Not-So-Funny Business

Are gays fair game for jokes on Denver radio?

As an example, Taher cites action taken in July 2001 against Hot 99.5, a Clear Channel station in Washington, D.C., that was promoting a contest called "The Running of the Bull Dykes." The idea called for second-rung morning staffer Rebecca Froman, known by the clever nom de plume "Becky Butt Rub," to pin a pair of Melissa Etheridge concert tickets to her back and race across land near the Washington Monument chased by a mob of participating "dykes." Etheridge fans wanting to join in were given a strict set of instructions: "(1) Each Bull Dyke must wear at least one piece of flannel clothing; (2) Each Bull Dyke must wear a pair of boots: work boots, hiking boots, cowboy boots, etc.; (3) Each Bull Dyke must have short hair, or wear their hair up or under a hat. NO LONG HAIR ALLOWED; (4) No skirts or dresses allowed, pants or shorts only!; (5) Absolutely, positively NO MAKE-UP!!!"

These directions were subsequently pulled from Hot 99.5's Web site after a GLAAD e-mail and phone campaign. In a tepid stab at damage control, hosts Mark Kaye and Kris Gamble interviewed GLAAD's Romaine Patterson on the air (the unintentionally hilarious results can be heard at, but it was too late. On contest day, according to an account in the Washington Post, a single, self-proclaimed "bull dyke" was joined by two dozen lesbians whose ultra-feminine garb symbolized their contempt for the event. In the end, no running took place, and station personnel simply gave the tickets to the one genuine contestant and quietly went away.

Nothing quite as monumentally stupid has been perpetrated by a Denver station lately, but that doesn't mean gay stereotyping is becoming an endangered species. In late May, New York Mets catcher Mike Piazza, prompted by speculation fueled by a New York Post gossip column, called the area media together to declare that he isn't gay, and the next morning, Lewis and Floorwax took on the topic. But instead of doing jokes designed to demonstrate how far the sports world has to go in terms of accepting diversity, they trotted out another formulaic gay character -- this one christened "Hans Onaman" -- to, as Goin puts it, "talk about how insecure he is to have felt he needed to hold a press conference." In other words, Piazza was at fault, not the societal prejudices that put him in an impossible position.

Mark Poutenis

Too bad, since there were less accusatory ways of wringing guffaws from the situation, as comic David Letterman proved that evening on CBS's The Late Show. After Letterman mentioned Piazza's non-revelation, announcer Alan Kalter, who specializes in acting oversexed, stormed out of the studio shouting, "Not gay? Not gay?" -- a self-deprecating joke that even Piazza probably would have enjoyed. Later, Letterman screened a faux promo for an upcoming game in which the narrator touted "the heterosexual Mets," and said if the team lost, it would be because the players had been up late the night before "nailing chicks." The spoof was riotous in part because it wisely mocked the macho attitudes that spawned the controversy in the first place, and not gays in general.

More thoughtful coverage of gay issues is a priority with PFLAG's Hodges, and she thinks people like her can help by communicating better with the media. Last year, PFLAG invited representatives from TV, radio and print outlets to a meeting Hodges saw as extremely productive, and she hopes more such get-togethers will take place in the future. "We're trying to reach out to the straight community and change perceptions," she says. "And the media's an obvious place to work, because they have public access and they're very influential. I think they should be leaders about changing attitudes and not merely reflect the attitudes of the lowest common denominator."

Of course, opinions about what should remain off limits differ widely from person to person. KOA's Martin doesn't think the implications about Kirk Montgomery's sexual preference that were broadcast on his station are any different than one-liners his jocks have made about Martin's "bouffant hairdo" or Clear Channel-Denver chieftain Lee Larsen's nose -- and he sees no reason anyone should suspect that the reporter was deliberately targeted. "None of us really pay that much attention to him," Martin says. "I mean, he's a frickin' movie critic. It's not like we're talking about Adele Arakawa here.

"We do not bash homosexuals at Clear Channel," he continues. "Just come down here and see how many people with an alternative lifestyle work here and do very well and who get along very well with everybody. And that's the way it should be. It's the year 2002 -- give me a break."

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