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The Doctor's in the House : Radio: On 'Loveline,' scholarly Dr. Drew dispenses advice on sex, drugs and heartache to teen-agers, and tolerates his crass disc jockey pal.

August 22, 1993|RENEE TAWA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SOUTH PASADENA — Shhhhhh, it's time for Dr. Drew, that antidote to teen-age Angst, the disembodied authority figure to the calls of the wild.

Adrien Norton, 13, is ready to listen to the voice of a man she doesn't know but whose word on matters of sex and drugs she takes as gospel. She is sprawled on the living room floor of her family's Arcadia apartment, fueled by Pepsi and pizza, flipping her flowing chestnut hair and talking a mile a minute with friends Danielle Fox and Elisa Sencer, both 13.

Dr. Drew Pinsky is the adolescent's answer to Dr. Ruth on alternative rock station KROQ-FM's (106.7) late-night advice show, "Loveline," the top-rated radio show for its time slot. The show is a live-wire mixture of bawdy guests, in-studio antics, crude sexual banter and, when Pinsky can slip in a word edgewise, sound medical advice to scared young callers who ask about AIDS, sex, suicide and drugs.

Pinsky, 34, who describes himself as a square South Pasadena physician, plays ultimate straight man to bad boy disc jockey Jim (Poorman) Trenton, who provides the crass comments.

Even though the two men are close friends off the air, Poorman's raucous chatter makes Pinsky so uncomfortable that he sometimes turns off his headphones in disgust, flees from the broadcast booth and wonders whether he's doing any good.

But he keeps returning to the booth, five nights a week, to dispense more sober advice. On Monday's show, he steered a 14-year-old girl toward counseling and urged her to file a police report, after she said she got drunk and had sex with four teen-agers at a party.

A couple of years ago, a young pregnant woman called and wondered why she was bleeding profusely. He urged her to call an ambulance immediately, and the woman eventually gave birth to a healthy child whom she named "Drew."

It's a far cry from Pinsky's day job as internal medicine chief and medical director of chemical dependency at Las Encinas Hospital in Pasadena. He also has a private practice in internal medicine in South Pasadena.

So, what's a nice South Pasadena physician doing on a raunchy show like this?

Pinsky puts up with the show's shenanigans because he believes in "Loveline" as a place for young people to turn to on their own turf, free of charge, paperwork and embarrassment. The show gives Pinsky a chance to answer questions about serious medical concerns and to preach abstinence or protected sex. Or, simply--as in the case of the recent 18-year-old caller who said he had no friends--to offer solace.

"The reason I am lucky enough to be welcomed into this environment and listened to by these kids is because I tolerate the impish child (Poorman)," said Pinsky, whose own radio tastes tend toward classical music and news stations.

Still, people wonder. Back in Arcadia, Adrien and her friends sigh in exasperation at Dr. Drew's voice, seemingly so out of place, with its solid, measured tone and weighty pronouncements. Dr. Drew is cool, the girls agreed, and they would not hesitate to turn to him for advice. But . . . "I wonder if Drew ever smiles, his voice is so monotone," Elisa mused.

Adrien wondered, "What was he like in school, was he all smart, or--"

"Or was he like the geek person?" Danielle interrupted.

"--Or did he have, like, a social life when he was young?" Adrien finished.

Pinsky's patients and professional colleagues sometimes throw their own questions at him privately. Why do you do it, they ask him. The undertone is subtle but unmistakable: How can we take you seriously as a physician when you let that crazy radio business go on?

The questions gnaw at Pinsky. Is he is cutting through the zaniness and reaching anyone at all? After nine years as Dr. Drew, he is still " very uncomfortable " with the show's tone, which, he says in an interview, borders on salacious and exploitative.

Pinsky's voice is filled with anguish at the thought; he drums a pen anxiously against his desk at Las Encinas Hospital as he worried about "Loveline," which has drawn national exposure from CNN and "Entertainment Tonight."

Teen-agers tune in for Poorman, who presides over on-air genitalia piercings, porno star interviews and sexual banter. Recent callers include: an 18-year-old girl who is having sex with her younger sister; a 14-year-old girl who is engaged to a guy but misses her female lover; an 18-year-old boy who pierced his tongue at home.

Celebrity guests--who have included comic Pauly Shore, actor Jason Priestley and the band Beastie Boys--chime in with advice, as sort of peer counselors. The show draws about 109,000 listeners a night from 10 p.m. to midnight, Mondays through Thursdays, and 8 to 10 p.m. Sundays.

Pinsky, the father of 9-month-old triplets, tentatively hopes that his triplets will tune into such a show when they're old enough.

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