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Raunchy? Sometimes, but always informative. Teens with questions about sex are tuning in to get ... : dr. drew's line on LOVE


The caller is 18-year-old Jasmine, who is having sex with a former boyfriend who is now "just a friend."

"I'm just sort of confused about it," she says. "I don't know what to do."

It is nearly midnight, but the phone lines are still buzzing on "Loveline," a nationally syndicated radio show that offers advice on love, relationships and sex--OK, mostly sex.

As Jasmine speaks, "Loveline" co-host Dr. Drew Pinsky listens with the intent look people have when trying to hear what's not being said.

"He is not involved with you," Pinsky, known to his fans as Dr. Drew, tells Jasmine.

"That's what I'm getting nervous about," she says.

"Jasmine, he is not involved. He's just having sex."

"But . . . "

"He's not involved," Pinsky insists. "How does that make you feel? Awful, I suspect. And that is the price you pay. You are subjugating yourself."

Within minutes after the show ends, Pinsky is out the door and on his way home to Pasadena, where the USC-trained internist has a private medical practice and is director of the chemical dependency unit at Las Encinas Hospital, a substance abuse and mental health treatment facility.

If that weren't enough to keep him busy, Pinsky also co-hosts a version of "Loveline" on MTV. The highly popular MTV program also features comedian Adam Carolla--a caustic and witty co-host who relishes the outrageous--along with newcomer Diane Farr, an actress and model.

There's a constant sense of urgency about Pinsky. But then, at age 41, he may be the only medical doctor in America that teenagers want to talk--and listen--to. And listen they do. His radio show (Sunday-Thursday, 10 p.m. to midnight), based at Los Angeles station KROQ-FM (106.7), attracts about 2 million listeners nationally. And MTV's "Loveline" is the top-rated cable program in its late-night time slot, Monday-Friday.

As the voice of medical reason amid a cacophony of bizarre and racy questions and raunchy jokes, Pinsky does not have an easy task. But his reach and influence continue to grow: He has a new book cowritten with Carolla, a magazine column, is developing a Web site and has visions of his own daytime TV talk show.

All this makes Dr. Drew someone parents, if they haven't already heard of him, should know about.

"I doubt there is anyone in the country more in position to reach out and connect with young people," says Drew Altman, director of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit health organization.

Parents who tune in to the radio version of "Loveline" or watch the MTV show may be a little shocked at the idea that this is the source of information for America's youth on the delicate topic of sex. With Carolla at the helm, "Loveline" is a raucous event that, at its worst, borders on degrading, and, at its best, provides vital information on sexual health.

"Loveline's" heavy dose of titillation draws in young people who, Pinsky hopes, will soak up some useful information in the process.

"You put me in a box in a white coat, do you think anybody under 20 is going to hear a word I say?" notes Pinsky.

Letty Ramirez, a counselor at a Los Angeles community health clinic, began listening to "Love-line" at age 14, lured by the fact that "I wasn't supposed to be listening to it."

"Me and my little brother used to sneak the radio into my room and listen to it late at night," she recalls.

After years of tuning in to Dr. Drew, Ramirez, now 23, describes the show's appeal: "I think kids listen to it because they know Adam is going to say something perverted. But then, they end up learning something. . . .

"Sometimes Adam says, 'What are you talking about? Shut up.' But that's part of their charm," Ramirez explains. "Dr. Drew then disagrees and says, 'This is the way it is. . . .' "

Keeping Credibility in Eyes of Colleagues

Earning the right to rule over the typically unruly didn't come easy for Pinsky. It comes after 15 years of practicing medicine and a seven-year stint in which he did the "Loveline" show on radio for no pay. He is now paid for both the radio and TV programs.

Pinsky seems both thrilled with his media stardom and concerned about looking too happy in front of his conservative brethren in medicine.

"The work is having a life of its own, and it's delightful, and I'm so grateful. It's a great adventure," says Pinsky, who is married and has 6-year-old triplets.

With his graying hair, scholarly wire-rimmed glasses, business attire and rather stiff manner, Pinsky is cut more in the mold of Dr. Welby than, say, Dr. Ruth. On the MTV "Loveline" program, he sometimes looks visibly uncomfortable with the subject matter. (Like, for example, when co-host Carolla discusses the joys of masturbation.)

Carolla, however, seems to know when to curb his amusing monologues and let Pinsky dole out some advice.

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