Saturday, February 16, 2008

The C Word

This week actress Jane Fonda said the C word on NBC’s Today. You know the one I’m talking about. The mother of all cuss words. The expletive that almost all women are united in their loathing of. (And if she can say c*** on network TV, I can end a sentence with a preposition.)

When I heard about it my first thought was: how is it possible that Jane Fonda thinks it’s fine to drop a c*** on live morning TV?

Let’s put aside, for now, the argument of whether swearing on TV leads to the fall of Western Civilization (it doesn’t) and if the FCC is a reactionary, under-supervised government arm that can’t make up its own mind about its policies, and should be abolished (it is).

Instead, with the memory still fresh of Diane Keaton’s F-bomb on the same show in January, I suspect that there is an organization called The Senile Old Actresses Club, and Fonda and Keaton may only be the tip of the iceberg. If I say anything more, the SOAC may send its thugs over to silence me, so I’ll give TV producers this one piece of advice: next time you have Helen Mirren on, fire up the seven-second delay.


The C word reminds me of a radio partner I once had. Opie was very young when he worked on my morning show, about 16 when he started and probably 19 when the following happened.

It was a little past 9 in the morning, and Opie and I were still air the air. During a song we were discussing the next day’s show. He was pitching a comedy bit that had real potential. There was only one problem.

“I think we should call the character C***,” he said.

I did a Danny Thomas spit take, dousing the control board with coffee.

“No,” I said between bouts of choking.

“Why not?”

I was always hard to tell if Opie was playing dumb or, in fact, being dumb, so I didn’t take any chances.

“You can’t say c*** on the radio.”

“Yes you can!” Opie said.

“You really can’t.”



“Why not?”

“Because it’s one of the worst swear words in the history of swearing. You say that and we’ll get fired. Then the women in the garden club will come over here and kick us to death.”

Opie looked puzzled for a moment, then he decided that I was messing with him (which, I admit, I did as often as possible. Once, while flying contest winners to Disneyland I convinced him that every nation had their own separate jet stream. Ours was the original, so it was called THE Jet Stream. Mexico’s, for example, was The Taco Stream. He repeated this new fact several times during the trip until someone set him straight.)

“I don’t believe you.”

What I did next was unnecessary and cruel. I hope it won’t make you think any less of me.

At the time, the radio station’s business manager was Consuela, then and now one of my best friends. Consuela does not suffer fools gladly, nor will she ever be known for keeping her feelings to herself.

As I said, it was after 9. The office was filled with staff and, if memory serves, a client or two, all mingling in a large room separated only by partitioned cubicles. Everybody could hear everything.

“Okay,” I told Opie, “we’ll do the bit the way you want it, IF Consuela says it’s okay to use c*** on the air. Since she’s a woman, we really need her opinion.”

His face lit up. “Are you serious?”

“Sure. If she gives it her okay, we’ll do it.”

“Who gets to ask her?”

“Why don’t you?” I said. “It’s your idea.”

He jumped out of his chair and ran out of the studio. The studio was directly adjacent to the main office.

As the door automatically swung shut, I heard:

“Co-o-o-o-nie! It’s okay to say c*** on the air, right?”

I have never witnessed a nuclear detonation. I hope I never will. But if I did, I imagine it would sound akin to what followed.

It was a barrage, a cacophony, of screaming, all from Consuela. Apparently, women really don’t like the C word.

When Opie returned to the studio moments later, he had been forever changed. His skin was red, as if he’d been out in the sun too long. His eyes carried knowledge of something he hoped never to see again.

“How did it go?” I asked.

“She –” His voice squeaked. He cleared his throat. “She said we shouldn’t use...that word.”

If only Jane Fonda had a Consuela...


ONEDIA said...

Senile? If Jack Nicholson had let loose with foul language would you refer to him as senile?

Mark Justice said...

Sure, if he thought there was no problem dropping the queen of the curse words on live morning network TV. But he hasn't, has he?