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COMEDY REVIEW : Still Dicey After All These Years : Greek show proves Andrew Dice Clay--and his fans--haven't changed.

August 28, 1993|LAWRENCE CHRISTON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Security was extra-heavy around the Greek Theatre, where Andrew Dice Clay made one of his national tour stops Thursday night. Since he's not a political comedian, and he's too much of a caricature for anyone to take seriously, it's hard to tell why.

Maybe he's getting paranoid (one of the theater staff said the security was made at Clay's request) from the ire he's drawn from feminists, the middle-class NPR crowd, a few minorities and a number of his peers, because he aggressively appeals to such a low common denominator in people--the base force of sexual fear and subjugation that no one likes unleashed in public.

It's interesting to see that an act like his that focuses almost exclusively on genitalia doesn't draw the kind of nocturnal demimonde crowd that understands sexual intrigue, the play and mystery of sex, its layers of darkness and complication (though there were enough Hollywood types in the high-price seats to fill up nearly 30 limos parked outside). Perhaps that's because Clay is such a cartoon--the bluntness of his remarks fill up invisible panels over his head. Hickory Dickory Dock, Ka-POW! "She takes off her panties. Welcome to the jungle! " Ka-BOOM!

The only leather you see in his audience is on the backs of a few working-class biker types, or characters who, like Clay, assume the macho imagery of Brando in "The Wild One," or one of the Lords of Flatbush, or the Fonz, who liked to put street smarts against the blank middle American ingenuousness of Ron Howard.

Clay has his antecedents partly in Redd Foxx, Belle Barth, Rusty Warren--the party albums of a few decades back where talking dirty, or hearing someone else talk dirty, was a spicy prelude to sex. Here it sounds like the stuff adolescents and young men use to pass away hot summer nights on the stoop. There's no double-entendre, no time-release allusiveness. It's the roughness of horny guys who don't know a lot about girls, and fear what sex makes uncontrollable in the way of self-exposure. It's a kind of trash-talk that lets off steam, a rite of passage.

There's no use denying that Clay has been some kind of phenomenon for years. The Greek was full-up for his performance, as are the rest of the stops he makes annually. But chances are in an earlier era he could not have had a career based on this act. It's been his fortune that he came along at a time in American history when, for a variety of reasons, the line between public and private life has been fairly obscured, if not transposed altogether. Every conceivable form of self-display is out there daily, in the pop therapy talk shows, the tabloids, the celebrity-feasting media, while the general notion of civility and the social contract becomes irrelevant and obscure.

For that, Clay is a man of his time. But there's another, deeper source to his unmistakably visceral appeal (the cheer goes up to meet him like it would from a fight crowd). The burly weightlifters, high school athlete types, tarty looking girls, beer-swillers and tattooed swaggerers all look to him as some kind of icon of prowess (now and then you saw guys leaning on their cars and drinking in the parking lot before the show, while his routines played out of their tape decks). This bunch is not in any information age vanguard, and must feel the squeeze of Reaganomics and the current recession. Add AIDS, gay rights and--to them--the spectral rise of feminism, and you have a '90s version of a lonely crowd.

The Diceman's crudeness therefore can only add to his power. He isn't just addressing his audience's sexual tension, he's speaking to its rage. Maybe that's why he calls for heavy guard.

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