Chastised by the Federal Communications Commission but unbowed, shock radio guru Howard Stern held a protest rally with music here Friday to urge support for free speech--particularly his--on radio.
"I'm a little scared with all this censorship and we hope it all blows over," said Stern, whose program last week drew a warning from the FCC as part of the agency's strict new stand against alleged indecency on the airwaves. The tall, lanky morning talk-radio star, whose on-air work is sprinkled with insults, sexual innuendo and what some call "doo-doo" humor, said he doesn't think "we're doing anything wrong. . . .
"We're just having fun, and words never hurt anyone," he told a cheering crowd--police estimated it at 2,500 --that gathered under gray, overcast skies at Dag Hammarskjold Plaza to see and hear Stern in person.
Other listeners were those tuned to WXRK-FM here, where Stern does his 6-10 a.m. show, and those who'd set their dial for WYSP-FM in Philadelphia, where the show is simulcast. Thirty-five complaints from Philadelphia listeners helped lead to the FCC's April 16 warning to Infinity Broadcasting, which owns both stations and nine others.
Broadcast live, Stern's 45-minute open-air show had a rock band and deliberately parodied the protest rallies of the 1960s. It offered songs ranging from "The Times, They Are A-Changin' " to "Louie, Louie," played loudly over huge speakers.
It also featured a young woman named Alexandra who climbed up on stage, praised Stern and briefly bared her bosom to the multitudes. This caused loud whoops from many young men.
Clad in symbolic black-and-white prison garb, Stern led those at the rally in several chants, including one that went "Two, four, six, thirty, the FCC is playing dirty."
He later praised his bosses for supporting him. Many stations, faced with FCC pressure, would have fired him, he said, but executives at his station said, " 'Hey, those (FCC) guys are just being a bunch of fingerheads.' "
He also found time to sneer at one TV reporter seeking to interview him. "The hell with 'Entertainment Tonight,' " he roared. "That's not news."
Stern drew support from his sidekick on his morning program, Robin Quivers, who called for a fight against "the impending censorship of Howard Stern."
The FCC's warning to his employers, which has drawn expressions of concern from such First Amendment experts as Floyd Abrams, described Stern's program as "patently offensive" but did not go beyond that.
The agency issued a similar warning to KCSB-FM at UC Santa Barbara for airing a rock song with sexually explicit lyrics, and asked the Justice Department to consider prosecuting KPFK-FM in Los Angeles for airing an allegedly obscene play about homosexuality and AIDS.
On his Thursday show, Stern, in reading aloud a Time magazine account of the FCC's actions, had difficulty pronouncing the word scabrous, which the magazine used to describe his type of on-air humor.
However, once that crisis passed, he urged listeners here and in Philadelphia to attend his "freedom rally." He solemnly predicted that after Friday's demonstration, "the FCC will think twice before they mess with me."
Those who showed up Friday were good-natured, well-behaved and unique in one respect. Unlike the protest gatherings of the '60s, there was virtually no pot smoking--or, for that matter, cigarette smoking.
Most of those present, from teen-agers to fans in their mid-30s, were a blue-jeans and T-shirt crowd. But a few yuppies in well-pressed suits also were in attendance, the kempt and the unkempt allied in common cause.
"I think it (the rally) is great," said one of those in a business suit, Roger Rowlett, 30, a computer programmer. "I think the FCC's gone crazy on something that's so trivial."