Several hundred demonstrators surrounded the gates of Paramount for two hours Tuesday morning to protest the studio’s planned syndie TV talk skein hosted by controversial radio personality Laura Schlessinger.
The protesters, led by GLAAD and other gay-rights orgs, gathered under Par’s fabled archway to blast Schlessinger’s frequently harsh on-air descriptions of gays as “deviants” and “products of a biological disorder.” She says such views stem from her strong religious conservatism.
The boisterous crowd, ringed by about a dozen policemen, carried signs likening the studio to “Laura-mont” and asking “Plato, Michelangelo, Tchaikovsky: biological errors?”
As suggested by the name of their Web site, stopdrlaura.com, protesters aren’t merely lodging an objection to the show; they want it canceled.
“The argument that guests will present different points of view is not valid,” said feminist attorney Gloria Allred, who, herself, has an upcoming syndie talker called “Power of Attorney” at Twentieth Television. “The prestige and the power lies with the host. The better approach would be not to have such a host at all.”
A wary truce reached between GLAAD and Par in February has disintegrated in the past month, especially in the wake of a statement Schlessinger issued last week. She termed it an “all-out apology,” while foes called it an unfortunate exclamation point on her provocative views.
“Why has Dr. Laura chosen oppression theology over liberation theology?” biblical scholar Dr. Sylvia Rhue asked the crowd, drawing loud cheers.
No Par reps made an official appearance, though a handful of employees peppered the crowd. Execs’ only comment was a terse written statement stressing the need to balance “civil and human rights of all people” with “the free exchange of speech and ideas.”
With the upcoming Dr. Laura show, the statement concluded, “we are committed to presenting society’s moral and ethical issues without creating or contributing to an environment of hurt, hate or intolerance.”
Those linked to the studio kept a low profile, except for David Lee, co-creator and exec producer of the Par sitcom “Frasier.”
“It’s outrageous that Paramount chooses to be in business with a woman who is literally dangerous to the gay community,” Lee said. “She may not have a club in her hand, but she encourages an atmosphere where those who do wield weapons feel free to use them.”
Across Melrose Avenue, which was partially blocked due to the sizable turnout, a few dozen counter-demonstrators waved pro-Laura placards festooned with pictures of children and messages such as “Laura is good for America” and “Children Against Anti-Species Propaganda.”
The Dr. Laura backers were relegated to the fringes Tuesday, but no one driving in or out of Paramount could ignore the main protest, which briefly blocked the Bronson Street gate used by many top execs.
Internally, many Par workers are deeply troubled that the studio is pushing ahead with the show. Entrenched in an industry long known for its liberal bent, they find themselves under a rare assault from the left. But they dare not risk their livelihood over the issue.
That tension was evident as a blond man in sunglasses entered the lot, driving by the protesters in a sparkling convertible Jaguar. Without slowing down, he offered a simple gesture of support, extending an arm and turning his thumb toward the sky.