More on Imus, Holyfield and the Hip-Hop Awards

The guys in this week's shop — Jimi Izrael, Ruben Navarrette, Nick Charles and Justin Ross — talk about Don Imus, Evander Holyfield's attempt at glory, reality shows' new low, and the recent VH1 Hip-Hop Awards.

Copyright © 2007 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

MICHEL MARTIN, host:

I'm Michel Martin, and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News.

Just ahead, listeners chime in on what's right and what's not with this program on Backtalk.

But first, it's time for our weekly visit to the Barbershop.

(Soundbite of hair clipper)

MARTIN: They're talking about what's in the news and whatever is on their minds. Sitting in the chairs for a shape up this week are opinion writer and blogger, Jimi Izrael; BET vice president for Digital Media, Nick Charles; Justin Ross of the Maryland House of Delegates; and Ruben Navarrette, syndicated columnist.

Let's see. I hear they want to talk about Don Imus' reported return to the airwaves. Former heavyweight champ and Mike Tyson's snack, Evander Holyfield, return to the boxing ring. Also, a little bit about reality TV. I may jump in and ask the guys to weigh in on my conversation with Xaviera and nontraditional feminists. I want to hear some male perspective.

But for now, take it away, Jimi.

Mr. JIMI IZRAEL (Columnist, AOL Black Voices): Hey, thanks, Michel. Fellas, hey, welcome to the Shop. How are we doing?

Mr. RUBEN NAVARRETTE (Syndicated Writer, The Washington Post Writers Group): What's going on, man?

Mr. NICHOLAS CHARLES (Vice President for Content, BET Interactive): Hey, Jimi.

Mr. JUSTIN ROSS (Democrat, Maryland House of Delegates): It's good - great.

Mr. IZRAEL: All right. Well, let's tune right in, talking about shock jock Don Imus. Now, he's negotiating a deal with Citadel Broadcasting that will put him back on the air on December 1st. Now, this, after he was fired in a media storm for referring to a girl's college basketball team as nappy-headed hos. Now, you know, the National Association of Black Journalists, they were at the vanguard getting him removed from his chair, Nick. And was the National Association of Black Journalists, were they right for demanding his ouster in the first place?

Mr. CHARLES: As you know, I think it's - that it was perfect for them because it's an organization that's been so stale, so moribund, so irrelevant, for so on, so they've got something to do.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. CHARLES: My thing about it at NABJ needs to keep pressing because, you know, they have - it's a like a dog with at a bone between its teeth. They need to keep pressing and saying, hey, let's watch this. Now, if they were going to be a one sick pony and only go after Imus, I have a problem with that.

Mr. IZRAEL: Wow. You know, Jay-R(ph), I must say the hip-hop influenced his views on women. Now, I didn't know Imus was a hip-hop hero head like that. Did you buy that at all?

Mr. ROSS: You know, I don't know. I never saw many of the concerts I was at, I'll tell you that much, but...

(soundbite of laughter)

Mr. NAVARRETTE: Right.

Mr. ROSS: I mean, he probably had something to do with it. I mean, it bleeds...

Mr. IZRAEL: Wow.

Mr. Ross: ...in the all sides of a, I mean, popular culture. It's not an excuse. But, I mean, it probably had something to do with it. But — you know, and with regard with the NABJ, you know, as long as they keep their eye on the ball that there's other people out there that are, you know, perpetuating, you know, on a daily basis, steadily getting paid, talking about an agenda that, you know, hurts people of color then I think it's totally appropriate for them to be talking about this.

Mr. IZRAEL: well, my problem has always been - I said it from the beginning that Imus is going to come back. And, you know, when you cast journalists as activists that's when they cross the line. And I think you have to make a decision. Does anybody agree with me on that? Nick?

Mr. CHARLES: No, I don't. Because I think about it, did they all bring different perspectives? There is really no objectivities where you're coming from, and I think, as an organization where you represent 3,000 journalists across the country and this guy comes out of nowhere and goes after a group of women who nobody would have known - they lost the game anyway, nobody knew about Rutgers and (unintelligible) and Rutgers. And also he makes them the butt of this really bad photo comment. I think that - I think it's right for journalists and for other folks who come out of the woodwork and say, hey, what's going on here?

Mr. IZRAEL: Let's keep it moving. Speaking of people getting - that are the butt of jokes, some reality shows celebrate groupie culture by putting men and women out there, essentially selling themselves for a shot of cheap fame.

