Talk show puts condom controversy in the spotlight


November 14, 1990|By Helen Chappell | Helen Chappell,Special to the Sun

Because of incorrect information provided to The Sun, an article in yesterday's Today section about Phil Donahue in Easton gave the wrong date for the TV broadcast of "Donahue." The show was aired live Tuesday on WMAR-TV (Channel 2).


Phil was coming.

At 7 a.m., Dover Street in Easton is usually deserted. But yesterday, despite chill November winds, a line stretched all the way down the block -- affluent Talbot County matrons waiting beside high school girls in sneakers, each one lucky enough to have a ticket to a remote broadcast of the "Donahue" show.

Phil? In Easton?

It had to be a rumor, people said when word first got around that the talk-show host would bring his sweeps-week campaign to the Eastern Shore. But if it were true, everybody in town could guess why he'd pick Easton for the show, which will be aired on WMAR-TV (Channel 2) at 9 this morning.


The Condom Controversy.

The rubber ruckus began when the director of the Talbot County Health Department proposed allowing nurses to distribute condoms and sexual health information to high school students, without parental permission. By the time the Talbot County School Board voted down the proposal, the town had gained its 15 minutes of media fame.

It was, said a Donahue spokesperson, a perfect subject for the crucial November sweeps week, when television shows are monitored for their all-important ratings.

But to many Talbot County residents, the coming of a real celebrity was of far more interest than the condom issue itself.

"I'll just die if I don't get to see Phil," moaned one woman in the line. Tickets, which were distributed by a local radio station and the County Chamber of Commerce, were claimed within 20 minutes of their arrival in Easton Friday.

In the 800-seat Avalon Theater, the debris had barely been cleared

away from the Waterfowl Festival, which ended Sunday, when )) the "Donahue" crew rolled in with their bewildering array of hardware.

By 8 a.m., the theater was packed with local residents, who emitted wild cheers, applause and woofing sounds when Phil Donahue himself appeared on the stage, wearing an Easton High School athletic jacket. He warmed them up with his thoughts on the Gulf crisis and anecdotes such as this: "In 3,000 shows, I've only walked out three times with my fly open."

"Phil!" sighed a plump middle-aged matron, reaching out to him. "Phil, Phil, Phil, Phil" was murmured through the crowd.

The talk-show host reappeared soon after, dressed for the broadcast in a charcoal gray suit and red neck tie. His panel included Talbot County health department director John Ryan; Tom Farmer, the Easton High School Student Government Association president; Jerome Nicolosi, Tidewater Inn manager, and Sharon Bogess, described in the press information package as "a mother of four children in the school system who opposed" the condom proposal.

In what might have been an uncomfortable surprise for the members of the Talbot County School Board, the audience voiced overwhelming approval of distributing condoms in schools.

But if the Donahue people were expecting an emotionally charged broadcast, they had to be disappointed with Talbot County. Crying, throwing chairs and cursing on-the-air is not Eastern Shore style -- at least, not at nine in the morning.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.