I: Is he really saying that?
You don't usually get congratulated on Tom Leykis' syndicated radio show unless you're, say, a caller describing the way you talked your unexpectedly pregnant girlfriend into having an abortion -- and then dumped her. Or unless you're a woman with a lascivious tale to share, like the law clerk who boasts about tripling her pay by engaging in masochistic sex with the partner of another firm. But on this Thursday, in the first seconds of his afternoon program, Leykis sounds so delighted he can scarcely wait for the heavy-metal bumper music to fade.
Praise be, he tells us in a stern, husky voice, for the Washington state Supreme Court, which hours before overturned the conviction of two men who secretly took pictures up women's skirts in shopping malls. The justices regretfully concluded that the state's anti-voyeurism law did not apply to acts in public places.
Success in talk radio requires the ability to glean insights from small events, and Leykis immediately offers this pair: First, we don't need laws like that. Second, ladies, if you're worried about protecting yourselves from other camera-toting creeps: "Buy some ... panties and put them on, you sluts!" And we're off and running with the commanding general in radio's war for the male demographic. It is an angry, lurid battle in which social critics of all stripes can find moments of fulfillment or hopelessness. Spend a few days listening to Tom Leykis, heard in L.A. from 3 to 8 p.m. on KLSX-FM (97.1), and you may conclude that society has tilted in a manner resembling "Planet of the Apes": that women have assumed the upper hand, forcing men to fight back grimly and mercilessly or perish. Or you may conclude that, in the interest of ratings, we are all getting our chains jerked by a host who laughs at us behind our backs.
In the control room of Westwood One's Culver City studio, Leykis' screener, Dino De Milio, is interrogating callers with the impatience of an air traffic controller and the lasciviousness of a strip club owner. ("How old are you, sweetie?" he asks a female caller. "That's my favorite age for sex!") Through a glass panel, De Milio can see Leykis, a gnomish 46-year-old man, standing in front of his mike, wearing shades despite the near darkness, pounding on his opening theme. " You know what's great?" Leykis asks sarcastically. "Women want the right to be exhibitionists, but if anybody looks...." "
Tom Leykis broadcasts from the intersection of Libertarian and Libertine. It's a simple neighborhood with a simple philosophy that has occurred in the gut of just about every American man and, in some cases, made its way to his brain. The show is based on the premise that too many guys have been raised to be wimps in this feminist culture, that women are taking advantage of these men and that women are secretly wishing guys would reassert themselves. Leykis plays the hard-bitten, gender-wars-scarred uncle, hectoring the besieged male recruits: Don't get them pregnant! Don't marry them! Don't date single mothers! Yet no matter how insistent or cranky he gets, the phone lines remained jammed with confessions of weakness and poor judgment:
"You are my religion, Professor," comes the call another day, "but I have to tell you I'm one of those guys who knocked a girl up...."
"What kind of birth control were you using?" Leykis demands.
"She said she was on the pill...."
"And you believed her. I hope the boys out there are listening! This is the kind of stuff I warn you about!"
Men who in more reasonable times would have been considered normal single guys employing normal trial-and-error approaches to casual sex become, in the Leykis format, political prisoners, victims of a stacked deck in which calculating women get their way at men's expense.
Leykis tries to break this momentum by offering more clinical tips: No coffee dates or lunch dates -- they lead nowhere. "Successfully getting a woman into the sack involves some sort of chemical inducement," he is fond of proclaiming on a "Leykis 101" segment he does each Thursday. "Alcohol is the preferred chemical inducement."
Nor should men waste money on dinner dates, he advises; women will eat and run. Meet them after dinner for a drink. If you are roped into dinner, eat a full meal at home and order a salad in the restaurant ("because what woman would eat more than you?").
Once Leykis' listeners have scored, "we do not cuddle, we do not spoon, we do not hug, we do not stay late," Leykis instructs. "We do not convince women we are in love with them. We do not say I love you -- ever, ever, ever. Unless we do." He pronounces that last word with grave disbelief.