Guests: Bubba the Love Sponge Clem, Vincent Curatola, Michael Imperioli
ANNOUNCER: DEBORAH NORVILLE TONIGHT.
If you think Howard Stern has got the market cornered on raunch radio, think again.
BUBBA THE LOVE SPONGE CLEM, TALK SHOW HOST: The most funny (UNINTELLIGIBLE)
ANNOUNCER: Wait till you hear what happened to this shock jock who tried to buck the system.
CLEM: This is a religious right wing witch hunt.
ANNOUNCER: Tonight in his first exclusive interview since he found himself in hot water and got the boot, Bubba the Love Sponge.
CLEM: I wish I was Donald Trump right now, with the problems I‘m having.
ANNOUNCER: Plus—fans and critics are singing the praises of “The Sopranos.”
Tonight we muscled family wise guys Michael Imperioli and Vince Curatola into spilling the beans about their smash hit series and its over the top story lines and why moonlighting on the live stage was an offer they couldn‘t refuse.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: High stakes, exclusive clientele.
ANNOUNCER: From studio 3-k in Rockefeller Center, Deborah Norville.
DEBORAH NORVILLE, HOST: And good evening.
He was the top rated radio shock jock in Tampa, Florida, known mostly for gross out stunts and raunchy sex jokes. Now he‘s known as the poster boy for the decency wars.
Bubba the Love Sponge cost his employer, Clear Channel Communications, $755,000 -- that is the highest FCC fine ever—following a radio sketch featuring a couple of cartoon characters, a crack house and some prostitutes.
Clear Channel promptly fired Bubba, and it also dropped Howard Stern‘s syndicated radio show from six of its stations after the FCC imposed a $495,000 indecency fine in February.
Now another Stern carrier, Infinity Broadcasting, is also facing huge fines against the Howard Stern show.
While Stern calls himself the King of All Media, the real king, at least in terms of FCC fines, is Bubba the Love Sponge.
Joining us for this exclusive interview is Bubba the Love Sponge Clem.
Yes, that really is his real name. He legally changed it.
And it‘s good to see you. I‘ve been on your radio show, nice to have you on my program.
CLEM: Thank you. I—I thank you very much.
NORVILLE: First of all, let‘s get over the name thing. Why did you change your name to that? Your mother called you Todd when you were little.
CLEM: Right, right, right. My lovely mother, Jane.
Well, Todd is—for all the Todds, that are just probably, for me, pretty mad. But you know, Todd is just kind of Todd. It‘s like a stockbroker kind of dude. And I‘m a Bubba. Look at me. You know, I‘m kind of fat and, you know, always worse huskies as a kid, you know. Still do, double-X.
NORVILLE: So they called you Bubba anyway when you were a kid?
CLEM: Yes, I was always Bubba Clem. And then, you know, I got into radio and my friend gave me this stupid name, Bubba the Love Sponge. And...
NORVILLE: But there was a story behind that, too.
CLEM: Yes, there was a story behind that. When I was at a Sigma Chi party at Indiana State, and we were hanging out with some chicks, being on the radio back then, you know, in the mid-‘80s, at a small college town, the chicks thought that was cool. And I was just, you know, the dude...
NORVILLE: A radio guy.
CLEM: Yes, I was a radio guy. I needed something to have some play with the girls.
And so my buddy kind of said, “Man, you‘ve been soaking up those girls like a love sponge. And we‘re going to start calling you Bubba the Love Sponge.”
I said, “Listen, if you call—that‘s a geek name. What does that
mean? That‘s stupid.” Well, it just kind of stuck.
And it ended up being kind of gimmick-ish at first, when I first
started my career, and it was kind of a cool name. And Scott Shannon actually stole it when he did pirate radio in Los Angeles, and I had to prove that I did it first, and I federally trademarked it in 1990. So now it‘s actually a federally trademarked name.
NORVILLE: You and Donald “You‘re Fired” Trump.
CLEM: Yes, yes. I kind of wish I didn‘t have—I wish I was Donald Trump right now, with the problems I‘m having.
NORVILLE: Well, I guess you do. You could probably use some of that money. You have the great distinction of having said something on the radio that cost your company $715,000.
What on earth can anyone say that that‘s expensive? What did you do?
CLEM: Well, you know, Deborah, I just did my show that I‘ve been doing for 13 years in Tampa, Florida, and then syndicated throughout America. And I‘ve never been given notice that anything was, you know, in the vague rules that we have in our government, as to the community standards.
And this particular situation was a Scooby Do parody element that had Scooby and George Jetson going down and buying—Scooby got fired from his job and was buying some crack and picking up some hookers, or something like that.
And it was—again, my show is for adults. You know, I‘m No. 1 with adults 25-54. I‘m dead last with children. I tell kids not to listen to my show.
NORVILLE: Do you really? You go on the air and say kids, if you‘re listening, change the channel?
CLEM: We run disclaimers. They say if you‘re under the age of 18, absolutely do not listen to the Bubba the Love Sponge.
NORVILLE: But isn‘t that a bit of attraction? Come on. You know, if you‘re under 18, like, “Yes, there‘s something really raunchy, we‘ve got to listen.”
CLEM: Well, I can show you tons and tons of phone calls, hundreds of them, where kids would call in. And I‘d say, “Listen, don‘t—tell your mom and dad they‘re not being responsible. Are they around? What kind of mom and dads are they? We‘re talking about adult content today. Don‘t listen to my show.”
