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 PMRCs 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.
Tippers critics accused her of promoting censorship and some referred
to her as a "cultural terrorist."
In 1988, Tippers
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. Tippers crusade against
"porn rock" has taken a turn onto Shakedown Street.
rock odyssey began in December 1984, when her then-11-year-old daughter
bought pop-star Princes "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.
mother of four, found out the hard way, when her 11-year- old daughter
came home with Princes Purple Rain. She
bought it because she liked "Lets 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)
In April 1985, along
with three other "well-connected Washington wives and mothers"
Tipper founded the PMRC. Almost overnight the group "emerged as rocks
most potent critics."
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.
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 childrens 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)
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
"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
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.
month after Americas major record companies agreed to print a
warning on albums and cassettes containing explicit lyrics, the
industrys trade group and its two major critics are still debating
just what that warning should say and how the lyrics should be evaluated.
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."
language, developed by the Recording Industry Association of America,
isnt 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
The 1985 Senate
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 Tippers husband, then Sen. Albert Gore Jr.
Seemingly, Albert Gore Jr. was focused on balancing his concern for his
wifes pet issue, with his knowledge of and desire for vast amounts
of Hollywood campaign cash.
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 Tippers plan
to rate the vast quantities of songs produced in the country, and called
the PMRCs demands "sinister" and an imperil to freedom
"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.
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.
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
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.
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,
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 Tippers
"moralistic" tone would alienate young liberals in the Democrat
Party. Others saw Tippers preaching as a ploy for Gore to win the
right wing of the Democrat Party.
experts agree that Mrs. Gores 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.
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 fathers liberal legacy as a member of
Congress from Tennessee for more than three decades.
disagree, privately singing a tune called Tipper Dont Preach,
a takeoff on the hit song Papa Dont Preach by Madonna,
one of the artists Mrs. Gore has criticized.
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
As the 1988 campaign
settled in, Tipper began attempting to change her image, declaring "I
am not a raunchy, inflexible prude."
am not a raunchy, inflexible prude, Mary Elizabeth (Tipper)
Gore declared, setting her Worlds Greatest Mother
coffee mug on her kitchen table." (emphasis added) (Los
Angeles Times, 4/3/87)
Reaching Out to
and Albert Gore Jr. reached out to the entertainment industry and its
campaign coffers to discuss censorship and blacklist fears Tippers
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."
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. Gores much-publicized crusade against sexually
explicit rock n roll.
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.
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,
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."
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.
sent the message that theres going to be censorship, and thats
clearly not the case, she told the group. In my testimony
I said "I am not for government intervention, I am not for legislation."
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
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."
echoed his wifes 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.
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.
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 committees 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,
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.
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
anyone vote for the husband of the chief music censor in the country?
said one industry member. Its sick, its really sick.
had been started by McCarthys wife, it wouldnt 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)
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 Gores 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 Tippers
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
"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 Gores presidential
old friend, guitarist Bob Weir said. Hes a real human
being and were 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 Dylans
Queen Jane, a song with cynical lyrics about political pandering
and disloyalty." (emphasis added) (Seattle Post-Intelligencer,
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.
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