Charlton Heston Shocks Shareholders With Reading of Controversial Lyrics
BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (AP) _ Charlton Heston stunned Time Warner Inc. shareholders Thursday by reading the lyrics of a company-distributed record in which rapper Ice-T talks about sodomy, sex and Tipper Gore’s nieces.
The actor, a crusader for conservative causes, described himself as a Time Warner shareholder at the company’s annual meeting but said he was speaking as a private citizen who felt obliged to join a furor over Ice-T’s ″Body Count″ album.
Heston read excerpted lyrics of ″KKK Bitch,″ in which the singer describes some buddies having sex with Southern Nazi and skinhead girls while he falls in love with two 12-year-old nieces of Mrs. Gore.
The song is a fantasy about a trip to the deep South where the singer discusses sexual fantasy encounters. In the excerpted version read by Heston, the text distributed and read aloud by the actor implied the singer had a brutal fantasy sexual encounter with a young niece of Tipper Gore.
The actual text of the song as it is played on the Ice-T recording is somewhat different. In that song, Ice-T appears to be referring to a sexual encounter with the daughter of a Ku Klux Klan member.
Carol Lanning, a personal assistant to Heston, said it was her understanding that the actor used the precise lyrics. She said Heston could not immediately be reached for comment.
Heston’s reading of lyrics to the song ″KKK Bitch″ added more fuel to the firestorm of protest that began with police groups claiming the song ″Cop Killer″ encourages the assassination of police.
Police groups demonstrated outside the annual meeting and members of the band Body Count, of which Ice-T is lead singer, counterprotested.
Heston told the meeting he was not criticizing Ice-T, whom he said was ″trying for his 15 minutes of fame.″
″I condemn instead the responsible officials in this company,″ he told Time Warner President Gerald Levin and the assembled board of directors.
Levin, in impassioned defense, said later: ″What would it profit anyone if in the name of pleasing everyone the country’s leading media and entertainment company ceased to risk saying anything worth listening to?″
Mrs. Gore, the wife of Democratic vice presidential nominee Albert Gore, is an advocate of warning labels on explicit-language records.
In New York, Kiki Moore, spokeswoman for Mrs. Gore, said they weren’t aware of the record or controversy and would have no comment.
Heston read expletive-laced lyrics to ″Cop Killer,″ including some he said Warner Records Group failed to include on its lyric sheet with the CD.
He said that in the introduction to ″Cop Killer″ the speaker asks a young boy what he wants to do with his life.
″Be a cop killer 3/8″ is the reply.
″Good choice,″ the narrator replies, said Heston.
The building controversy over ″Body Count″ overshadowed what would normally have been an issue at the shareholders meeting: the absence of Chairman Steven J. Ross, who is under treatment for prostate cancer.
Ross built Warner Communications Inc. into a powerhouse and masterminded its merger with Time Inc. in 1990.
Levin ran the annual meeting and defended the ″Body Count″ release.
Levin assured police groups that Time Warner has nothing but the utmost respect for law enforcement but said the company has an obligation to ″ensure that the voices of the powerless, the disenfranchised, those at the margins are heard.″
He acknowledged that the album is raw and phrased in the language of the streets. But he said it is a bitter protest meant to express rage and frustration at police brutality and systematic racism.
″It is not a call for anti-police violence,″ Levin said. ″If the lyrics aren’t lifted out of the context of Ice-T’s work, if you listen to the different voice he takes on, the different characters he plays, if you hear the different messages he gives - against drugs, and gang violence, and racism - it’s clear that what the artist is doing is depicting the despair and anger that hang in the air of every American inner city.″
Responding to police pickets with signs saying ″Media Moguls of Murder,″ Levin said that the desire for profit was not part of the decision to keep selling the record.
Ice-T sales are far less than one tenth of 1 percent of the $3 billion in annual sales of Warner Music Group, he said.
On the matter of the absent chairman, Levin said Ross was sorry he couldn’t be there but is responding to prostate cancer treatment. Levin also gave a generally upbeat picture of the company’s business.
The meeting coincided with Time Warner’s announcement that it earned $9 million in the second quarter. The company also declared a four-for-one stock split and upped the common stock dividend by 12 percent.
It was the third consecutive quarterly profit after a series of losses following the 1990 merger that created the company. It lost $32 million loss in the April-June period in 1991.
All five divisions - publishing, music, filmed entertainment, pay TV and cable TV systems - had higher operating results for the latest quarter.
Preferred dividend payments, however, left the company with a loss per share of $1.59 in the latest quarter compared with a loss of $3.10 a share a year ago.
Revenue in the quarter rose 8.8 percent to $3.10 billion from $2.85 billion a year ago.
Time Warner shares rose $1.37 1/2 a share to $116.25 in New York Stock Exchange trading.