Zerbisias & Daily News Wrong About Howard Stern

Toronto Star Lifestyles Columnist Antonia Zerbisias, much to my surprise, has been blogging since the start of the year.  It’s a surprise because in December 2006, when she was The Star’s Media Critic, she was contemplating a permanent break from posting frequent entries on Azerbic, her original blog.  As she commented on Fading To Black at the time, “…my blog is on hiatus until I decide what to do with the rest of my life.  For one thing, I would actually like to have a life.”.  She published her last item on the site on December 20th that year. 
Her new blog, Broadsides (pun intended, by the way), which officially began on January 3rd this year, focuses more on feminism and sexism rather than general commentary on journalism.  Yesterday, she wrote scathingly and unfairly about Howard Stern. 
The Sirius Satellite Radio host was the lead item in The Rush & Molloy gossip column in the September 9th edition of The New York Daily News.  According to both Mark Mercer, the blogger who writes up detailed overviews of the popular morning program on Marksfriggin.com, and Howardstern.com (the official site), Stern was understandably furious about how an upcoming segment on the September 9th show was promoted in the article.
“Look for Howard Stern to shock again on Tuesday morning when he’s due to kick off the auction of a 22-year-old beauty’s virginity,” it began.  “Expected to step on the block, so to speak, of Stern’s Sirius radio studio is a San Diego woman who says she wants to sell her maidenhood to pay her college tuition.”
In a piece posted on her Broadsides blog in relation to that article, Zerbisias opined thusly:
“Howard Stern is a pimp.”
Firstly, the bidding for “Natalie Dylan’s” chastity began before her appearance on the show.  The longtime New York talk radio phenomenon is unaffiliated with the auction.  (“Howard said he would never auction off a virgin on his show,” Mercer reported.)  Dennis Hof, a frequent guest and the 51-year-old owner of The Bunny Ranch brothel in Nevada, is the one running it.  As Hof noted during the interview, “Dylan” (not her real name) has already received an offer of $50000 from an unnamed businessman.  No actual bidding took place during the program, including that one.
Secondly, Dennis Hof is the pimp, not Stern.  As Mercer reported on his website, the comedian felt violated by the article and urged his producer, Gary Dell’Abate, to cancel the segment.  “Howard said that it’s not something that he would do himself and he was just interested in finding out what it’s all about,” he wrote.  Howardstern.com noted, “After hearing that Dennis and the girls [Dylan & her sister, Aiva] had already flown in and were on their way, Howard begrudgingly allowed Gary to keep the segment on the schedule.”  Stern confronted Hof on the air who denied saying to The Daily News that the auction was to officially begin on the New York-based comedian’s program.  He also shifted the blame to Judith Regan, the publisher of Stern’s two best-selling autobiographies, who he claims urged him to get publicity for the stunt in the daily tabloid.
As with any media outlet, be it radio show, TV program, newspaper, magazine or website, nefarious characters from all walks of life from around the world are highly sought after for interviews.  The Stern Show is no exception.  It doesn’t mean any of them endorse the people they’re querying nor whatever it is they’re promoting.  The idea of a woman wanting a man to pay to win the privilege of deflowering her, while unoriginal, is interesting and newsworthy.  Who wouldn’t want to ask questions about this in a public forum?  And, by the way, how come Rush & Molloy, as well as The Daily News, were spared the “pimp” smear?  They were the first media outlet to report this story.  Talk about an unfair double standard.
Back to Zerbisias.  After her slanderous opening line (which is unconscionable and should be retracted), she follows with this:
“Boosting your ratings on a woman’s body is no different from living off the avails of prostitution.”
As Warren Kinsella has helpfully pointed out for years, Zerbisias’ professional home, The Toronto Star, whose parent company, TorStar, owns Eye Weekly, has benefited financially for years from thinly disguised “hooker ads”, to use his phrase, routinely published in the free publication.  (On her Azerbic blog in 2006, in response to Kinsella’s National Post column about the ads, she actually defended the practice.) 
So, let me get this straight.  Ads for sexual workers in Eye Weekly are ok “[a]s long as the women are consenting adults and working of their own free will in clean and safe environments, free of exploitative bosses…” which, in turn, keeps money rolling in for your employers but Howard Stern can’t talk to one woman wanting to auction off her virginity even though he won’t be earning a cent from it?  That’s some strange logic right there.