NORVILLE: Were you worried that that was going to get you in trouble? I mean, is that why you were admonishing the kids who would call in, “don‘t”? Because you knew this was not appropriate for kids, and it could get you into trouble, if the right person got annoyed enough.
CLEM: No, you know, I‘m a father myself of a little baby boy. And I wouldn‘t want my son growing up through—until he was an adult to be exposed to my adult entertainment show that I do, you know, for adults.
So I really wasn‘t thinking of any type of hindsight as to whether I was going to get in trouble or not. Just as a responsible, 37-, 38-year-old guy. I‘m like, you know, when you have girls in the studio and you‘re doing the various things that we do that are for adults.
It had nothing to do with covering my butt or anything like that. It had everything to do with what I truly feel.
NORVILLE: I want to hear some of your radio show. We‘ve got some clips to play in a second.
But I‘m really curious about what Scooby Do and George Jackson—
George Jetson did that was so offensive that, if you were—a listener called in. And when the FCC ultimately went through the process they said, yes, this is indecent and it‘s indecent so many times on all of your stations, the four stations primarily...
NORVILLE: Seven stations in Florida, primarily, on which you broadcast it‘s going to cost Clear Channel Communications.
What exactly did you say? Because this is cable. We can say things.
But do remember that there might be some children in our audience.
CLEM: Right. Well, to be honest with you, one of my producers was a
· met one of my writers, and I don‘t necessarily remember what was said.
I mean, you guys may have it or may not, but it was nothing that we beeped out the necessary words, whether it was any type of woman‘s anatomy or whatever.
But it—basically the premise was that Scooby was down on his luck and he smoked some crack cocaine. And we were all speaking in jest and in parody. And him and George Jetson went down to a—to the crack house and picked up some hookers.
And that‘s really the extent of it. It‘s not anything...
NORVILLE: It wasn‘t what they did with the hookers?
CLEM: No, it was—Oh, no. There wasn‘t anything sexual as far as them having intercourse or anything like that. No.
But the person who complained on me spun an edge, you know. Well, since it‘s a—and the FCC subsequently ruled because it was a cartoon, kids would be more apt to listen to that particular segment of the Bubba show. And cartoons could attract children.
Meanwhile, if you do your due diligence, my show rates dead last with children.
NORVILLE: You said that.
CLEM: I have virtually—I virtually have zero listeners, children 12 to 17.
NORVILLE: And yet, the FCC is really pretty specific about what you can‘t do between the hours of 6 in the morning, which is when your show would begin, and 10 p.m. at night.
And what it says is that “Language or material that, in context, depicts or describes in terms patently offensive, as measured by contemporary community broadcast standards, sexual or excretory organs or activities. Indecent programming contains patently offensive sexual or excretory references that do not rise to the level of obscenity. Indecent programming may, however, be restricted in order to avoid its broadcast during times of the day when there is a reasonable risk that children may be in the audience.”
And that was the part that got you. It‘s reasonable to expect that 7, 8, 9 in the morning, kids are up.
CLEM: Well, you know, you have to be almost an attorney to be able to interpret that. And I‘m a broadcaster, and I‘m an entertainer.
And I‘ve been doing this for 18 years, and on this particular town, in this particular syndication venue, all of America for 13 of them. And for years and years been No. 1 by the community.
NORVILLE: Doing this kind of material?
CLEM: I‘ve not veered from this male-skewing, guy locker room type mentality ever. Ever.
NORVILLE: Well, let‘s give our listeners a chance to hear. This is a little bit that you did on your program in which—it‘s called “Red Necks Want Boobs.” And it‘s a story of what happens when some guy has a fantasy and calls in.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It‘s one of them—one of them mother-daughter things.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One of them incest things.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you had sexual relations with your stepdaughter?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I have not.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: First of all, let me ask. How old is she?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My stepdaughter is 19.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right. And your wife is what?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My wife is 39.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right. And do you look at your 19-year-old stepdaughter in a sexy kind of way?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, no, man. I can‘t do that, man.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You say you can‘t do it. But do you do it, sir?
I know you‘re not supposed to. Can‘t?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can‘t help but think about it. But, no, man, I don‘t do that.
NORVILLE: That‘s the kind of stuff that would be on the Bubba the Love Sponge show fairly regularly.
CLEM: Yes. You know, I take calls occasionally, and I...
NORVILLE: That was a real caller?
CLEM: Yes, absolutely. And I don‘t do anything fake.
NORVILLE: For sure?
CLEM: For sure. I raise my hand. I don‘t prefabricate. I go right to my phone calls, unscreened. No producers, no phone editors, nobody like that.
And, you know, I blend—and I‘m a chameleon as far as what I‘m working with. And I obviously had a redneck individual. So you know—
And that‘s men, and whether it‘s appropriate for the show or not.
We‘re making fun of rednecks. We‘re making fun of, you know, incest and banjos and pickup trucks and beer drinking and stuff like that. That‘s just, you know—If we‘re going to be truthful about it, that‘s the way we think. And if you‘re going to be a smart ass about it or whatever, that‘s the way I was thinking that particular day. So I was drilling him on that, trying to like, you know, get him—see if he‘d bite on that.
NORVILLE: When did you do that bit?
