Opie and Anthony get flushed

Posted: Aug 27, 2002 12:00 AM
Now here's something that doesn't happen every day: Radio shock jocks are having to absorb some shock of their own. Greg Hughes and Anthony Cumia, known in 18 markets as the envelope-pushing "Opie and Anthony," were fired by Infinity Broadcasting for encouraging a Virginia couple to have sex inside St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City while producer Paul Mercurio gave listeners the pew-rocking play-by-play on his cell phone. This unusually offensive prank -- carried on as worshipers came to this hallowed house of God to celebrate the holy day of obligation marking Mary's assumption into Heaven -- prodded even the usually comatose Federal Communications Commission to announce it would move swiftly to investigate whether it violated federal rules against broadcasting "indecent" material. Common sense raises the immediate question: What's to investigate? If this isn't an open-and-shut case, nothing is. Unfortunately, that's the point. Opie and Anthony, along with their former Infinity microphone-mates, Howard Stern and Don and Mike, have regularly cruised beyond the bounds of decency with the tiniest of fines, which is why they publicly laugh at and taunt the FCC on a regular basis. Stern is the stereotype of sex-obsessed radio, constantly demanding women display their private parts for the studio crew. Don and Mike hold "strip trivia" contests with roomfuls of men and women, and have encouraged women to "stir the soup" -- masturbate to climax over the telephone. Asking Infinity to fire shock jocks for encouraging public lewdness is like R.J. Reynolds firing factory workers for making cigarettes. Before this pratfall, Opie and Anthony were best known for encouraging women to show their breasts in public on "Whip 'Em Out Wednesday." Their last straw came as part of a promotion listing 54 risky locations for couples to have sex, offering the winners a trip to the Samuel Adams brewery for pitching woo in public. Isn't that a nice commercial tie-in? "Have our nice premium-brewed Sam Adams. Drink enough of these beauties, and you, too, might have your judgment so impaired you try to get it on at a church -- with our compliments." Not only is the shock-milking home station for this formerly syndicated duo, WNEW, in hot water with the authorities, so are the pitiful participants. Brian Florence and Loretta Harper, both in their supposedly wiser and more mature mid-thirties, are charged with public lewdness. Instead of touring the Sam Adams brewery, they'll be touring a courthouse in October for more embarrassing pictures in the tabloids. (I'm sure Opie and Anthony won't be showing up to apologize to their parents at Thanksgiving dinner.) Their lawyer claims the sex was only simulated for broadcast. That might lessen the legal penalties, but it doesn't lessen their stupidity or their callous disregard for churchgoers or their Lord. The transcript of the 14-minute stunt has the cackling co-hosts claiming that "obviously everybody knows ... they're just simulating the acts ... right? ... They wouldn't be stupid enough to actually have [inaudible] sex in a church? Right?" How pathetic that these drive-time dimwits would bail out on the people they encouraged into this shameful behavior by lamely insisting they didn't really mean to encourage cathedral copulation. And how pathetic then that Infinity's action -- dead-right as it was for one day after years of profiting from wrong -- somehow tries to flush out the labor without taking any blame as management. This only underlines everything that's wrong with this brand of autoerotic audio. These stations pile up millions of listeners -- 10 million for Opie and Anthony -- by pushing every sexual button. Then they hide behind the teasing fakery of it all -- you weren't really scandalized because it's only radio, and you can't see if we're making it up or not. Maybe nobody's really naked, or having sex, alone or in pairs. And maybe it's really not appropriate to encourage people to fornicate where kids might walk in and need a few minutes of explanation. Is it really worth all that sleaziness just to cobble together an audience for Sam Adams beer? A sizable fraction of these listeners stay tuned just frozen in continual amazement that these jocks are getting away with all of this. But we've learned we can count on Opie and Anthony to be oblivious about where society might finally draw a line. They were fired in Boston four years ago for telling listeners that Mayor Tom Menino had been killed in a car wreck -- on April Fool's Day. Some laugh-a-minute prank. Only in America could people this stupid make themselves millionaires.