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ON THE ROAD

Doc Laura's Advice Can Pack a Very Mean Punch

March 16, 1995|LEONARD REED | Leonard Reed is a Times staff writer

VENTURA — The noontime caller to KFI radio says she's stuck in her relationship. She wants marriage and commitment but can't seem to get it.

She keeps moving in with the same boyfriend, who's got custody of a son from a previous marriage, and she does everything right and loves not only the man but the boy and probably does dishes, too, but nothing happens.

This one is fresh meat, USDA Prime, for Dr. Laura Schlessinger, America's radio doc of the moment. Schlessinger moves in with surgical precision, nicking veins faster than you can count:

"So you audition for this guy for six months at a time? How does that feel?"

Pause.

"You want a man who wants a woman who can't stand on her own?"

Meekly, the caller says, "I don't."

Doctor Laura, as she prefers to be called, drops the blade and brings out the club:

"Yes, you do! You want a man who wants a woman who can't stand on her own. You only moved in to manipulate him out of a ring!"

The caller allows, "I'm scared."

"Firemen are scared!" Doc Laura thumps back. "Your big fear is standing on your own."

Pause.

One last thwunk .

"Isn't that embarrassing?"

*

Yup. Unless you think going naked before 8 million syndicated listeners isn't.

It's rocket science too.

We've been here before. For advanced social and political theory, we have Rush Limbaugh. For new dimensions in provocation, we had Meir "You Think It, I Say It" Kahane and now have his polarized legatees. For everything else all-knowing and wise, we've always had Mom.

That's on a good day. When Mom's vacationing in Hawaii, we have Howard Stern to tell it like it is.

Doc Laura drove to the Ventura Bookstore here the other night to meet with nearly 300 of her acolytes. She was in great form, without a prepared speech but chipper and ready to cook meek little questions into great expanding souffles of insight.

Question: Where did you get your theory of taking responsibility for your own life?

Doc Laura: "I was always a little righteous!"

Question: Who are your heroes?

Doc Laura: "I don't have any. But I love the muscled Linda Hamilton in 'Terminator II' and Sigourney Weaver in 'Aliens,' when she squares off face to face with the (monster) and says, 'You bitch.' "

(Much laughter and applause.)

One questioner, however, sought to provoke. A Ventura psychotherapist rose and said: "I see a lot of people in my practice who are damaged by your flippant, easy answers. Don't you think you make things too simplistic?"

Where's that club again?

"I don't do therapy on the air," Doc Laura admonished. "And I've stopped my private practice. On radio I give people directionality . The hard part is to live it out. I use wisecracks to relieve the moment. We're looking for moral dilemmas and to find direction. Mental illness has no place on my show. That's what belongs in your office."

(More applause.)

*

Doc Laura has a book out titled "Ten Stupid Things Women Do To Mess Up Their Lives," a compendium of clinically clever thought snippets on Stupid Attachment, Stupid Courtship, Stupid Devotion, Stupid Passion, Stupid Cohabitation, Stupid Expectations, Stupid Conception, Stupid Subjugation, Stupid Hopelessness, Stupid Forgiving. The general idea is: Hey, Women, Stop Being Wimps.

The book, like her radio show, is taking the country by storm. On the same night of her appearance in Ventura, she told Connie Chung, on "Eye To Eye," that women are not particularly good at facing the pain and sacrifice needed to follow a dream or, even, get a life. Indeed, Doc Laura is filmed in the studio telling a caller: "You're lazy. It's easier to get horizontal with a guy than it is to pump iron or read a book or have some interests."

Doc Laura, a 48-year-old black belt in karate, certainly has a life. She's a Ph.D. in physiology, a beaming mother of one son from a second marriage, and at work on a second book provisionally titled "Yeah, I Know, But . . . The Abdication of Character and Courage."

It should be a good one, that. For Doc Laura pridefully calls herself "an academician from New York" who just wants to dole out some "bluntness" and "clarity" on the subject of self-determination, a therapist who is mindful that the Talmud's essential truths revolve around one defining ethic: "Whatever you don't like being done to you, don't to do anybody else. That's all you have to know about it."

Right.

There is no telling, however, whether Doc Laura herself would mind being put up to embarrassment and possible humiliation before 8 million people. Things are just too hot with all the bluntness right now to worry about that.

No matter. In time, if we're lucky as a culture, we just might find some directionality.

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