Now, Nick, BET's - "College Hill" is a reality show about college life at a historically black university, but it was really a widely scolded and derided by the alumni. How was BET addressing the critics of the show?

Mr. CHARLES: Why, I think, you know, we can do it the best we can. And I think you look at "College Hill," it represents a side of life that you never see anywhere. And how many people ever see anything about HBCUs, Historically Black and College Universities. The shock to the system is to see these black people from this environment together in one place. Usually, when you have reality shows, and of course, the real world is the one that started all years ago, is that you see them from different backgrounds, different parts of the country, if you do see people of color, they're from the Midwest or a Big Ten school, or from an urban area.

Here, you have a group folks who most people have never seen, never interacted with because, you know, HBCUs, for the rest of the culture sometimes fly below the radar. People are like a little taken aback because what they see now is a lack of diversity in this group itself. But beyond that, I don't think there's a problem with it.

Mr. IZRAEL: Well, yeah. Certainly, the real world introduced the MTV generation to the reality show, but the first reality show was really the "American Family," which aired on PBS in 1973. And it was really - it was more like a documentary thing about a family in the throes of divorce, but we've come way, way, way, away from that.

Yo, just blaze, J.R.(ph), what's the deal? What's the appeal of reality shows?

Mr. ROSS: People watch any thing that was crazy. I mean, if they televise an execution, some people will be watching it. It doesn't mean we should. My kids want ice cream for breakfast; it doesn't mean it's good for him. You know, I mean that's...

Mr. IZRAEL: It's not?

Mr. ROSS: No, no. Well, it's still not good for me, if you see my figure.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ROSS: You know, I mean, I think that's what, you know, it's the way it's going on. I think they're start to these push back. You know, these corporate giants are trying feed us, and we got to quit buying it. We got to quit eating it.

Mr. IZRAEL: Ruben, R, yo - my concern is does Middle America see minorities through the shift, to this film of a reality shows?

Mr. NAVARRETTE: If this had only been a sort of a white thing, and never become a black-brown thing that would have okay with me.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. NAVARRETTE: Funny, this is kind of where I draw the line on the quest for diversity. Gee wez(ph), white folks are over there eating bugs on a show and they're like on this deserted island, and we need to do that too. No.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. NAVARRETTE: This something they should have stopped and said, you know what, you have that - you take that. We'll go focus in on like, you know, IBM and, you know, getting into Yale and stuff. So you all go - you can have a reality shows. I tuned in to the Flavor Flav thing, you know, where brother is just trying to find love. That's Flavor Flav, you know, you're try and go find love.

Mr. IZRAEL: Oh man.

Mr. NAVARRETTE: I couldn't turn away. It was a guilty pleasure. I was watching it.

Mr. CHARLES: No, you see, that's the problem.

Mr. NAVARRETTE: But I thought, I just don't see the cultural contribution from that show. I just don't think that's...

Mr. CHARLES: But the problem with it is that...

Mr. NAVARRETTE: You're ready to go.

Mr. IZRAEL: Nick, go ahead.

Mr. CHARLES: Ruben's is talking about being all - his guilty of pleasure. My problem is that that's the highest rating show of VH1 has ever had. But imagine if that show "Flavor of Love" and the offspring, "I Love New York 1" and now, "I Love New York 2" were on BET. My god, we have to shut down the company.

MARTIN: Nick, can I just say - can I just throw something out here? You know, Nick, BET has another show we talked about earlier in the program "Sunday's Best," which is gospel-oriented, a lot of people are hot about it. They think it's a...

Mr. IZRAEL: Exactly.

MARTIN: Its kind of, you know - it's the opposite of salacious, but still a lot of people find it offensive. They think it's not like a gospel message.

Mr. CHARLES: Well, I think its because when you start commercializing gospel, and I think - but the fact the matter is this is commercialized gospel.

Mr. IZRAEL: Hmm. By all means, you know, I'm a big, "I love New York" fan. Thanks to my girlfriend. So it's my guilty pleasure, too.

MARTIN: Can I just take a pause here, and just say if you're just joining us, you're listening to TELL ME MORE from NPR News. It's our weekly visit to the Barbershop. Take it away, Jimi.

Mr. IZRAEL: Yo, former heavyweight champ Evander Hollyfield is stepping back into the ring on Saturday to try and win a fifth heavyweight world title against unbeaten Russian Sultan Ibragimov.

Wow, men, with a dame like that, he better be able to fight. Yo, check this out. He's also shilling these real deal grills, a new cooking pan that compete with George Foreman's grill.

