Brace Yourselves, Vietnamese Hookers

As noted in this April 26 Message column, the fallout from the Don Imus controversy so worried the folks at Clear Channel-Denver that they called a meeting of on-air talent from their eight-station cluster to discuss its implications. And judging by KHOW talk-show host Craig Silverman's reaction to the concerns of a single listener, yakkers are still very much in the caution mode.

The radio lover in question phoned Westword to claim that Silverman (pictured) used a surprisingly blunt descriptor during an early May show he broadcast with assistance from his partner, Dan Caplis: "Vietnamese whore." In response to questions on this topic, Silverman left a voicemail message in which he emphasized that the word "whore" never passed his lips. "That's not really part of my vocabulary," he said. The actual remark, he added, was "Vietnamese hooker" -- and he believes the context of the comment rendered it completely inoffensive.

According to Silverman, a caller who received the show's usual greeting -- "Hello, welcome to 630 KHOW" -- replied, "First time, long time." This turn of phrase reminded Silverman of a line attributed to prostitutes during the era of the Vietnam war: "Love you long time." (This dialogue turned up in the Stanley Kubrick film Full Metal Jacket and was sampled by 2 Live Crew for their infamous naughty-party song "Me So Horny.") Hence, the "Vietnamese hooker" comment, which was tossed out as an offhand joke of the sort Silverman frequently tells.

Nevertheless, Silverman noted, "I went to pains to say the Vietnamese aren't hookers. I love the Vietnamese people." Moreover, he pointed out that he didn't get a single gripe from anyone inside or outside KHOW in respect to his attempted witticism. In his view, the person who phoned Westword "probably doesn't like my politics."

Perhaps -- or maybe the sensitivity of radio fans has simply been heightened by the attention heaped upon Imus for his "nappy-headed hos" jibe, which was aimed at the womens basketball team at Rutgers. Whatever the case, Silverman and his peers are operating in a volatile environment, and they have no idea what could set off an avalanche of complaints capable of sweeping them away. Guess there isn't a lobbying group for Vietnamese hookers. -- Michael Roberts

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts