both Gentiles and Jews. About, “that sour grape of a religion,” Portnoy says, “Jew! Jew! Jew! Jew! Jew! Jew! It is coming out my ears already, the saga of the suffering Jews! Do me a favor, my people, and stick your suffering heritage up your suffering ass.” A Stern fan could surely imagine this being said by Howard himself.

But Portnoy has little love for non-Jews – “…they know how to go out into the woods with a gun, these geniuses, and kill innocent wild deer…You stupid goyim!” When discussing Christmas and the birth of Christ, Alex wonders, “How can they possibly believe this shit?”

One of the most abundant topics on Stern’s show is anti-Semitism. He has often spoken out against Louis Farrakhan, Mel Gibson and others deemed to be anti-Semites. In 2004 Stern attacked Gibson for the anti-Semitism in The Passion of the Christ, and called Jay Leno a “lying douche” for not bringing up Gibson during Stern’s appearance on The Tonight Show. In 2001 Stern said his grandfather thought Superman was an anti-Semite, and in 2007 Stern called Don Imus “an anti-Semite and a racist.” Stern has also said that Polish people are “notorious Jew haters.”



There is no lack of Yiddish terms that both Stern and Portnoy use: meshuggeneh, mishegoss, schvartze, shtupping, shmattas, shvantz, and even one of Howard’s favorites, “Kishmir in tuchis.”

“Talk Yiddish? How?” Alex says in Portnoy. “I’ve got twenty-five words to my name – half of them dirty, and the rest mispronounced!” Similarly, you wouldn’t hear Howard use more than this. In 2001, a caller to Stern’s show asked him to define some of the Yiddish terms he often uses. These included schmate (rag), mishkite (an ugly man), and alta cocker (an old man). Stern has talked about how his relatives would speak Yiddish when they visited and he had no idea what they were saying. Yet Stern has even had a category called “Yiddish Sayings” in his “Black Jeopardy” games.

Stern has often lamented that, when he was growing up, everyone in his neighborhood in Roosevelt, New York moved away because of the influx of blacks moving in, but his parents wouldn’t follow. This caused him much angst, perhaps so much that this was something he couldn’t change about himself in his act. For Alex Portnoy’s parents actually did move to Newark from Jersey City because of anti-Semitism, and especially a rash of carved and painted swastikas in the neighborhood in which they lived.

This last point is especially interesting considering how affected Stern claims to have been by living in Roosevelt. Stern’s view of his own family may have been heavily influenced by Roth’s novel. One could even say that many Jewish families are like this. It’s certainly plausible that Stern read this book as a teenager, perhaps while his parents were screaming at each other. Maybe his sister just wasn’t around.



The Physical and Mental

Stern’s two favorite topics for self-deprecation are his nose and his penis, obsessions that mirror Portnoy’s. Discussing his mother, Portnoy says, “Of me, the heir to her long Egyptian nose and clever babbling mouth.” He even thinks of lying to people about his Jewishness (Stern claims to be half Jewish, though both his parents are indeed Jews.), “but how am I going to lie about this fucking nose?” Portnoy says. Callers to Stern’s program often make fun of his “schnoz,” and him being a “big nosed Jew.”

After the nose, it’s Stern’s penis (particularly its small size) which he obsesses about. Portnoy does as well. “I am so small,” he says. “I hardly know what sex I am, or so you would imagine.” He then refers to “that fingertip of a prick that my mother likes to refer to in public as my ‘little thing’.” Stern has, on numerous occasions, referred to himself as being hung “like an acorn,” or “like an elevator button.”

On a couple of occasions in Portnoy, Alex says he doesn’t smoke cigarettes or do drugs and hardly drinks, but he does use the word fuck a lot. When Stern was married he prided himself in his clean off-air persona: no booze, no drugs, in bed by eight o’clock. But, wow, does he too have a filthy mouth!

Alex also goes into how he gets “pee shy,” not being able to go to the bathroom when others are present. Stern has addressed this topic many times. In 1999, and again in 2001, he had Dr. Steven Soifer, author of a book called The Shy Bladder Syndrome, on his show. Stern even used the term “Pee Shy” in his book Miss America to introduce a chapter about longtime cohort Fred Norris.

If Stern talks about something, then hears that another radio personality talked about it in the same way, that host is ripping Stern off. Here you can call it influence, maybe even parallel thinking, but why wouldn’t this ever be the case when Howard is the one being supposedly being ripped off? Surely if a radio host were to discuss his lack of size or pee shyness, Stern would say something like, “I wonder where he got that from.”



