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In 1985, Tipper Gore made a name for herself as a crusader against "porn rock." She was a founding member of the Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC), a group which emerged overnight on the national media scene. The PMRC’s mission was to clean up the sexually explicit music industry and it led to the September 1985 Senate rock hearing, at which Tipper appeared as a witness. Tipper’s critics accused her of promoting censorship and some referred to her as a "cultural terrorist."

In 1988, Tipper’s husband, Albert Gore Jr., ran for the Democrat presidential nomination. As his campaign kicked off, Tipper released a book, Raising PG Kids in an X-Rated Society, a move many saw as a ploy for the Gores to win over the right wing of the Democrat Party. However, Tipper would change her tune during the campaign. In an October 1987 meeting between the Gores and entertainment luminaries, she claimed the Senate rock hearings were a "mistake." Albert Gore Jr. claimed he "was not in favor of the hearing" when in reality he was on record thanking the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation chairman for holding the hearing.

Now as the 2000 election draws nearer, Tipper is seemingly not as worried about rock lyrics, and has tried hard to repudiate the idea she is simply an uptight housewife. The recording industry has for a long time been a cash cow for the Democrat Party. From Oct. 23, 1985 to March 31, 1999, six recording industry moguls contributed $322,335 to the Democrat Party. Realizing this, Tipper has changed her tune when it comes to criticizing the recording industry. She has even performed onstage with the living members of the Grateful Dead at a Gore 2000 fund-raising event. Tipper’s crusade against "porn rock" has taken a turn onto Shakedown Street.

Tipper’s Odyssey Begins

Tipper’s porn rock odyssey began in December 1984, when her then-11-year-old daughter bought pop-star Prince’s "Purple Rain" album. When Tipper listened to the album and heard a song with lyrics about a "girl masturbating with a magazine," she was aghast.

"Tipper Gore, mother of four, found out the hard way, when her 11-year- old daughter came home with Prince’s ‘Purple Rain.’ ‘She bought it because she liked "Let’s Go Crazy," but then I heard the words to "Darling Nikki," with its lyrics about a girl masturbating with a magazine, and I started paying attention.’" (emphasis added) (The Washington Post, 6/19/85)

PMRC’s Formation

In April 1985, along with three other "well-connected Washington wives and mothers" Tipper founded the PMRC. Almost overnight the group "emerged as rock’s most potent critics."

"This summer they picked up welcome leadership from Tipper Gore, 36, Pam Howar, 43, and Susan Baker, 48, three well-connected Washington wives and mothers. Gore is a Virginia-bred mother of four. Howar, a former ad agency owner, is the wife of Washington real estate developer Raymond Howar. Baker, a devout Christian who favors classical and country & Western music, is the wife of Treasury Secretary James Baker, formerly the White House Chief of Staff.

"Last February, inspired by a call from Howar, the wives shared for the first time their fears about the music they were hearing on the airwaves, in videos and through their children’s stereo speakers. With support from a few pals (among them Ethelynn Stuckey, wife of former Georgia Congressman Williamson Stuckey Jr.), the women put together a blue-chip mailing list of 2,000 names from their Christmas card roster and in April launched the Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC). Practically overnight the group emerged as rock's most potent critics." (emphasis added)  (People, 9/16/85)

PMRC’s mission was to clean up raunchy lyrics and suggestive album covers in the music industry. The group pushed for a "rating system similar to that for films, printed lyrics on album covers and under-the-counter obscurity for covers depicting violence or explicit sexual themes."

"They can hardly keep up with the mail, let alone the media. ‘It was an issue waiting to be born,’ says Pam Howar, cofounder of Parents Music Resource Center, a local group that quickly turned national when the word got out it wants the recording industry to clean up raunchy lyrics and suggestive album covers.

"In the two months since then, Howar and several other Washington mothers, including Susan Baker, the wife of Treasury Secretary James A. Baker III, and Tipper Gore, wife of Sen. Albert Gore (D-Tenn.), have been pushing a rating system similar to that for films, printed lyrics on album covers and under-the-counter obscurity for covers depicting violence or explicit sexual themes." (emphasis added) (The Washington Post, 7/9/85)

In August 1985, under pressure from PMRC and other parents’ groups, record companies agreed to place the warning "Parental Guidance: Explicit Lyrics" on albums and cassettes containing explicit lyrics. However, for Tipper and PMRC, that language was not enough and the group continued its war on controversial music lyrics.

"Nearly a month after America’s major record companies agreed to print a warning on albums and cassettes containing explicit lyrics, the industry’s trade group and its two major critics are still debating just what that warning should say and how the lyrics should be evaluated.

"Reacting to pressure from several parents’ groups decrying pop lyrics glorifying sex, drugs, violence and occultism, 19 companies that represent 80 percent of record and tape sales agreed in early August to print the warning ‘Parental Guidance: Explicit Lyrics."

"*But that language, developed by the Recording Industry Association of America, isn’t strong enough for the 5.6-million-member National Conference of Parents and Teachers (PTA) and the Parents Music Resource Center, the small, well-connected Washington-based group that has made the issue of controversial lyrics national. PMRC members include Susan Baker, wife of Treasury Secretary James Baker, and Tipper Gore, wife of Sen. Albert Gore (D-Tenn.)." (emphasis added) (The Washington Post, 8/29/85)

The 1985 Senate Rock Hearings

On Sept. 19, 1985, Tipper brought her message before the U.S. Senate, as a witness in a hearing before the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee. Sitting on the committee was Tipper’s husband, then Sen. Albert Gore Jr. Seemingly, Albert Gore Jr. was focused on balancing his concern for his wife’s pet issue, with his knowledge of and desire for vast amounts of Hollywood campaign cash.

"In September 1985 Chairman John Danforth convened his Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee for hearings on the issue. Tipper Gore was one of the witnesses. Al Gore, Jr., while a relatively junior member of the committee, was already considering a run for the presidency in 1988. His genuine concern about the issue and natural instinct to support his wife were to some extent mitigated by the knowledge that Hollywood had in recent years emerged as a vast source of money for Democratic campaigns." (Bob Zelnick, Gore: A Political Life, 1999)

During the hearing, fellow witness, and late musician Frank Zappa, panned Tipper’s plan to rate the vast quantities of songs produced in the country, and called the PMRC’s demands "sinister" and an imperil to freedom of speech.

"Taken as a whole, the complete list of PMRC demands reads like an instruction manual for some sinister kind of toilet training program to house-break all composers and performers because of the lyrics of a few. Ladies, how dare you?"

"Bad facts make bad law, and people who write bad laws are in my opinion more dangerous than songwriters who celebrate sexuality. Freedom of speech, freedom of religious thought, and the right to due process for composers, performers and retailers are imperiled if the PMRC and the major labels consummate this nasty bargain."

"Well, I do not know whether it [ratings] is accurate, because sometimes they have trouble deciding how a film gets to be an X or an R or whatever. And you have two problems. One is the quantity of material, 325 films per year versus 25,000 4-minute songs per year, OK." (emphasis added) (Frank Zappa, U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation hearing on record labeling, 9/19/85)

Tipper is Castigated

The music industry, rock stars and fans all squared off with Tipper, calling her an array of names, including a "cultural terrorist." Future Bill Clinton defender and porn publisher, Larry Flynt publisher of Hustler magazine, referred to her in manner that was unprintable by common decency standards.

"Gore, 38, has been called many things since she burst on the public scene a year ago, battling violence and pornography in rock music. In some wild Capitol Hill hearings, rock stars and fans -- some in outlandish punk garb -- squared off against a group composed mainly of government officials' wives, headed by Gore.

"Before the Senate subcommittee on communications, Gore complained about albums and videos containing themes of murder, suicide, rape, masturbation, incest, mutilation, drugs, alcohol and sadomasochism. Another witness at the hearing, rock star Frank Zappa, later called Gore a ‘cultural terrorist.’ Hustler magazine called her something this newspaper will not print." (emphasis added)  (Los Angeles Times, 4/3/87)

Tipper Don’t Preach

However, Tipper would not allow the criticism to impede the cause she seemed to believe in. In 1987 she wrote a controversial book titled Raising PG Kids in an X-Rated Society. In the book she claimed parents as consumers had the "right and power to pressure the entertainment industry to respond" to their needs.

"As parents and as consumers, we have the right and the power to pressure the entertainment industry to respond to our needs. Americans, after all, should insist that every corporate giant – whether it produces chemicals or records – accept responsibility for what it produces." (emphasis added)  (Tipper Gore, Raising PG Kids in an X-Rated Society, 1987)

Moreover, political experts questioned the timing of the promotion of her book in 1987, just as her husband Albert Gore Jr. was beginning his campaign for the 1988 Democrat presidential nomination. Some Democrats worried that Tipper’s "moralistic" tone would alienate young liberals in the Democrat Party. Others saw Tipper’s preaching as a ploy for Gore to win the right wing of the Democrat Party.

"The political experts agree that Mrs. Gore’s book promotion will have an imprint on her husband's race, giving it a more moralistic tone, but they are divided over whether this will help or hurt Senator Gore.

"Some argue that it will help by charming the right wing of the Democratic party, where the Senator is not particularly strong because of his youth, his moderate stands and his father’s liberal legacy as a member of Congress from Tennessee for more than three decades.

"But others disagree, privately singing a tune called ‘Tipper Don’t Preach,’ a takeoff on the hit song ‘Papa Don’t Preach’ by Madonna, one of the artists Mrs. Gore has criticized.

"Geoffrey Garin, a Democratic pollster, said Mrs. Gore could alienate many young professionals who should be her husband's natural constituency. At 39, he is the youngest candidate in the field." (emphasis added) (Maureen Dowd column, The New York Times, 4/28/87)

Tipper Changes Her Tune

As the 1988 campaign settled in, Tipper began attempting to change her image, declaring "I am not a raunchy, inflexible prude."

"‘I am not a raunchy, inflexible prude,’ Mary Elizabeth (Tipper) Gore declared, setting her ‘World’s Greatest Mother’ coffee mug on her kitchen table." (emphasis added) (Los Angeles Times, 4/3/87)

Reaching Out to Hollywood

Furthermore, Tipper and Albert Gore Jr. reached out to the entertainment industry and its campaign coffers to discuss censorship and blacklist fears Tipper’s crusade had caused. On Oct. 28, 1987, they met with entertainment luminaries such as MCA music chief Irving Azoff, liberal activist Norman Lear and rock artist Don Henley to "explore issues of mutual concern."

"Democratic Presidential candidate Sen. Albert Gore of Tennessee and wife Tipper Gore met with music, film, tv and other industry leaders over lunch last week in a closed-door session to discuss censorship and blacklist fears raised by Mrs. Gore’s much-publicized crusade against sexually explicit rock n’ roll.

"Meeting, held at the MCA executive dining room Oct. 28, was hosted by MCA music entertainment group chief Irving Azoff, activist-producer Norman Lear and rock star Don Henley, all of whose names appeared on invitations for the event.

"Invites emphasized that the meeting, closed to the press, was not organized on behalf of the senator but merely to provide an opportunity to meet the pol and his spouse and ‘explore issues of mutual concern.’" (emphasis added) (italics in original) (Daily Variety, 11/3/87)

Tipper and her husband attempted to mend fences with Hollywood over the 1985 Senate rock hearings. Tipper claimed censorship was not the message she was trying to make, and said "if I could rewrite the script I certainly would."

"Gore, in L.A. last week for a three-day campaign swing, clearly hoped to mend some fences and defuse ‘the censorship issue,’ a potential albatross that could drag him down in his quest for the Democratic crown.

"To that end, the senator and his wife repeatedly voiced regret at the Hollywood huddle over the headline-grabbing 1985 Senate rock hearings, with Mrs. Gore calling the sesh ‘a mistake… that sent the wrong message’ to the entertainment biz.

"‘We sent the message that there’s going to be censorship, and that’s clearly not the case,’ she told the group. ‘In my testimony I said "I am not for government intervention, I am not for legislation."’

"‘I understand that the hearings frightened the artistic community; if I could rewrite the script I certainly would,’ she said." (ellipsis in original) (emphasis added) (Daily Variety, 11/3/87)

Albert Gore Jr.’s Lie

Albert Gore Jr. told those at the meeting that the 1985 Senate rock hearings were "not a good idea." He attempted to exculpate himself from the hearings, placing the blame on Republicans on the committee. Gore told the Hollywood group "I did not ask for the hearing" and "I was not in favor of the hearing."

"Sen. Gore echoed his wife’s feeling that the hearing ‘was not a good idea,’ and attempted to exculpate himself from the proceedings by virtue of the fact that he was ‘a freshman minority member of the committee’ in no position to veto the affair.