CLEM: Oh, God. I—Probably three or four years ago.
NORVILLE: And that didn‘t get you in trouble?
NORVILLE: But the George Jetson and Scooby Doo did. Has the community standard changed, if your radio broadcast didn‘t? Why did you get in trouble now and ultimately lose your show because of something that‘s fairly similar to what you had done three or four years ago?
CLEM: Because we‘re eight months from an election, that‘s why.
NORVILLE: So you would be right there next to Howard Stern when he says a lot of what‘s going on is all politically motivated?
CLEM: Before Howard was saying that, I was saying it in December and January. This is a religious, right-wing witch hunt is what it is. It‘s the same type of witch hunt they were on when they had the big rugged V chip has to be on every television.
Meanwhile the V chip costs each individual television $50 extra that gets put into this country, and the usage of V chips are less than three percent nationwide. And violence on television has not settled down at all.
This is the same political witch hunt they‘re on now. These Congressmen and these senators want to be able to go back and say, “I got Bubba the Love Sponge fired. I‘m messing with Howard Stern. We‘re trying to clean up the airwaves.”
NORVILLE: Keep America safe.
CLEM: “Keep America safe, keep America strong.”
You know what? What a bunch of hypocrites.
NORVILLE: But a lot of people say that the starting point, the firing gun was Janet Jackson and the flash on the Super Bowl. You‘re saying it began before that?
CLEM: I think that we have a political—some type of political agenda every four years. The Republicans and the Democrats—you know, politics.
I think Janet Jackson definitely, definitely lit a fuel to this particular fire. And this—you know, what turned out to be a television issue is now a radio issue. Bono and the Golden Globes, Janet Jackson with the Super Bowl, Diane Keaton and the Golden Globes with the “S” word.
NORVILLE: And the NASCAR guys who let one slip in a post race interview.
CLEM: But Shaquille O‘Neal recently, just two times, now has been suspended for a game or so by Mr. Stern.
Now, what‘s the most obvious topic? To target? Bubba the Love Sponge, and I‘m done. I‘m gone. And Howard Stern.
NORVILLE: But there‘s a big difference. There‘s—It‘s a public utility over which you do your radio show.
What we do here on MSNBC is cable. People pay to have it brought into their homes. It‘s that little pipe or the fiber or whatever gets it in there, and we‘re not going over the public‘s airwaves.
Those airwaves over which your show broadcasts belong to everybody, and they have a right to say the appropriate material at the appropriate time of day.
Why couldn‘t you take your show, do it after 10 at night?
CLEM: Well, you know, Deborah, the public speaks every day with their wallet. Every day the consumers of America speak with their wallet. And if something‘s objectionable or something is reality based, or something sexual based, or “Playboy” magazine or the Bubba the Love Sponge show, and it doesn‘t work, regardless of what time it is.
OK, if it doesn‘t work, it‘s too offensive, it‘s indecent, I won‘t be here. It wouldn‘t have taken the federal government to get me thrown off the Radio. It would have taken the people who owned whatever genre I was on.
NORVILLE: I want to listen to—the owner of the chief executive of the genre that you were on, the head of Clear Channel Communications, John Hogan. The president of the company had something to say in front of the U.S. House.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN HOGAN, PRESIDENT, CLEAR CHANNEL COMMUNICATIONS: I‘ve read the transcripts of the Bubba radio show.
As a broadcaster, as the CEO, and as the father of a 9-year-old girl, I‘m ashamed to be associated in any way with those words. They‘re tasteless, they‘re vulgar. They should not, do not, and will not represent what our radio stations are all about.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NORVILLE: How did you feel when he made those statements before Congress?
CLEM: Sad. Very, very sad.
CLEM: Because I, in my personal opinion, feel as if that—I have no ill feelings toward Clear Channel. In my opinion, Clear Channel was forced to do this.
Mr. Hogan didn‘t want—In my opinion, Mr. Hogan didn‘t want to be in front of Congress. Nobody wants to be there. But he had to be there and he had to do what he needed to do, and that‘s get rid of me.
NORVILLE: Do you see it going any further?
CLEM: Absolutely. I was the first. I won‘t be the last. But I was the first. It‘s a very scary environment we‘re in right now.
You know, there‘s different situations for different strokes for different folks. And, again, the American public votes with their wallet every day. If what I did was too raunchy and didn‘t work, I would have been a flop and a failure when I got in radio in ‘86. Howard would be, too. But there‘s a big market for that.
And—And it‘s sad, it‘s very sad what these political—these congressmen and these senators are doing to us right now.
NORVILLE: We‘ll take a break right there. We‘ll be back. More with Bubba the Love Sponge after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. GREG WALDEN ®, OREGON: I commend you, Mr. Hogan, for dumping Bubba the Love Sponge into the garbage disposable and for suspending Howard Stern‘s program on Clear Channel stations.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NORVILLE: We‘re back now with radio jock Bubba the Love Sponge, who was fired by his radio syndicators on the grounds of indecency.
Before we went into the break you were talking about an attack, if you will, on the kind of radio programming that you‘ve been doing.
Obviously, people cared. Someone called in to the FCC, took the time to write a letter and said this is wrong. It shouldn‘t be on the air. So while you say, yes, we‘re making money hand over fist, there are other people who are offended by it.