Mr. NAVARRETTE: Right.

Mr. IZRAEL: Now, Ruben...

Mr. NAVARRETTE: Right.

Mr. IZRAEL: Hmm. Coincidence?

Mr. NAVARRETTE: No, not at all. There's a lot of money in those grills, you know, I remember the story where George Foreman sold a licensing rights to his name to a grill company for, like, a $150 million or something. It was outrageous.

Mr. IZRAEL: Wow.

Mr. NAVARRETTE: And good for him. And Evander wants a part of that, and with his own grill and all of this. But, you know, also Evander has, like, 11 kids and three ex-wives. So, you know, he's going to be working.

Mr. IZRAEL: Yeah.

Mr. NAVARRETTE: You know, he needs to have some income. This is someone who used to make $20 million a fight. I'm concerned about fighters who go back in there passed their prime. He's 45 year old now, I think, and, you know, that's getting up...

Mr. IZRAEL: He's 44. He'll be 45 not long enough after the fight - six days after the fight. He'll able to (unintelligible).

Mr. NAVARRETTE: I think that's getting up there in fighter terms. And I'm not sure, you know, if fans will really get what their money's worth.

Mr. IZRAEL: Right. Well, you know, Hollyfield was diagnosed with a heart condition in '94, and he said he was cleared up by a faith healer. Now, I wouldn't put too much faith in that, you know, New York didn't put much faith in that because they've banned him from boxing ever again because they said he had (unintelligible) skills.

Now, Nick, why do old fighters come back passed their prime in the first place?

Mr. CHARLES: They miss the money. They miss the attention. They miss the adulation. You know, the Heavyweight Championship of the World is the biggest deal in the world, but the only places man can get license is in Moscow in Russia. I see visions in my head of "Rocky" where Apollo Creed gets knocked out and gets killed Ivan Drago. Evander could really get permanently damaged. He's already slurring, he's already slowed, and he should not be fighting anywhere. Whoever licensed this should be held in, you know, should be held criminally responsible if something happens to him.

Mr. IZRAEL: Yo, yo, Adrian, buy my grill.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: I'm sorry. I know that I'm the girl here, okay, but I don't understand why boxing is legal anyway, for anybody. And I don't understand why you protect the hands at the expense of the head.

Mr. CHARLES: Well, I must disagree...

MARTIN: I'm sorry. Go ahead, Nick.

Mr. CHARLES: Because my father is a boxer. I love it.

Mr. IZRAEL: Go ahead, Nick.

MARTIN: Break it down.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. CHARLES: I love boxing. It's the sweet side to my daddy box. He taught me how to handle myself.

Mr. ROSS: Sweet side?

Mr. CHARLES: And it's a great thing to do. But there's so much money involved in it, and it is exploitative. It's, you know, like running unlike anything else. It's like horseracing, or dog racing, or any kind of activity where people could get hurt, but also - this excitement level, that's so heightened. But when you see somebody, primarily somebody like Evander Hollyfield who's a proud champion, way passed his prime, and you know, obviously he's fighting abroad because he can't get a license...

MARTIN: Yeah.

Mr. CHARLES: ...in New York, or even in Las Vegas where they can license anything.

MARTIN: I hear you. Well, guys, I run something passed you before we go?

Mr. IZRAEL: It's your show.

MARTIN: Yes, it is.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. CHARLES: It's your show...

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: Yes, thank you for pointing that out.

Mr. CHARLES: Thank you.

MARTIN: I talked to Xaviera Hollander earlier today. It was the - well, after the series of conversations I was having all week about this whole question of non-traditional paths to power. Earlier in the week, I talked to some women who were into roller derby and, you know, like knocking down all the women on skates. And I talked to Jimi's personal hero, Karrine Steffans, author of the Vixen Diaries.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: And I'm trying to talk to Xaviera because, you know, she tackled her in classic text, you know, "The Happy Hooker," which I'm sure at least some of you have dog-eared(ph), (unintelligible).

Mr. ROSS: I've heard of it.

MARTIN: Yeah. I know you've heard of it.

Mr. CHARLES: I have mine at home.

Mr. IZRAEL: I have a copy somewhere.

Mr. CHARLES: I have mine at home.

MARTIN: Yeah. She talks about, you know, how this was empowering for her. You know, she run her own business. You know, of course, she's a famous prostitute, a madam in New York in the '70s. So - but I asked her, you know, if these were today, women have other ways of being powerful and this is what she said.

