Opie & Anthony, New Jersey's shocking jocks.
Yesterday we received a press release about Opie & Anthony, the network shock jocks who inherited Stern's airtime, and their upcoming and apparently annual Homeless Shopping Spree. We'll let you read it so you can see what the hullabaloo is about:
For Immediate Release Contact: Matt Noyes
December 14, 2006
mnoyes @ ahc.org
Dehumanization Has No Place On Boston Radio
This coming weekend, WBCN Boston is planning to broadcast an event that degrades and humiliates homeless individuals for the perverse amusement of the listening audience. The AIDS Housing Corporation is calling on concerned persons to contact WBCN to urge them not to broadcast this disgusting spectacle.
On Saturday, December 16, radio disc jockeys Opie (Gregg Hughes) and Anthony (Anthony Cumia) will broadcast their annual “Homeless Shopping Spree” at the Short Hills Mall in Short Hills, New Jersey. The “Opie and Anthony Radio Show” is a nationally syndicated show, broadcast locally on WBCN Boston (104.1 FM) and nationally via satellite on XM Satellite Radio.
The so-called Homeless Shopping Spree, which has been held on a number of previous occasions, takes several homeless individuals from New York City and transports them via bus to a shopping mall in a local affluent community. During the trip, Hughes, Cumia and their cohorts provide alcohol to the homeless persons, give them degrading nicknames such as “Tippy Tom,” “Sperm,” and “Buttered Roll,” and generally ridicule them on the air.
Hughes and Cumia’s listeners are encouraged by the radio hosts to give the homeless men money in order to get them to shop at the high-end retail stores in the mall. The men are recorded both with audio and video equipment in the mall and are given a constant supply of liquor.
According to the December 14 broadcast of the Opie and Anthony Radio Show, well over 2,000 persons are expected at the Short Hills Mall to witness the degradation of these men.
A very disturbing online account of a past Homeless Shopping Spree is at http://tinyurl.com/ydjt9h.
There are many disturbing parallels to be made between the Homeless Shopping Spree and the so-called “Bum Fights” video series. In both cases, homeless individuals are portrayed as existing only for the amusement of others and are subjected to extreme humiliation.
Currently, WBCN Boston is planning to broadcast the Homeless Shopping Spree live on Saturday December 16 at 2:30 pm in addition to a scheduled re-broadcast on Monday, December 18 from 6-9 am.
Please contact WBCN at 617-746-1400 and ask them not broadcast this disgusting and disturbing event on their airways.
# # # #
Community Advocacy Coordinator
United Disability Housing Partnership /
AIDS Housing Corporation
29 Stanhope Street; Boston, MA 02116
We forwarded the release to a friend of SCN who is also an Opie & Anthony fan. Here's what he had to say about the event:
In theory I am all for the Homeless Shopping Spree. In execution, I don't know.
Opie and Anthony have a history of this sort of thing; homeless people have appeared on their show before, some frequently. I am not going to say they are always treated with respect, but what needs to be borne in mind is that the listener does not have all the facts, despite the presented illusion to the contrary.
For example - a man named Homeless Andrew was featured on their show recently; he had purchased a coffee cake, and hadn't eaten any yet. He offered some cake to Opie and Anthony; Opie then put the cake on the ground and jumped on it. This, I think, was a lot more dehumanizing than the shopping spree, but at the same time, the listener isn't privy to everything. In other words, there's every chance it was a work - but who knows? In a venue like radio, the illusion is the reality, pretty much. A lot of their stuff makes me laugh - I'd even say most of it does - but I just couldn't find that funny. Apparently Andrew was initially upset but then held no grudge - so it becomes an issue of if he doesn't care, should someone else? And I don't have an answer to that.
Just some background, I suppose. Anyway, onto the spree.
I think Noyes is missing the point of the spree, and the joke behind it; the spree is a joke not at the expense of the homeless people shopping, but at the expense of the rich people who typically patronize the place. I personally think that, on its face anyway, it's brilliant. When it was done in 1999, the mall closed several of the more upscale stores and eventually kicked the homeless people out, which leads one to wonder what exactly they were doing wrong besides "not being our kind of people."
On its face it reminds me of when Joey Skaggs organized bus tours for hippies through the suburbs of Queens. It delineates class borders in ways we don't think of - that there are folks who consider some sections of society to be, essentially, Untouchables, in the caste-system sense. We're comfortable enough just pretending homeless people aren't there as we walk by, but when they invade our territory (as we perceive it), the cops get called, even though they have every legal right to be there. Legally, there should be no difference between us and them, and yet there it is.
I think it would be much more interesting, though, to do this in advance, without huge crowds, and broadcast the results after the fact, so that there would in fact be nothing the police could really do. As is, something like two thousand people show up, I believe.
Now - does that mean the homeless people won't be made fun of by Opie and Anthony? Not at all. But I think it's worth noting that, either way, the homeless in the equation will be treated with more respect than the rich shopping-mall patrons.
All told, I think it's going to be a fascinating bit of social commentary that will bounce off the heads of most people who hear it - maybe even the hosts as well - but judging by Mr. Noyes' press release, it's already bounced off some other heads too.
What do you think, dear readers? Well-intentioned spoof or dismal mockery?