Radio

There are passages in Portnoy that may very well directly link the novel to Stern’s career choice. Stern wanted to be on the radio when he was a kid, though, probably not at age five like he has always said. In Portnoy, Alex, a fan of radio shows like Fibber McGee & Molly, writes a radio play. “My radio play is called ‘Let Freedom Ring!’ It is a morality play…whose two major characters are named Prejudice and Tolerance…We pull into a diner in Dover, New Jersey, just as Tolerance begins to defend Negroes for the way they smell.”



Alex delights in listening to “three solid hours of the best line-up of radio entertainment in the world,” including Jack Benny and Fred Allen. Perhaps Stern took this queue from Portnoy: “My God! The English language is a form of communication! Conversation isn’t just crossfire where you shoot and get shot at…Words aren’t only bombs and bullets – no, they’re little gifts, containing meanings.” Portnoy even calls himself “Alexander the King,” perhaps leading to Stern’s referring to himself as “The King of All Media.”

Stern himself, when mentioning old radio, has pointed more to dramas than comedians like Benny and Allen. Surely, though, there has to have been some influence. While Stern hasn’t always shown respect for those who came before him, he has historically accused his contemporaries of plagiarizing from him, even if they were doing shock radio a few years before him. Indeed, this may be defensive paranoia on Stern’s part. Howard, having taken from the likes of National Lampoon and others, would certainly always keep an ear open for even the slightest rehashing of his own material.



Social Conscience

As indicated in the title of Alex’s radio play, he is a very patriotic man. “You name it,” he says, “and if it was in praise of the Stars and Stripes, I knew it word for word!” Stern has always been a patriotic radio host, particularly after 9/11, and has long gone after celebrities he has deemed un-patriotic. Like Alex, and despite his racist and homophobic reputation, Stern has quite a social conscience. Though, Stern and Portnoy both mix it with the ridiculous.

Calling himself, “The Great Emancipator,” Alex vows to free his penis from bondage, “Let my Peter go!” he demands. “My politics,” he says, “descended entirely to my putz.” In addition to his frequent “Black Jeopardy” games, in 1997, when Stern held a “Rap Summit” on his radio show, inviting rappers from both coasts of the country, his staff each took on rap names, with Howard being “Tarzan.”

Both characters fancy themselves, in an exaggeratedly humorous fashion, to be like a pseudo-Lincoln: Stern referring to himself as Tarzan, in control of the Black population; Portnoy draws a parallel between Blacks and his own genitalia. Stern might have learned from Roth how to combine his social conscience with the absurd, whether it’s sex or what some might find racist.



Shock

As on Stern’s radio show, there is no shortage of shock in Portnoy. There is a whole chapter, titled “Wacking Off,” devoted to Alex’s excessive masturbation, something Howard often speaks of himself. Alex, like Howard, discusses his bathroom wiping techniques, another favorite topic of Stern’s. “I wipe until that little orifice of mine is red as a raspberry,” Alex says. There are numerous examples of Stern discussing wiping techniques on his show, from excessive versus proper wiping to using baby wipes for avoiding hemorrhoids.

Portnoy imagines that “the sluttiest-looking slut in the chorus line” pours maple syrup and, “licks it from [his] tender balls.” When Portnoy farts in the bathtub, “she kneels naked on the tile floor…and kisses the bubbles.” Farts are a part of Stern’s legacy, and there was an amusing bathtub scene in his movie.

Alex also asks a friend, “Tell me what it was like when she did it…What about her tits? What about her nipples?…Tell me everything there is to tell about pubic hairs and the way they smell…” This sounds like Stern talking to a caller. Sexual fantasy and description have long been a huge part of Stern’s show.



Shock existed in literature long before Portnoy. One need only look at James Joyce’s Ulysses or Henry Miller‘s Tropic of Cancer for that. Stern has long prided himself on “introducing” shocking talk to radio and television; though, you can indeed find examples of FCC fines for radio crudeness going as far back as the early 70s. Stern has claimed that nobody said “penis” on television until he came along. One can nitpick about this, as Dr. Ruth Westheimer, at least, was using this word during Howard‘s early days in radio. Television, perhaps, hasn’t been ready for this word until very recently. According to the Parents Television Council, viewers didn’t hear a toilet flush on TV until All in the Family; the word “condom” was even spoken in primetime until Cagney & Lacey; and the words “screw” and “piss” didn’t make it until 1994. This certainly wasn’t all Stern’s doing.



