Every time I try to wean myself off Howard Stern, he pulls me back in, as Michael Corleone would say. Stern, capable of the funniest and/or most vile radio content to be heard, often turns so candid an interview that it puts Barbara Walters to shame. Is he merely going for the dirt and the manipulation of his guests, or is his main goal to illuminate? After all these years, I find Howard an enigma.
His recent interview of Lady Gaga has compelled me to opine on matters I find both very dear and sadly repugnant.
I sometimes wonder why Gaga has flourished as Amy Winehouse was extinguished. Both of them, musically talented in the highest of ways, have opened up the discussion of fame and survival in the world of show-biz -- and what it means to be an allegedly powerful woman -- totally exposed and offered up for all types of exploitation and hateful comment.
Perhaps it is as simple as the fact that Gaga, not being an crack addict as Winehouse was (although an admitted, sometimes, substance abuser), did not really face the depths of Winehouse's complete chemical and psychiatric profile for self-destruction. The difference between them was made clear in the way the two Divas presented themselves on Tony Bennett's duet project. Gaga seemed to bloom (check out their "Lady is a Tramp"), as Amy's voice, a total wreck by then, was exampled by an excruciating "Body and Soul," which was an accelerated caricature of Billie Holiday's decline.
Gaga offers the music world more than just hope -- she delivers. I do not dismiss her pop personality, as I was truly mesmerized by listening and watching her "Bad Romance" video and all her other shenanigans. Although many people state "thank God she is now doing real music," there is no single reason that she should be faulted for her brilliant success as a cultural phenomenon. That would have been enough. BUT the fact is that she had delved into The Great American Song Book, with passion and integrity, akin to that of Opera's Maria Callas' embracing the so called dying art of Bel Canto.
My feelings of "intellectual" superiority were born of a sad conversation that I had with an ageing jazz great, one who feared all was lost for any others of his ilk. When he morosely claimed that there was no future for jazz singers, I vehemently, somewhat disrespectfully disagreed, suggesting that his vision was limited, for there was not doubt there would be new singers, if not new vocabulary, to keep jazz alive, just as classical musicians are always around to resurrect Beethoven and all the other immortals. Jazz might have entered its rightful place in the museum of art forms, but it is also reborn in the sincere and successful efforts by artists like Lady Gaga.
Which leads me to the interview she had with Stern, the classic retelling of a young woman -- creative or otherwise (and I am sure it happens to men also) -- falling into sexual prey.
As Howard pulled the admission out of Lady Gaga (that she was sexually assaulted when a very young artist), I was somewhat angry with him for making that a central issue of his interview. Here she was talking about how jazz music soothed her depression and the need to be merely a performance spectacle, when he pulled an implied rape out of his bag of tricks.
Is he helping us or rubbing salt in the collective wound of the exploited by reminding us that by merely opening our mouths to sing, or to merely exist, that we are constantly endangered? Stern lives or dies by what he calls "Good Radio."
But now we must turn to the growing allegation against Dr. Huxtable. With all the women coming forward claiming that they were abused by Bill Cosby it is shocking and dismaying to see that misogyny trumps even racism. Men, conservative white men (including Limbaugh, and Glenn Beck), who might normally target a black man without a second thought, are littering the air-waves and internet with commentary claiming that he has been targeted because of his so-called traditional values. BTW, there are plenty of females who claim they do not believe or understand why all these woman, if they were truly abused, would wait so long to do so. They say it is a liberal conspiracy. As a pseudo-libertarian, it pains me to think that these people really feel that way. (Hopefully they are a bunch of wing-nuts and perhaps it would behoove all of us not to read too much into many comments on the internet.) Saying that, I welcome all comments...
I have no opinion on whether the comedian, specifically (well I do -- I don't think he is funny), has touched any women. I was not there and there has been no trial. But I do know that it is part of a person's defense mechanism to deny and compartmentalize that type of abuse for years. There is nothing surprising about the alleged victims' coming out decades following the events. To those who call all those women gold-diggers, do you also feel that men who admit to past abuse at the hands of religious leaders and coaches years later, are merely out for a profit as well?
All I can say is that there must be an ongoing, brutally honest dialog regarding the devil that lurks within many people of power. We are also a society that is fortunate to have its survivors help us with the healing power of their art, as proved by Lady Gaga, and countless others who made it through to the other side of evil, helping make the world a bearable place to exist in.