CLEM: One person. I have a million listeners. One person that was represented by a Washington, D.C., attorney for free. One person out of a million. What‘s the statistics on that?
It‘s not—I could be offended at any given time by any particular thing that you say, and you‘re not offensive. By all means you‘re not. You do a great show. It‘s just if you give—they‘ve now, the FCC has given these—you know, now you don‘t need a transcript. Now you can just call and report it.
NORVILLE: So you don‘t need proof?
CLEM: The guy from...
NORVILLE: You think it‘s the beginning of a witch hunt?
CLEM: The guy from West Palm Beach on a Clear Channel station, they had no tape and no transcript, but they had a woman, a 45-year-old woman called the FCC and was able to describe what she heard.
What‘s stopping radio station A just to pay people to listen to radio station B to do nothing but transcribe tapes all day? The FCC has just opened up an unbelievable can of worms.
I believe that we need to have some regulation. But tell the broadcasters of America what those rules are. Everybody wants to be responsible. I don‘t want to be here with no job right now. I had a great thing going. But tell me what a community standard in Salt Lake City as compared to Tulsa, Oklahoma, as compared to Tampa, who has more gentlemen‘s clubs than we have churches, is.
NORVILLE: Congress has a couple of measures pending right now. One in the house would increase the fine per indecent act or utterance on the radio to some astronomical heights. And you would have been happy to get away with $715,000 if the new rule had been in place.
It sounds like what you‘re saying is beyond just thinking about fines. Someone in a position of authority needs to be thinking about what is appropriate to say. But the FCC says they‘ve already done that.
CLEM: Yes, by the gray community standards moniker. What is a community standard? I mean, you and I can go on the streets of New York right now and see the nicest of nice and the worst of worst, and the community in itself, you know, sets its standards.
It‘s just—it‘s a very, very, very, very trying time we‘re going through. And let‘s not forget that there‘s First Amendment issue here, too. There‘s a huge First Amendment issue. And we have not even begun to get into that. We could be here for three more days talking about that. It‘s the First Amendment because it‘s the most important.
NORVILLE: See, my own thing is I‘ve been on your show and I made you tone it down when I came on.
CLEM: Right, and I...
NORVILLE: I said I‘ll come and be on your show, but you‘ve got to leave that girly stuff alone.
CLEM: And you know, like, I do...
NORVILLE: And you did it, and I had fun.
CLEM: ... I did with you. And I had that redneck on the phone prior, maybe the day or the day after, and I knew I was dealing with a heathen, some guy that‘s drinking Miller Lights and getting drunk.
So I‘ll treat this guy A, and I‘ll treat Deborah Norville, who is very respectful and very newsworthy as such.
When I have other girls from Long Beach in there, I‘m going to treat them as such, and I‘m going to make my show adult. And I‘m going to emphasize that it‘s for adults. And I‘m not going to be hypocritical. And I‘m not going to be fake. I‘m going to be a real man that‘s 38 years old that acts like a real man.
NORVILLE: That also has a 2-year-old little boy that also goes to church on Sunday.
NORVILLE: I think when people learn more about your personal life, they‘re kind of amazed.
CLEM: I‘m a regular guy.
NORVILLE: Of what you do on the radio.
CLEM: I carry a picture of my little boy right here. I carry a picture of my little boy Tyler with me.
NORVILLE: Does he know what‘s going on with daddy?
CLEM: Uncle Hulkster.
NORVILLE: Uncle Hulkster.
CLEM: Hulk Hogan, he‘s one of my best friends. There‘s Tyler. And when I did a fund-raiser for children on the radio, you know, I didn‘t have any objectionable broadcasts. When I had my son say his first couple of words, truck and bike and dog.
So I‘m a soon a 38 -- to be 38-year-old man that is an entertainer. I do an adult-skewing, men-based show for 20 hours a week. And I don‘t have the luxury of having the visual effect. So I have an audio effect. And some of it is smoke and mirrors, and some of it is sound effects. And sometimes there is a lot of hyperbole and parody. But it‘s not illegal. It shouldn‘t be illegal in this country.
Now, if it was rated “X,” it‘s illegal. And my show is nothing more than rated “R.” You can go to any rated “R” theater, you can go to any—you could watch anything on—my show is “Jackass” with a little bit of “South Park.” That‘s what my show is.
NORVILLE: Can you take that show somewhere else?
NORVILLE: Can you find a radio station? Can you find a satellite broadcaster that would put you on the air?
CLEM: Yes, I can.
NORVILLE: You‘re going to be on?
CLEM: I‘m in negotiations with a couple of other different situations, and in actuality, Deborah, this could be the best thing that ever happened to me.
Not that I can go hog wild if I‘m on satellite radio. But I don‘t—
I have another barrier of insurance. I have the subscription portion. My show is not going to have, you know, penetration now or, you know, anything like that, like it never had. But we can do what we used to do.
NORVILLE: Will you do stuff like salad tossing, which is another bit? Let‘s give a listen, and we‘ll see if it‘s something that would still be Bubba the Love Sponge.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
CLEM: Salad tossing is either you, a guy doing it to a girl, or a girl doing it to you. Do you have any idea what it may be, what salad tossing is?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you asking me?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.
CLEM: What do you think it is?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oral?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It has to do with that.
CLEM: It has to do with oral.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
NORVILLE: You said your audience was, like, young men 25 years old.