Thanks to the Daily News, the misrepresentation in the Rush & Molloy column was not only mentioned in Broadsides but all over the Internet.  No wonder Stern was pissed.  The guy has three daughters.  He doesn’t need to defend who he is to them because of bad reporting like this.  They already know.  He’s no pimp and contrary to Zerbisias’ unproven assertion that Stern “has always exploited women to get listeners,” (the show would’ve been cancelled a long time ago if sex was the only topic of discussion), let’s make this perfectly clear.  Every woman that’s ever been on the show to get naked, ride the Sybian sex machine, participate in game show segments or sit down for a chat has done so of her own free will.  They’ve always had the right to say yes or no to any requests that come up before, during and after the segments.  And if Zerbisias ever bothered to listen to Stern or even read the write-ups on Marksfriggin.com and Howardstern.com, the comedian has a lot of respect for the women he interviews on his program.
In fact, as Mark Mercer reported yesterday, “Howard asked Natalie why she would want to do that [sell her virginity] and not meet someone nice and lose it to him instead.”  He also noted, “Howard said that Natalie is looking for a great guy and he’s not sure she’ll find that this way.”
Does that sound like a “pimp” who “has always exploited women to get listeners”?
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
2:28 a.m.
UPDATE:  Zerbisias has linked to an article by Weird News blogger Buck Wolf which contains these comments from Stern:
“I have three daughters, a fiancé and a mother. This is not my thing. We don’t even know if it is true.
I’m only interviewing the girl about WHY she is doing this, the same way ANY show – or ANY newspaper – interviews people about what they do.”
Exactly, but that wasn’t good enough for The Star columnist who stubbornly refuses to admit that she was wrong to call him a “pimp”.  She also stands by her initial, unproven assertion that Stern is “profiting” from the auction.  Would she say the same thing if Natalie appeared on The View?
As for her remark, “Stern didn’t become the shock jock by hosting sobre political debates,” the comedian has led discussions on politics constantly throughout his decades in broadcasting.  (He’s also not a “shock jock”.  If you’re “shocked” by things he says on the program, you must not be an adult who can handle different opinions, particularly those coming from a man.)  One wonders if she has ever actually listened to the program or even read the show write-ups on Marksfriggin.com and/or Howardstern.com.  It certainly doesn’t sound like it.  At any event, this example proves Stern is a lot more in tune with reality than Zerbisias thinks he is.  (He was absolutely right about Joe Lieberman.)
I’ve always had problems with the longtime Star employee even though she can be one of the best critical writers in the country.  (Her media criticism gig is much missed.)  But she has become very difficult to read, thanks to her increasing misandry and hypocrisy.  One gets very angry at her general, unfair stereotyping of our gender.  Routinely, we are collectively dismissed as being “clueless” because we’re not very good at understanding “what drives women on a primal level”, as if their needs and wants are so radically different than ours.  (So, women don’t want fulfilling relationships, careers and general happiness or am I being clueless?)  We’re genetically inferior, too dumb to know we’re being exploited by the adult entertainment business (getting off on naked pictures and videos of hot women isn’t what we want?) and we “fear” assertive women.  Plus, we’re just less intelligent than women. 
You know, there are 3 billion of us on this planet.  We are world leaders, business moguls, world class athletes, inventors, scientists, attorneys, environmentalists, police officers, fire fighters, volunteers, caregivers, performers, fathers, sons, grandsons, uncles, brothers, etc., etc.  To continually denigrade us as a whole because some men are a disgrace to our gender says more about Zerbisias than it does about us.  We deserve the same respect women do, not more, not less.  Can you imagine if a man had referred to women in the exact, same manner as she does about us?  She would be the first to call us out on our bullshit.  But because it’s a woman bashing men, that’s ok.
Well, it’s not ok.  I used to have respect for her as a writer.  I don’t any longer.
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Saturday, September 13, 2008
3:03 p.m.
Published in: on September 10, 2008 at 2:27 am  Comments (1)  

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  1. […] I found her tone really hard to take at times and when she unfairly criticized Howard Stern for having a guest on his show who was auctioning off her virgi…, the respect I had for her as a media critic pretty much dissipated.  She totally blew it and […]

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