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Family Values a la L.A.

Last week yielded episodes 5,471 and 5,472 - approximately - of the long-running, appalling, fascinating soap opera "Has Hollywood Lost Its Mind?"

The first episode centered on Dr. Laura Schlessinger, whose social conservatism complements Rush Limbaugh's political conservatism for millions of radio listeners. Next fall Schlessinger launches a weekday syndicated television program, "Dr. Laura," which Paramount will distribute.

This does not make some liberals very happy.

Given that Schlessinger's traditionalist approach to morality in general and homosexuality in particular is highly unpopular in anything-goes Hollywood, it's not surprising that some at Paramount, according to Brian Lowry's column in the January 11 Los Angeles Times, "feel.a bit betrayed" by the company's involvement with "Dr. Laura," nor that "in the wake of such reaction, Paramount officials [will] meet. with representatives of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation," one of the most effective single-issue pressure groups in that industry.

How extreme is GLAAD? Last fall, its spokeswoman Cathy Renna denounced journalists' "misguided notions of 'balance'" in their coverage of gay topics. Her organization, she said, would try to "convince them that there is no other side to these issues." GLAAD barely has to lobby Hollywood on this matter, of course, since almost everyone there already believes there's "no other side" regarding homosexuality.

That said, it's not likely that GLAAD can significantly slow the commercial momentum of "Dr. Laura," which has already been picked up by stations covering more than 85 percent of the country. The response to the show and to Paramount's role in it is nonetheless illustrative, not least because it' s hard to tell who's more biased against Schlessinger: the disgruntled Paramounters or Lowry himself.

One producer quoted in Lowry's piece resorts to the clichéd, spurious, specious likening of gays to Jews and blacks: "I can't imagine Paramount would be syndicating an openly anti-Semitic or anti-African American talk-show host." That kind of vitriol is to be expected from left-wingers who relish hurling personal slurs at their adversaries.

A few paragraphs later, Lowry declares, "Schlessinger's on-air pronouncements [on homosexuality] merely adorn prejudice in a cloak of religion and morality." Lowry's statement may be mean-spirited and ignorant, but he's stumbled onto a truth: Religion is, in the best sense of the term, discriminatory. It is judgmental - that modern-day curse word - in its distinction between right and wrong. Schlessinger isn't indulging a subjective anti-gay prejudice; she's upholding a doctrine that Judeo-Christian tradition holds as sacred.

The other installment of our soap opera has to do with Melissa Etheridge. Singer Etheridge and her life partner, Julie Cypher, recently revealed to Rolling Stone that the father of their two children, aged three and one, is David Crosby, of the off-and-on group Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young. Crosby, with his wife's blessing - it was, in fact, her idea - donated sperm to Etheridge and Cypher (who carried the children) so that the lesbian couple could have a family.

Those who worship at complexity's altar will delight in this description from Rolling Stone's Jancee Dunn: "Crosby now heads up a clan that includes [his son] Django, 4; a granddaughter, who is two months; a daughter, who is 24; and a son, now 35, whom Crosby knew nothing about until 1994. Add Bailey and Beckett [Etheridge and Cypher's children] to the mix and you've got a very-late-'90s kind of clan."

This is Hillary's Village gone mad.

"Maybe it's a good thing for a lot of straight families to see that this is not something strange," Crosby told the magazine. "I think everyone will understand, except maybe the Christian Coalition and the far right wing. But, I mean, I always wanted to be on the Nixon enemies list and I missed it. So if I piss off these people, it's fine with me." (That, by the way, is the only substantial reference in the story to those who contend that this is "something strange." God forbid such benighted folk should be allowed to speak for themselves.)

"Society's growing by leaps and bounds," Cypher commented to Dunn, "in both the gay thing and also having children without the traditional mother and father role." As usual, Tinseltown seems to be ahead of the masses when it comes to achieving enlightenment. For example, Kate Capshaw, who might be called entertainment royalty - she's married to Steven Spielberg - finds this oh-so-modern arrangement "fabulous."

This is America's dream factory, a place where lesbian motherhood becomes mainstream, and conventional morality is relegated to the fringe. Hollywood vs. America, indeed.