That sounded like someone from the nursing home.
CLEM: But she wasn‘t a kid, was she?
NORVILLE: No, she wasn‘t a kid.
CLEM: OK. She could still—I couldn‘t get in trouble with her.
She‘s almost dead.
NORVILLE: To me that was just sort of dumb and raunchy and stupid.
Not terribly clever, to be honest with you.
CLEM: But did we talk about what salad tossing was? Did I describe it? I simply said.
NORVILLE: It‘s the minds. It‘s the listener figuring it out. And that‘s what a lot of your stuff is. I want to go through Bubba speak.
CLEM: Oprah did a thing on—
NORVILLE: Bubba speak. OK. Swerve.
CLEM: Means, you know, swerve means, you know—I‘m trying to mislead you.
CLEM: You know, gimmick is an unbelievable word that I picked up from a good friend, Hulk Hogan. With him, it could be anything. I could be, like, “Man, that‘s a nice necklace gimmick.” Or, you know, “She‘s got nice gimmicks,” or something like that.
NORVILLE: That‘s one heck of a gimmick.
CLEM: Boy, yes.
NORVILLE: And that could be anything?
CLEM: Won‘t you whip out those two gimmicks. Something like that.
Gimmick can be anything, you know.
NORVILLE: And you can also say the words that the FCC and George Carlin in his bit said you can‘t say on the radio if you interchange certain letters, right?
CLEM: No, you can‘t anymore, Deborah. Deborah, I can‘t sit here today and look you straight in the face and tell you what I can and cannot say.
Because in today‘s environment if I said, you know, “This is Bubba the Love Sponge and I‘ve got some chicks in here and they‘re whipping out their gimmicks.”
Well, what am I talking about? I think you and I probably know, but at the end of the day I don‘t think the word gimmick is illegal. I don‘t think that‘s one of the seven dirty words. It‘s not—I‘d like to see Congress talk about gimmicks.
But at the end of the day in today‘s witch hunt, religious, no separation between church and state environment, it‘s not right.
NORVILLE: Not all of the stunts have to do with sexual activity.
CLEM: Not at all.
NORVILLE: There was one a couple of years ago that got you into a great deal of trouble. It was a stunt that involved a hunter and a wild pig and a barbecue.
NORVILLE: And here we see part of the situation. Tell us what‘s going on here.
CLEM: Well, we had Bubba‘s road kill barbecue, and I had a hunter come down, and we were initially going to have people just bring simply that, road kill, stuff they found on the road.
NORVILLE: Possums and stuff.
CLEM: Raccoons and squirrels. And that‘s the way it started out. And then all of a sudden this hunter called up and said, “I‘m a professional trapper. I‘ve trapped over 600 hogs in my lifetime.” And these kind of hogs are what Florida has. We have a bunch of those.
And he said, “I want to, you know, slaughter it and butcher it and we‘ll eat it,” like a lot of churches do for various fund-raisers and stuff. And I was in the studio, and this was happening in the parking lot.
So I said, “Well, yes. I don‘t think that‘s a problem. I didn‘t think it was a problem.” I have dogs, cats. I‘ve never...
NORVILLE: You haven‘t killed them on the air.
CLEM: No, nor would I. And so this guy—I said, well, you know—he goes “I‘m going to kill it the way you kill it and butcher it and quarter a hog.” And so...
NORVILLE: And he‘s describing this on the radio?
CLEM: Yes. Well, my producer is out there with a cell phone. And then, you know, they killed it. They butchered it. They quartered it and they ate it.
And then PETA organized it, and I got put on trial for being cruel to the animals. And I was found not guilty because it wasn‘t cruel to animals.
NORVILLE: Because he was a professional doing it.
CLEM: It was distasteful, Deborah. It was distasteful. And I never do it in a million years again. And I‘m not going to try to plead and sit here and say that, you know, innocent me. But I didn‘t know what was going to happen.
They killed it. And I‘ve seen the video, and it is offensive and it is not right. But unfortunately, we like to buy our meat prepackaged, and we don‘t know how it comes, and that‘s how they do it in the wild.
NORVILLE: Part of getting an audience is sometimes, in your business, pushing the envelope. Is there anything that you‘ve done, pushing the envelope, that now in retrospect, at this period in your career, you wish you wouldn‘t have?
CLEM: That, the hog deal. Yes.
NORVILLE: Bubba the Love Sponge, it‘s always great to see you. It‘s been an interesting chapter...
CLEM: You‘re pretty in person, too, let me tell you.
NORVILLE: You know, you‘ve got a face made for radio. What can I say?
CLEM: And a body, too, huh?
NORVILLE: We wish you well. Keep us posted on what happens.
CLEM: Thank you so much.
NORVILLE: Thank you.
CLEM: All right.
NORVILLE: And one more note about the firing of Bubba the Love Sponge. We asked Clear Channel radio CEO John Hogan to come on our program, but he declined.
Meantime, FCC Chairman Michael Powell today indicated he would support extending decency regulations from broadcasters to other media, including cable and satellite television, if Congress gives its OK.
And a group including broadcasters, the Screen Actors Guild, the American Civil Liberties Union and some individual entertainers are now taking aim at the FCC. Yesterday they petitioned the FCC to overturn its recent decision that rock singer Bono‘s use of a curse word during NBC‘s broadcast of the 2003 Golden Globes was, quote, “indecent and profane.”
