At first I didn't believe my ears. Was conservative gabber Howie Carr — who's known for accompanying on-air references to homosexuality with a crude audio approximation of gay sex (the sound in question is actually former Boston city councilor David Scondras, who's gay, clearing his throat rather . . . emphatically) — happily schmoozing with guest Randy Price this past week? The same Randy Price who — besides being ousted from Channel 7 amid a broader shake-up at that ratings-challenged station — is gay; married to his longtime partner, Mark Steffen; and has a lengthy history of activism on behalf of Boston's gay community?
It's all true. And for the duration of the interview on WRKO-AM, the Scondras Sex Simulator stayed silent! When Price referenced his husband — no sound effects. When Price talked about Channel 7's failure to report on a new, $100 million AIDS-vaccine grant institute in Boston — still nothing. For nearly half an hour, Carr played it straight (pun fully intended), discussing Price's objections to Channel 7's guiding philosophy and even, toward the end of the segment, bonding with his guest over their shared love of . . . pugs. (While on this topic, Price noted that he wouldn't participate in Pug Rescue of New England's annual parade, because it's too campy — but added that he could see Carr joining the festivities. Still no Scondras Sex Simulator!)
So what gives, Howie? "I like Randy Price," Carr tells the Phoenix via e-mail. "I don't care about his sexual orientation — he's a good guy, he's a friend of mine, and I'm sorry he's gone. I offered to put in a good word for him at WTKK [96.9 FM] if he wants to try talk radio."
For his part, Price apparently likes Howie Carr, too — and considers Carr's occasional forays into gay-baiting (which, among other things, have included use of the phrase "sodomy lobby" in his BostonHerald column) as a bit of an act.
"We go way back," Price says of Carr. "I know that part of Howie, and I think he plays that stuff because he finds it entertaining, but he's always been extremely nice and cordial to me. That's the only important thing in my mind, because I try to make it respectable to be who I am — an openly gay person who has a long-term relationship. He treats me with respect, and that goes a long way."
For those who dream of a day when straights and gays everywhere will join hands and sing "I Will Survive," all this mutual goodwill offers reason for hope. But for those of us who favor cheap entertainment, it's too bad Carr steered clear of Price's sexuality this past week, given Price's preferred M.O. for dealing with jibes on that subject.
"One time, Gerry Callahan" — WEEI-AM's Cro-Magnon morning talker (and Herald sports columnist) — "made a comment on air, shortly after the anti-sodomy law was repealed at the national level, along the lines of, 'Wow, there's going to be a big party at Randy Price's house,' " recalls Price. "After I heard about it, I called and left a message on his phone: 'Hey, Gerry, I just want to tell you there's going to be a big party at my house — and I heard you're the perfect person to be invited.' I didn't hear back."
The Globe roars
There are, without a doubt, conservatives inside and outside Massachusetts who expect the Boston Globe's new biography of Ted Kennedy — Last Lion: The Fall and Rise of Ted Kennedy — to be a whitewash of a liberal politician by a liberal media outlet. But if they actually decide to read the book, they'll be surprised. Yes, the narrative arc is one of redemption (or at least recovery), as the subtitle suggests — and as Kennedy's later years in the US Senate warrant. But Ted's weaknesses and vices, and those of his family, get plenty of critical attention.
At Kennedy's first wedding, for example, the book describes brother John F. Kennedy reassuring him that getting married doesn't mean you actually have to be faithful. Ted subsequently put that advice into practice, thereby exacerbating the problems that his then-wife, Joan, had with alcohol. When Edward McCormack insisted on running against Kennedy for the Senate seat formerly held by JFK, he presumptuously tried to buy McCormack off with some sort of federal appointment, to be engineered by his brother, the president. Later, Kennedy embarrassed himself by backing the nomination for a federal judgeship of Francis X. Morrissey, a former coat holder for Joe Kennedy Sr., and a man of profoundly limited abilities and qualifications.
Meanwhile, the great stain on Kennedy's life and reputation — i.e., the crash at Chappaquiddick that killed Mary Jo Kopechne — takes up roughly 10 percent of the book. And those 40-or-so pages are pretty tough: among other things, Last Lion suggests that Joan Kennedy's trip to Pennsylvania for Kopechne's funeral may have precipitated her third miscarriage; describes Ted Kennedy's comportment in his long-delayed post-crash statement as "muted . . . almost mechanical"; and concludes that Kopechne's death and the senator's subsequent behavior constituted a "crucial failure of [Kennedy's] moral strength." In short, his is no hagiography.