What a time of the year for extremes. Just look at the type of weather we've been having over the last week or so. On one hand, we have winter gleefully taking its last licks at the Tri-County region; on the other, interludes of mild almost warm weather tease us with the promise of sun-filled days with fresh breezes gently caressing the region.

Well, the ol' one couldn't take more delight in two other extremes that seem to have imploded upon themselves: Howard Stern and Martha Stewart.

For the uninformed, Howard Stern is the king of radio's "shock jocks"; Martha Stewart, everybody's "perfect homemaker."

Stern got his just desserts for being himself: indecent and obscene. Stewart got her clock cleaned, so to speak, for lying about insider stock trading she said she did not do.

The future of Stern's daily radio show is in jeopardy. Stewart faces prison time.

Here we have two individuals, as different as night and day, yet similar in what the ol' one views as some sort of cognitive behavior. You know about cognitive behavior. It's best explained by the phrase, "It couldn't happen to me." Teenagers are especially vulnerable to this type of thinking because, well, it's simply part of growing up, and what do adults know about life, anyway. Both Stern and Stewart are worth millions of dollars, and, for better or worse, have wielded a tremendous amount of influence through their syndicated radio, television, and cable shows as well as through their successful books, and in Stewart's case, a wide variety of home/women's interest magazines.

It seems they thought they could do whatever they wanted because they were riding high in their respective celebrity worlds.

Stewart, 62, has been referred to as "the perfect woman." While she may know how to fold a linen napkin, she should have known that insider trading is not kosher, given the fact that before she became "perfect" she was a stockbroker on Wall Street. Then, it should be absurd to think that she would go into her assistant's computer and alter the message log regarding the sale of her ImClone stock, from which, according to various media reports, she cleared about $50,000. But, she did, as reported, alter the log in an attempt to smooth out what would otherwise have been a few wrinkles in her "perfect" life.

It defies the ol' one's grasp as to why Stewart, whose company, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, reported $295 million in revenues in 2002 would be seemingly obsessed by a mere $50,000.

Then she shows up in federal court in Manhattan wearing a chinchilla scarf estimated to be worth $2,000 and carrying a Hermes Birkin calfskin handbag estimated to be worth $6,000! Perhaps she bought those bangles with the $50,000. Oh, by the way, she spent a week vacationing in Las Ventanas, Mexico to the tune of $17,000. Our "perfect homemaker" owns homes in Connecticut, Manhattan, Maine, and East Hampton, of course. She was found guilty of conspiracy to obstruct justice, obstruction of justice and two counts of making false statements, and faces up to 20 years in prison and $1 million in fines.

Stern, 50, has traded on sex, obscenities, and overall raunch on his daily morning radio show, which he has been hosting since 1986, and is nationally syndicated by Infinity Broadcasting. The future of his show is in doubt as the Federal Communications Commission is finally toughening up its decency standards after the infamous Janet Jackson episode during this year's Super Bowl half-time show.

The ol' one over the years has barely wasted any battery acid on Stern and his wireless shenanigans. What little he has heard has undoubtedly been in bad taste and blatantly obscene. What caused this latest controversy over Stern was his show on February 24 when he unequivocally and blatantly discussed a sex video that involved that trollop, Paris Hilton and her ex-boyfriend Rick Salomon.

A listener's complaint regarding that discussion led the nation's largest radio conglomerate, Clear Channel Radio, to suspend airing the Stern show until he cleaned up his act according to the conglomerate's standards.

"It was vulgar, offensive and insulting, not just to women and African-Americans but to anyone with a sense of common decency," said Clear Channel's president and CEO John Hogan of the February 24th show.

Now, let's be honest. What took Hogan so long to figure out "a sense of common decency" when Infinity, Stern's syndicator, had been fined $1.7 million by the FCC in the '90s for questionable actions on the air? His sense of no-taste notwithstanding, Stern's popularity generated millions in advertising revenues for the stations airing his daily excursion into perversion. Perhaps that was a major stumbling block for Hogan. But what about the FCC? Here is its three-prong test for material to be obscene: An average person, applying contemporary community standards, must find that the material, as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest; The material must depict or describe, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by applicable law; and The material, taken as a whole, must lack serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value. The ol' one is not an FCC commissioner, but seems like Stern's show meets those criteria.

Why has the FCC waited so long? At one time, broadcasters stood in fear and awe of the power the FCC wielded over the control of the nation's radio and television frequencies. Since the five FCC commissioners are appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate for five-year terms, there quite possibly could be some political motivation. After all, it was unheard of 20 or so years ago for one company such as Clear Channel to own 1,200 stations. Now, for the real kickers.

Stern has wailed to the media, "Janet Jackson is now forgotten and I'm on the front page of every newspaper."

Stewart, on her website marthatalks.com, has offered, "I am heartsick about my personal legal situation - and deeply sorry for the pain and difficulty it has caused all our company employees."

Referring to her resignation from director and chief creative officer of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, she stated, "I am taking this action because it is in the best interests of the company and because I think it is the right thing to do."

Oh, then she closes by saying, "...and I promise I will continue to do everything I can to help people bring 'good things' into their homes and lives."

Doesn't it seem strange that this media odd couple has tried in some degree to portray themselves as somewhat naive about what is and has been levied at them?

There's that cognitive behavior surfacing again. C'mon, Howard. C'mon, Martha. Grow up and take some responsibility for your actions.

The ol' one might even brew a few cups of good joe, if you do.

comments powered by Disqus