NBC also filed a separate petition seeking to overturn the FCC‘s decision.
And NBC chairman and CEO Bob Wright wrote an op-ed piece in yesterday‘s “Wall Street Journal,” saying the federal government needs to act with caution and restraint, that creativity and freedom of expression could be stifled by an overzealous approach to regulating content.
And guess what? CBS News‘ “60 Minutes” is also under the microscope. During Sunday‘s broadcast, singer Mary J. Blige uttered a curse word under her breath. And the same attorney who complained to the FCC about Howard Stern has also filed an official complaint against “60 Minutes.”
We‘ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: Up next, they already co-star on one of television‘s most critically acclaimed shows. But now “Sopranos” wise guys, Michael Imperioli and Vince Curatola want in on a piece of the Broadway action. Can a couple of TV gangsters from Jersey find success on the stage?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Clean slate, it‘s better.
ANNOUNCER: DEBORAH NORVILLE TONIGHT is coming right back.
NORVILLE: HBO‘s hit series “The Sopranos” now in its fifth smash season. And tonight, I‘m joined by two of its wise guys.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE SOPRANOS”)
MICHAEL IMPERIOLI, ACTOR: I‘ve been sober and I‘ve been high. Sober is better.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NORVILLE: Michael Imperioli plays Christopher, Tony Soprano‘s nephew and apprentice.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE SOPRANOS”)
VINCENT CURATOLA, ACTOR: I‘ve got to nip this little (EXPLETIVE DELETED) in the bud.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NORVILLE: And Vince Curatola plays Johnny sack, an underboss for one of the New York crime families competing for turf with Tony Soprano.
Ever since the show debuted in 1999, “The Sopranos” has pushed the envelope of television with its use of rough language and its violence.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE SOPRANOS”)
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: I‘m told you, I need more time. I don‘t have the money.
IMPERIOLI: Then (EXPLETIVE DELETED) get it.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Chris, you know me. What could you probably do to me that I haven‘t already been through?
IMPERIOLI: I‘m positive we‘ll think of something.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NORVILLE: And I‘m joined by the man who thought of something, Michael Imperioli and Vince Curatola of “The Sopranos,” who are also collaborating in an off-Broadway play called “Baptism By Fire” directed by Michael and starring Vincent.
Good evening. Nice to meet you both.
CURATOLA: Hi, Deborah. How are you?
NORVILLE: I‘m great. Thank you.
IMPERIOLI: Nice to meet you.
NORVILLE: We were just talking a minute ago with Bubba the Love Sponge about the whole radio thing. And “The Sopranos” has gotten so much notoriety, not because it‘s great writing and story development, but it‘s so violent. I cringed seeing you kick that guy in the scene that we just had. Has the climate changed now with everything that‘s going on? Are you guys feeling any pressure?
IMPERIOLI: You know, I always thought cable was an alternative like movies. People went and paid $7 or whatever to go see a movie. And you would see “The Godfather” or “Scarface,” movies that are violent. But the content hopefully is interesting.
And that seems like what HBO and those kind of cable stations were, that alternative where you pay. You know what kind of content you‘re getting and you‘re choosing to have that in your house or not. And you can exercise some control over it.
IMPERIOLI: I always thought as something separate, and that‘s it not
· you know what you‘re paying for. You know what you‘re getting.
NORVILLE: And you have the option of either not paying the money or not flipping to that channel that night.
CURATOLA: Yes. Absolutely.
NORVILLE: Just a minute ago, when I reported at the close of the last interview that Chairman Powell is thinking about going along, if Congress decides to go in this direction, the same rules to apply to broadcasters which go over public airwaves, then applying it to cable, which is where “The Sopranos” broadcast.
Everyone always said that “Sopranos” could get away with what it did, the language, the violence, the really intense programming because it was cable. They‘re talking about changing the rules.
Well, you know, it‘s like going to the movies. You can go to any movie you want to go to. Actually, HBO is really like a movie house, isn‘t it? You‘re having it come into your home. You‘re paying for it. Obviously, there‘s a choice there. It‘s not someone that someone innocently is going to walk into a room and see a killing if you didn‘t have it programmed on.
It‘s very simple. So, you‘re not going to have an 8-year-old child, 7-year-old child trying to look at something on network television and then getting shocked by what you see on our show. Hopefully—and we go back to a little bit of parental guidance here.
NORVILLE: Plus, you guys are on at 10:00 at night.
CURATOLA: Yes, we‘re on at night. And, I mean, come on, the child knows and the parent knows, and I don‘t think the kid should be sitting on your lap watching us kill people. It‘s ridiculous.
IMPERIOLI: Think of all the movies you wouldn‘t be able to watch in their entirety. Any movie broadcast on cable TV would have to be cut, “The Godfather,” whatever classic movies you‘re talking about.
NORVILLE: Are people in the entertainment industry talking about this?
IMPERIOLI: I just heard about this issue, about it extending to cable TV just now. And, you know, I‘m a little scared by that, because there‘s no end to it.
Vince, you brought up the thing about books.
CURATOLA: Yes. What‘s next? Are you going to walk into a bookstore and you are going to have certain books that can only be behind cover and you need to be of a certain age to say to the guy who is selling you the book, can I take a look at it? It‘s very scary.