The Monkey

In Portnoy, Alex introduces us to a character he calls, “The Monkey,” a female friend who speaks, “high-fashioned Italian,” and is his, “old pal and partner in crime.” Just thinking of her, Alex says, “gives me a hard-on on the spot!” But, “The sex-crazed bitch is out of her mind!”

We learn that The Monkey is from West Virginia and had an abusive father. Now, reader, this is going to sound racist, but it is in keeping with Stern’s “shock jock” label. The Monkey in Stern’s life could be one of two people. It could be producer Gary Dell’Abate, of Italian decent, who is often referred to as a monkey on Howard’s show. A more fitting answer, however, would be sidekick Robin Quivers. Quivers is Stern’s “partner in crime.” There is often sexual tension between the two, and she has been referred to as “crazy” on the show. Not only that, but Quivers, while not from West Virginia, is from Baltimore, and also had an abusive father.



With the character “The Monkey,” the similarities become uncanny. Leave the rest maybe to parallel thinking or unconscious borrowing, but here Stern has hand-chosen for himself a character from this very novel, and not once even mentioned the book on his program.


“Stern”

The juxtaposition of these two entities becomes downright spooky in the last third on Portnoy. Coincidentally perhaps, within the last hundred pages of the book, Roth uses the word “stern” a number of times. Parts of the details of one of The Monkey’s fantasies are boys seeking admission to West Point, and the ones selected are those “able to maintain a stern and dignified soldierly bearing…”

Alex, in another section, fears being accosted by a gang of anti-Semites while he stands, “wearing a stern expression on [his] pale face.” He also speaks of a woman who “used [his] name as a stern teacher would.”

Finally, Alex refers to being, “one happy yiddel down there in Washington, a little Stern gang of my own (capitalization of Stern is in the book).” Before landing in New York, Stern did his show in Washington. Robin Quivers and Fred Norris were part of his “little Stern gang.”




So there you have it. Could Stern, who labels disc jockeys across America “Howard Stern clones,” be a hypocrite and thief himself? If you know Stern, you may see the parallels. You may find these parallels coincidental, even ridiculous and far-fetched. Surely many Jewish families are like this, and surely vulgarity predates Portnoy, you may say. But they are certainly no more ridiculous than a man claiming that anyone talking freely on the radio or television is stealing from him. It’s definitely no more absurd than Stern saying no one had musicians perform acoustically in a studio before he did.

If I may recommend a book to you, read Philip Roth’s Portnoy’s Complaint. Read it in Howard Stern’s voice if you know his program.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Price of a Dictatorship




Now that Linda McMahon is officially the Republican candidate for the open U.S. Senate seat in Connecticut, the questions about the plane crash victim list that is the tally of young, deceased professional wrestlers keep coming and coming.


The McMahons’ answer is always that, among the list of wrestlers who have died in the last 25 years, only five were working for WWE at the time. This sounds both good and bad. Good because it makes you think WWE, while a very large part of the business, is a very small percentage of the problem - even though five employees dying in such a short time span is still terrible. It sounds bad because the McMahons continue to divorce themselves from the issue. After the Chris Benoit tragedy in 2007 one WWE wrestler went on television and said, “People die all the time.”





Therein lays the problem. Professional wrestling, both as a business and as a spectacle (therefore making fans to blame too), is responsible for the deaths of these men and women. For years Vince McMahon has been saying he’s in the sports entertainment business, not the wrestling business. Well, guess what, Vince? Those are still wrestlers out there, just as they were in any other organization that has existed since you took over in 1984.


Vince McMahon put so many other companies out of business that there’s no one else for the mainstream media to blame for this. You can blame Eric Bischoff, Paul Heyman and Stu Hart for what Chris Benoit did just as much as you can blame McMahon. Benoit worked for a lot of wrestling companies beginning in 1985, and only worked for WWE for the last seven years of his life.


Percentage-wise, Stu Hart and his Calgary Stampede organization, and Fritz Von Erich with his World Class brand in Dallas, both long defunct, have contributed as much if not more to this list than McMahon. But Hart and Von Erich are both dead - of old age, unlike so many of their wrestlers.





The first wrestler to die during my wrestling fandom was Rick McGraw in 1985. He was wrestling for McMahon at the time. Should McMahon have been blamed? Or should the business in general have taken responsibility? The year before, David Von Erich died at 25. He never wrestled for McMahon. Neither did Gino Hernandez, who died at 29 in ‘86. Or Mike Von Erich, who died in ’87 at age 23. All three wrestled for Fritz Von Erich. Eddie Graham shot himself to death in ’85 and he was a promoter in Florida likely to soon lose his job because of McMahon’s hostile takeover of the business. I guess maybe you could blame Vince for his death.


At its core level, the way McMahon has run the WWF/WWE is not much different from how World Championship Wrestling (WCW, defunct since 2001) or Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW, also dead in 2001) were run. Nor any of the organizations that existed in the 80s and early 90s that died slow deaths themselves.





Brian Pillman and Eddie Guerrero, both of whom died while working for Vince, each worked in ECW and WCW before coming to WWE. Pillman worked for Stu Hart in the early part of his career. McMahon’s “on our watch” argument is silly because surely Pillman’s and Guerrero’s drug problems began prior to their arrivals at the McMahons’ doorstep. It’s also silly for McMahon to divorce himself from the 2009 deaths of Umaga and Andrew “Test” Martin simply because he was no longer paying their salaries.


Just the same, the drugs that lead to the deaths of men like Louis Spicolli, Chris Candido, Brian Adams, Curt Henning, Rick Rude, Davey Boy Smith, and others, were likely taken not only to help them perform in their post-WWE careers, but to alleviate the pain from injuries suffered while working for WWE. and/or WCW or whomever else.





Vince made his own bed. By making himself the only game in town, he also made himself the only blame in town. What the McMahons should be saying is that the entire wrestling business has historically been bad for its talent, but that they have been working to change this since Benoit. The recent switch to PG-oriented programming, they should say, was not because of Linda’s Senate run - like so many are saying - but because presenting a PG show is easier on the talent.


While I am pleased to see that the wrestler death issue is being discussed again after it slowly faded away when the media was done with the Benoit story, it’s not exactly relevant to a Senate race. I don’t think Linda McMahon will be handing other senators razor blades and telling them to tuck it under their wrist tape then cut their foreheads when no one’s looking. That’s not how the Senate works.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Top Five Alt-Rock Albums of the 90s

The 90s were a magical time. It was the Gay Nineties, wrought with crime, economic depression and workers strikes. America was engrossed in the Franco-Dahomean Wars, radioactivity and helium were discovered, and Emile Durkheim published the groundbreaking study and wonderful children’s tale Suicide.

Wait. That was the 1890s. Nope. Talking about the 1990s here, a time pre-9/11, with great films, great music, and all punctuated with the Columbine Massacre. Was there a better time to be alive? I don’t think so.

In the music world, Kurt Cobain had brutally murdered hair bands and glam metal and we were in the golden age of something called “alternative rock,” or “alt rock,” a term coined by leggy supermodel Carol Alt. Men, women and children wore flannel everything: shirts, shoes, codpieces. It was the Gay Flannel decade.



There was Pearl Jam, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Good Earth; Smashing Pumpkins, the successful prop comic troupe out of Chicago; and Alice in Chains, the Romanian pornographic actress and winner of the XRCO Award for her smash hit Cream Dream.



All were very successful, but what were the greatest alt-rock albums released in this decade of decadence? It is a debate not without a history of chaos, violence and destruction. Many have been killed, including not only Cobain himself, but everyone from Minnie Pearl to Biggie Smalls to Falco. That’s right. Falco, who penned the greatest of alt-rock hits “Rock Me Amadeus,” not to mention the classic rock ballad “Der Kommissar,” was struck down in these music battles.

What we are left with are the Top Five Alt-Rock Albums of the 1990s. Debate them. Argue them. Apply them generously to the buttocks.





VERSION 2.0 - GARBAGE

Formed in 1994 in Madison, Wisconsin, of all places, Garbage quickly became the greatest band named after waste since the Mississippi blues group The Slop and Sewage Boys formed in 1927.

Garbage’s self-titled debut contained the smash hits “Stupid Girl,” “Vow,” and “Only Happy When it Rains,” but they were only warming up for their sophomore effort.

Version 2.0 was produced by Microsoft kingpin Bill Gates and released in May 1998. It was a critical and commercial success, selling upwards of 600 billion copies, literally like hotcakes as the band included one blueberry flapjack with every CD.

Songs on the album such as “I Think I’m Paranoid,” “Push It,” and “When I Grow Up” became anthems for a generation and are still whistled by lonely 40-year-olds today.

“Paranoid,” a supersonic ditty about the music business containing an absurd number of audio tracks, is quite possibly the best song ever written about delusions of persecution or grandeur usually without hallucinations. Yes, even better than “Paranoia Will Destroy Ya” and Black Sabbath’s popular “Paranoid.”

