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SANDY BANKS

Are Any of Us Perfect? Go Ask Dr. Laura

November 10, 1998|SANDY BANKS

I know it's mean, but I'm still taking a kind of perverse delight at the thought of nude pictures of our very own morality maven, Dr. Laura Schlessinger, circulating on the Internet for all the world to see.

The photos--a dozen of them--were taken more than 20 years ago by a former lover, who now has peddled them to a computer porn site. Not surprisingly, Dr. Laura has been about as big a hit on the World Wide Web as she is on radio, where she reigns as the talk show circuit's queen.

You can't see the pictures without joining the smut site known as ClubLove--at $24.95 a month; one-week trial membership free. So many people have tried to join since the photos were unveiled last week that "they keep crashing the system, shutting it down," according to a customer service rep at Internet Entertainment Group, which runs ClubLove.

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I feel a twinge of pity, I must admit. Lord knows I wouldn't want mistakes from my youth broadcast through the nether world of online porn.

Still, I can't help being struck by the irony that one of the country's shrillest voices for probity and family values has sparked a stampede to a site peddling porn online.

And I can't help but consider how Dr. Laura would likely treat a caller who asked for help with the same sort of problem she's facing now--"You did what? Repeat after me: 'I am a dummy. I am a dummy.' So, your kid's hurt, your husband's embarrassed. You got nobody but yourself to blame. Deal with it!"

While I respect her moral views--her commitment to preserving marriages, her insistence that the kids come first, her respect for familial ties--it's her arrogance, her hostility, her holier-than-thou delivery that I find hard to take, especially when one peeks behind the curtain at the woman herself.

Dr. Laura screams at a caller to honor his parents, scolds him bitterly for not mending frayed family ties . . . and I'm supposed to overlook the fact that Laura Schlessinger has cast her own family out of her life. She won't say why, but she admits when pressed that she is estranged from her mother and only sister and hasn't seen them in 14 years.

Dr. Laura rails against divorce, berating a caller as selfish and vile for walking out on his children and wife . . . and I'm expected to ignore her admission to Vanity Fair that she began dating her current husband when he was still married to the mother of his three children.

And no, being separated is not the same as being divorced, you nitwit . . . as Dr. Laura might say.

And the nude picture thing, well, she can call it an indiscretion of youth, but she was 28 years old when she allowed her 58-year-old boyfriend to take those dozen shots, old enough to know better . . . as Dr. Laura might say.

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I suppose she has learned from her mistakes, has become a better, stronger, wiser person. I suppose that could give her the standing to rail at us from her radio pulpit each day.

But instead of merely scolding her listeners, I wish she'd own up more readily to her own frailties and indiscretions, and help us realize that people can change--survive scandal, overcome shame and develop the potential that is God's gift to us all.

You don't have to tolerate bad behavior, Dr. Laura, but you also don't have to attack your callers, belittle them, bully them, as if you've cornered the market on a life lived without sin.

To borrow advice from a book you wrote:

"A popular detour to rewriting history is simply erasing it. . . . Facing truths about yourself . . . can be very disappointing, upsetting and feel most threatening. However, a more permanent and meaningful good feeling can only come from facing truths.

"We are what we do, and that's that! There is nowhere to hide from yourself when your behaviors outline a lack of ethics or values, i.e., character."

Are you listening, Dr. Laura? Now, go take on the day.

Sandy Banks' column is published Sundays and Tuesdays. Her e-mail address is sandy.banks@latimes.com.

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