"Willard Wizeman" continued to perform his comic routine that includes the sound of him unzipping his pants on the Rick Dees radio show on KIIS-FM (102.7) this week, despite the stern warnings against the broadcasting of potentially offensive material recently handed down by the Federal Communications Commission.
"It would be terrible to zip him up for good," Dees said of his notoriously rude character.
Dees' flip comment reflected the attitude of most local radio personalities and programmers toward the FCC's attempt to crack down on what it sees as indecent behavior on the part of a number of radio stations across the country.
Though the federal regulatory agency issued a harsh reprimand to Howard Stern, New York's infamous shock radio disc jockey, on his use of language, and local public-radio station KPFK might be criminally prosecuted for broadcasting a homosexual play about AIDS that contained some explicit descriptions of sexual acts, a quick survey this week showed that it was business as usual for all the other comic, outrageous, suggestive and occasionally raunchy radio stations in Los Angeles.
Some local disc jockeys actually were flaunting their disdain for the FCC action on the air. On KROQ-FM (106.7), morning hosts Richard Blade and Jim (the Poor Man) Trenton made up a list of sexual references that they thought the FCC might object to and used them on the air.
"It's just like when the Supreme Court was trying to define obscenity," Trenton said in an interview, "and the one Justice said, 'I know it when I see it.' The FCC is trying to define something that is just too nebulous. They will never come up with a definite answer about what is or isn't too reprehensible to say on the radio."
Barry Hansen, better known as Dr. Demento, said they shouldn't even be trying. "I wish they would leave their hands off the question of good taste and leave it up to the free market," he said. "If there is an audience for Howard Stern's show, then he should be allowed to air it."
Hansen said he's not afraid that the FCC's action will force him to delete such renegade songs as "Shaving Cream" from his show. After 17 years of creating his wacky, nationally syndicated radio program (now heard Sundays at 8 p.m. KLSX-FM (97.1), he said that he has learned what's permissible and that he consistently censors himself, based on his own principles of good taste.
Trenton said he does agree that disc jockeys should not be permitted to use the so-called "seven dirty words" involved in the 1978 Supreme Court ruling that the FCC was justified in sanctioning a radio station that broadcast them in a George Carlin comedy routine.
In fact, all of the local radio personalities contacted said they were in favor of staying behind the line that prohibits obscene words, racial slurs and encouragement of drug use. Most expressed the belief that the FCC crackdown was precipitated almost exclusively by Stern and a few other shock radio deejays around the country. The FCC, some said, simply had to do something about the flood of complaints it has received about Stern and his brand of radio. They hope that after publicly reprimanding Stern, the agency will leave everyone else alone.
But the real problem for some local programmers is that the FCC refuses to lay down any specific regulations. Jeff Wyatt, program director at KPWR-FM (105.9), said his station would be glad to follow the FCC rules if it knew what those rules were. The latest FCC action, he maintained, only served to make the standards more vague than ever.
"We automatically watch ourselves, based on what we think our target listening audience (women, 18-34) wants to hear," Wyatt said. "To some people, burping on the air is disgusting and should be outlawed. But who's going to decide? They can't regulate until they outline the specifics. Otherwise it will be another witch hunt like Joseph McCarthy calling everyone a communist."
Trenton said he was worried that the FCC's warning could interfere with some of his programs, such as "Love Line," a responsible yet humorous show that counsels teen-agers about sex and relationship problems. Recently a teen-ager called up and asked seriously, "At what age does a man's penis stop growing?" The program's resident physician answered the question straightforwardly, and the "Poor Man" moved on to a discussion of masturbation.
"This show is entertaining and informative, and we have taken those words out of the realm of smut," Trenton said. But he said that an FCC that censures Stern for using those words and seeks to prosecute KPFK for airing a play ultimately could end up censoring "Love Line."
"We can't throw away the First Amendment," Trenton said. "That's the scary thing. But if we got a warning from the FCC, people would probably think of us as folk heroes. If you start to worry about it, you won't be able to do your show."
Rick Dees seemed amused by all the fuss. He insisted that the FCC "hit list" contains only a few people like Stern who have deliberately set themselves up as "Mr. Dirty." His show, he said, will remain full of the double-entendres and suggestive repartee that he's convinced even the FCC would find humorous.