Friday, December 15, 2006

Opie & Anthony Churn Under Homeless Limelight

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 @

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

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.

# # # #

Matt Noyes
Community Advocacy Coordinator
United Disability Housing Partnership /
AIDS Housing Corporation
29 Stanhope Street; Boston, MA 02116
617-927-0088 x26

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?


Anonymous said...

The homeless shopping spree has been going on for years, but only broadcast on XM so it hasn't really been mainstream until now that they're back on free FM. If the people with all the opinions actually knew what it was about they're opinions would be much different. They don't do it to humiliate or degrade the homeless, it's done to give people who otherwise would never have the opportunity to do that. The homeless they bring on the show may be ribbed and joked around with, But in the end, Opie, Anthony, and Jim Norton usually end up giving them money or feeding them and are actually treated very well. In some instances O and A and the listeners will pool money sometimes amounting in hundreds of dollars to donate to the well being of the homeless guy on the show that day. As for the shopping spree, why shouldn't the homeless be able to experience the mall. They give each of the homeless people about a hundred dollars and say go have fun, buy a new coat, or shoes. What is wrong with that?? It sounds pretty generous to most people. And if people have ever heard one of the past shopping sprees, they have lots of fun shopping in the mall and all the hosts do is follow them, and see where they go, what they're spending the $100 on. The real problem lies where these rich snobs think they're too damn good to be in the same mall as a homelass man who would never otherwise get the opportunity to buy nice things for Christmas. Sounds to me like they're being very generous and kind to the people whom otherwise are outcast from society by the snooty people who have a problem with the shopping spree and don't even know what it's really about.

Anonymous said...

I respect what the friend of Spare Change News wrote in response to the original press release and I think that we have much in common in our views. I share his view that there is nothing wrong with giving the homeless money and providing them access to a shopping mall in an affluent area. I even applaud the idea of exposing the hipocracy of some rich people who want to segregate the poor to inner city areas. What I do have a problem with is ridiculing homeless persons directly. Referring to them as "bums" is not productive and only serves to make them appear as less than human. This sort of degredation and marginalization of the homeless is exactly the type of thing that we should be fighting against. In sort, by humiliating the homeless, Opie and Anthony are exposing their own hipocracy in the same way that the claim to be doing with respect to the rich individuals who are shopping at the Short Hills Mall. And in that way, can anyone legitimately argue that the motives of Opie and Anthony are pure with respect to the homeless?

Anonymous said...

Not for nothing, but anyone who goes on the O&A show suffers the same ridicule. Whether they are celebrities, comedians, regular guys, or homeless people, they are all ribbed and made fun of in cruel and degrading manners. That's just how the show goes. And even though they are homeless, they are still adults should be allowed to make a decision on their own as to whether or not they want to participate.

Spare Change News Blog said...

Anonymous #1 said: "If the people with all the opinions actually knew what it was about they're opinions would be much different."

I will say that all of the negative opinions I've heard about the spree have so far come from people who have not listened to the show. We would encourage advocates who want to point out evils they perceive to seek out the actual matter of what they are protesting. This happens less than you'd think.

Anonymous #2 said: "What I do have a problem with is ridiculing homeless persons directly. Referring to them as "bums" is not productive and only serves to make them appear as less than human."

The word "bum" is indeed a rather insensitive term that we wish people would steer clear from. But to be fair, I know plenty of people who feel rage every time the term "homeless" is applied to their situation. Semantics are deeply important, but I wouldn't say the use of the term "bum" belies the argument put forth by SCN's friend in the post. It simply means O & A have never had a conversation about semantics with a homeless person. Or a person, rather. Aggh, it all gets very confusing.

Anonymous #3 said: "And even though they are homeless, they are still adults should be allowed to make a decision on their own as to whether or not they want to participate."

If in fact the homeless participants are persuaded to join in on the spree at the offers of cash and booze, then there certainly is an incentive that isn't necessarily fair. Sure they agreed to it, but when you're in a vulnerable situation, there's a whole host of things you'll agree to and regret later. If O&A take advantage of someone not in their right mind, I would say the onus is more on them than on the homeless people themselves.

Anonymous said...