The Beach Boy and Salt-N-Pepa sampled “Push It” blows away its predecessors. Just try surfing or tap dancing to this song. And “When I Grow Up,” despite being on the soundtrack to the Adam Sandler movie Big Daddy, is not nearly annoying enough to make me walk out of the theater.






Innocence and Experience – Blake Babies

It was Allen Ginsberg who gave Boston band Blake Babies their name back in the 80s, and they took the title of this compilation of their previous albums from William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience. You might say a compilation or “Greatest Hits” album shouldn’t be included here. But then I’d say, “Bite me,” and punch you in the mouth.

Blake Babies was, of course, the first band alternative rock goddess Juliana Hatfield took part in. They recorded some fantastic songs on their earlier records as well as some complete horseshit, which makes them no different than most other bands.

But the 1993 album I&E is the good shit, including perhaps the greatest song ever recorded, and a bit of a predictor of 9/11, “Sanctify.” That isn’t to say some of the other songs aren’t better than anything you listen to. “Lament,” “Out There,” Over and Over,” and even the John Strohm songs “Girl in a Box” and “Downtime” are maddeningly damn sick. My only complaint is that the version of “Rain” on I&E is not even the best version Blake Babies recorded.

Anyhoo, this is top to bottom a great record. Even their cover of the Grass Roots’ “Temptation Eyes” is stellar as the F-word. Let’s see Pearl Jam do “Midnight Confessions” or “Sooner or Later.” I dare Alice in Chains to cover “Let’s Live For Today.” It wouldn’t happen.






Antichrist Superstar – Marilyn Manson

I don’t listen to a lot of concept albums because I usually don’t give a shit about the concept or the music. I’m looking at you, Pink Floyd. But Manson’s Antichrist Superstar is the Sgt. Pepper of twisted, evil concept albums. The only thing better than seeing “Lennon/McCartney” on the liner notes is seeing “Berkowitz/Ramirez” or “Manson/Ramirez” or “Manson/Ramirez/Gacy.” That’s when you know you have a great song ahead of you, even after you learn the songs weren’t written by the Nightstalker and the Son of Sam.

And, let me just say, if you don’t like Mr. Manson because he’s the devil or he caused Columbine, you’re missing out, Gene Autry.

First of all, the single, “The Beautiful People,” is, next to BB’s “Sanctify,” the greatest song ever recorded. And if you disagree you’re one of the beautiful people. You’re just beautiful and pretty and I would probably fall head over heels in love with you if we met.

Even before this, “Irresponsible Hate Anthem” might be the best opening song on an album ever. Yes, even better than “Straight Outta Compton,” if that was ever possible.

When you get to Part II of the record (called “Inauguration of the Worm”), the tracks just get ridiculous. Beatles’ “White Album” ridiculous.

“Wormboy,” “Mister Superstar,” and “Angel with the Scabbed Wings” I could listen to over and over, and I have. I’ve already murdered the neighbors on either side of me.

Cycle III begins with the title track, a totalitarian anthem of hate, abuse and wretchedness, and by then you’re dead. You’ve killed yourself and your family and that’s population control at its rock and roll finest.






Jesus Freak – dc Talk

Whatever the hell “alternative rock” even is, if anything should be permitted to bear this name it is Christian rock. Was Cobain or Vedder’s gloomy horseshit “alternative?” To bands like Poison and Winger maybe, but if that’s the only criteria Boyz II Men were alternative too.

But how many bands rocked hard while singing about God like dc Talk did on Jesus Freak, particularly on songs like the title track, “So Help Me God” and “Day By Day?” Very damn few, you godless bastard! Then there’s “Colored People,” which, although it sounds like a 60s Johnny Rebel tune, is supposed to teach us to shun racism no matter how logical it may sound. Of course, you have to assume these three guys do not feel the same way about the fruits, but why nitpick?

If beautiful chanteuses like Miss Angie, Broomtree’s Kylie Schilg, or Considering Lily’s Serene Campbell and Pearl Barrett can’t convince you God exists, you’re only hope is this fantastic album.






(Tie)

The fifth spot is a virtual six-way tie between Veruca Salt’s American Thighs and Eight Arms to Hold You, Letters to Cleo’s Aurora Gory Alice and Whole Meats and Fish, and Juliana Hatfield’s Hey Babe and Become What You Are. Because alternative rock, while it may be horseshit, was never strictly a man’s world.