Late October, 1980. Governor Reagan and President Carter appeared on TV in their final presidential debate of the election season. Carter, exhausted from a year-long recession and an unending Iranian hostage crisis, looked like one of those pink, rubber-alien dolls whose eyes pop out when you squeeze it, and he blinked constantly. My parents were die-hard democrats, but Reagan, at 69, was attractive, chipper, and enthusiastically republican in all his shaky, Grecian-formulaed glory.
At WAIF, John Zeh, a talk show host, was temporarily suspended for using lewd references including Vaseline and vibrating melons on his alternative lifestyle show Gay Dreams. It had been a slow news week, so Cincinnati District Attorney Simon Leis decided to prosecute Zeh to the full extent of the law, whatever that meant. A few years earlier, Leis, a backwoods good ‘ole boy, had become notorious for driving Hustler publisher Larry Flynt out of Cincinnati. Leis had made it his personal mission to clean up the city, removing any inkling of pornographic or prurient behavior. Over the next year, he would become the primary target for comics at the eye.
Reacting to the sudden, unwanted media attention, and fearing possible FCC fines, Tom Knox, WAIF’s general manager, told all of us DJs to scrub our shows clean or we’d be off the air, too. Up until then, the Six Pistol shows had been comprised of our own recorded sketches, cuts from comedy albums and the six of us goofing on each other – which included a fair amount of profanity.
“Can we say damn?”
“Can we say shit?”
“This is public radio!! What about freedom of speech?! Fuckin’ First Amendment?!”
“So, cocksucker’s out, then?”