"Indeed, the Gores laid blame for the hearing at the door of two other senators – John Danforth (R-Mo.) and Paula Hawkins (R-Fla.) – both of whom Sen. Gore said were eager to hold the heavily publicized forum, with Commerce Committee chairman Danforth hastening to convene when he learned that Hawkins was trying to steer the event her way.

"‘I did not ask for the hearing,’ Gore told the Hollywood group. ‘I was not in favor of the hearing.’" (emphasis added) (Daily Variety, 11/3/87)

However, the transcripts of the 1985 hearing show Albert Gore Jr. was telling a bold faced lie. In his opening remarks, Gore told the committee’s chairman, Sen. John Danforth (R-Mo.), "I would like to thank you and commend you for calling this hearing."

"Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. I would like to thank you and commend you for calling this hearing. Because my wife has been heavily involved in the evolution of this issue, I have gained quite a bit of familiarity with it, and I have really gained an education in what is involved." (emphasis added) (Sen. Albert Gore Jr., U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation hearing on record labeling, 9/19/85)

Tipper Still Not Forgiven by the Left in 1992

Albert Gore Jr.’s 1988 campaign ended as a dismal failure. Seemingly, the Gores did not reach out to the liberal base of the Democrat Party in time. In 1992, when Gore was picked to be the vice presidential nominee, Tipper and Albert still faced criticism from the left-wing of the Democrat Party.

"Gore’s activist wife, Tipper, is still regarded by many in the record business as being pro-censorship. Images are apparently still fresh of the 1986 (sic) Senate hearings that pitted Tipper Gore and her music watchdog group Parents Music Resource Center against the music industry. The hearings led to the explicit-language sticker program currently used by record labels.

"‘How can anyone vote for the husband of the chief music censor in the country?’ said one industry member. ‘It’s sick, it’s really sick.’

"‘If McCarthyism had been started by McCarthy’s wife, it wouldn’t have been any less disgusting,’ said anti-censorship activist Phyllis Pollack. ‘I sincerely doubt that Bush or Perot have the personal vendetta against artists and defenders of free speech that the Gores have. Tipper even attacked Phil Collins for his song about the homeless.’" (emphasis added) (The Hollywood Reporter, 7/10/92)

Tipper’s Reawakening

From Oct. 23, 1985 to March 31, 1999, six recording industry moguls, Irving Azoff, Don Henley, Lenny Waronker, Thomas Pollock, Daniel Goldberg and Marilyn Bergman contributed a total of $322,335 to Clinton/Gore and Democrat committees. However, during 1988, entertainment money was much harder to come by for the Gore ’88 campaign. In fact, three of the entertainment luminaries that attended the October 1987 meeting between the Gores and the entertainment community: Irving Azoff, Norman Lear and Don Henley, all gave nothing to Gore’s 1988 campaign. However, all three have given $1,000 to the Gore 2000 campaign. Moreover, two of the children of one time Tipper-basher Frank Zappa, Dweezil and Ahmet, also each gave $1,000 to Gore 2000.

In 2000 the Gores will not be making the mistake of antagonizing the left wing of the Democrat Party. Crusading against explicit music lyrics is no longer as high on Tipper’s list as fund-raising with former members of the Grateful Dead is. These days Tipper does not think twice about getting on stage and performing with former members of the Grateful Dead, a band who lost three members to drug induced deaths, all the while producing explicit drug-related music.

"Tipper Gore took the stage at San Jose, Calif., with former members of the Grateful Dead at a $1,000-a-plate fund-raiser for her husband Al Gore’s presidential campaign.

"‘He’s an old friend,’ guitarist Bob Weir said. ‘He’s a real human being and we’re going to support him.’

"Weir and percussionist Mickey Hart now lead the Flying Other Brothers Band. Tipper Gore got behind the conga drums, beating along to a rendition of Bob Dylan’s ‘Queen Jane,’ a song with cynical lyrics about political pandering and disloyalty." (emphasis added) (Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 4/8/99)

Tipper Gore has scaled back her fight against explicit rock music in an attempt to pander to the left wing of the Democrat Party. These days she is an honorary Deadhead, and like her husband, she will do anything to raise campaign cash.

Courtesy: Republican National Committee

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