Did you see Tom Cruise go mental on Oprah? Do you think that shit is catching?
You have little to fear that Tom's bizarre brain malady is contagious. Sure, he did leap on Oprah like she was his favorite dessert, but even she won't need a special inoculation. Clearly, Tom's psyche has gone into some kind of parabolic orbit thanks to his Hubbardism -- which, unfortunately, he's now inflicting on his new girlfriend. Yes, Katie Holmes has admitted that she has started taking Scientology classes, and soon she, too, will discover the wacky fun of paying slack-jawed morons in naval outfits tens of thousands of dollars for the privilege of having supposed space-alien parasites removed from her body. Hollywood types, after all, aren't hard to convince that they lived past lives and that their destinies are tied to the history of the entire galaxy. Sure, conquering internal alien cooties is a rather strange concept for a religion, but remember, after just a few years of worshipping old L. Ron the commodore, Katie will gain the powers of total recall and clairvoyance, so just imagine what an amazing actress she'll become! And with her photographic memory, maybe she'll remember what it was that she actually found interesting about her bizarro boyfriend in the first place.
Got a moral quandary? E-mail Jimmy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
When we learned last week that KMBZ 980 had booted afternoon talk-show host Russ Johnson, we wondered if it had anything to do with Kansas City's "Good Samaritan," Jon U.
For quite a while, we'd been big admirers of Johnson, one of the few AM talkers who showed any interest in actually challenging his listeners with provocative ideas instead of just pandering to them the way most others do. Johnson was no lefty, but he knew how to question conservative sacred cows and get under the skin of KMBZ listeners who otherwise were spoon-fed a daylong diet of pure pablum from the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly and the unhinged Michael Savage. Unlike those deluded demagogues, Johnson understood that it was more fun to challenge the conventional wisdoms of the left and the right and produce a show that was as humorous as it was unpredictable.
Johnson's take on the Jon U matter was a classic example. Two weeks ago, we just knew this town -- and The Kansas City Star in particular -- would go overboard in its fawning tributes to the "heroic" U after he died June 8 from injuries he received on May 20. Sure enough, the Star has led the chorus of voices proclaiming U a symbol of courage and selfless devotion to others.
It was quite a relief to tune in to Johnson on June 9 and hear some common sense: U had guts, but he made a bad decision.
As Johnson pointed out, we'd all like to think we'd have the courage to stand up to a criminal and risk our lives to save the life of someone under attack. But that's not what happened on May 20. By the time U arrived, alleged scumbag Brad Joseph Jones was fleeing the scene and getting into a car after snatching the purse of Ruth Peck in a Target store parking lot. U caught up to Jones and reached for the purse as Jones started to drive away. By now, you've heard the rest -- U was dragged with the car and was crushed when Jones drove it into the side of a building.
Johnson pointed out the simple truth: U.'s life wasn't worth losing for a purse. And the Star won't say it, but take it from Backwash: The man's death was the best possible illustration of exactly what not to do in that circumstance. U wasn't protecting Peck. He had become a misguided vigilante, and he paid a stupid price.
The station was hit with a big backlash over his stance, Johnson said the next day, June 10. The following Monday, he was gone.
But Johnson says that although his final shows might have helped the station make up its mind, he was forced out over something less intriguing: falling ratings. "We did have some very strong books," he says. "Unfortunately, after the election the ratings took a little dip." The sad truth, he adds, is that KMBZ listeners do want to be told what they already believe. "Dissent really isn't that profitable anymore on these stations that are really conservative," he says. "There are millions of people out there fed this way of looking at the world, and they don't want to listen to a different view."
Neil Larrimore, KMBZ's program director, tells Backwash he can't comment about Johnson's ratings or the political leanings of the station, but he confirms that the comments about Jon U had nothing to do with Johnson's dismissal. "There are no hard feelings. I'm glad that I was able to be a part of Russ' successes at KMBZ," he says.
Johnson says he's sprucing up a résumé, but his wife, who adores Kansas City, is hoping that he won't have to leave town to find a new job.
We're on her side.