If anybody as a child was ever taken them to Arlington National Cemetery as a kid, you go on a field trip, and you see nothing but white crosses or White Stars of David, those are people who didn‘t come home so you could say what you want to say and I could paint the picture that I want to paint.
What happened? We‘re still in America, aren‘t we? We‘re supposed to have some kind of freedom. But I do believe in guidelines and I do believe as a responsible parent you should very closely monitor what your children are exposed to, because they get enough garbage on the street. You don‘t need it in the living room purposely. But censor—it‘s a very delicate, delicate item. And it‘s a little scary. It really is.
NORVILLE: And as you guys go about the business of producing “The Sopranos” week in and week out for Home Box Office, you‘re cognizant of the fact that it‘s an adult show with adult themes. Are you surprised at the way it has become such a phenomenon? There was a legal case recently where one of the crime families, one of the Bonanno guys, Bonanno, however you say it, was being tried and the jurors were actually asked about the realism because of “The Sopranos.”
IMPERIOLI: If they thought “The Sopranos” was how mobs really are?
NORVILLE: Does that knock your socks off?
CURATOLA: It makes us part of the headlines, yes. It‘s good publicity, I suppose.
But we didn‘t invent this stuff either. This is a part of American culture that has existed for many, many decades in this country. And certainly, you know, we portray something that maybe a lot of people are very uncomfortable with. But we didn‘t invent it, you know? Art imitates life.
NORVILLE: Let‘s take a look at some of the are now, Vincent and Michael in “The Sopranos.”
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE SOPRANOS”)
IMPERIOLI: Maybe you let them keep Lauraine (ph) and take a bigger piece of this Florida (EXPLETIVE DELETED)
CURATOLA: I wouldn‘t worry about Florida. I would move to (EXPLETIVE DELETED) Miami. It wasn‘t long ago I remember you used to wait in the car. and as far as I‘m concerned, you should still be there.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: John, he was just (EXPLETIVE DELETED)
CURATOLA: He was just. Everybody‘s got a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) opinion?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NORVILLE: You‘re laughing. How important is the violence to the realism of the whole thing?
CURATOLA: I‘m sorry, how much what?
NORVILLE: How important is the violence and the language? I mean, if you didn‘t have the bleeps that we don‘t bleep on HBO.
CURATOLA: Yes. Yes.
Well, I think it‘s indigenous to those people. Everything, I would imagine is—you know, they‘re very highly pitched, these guys. Their lives are filled with pressure, you know, day to day. They have to earn every day. It‘s not a glamorized thing like you saw in “Godfather,” where everybody sits around and drinks tea and coffee.
These guys have to earn every hour and they have to kick something up to their boss, a lot of stress, the FBI. There‘s another guy down the block who wants your territory. There‘s the girlfriend giving you a hard time because you didn‘t leave the wife yet. These guys are stressed. So these words come out, you know?
NORVILLE: Your character got stressed because there‘s some possibility that she might be talking to the feds when she‘s not talking to you.
NORVILLE: But we don‘t know that either.
IMPERIOLI: Yes. We don‘t know that. I don‘t—God, who knows? I don‘t want to know.
IMPERIOLI: But, you know, as far as the violence, I think it‘s a fine line, because if you don‘t portray these guys as violent, then there‘s a danger of them becoming these kind of cuddly, likable gangsters.
NORVILLE: And you‘re going to hear from the viewers about that, too.
IMPERIOLI: Well, I think that would be a disservice. That would be a little bit gilding the lily. You‘ve got to give them kind of both sides. You could see Tony Soprano being a good father maybe in one scene and then you see him do what he does, and that makes up the complexity of the character.
And that‘s more what we are trying to do. We‘re not trying to just paint a rosy picture and have people fall in love with us. We‘re trying to give some kind of a human story that‘s authentic in some way.
NORVILLE: Well, they‘ve definitely fallen in love with “The Sopranos,” which has given you both the chance to do some really exciting things away from the TV screen.
When we come back, we‘re going to talk about “Baptism By Fire.” If you think these two get fired up about “The Sopranos,” wait until you hear about their newest endeavor.
NORVILLE: We‘re back with two of “The Sopranos” lead characters, Michael Imperioli, who plays Christopher, and Vince Curatola, who plays Johnny Sacks.
We‘ll be back.
NORVILLE: Back with two of the leads from “The Sopranos,” Michael Imperioli and Vincent Curatola, who have this great new stage collaboration.
Michael, this is really a dream for you, for a kid who always wanted to be an actor, you‘ve got your own theater here in New York City.
IMPERIOLI: Yes, it‘s amazing.
I started out doing plays. And with friends from acting school, we rented theaters and put on plays. Someone started writing plays and we—because we needed a place to work. We weren‘t getting hired doing movies and TV and stuff like that, or on Broadway and even off Broadway. So we went to off-off-Broadway.
And the hard thing was getting the money up, renting the space and doing stuff like that. So to have a venue where we can do whatever we want is pretty amazing.
NORVILLE: And so this studio, which thanks to the success of “The Sopranos” you‘ve now been able to put together, your wife helped design it. Your father-in-law helped build it. It really is a family production.
IMPERIOLI: Yes, it was my wife‘s idea, actually. It was her vision to build it. And she designed it and decorated it and did a lot of the finishing details. And my father-in-law did a lot of the construction. And now we‘re all running it together, you know?
NORVILLE: And the first production is called “Baptism By Fire.” And who gets the first phone call when you get the script?
IMPERIOLI: Vince. Vince got the first phone call. I read it. It‘s by a great writer named John Dapolito. And I immediately thought of him while—Vince—while I was reading the play and said, you know, I think this would be a tour de force for you, and he read it and said, yes, I want to do it.
And two other actors, one of whom is on “The Sopranos,” Sharon Angela, plays Rosalie Aprile, and a guy named Nick Sandow. Both of them I had known for a long time. And I thought of them, and they fell the same way.
NORVILLE: It‘s a very difference thing, Vince, doing stage than doing television.
CURATOLA: Yes, yes, yes.
NORVILLE: Why was this something that you wanted to do? Was it the
character? Was it working with Michael on this
CURATOLA: Well, Michael‘s very specific about material, and he has a very good vision. He‘s a low-key guy, but when he has an opinion about something, you listen.
And, you know, we‘ve been working together on and off for five years. So when he said to me, if you‘re available, I would like to produce and direct this play, and he sent me the script, it was already a given, because he is a writer. You know, he writes some of our episodes on the show.
And so he knows the cadence and he knows the atmosphere of my brain, I suppose. And when he read the character of Sonny (ph) in “Baptism By Fire,” I guess he felt there was a click, like when you snap two pieces of wood together, they fit right in. And he was right, because I didn‘t put the play down until I finished it, then called him the next morning and say, yes, let‘s go.
NORVILLE: Briefly, the story is what?
IMPERIOLI: It is the story of a father and a son. The father is an ex-con who was in and out of jail during the son‘s formative years.
Now the son is in his late ‘30s. The father is an iron worker, kind of a few years away from retiring. The son is a playwright and a director. And it‘s about manhood. It‘s about a father trying to impart wisdom and manhood into his son and the struggle between them. And it‘s a tragedy, but it‘s extremely funny.
NORVILLE: A funny tragedy.
NORVILLE: You get it all.
NORVILLE: Well, we‘re going to get some more wisdom from our two guests in just a moment. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: Where‘s the dinner at?
IMPERIOLI: I forget the name. It‘s in the car.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: Who‘s going to be there?
IMPERIOLI: What, are you on the school paper? Guys. Business. Got any cash?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NORVILLE: Back now with Michael Imperioli and Vince Curatola for some final thoughts.
In the break, you were telling me a really neat story. When you come off the stage of “Baptism By Fire,” you don‘t leave.
CURATOLA: No, I stay in the theater. I stay in the theater. I leave the dressing room, come back upstairs, say hello to some people, whomever, you know.
But then what I do is, I extricate myself from the lobby and I go back through the double doors into the theater. And I get back up on the stage and I sit in my chair, Sonny‘s chair.
CURATOLA: And I‘ll sit there and I‘ll light a couple of cigarettes. Maybe I‘ll have a drink. And I‘ll just listen to the words that were flowing for those couple of hours, because you try to catch them. There‘s a lot of wisdom in this stuff.
You just try to retain them and think about how did it feel saying it tonight, and what‘s is it going to feel like saying it tomorrow night? Because the part is really starting to—I‘m a little bit of Sonny in real life, for all of you who come to see it, to a degree. But I have a tough time leaving it there. It‘s about an hour and a half before I get in the car and go home, literally an hour and a half.
NORVILLE: That‘s amazing.
And, Michael, the resonance of “The Sopranos,” the way it‘s connected, is there some message that people are getting from this show that you‘ve been able to figure out?
IMPERIOLI: Well, I think there‘s a philosophy towards it that I think has worked and why people really are drawn to it, because you see these people who you could immediately judge as being evil, but, yet, you see them in situations on a day-to-day level that a lot of people can relate to, be it with family, with, you know, with children, with husbands and wives.
And I think people relate and sympathize with the everydayness of it. Overall, you know, I think it‘s going to end very darkly. So I think maybe it‘s the conflict between, you know, trying to live a good life for your family, but, yet, you can‘t separate it from...
NORVILLE: The dark side that they‘re all a part of.
IMPERIOLI: Yes, and that they will bleed together somehow and have repercussions.
CURATOLA: That‘s a good way to put it.
NORVILLE: We love seeing you both on Sunday nights on “The Sopranos.” And we look forward—we haven‘t gotten down there to getting to see “Baptism By Fire” at Studio Dante.
NORVILLE: Congratulations to you both.
IMPERIOLI: Thank you.
CURATOLA: Thanks a lot.
NORVILLE: We‘ll be back in just a moment.
NORVILLE: We always like to hear from you, so send us your comments and ideas to us at NORVILLE@MSNBC.com.
That‘s our program for tonight. Thanks a lot for watching.
Tomorrow night, an amazingly interesting program, the emotional story of a woman suffering from the human form of mad cow disease. She has been fighting to stay alive for nearly two years. Tomorrow night, her father will be with us to talk about his family‘s ordeal. And is the mad cow scare in the United States over? Well, the answer depends on whom you ask. Some doctors and the beef industry say the meat you eat is safer than ever, but others disagree, and we will hear from them—a complete look at what you need to know about the meat you eat. That‘s tomorrow on DEBORAH NORVILLE TONIGHT.
“SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY” is coming up next, Joe Scarborough standing by.
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