Ms. XAVIERA HOLLANDER (Author, "The Happy Hooker"): They can be great, but they can destroy the egos of their men. I'm almost for men's liberation. Why should we always be women's liberals. I think women have made this for themselves, though. I don't feel sorry for women too much, but men, I feel sorry for the men.

MARTIN: I'm just saying, what do all - what do you think?

Mr. NAVARRETTE: Amen.

MARTIN: Ruben, you're saying amen.

Mr. NAVARRETTE: Yeah. I could feel like, oh, yeah.

MARTIN: You feel like crushed under the weight of my feminine power?

Mr. NAVARRETTE: Not just you, but my wife, my mother, my sister and my...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. NAVARRETTE: There's a myth in a Latino community, and sometimes you hear it from the black community as well. You have like these weak and submissive women. I don't think so. I've yet to meet any of them.

Mr. ROSS: No, no, no.

Mr. NAVARRETTE: No. No. I've yet to meet any of them.

MARTIN: I don't know. Justin, what do you think?

Mr. ROSS: I appreciate, you know, whatever - but, I mean, I am woman see me grind to that, that's crazy. And, you know...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ROSS: I do not. That is absolutely.

Mr. NAVARRETTE: Hey, now.

Mr. ROSS: If this is...

Mr. NAVARRETTE: Hey.

Mr. IZRAEL: We enterprise.

Mr. ROSS: But, you know - but for real though, fellas, I mean, for all the, you know, daughters out there, you know, we're going to do...

Mr. IZRAEL: Words(ph).

Mr. ROSS: ...everything in the whole wide world to make sure our little girls have everything to be the, you know, have the most opportunity. This lady is talking about a lifestyle which maybe making the best of a terrible situation. That's all it is to me.

Mr. IZRAEL: Keep our daughters off the pole.

Mr. CHARLES: Off the pole.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. IZRAEL: Keep our daughters off the pole.

Mr. CHARLES: Off the pole.

MARTIN: Go ahead, Nick. You were - you know, you understand what I'm saying?

Mr. CHARLES: I'm like (unintelligible) is that when women really start running the world, when they start being more than, you know, two or three in the Senate and being more than a handful, running CEO companies, then we can talk about it. Until then, come on, guys, we got it good.

MARTIN: I like that.

Mr. IZRAEL: Okay, man.

MARTIN: Jimi, I like that.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. IZRAEL: Okay, bro.

MARTIN: Jimi, what do you think?

Mr. IZRAEL: Well, I have a different perspective. I mean, I'm fighting for the custody of my children. And I can tell you, man, you know, men really catch heck in court trying to be responsible for their kids, you know. There used to be a time where they used to have to wrangle fathers, who's going to be responsible for their kid. But if you stand up and want to be responsible for your kid, I mean, you have to jump through all kinds of hoops, and jump on one foot and scratch your head and sing the national anthem backwards before they even give you any holler(ph) at all. And then your 15 grand in with the lawyer, and you haven't even seen a judge yet. I'm all for men's rights. (unintelligible).

Mr. ROSS: Right. Jimi, there's a presumption that the women are better - the mothers are better parents than fathers. That's not really fair.

Mr. CHARLES: Let's be honest, you know, woman - girls are achieving. You look in colleges, you look in high schools...

Mr. ROSS: Yeah.

Mr. CHARLES: ...they are outperforming boys. You know, in that respect maybe there should be little attention given to what's going here that boys can't graduate at the same rate. But at no (unintelligible) level should we be talking about oh, you know, mitigating the short stick.

Mr. IZRAEL: With that, we got a caller in wrap. Thanks so much everybody for showing up. I got to take it back to the woman of the house, Michel Martin.

MARTIN: Thanks, Jimi. Thanks, Jimi. Listen, if you need a fresh copy of "The Happy Hooker," I can send you mine because you're probably worn out. Okay.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: Jimi Izrael joined us from WFSU in Tallahassee, Florida. He's an opinion writer and blogger. Ruben Navarrette writes for the San Diego Union Tribune and CNN.com. He joined us from KPBS in San Diego. Justin Ross is a state delegate in Maryland and self-described hip-hop head. He joined us here on the studios in Washington. And Nick Charles is the vice president of Digital Content at BET.com, and the proud new dad of baby Jordi(ph).

You can find links to all of our Barbershop guests at our Web site, npr.org/tellmemore.

Gentlemen, thanks so much for joining us today.

Mr. NAVARRETTE: Thanks a lot.

Mr. CHARLES: Thank you.

Mr. ROSS: Thanks

Mr. IZRAEL: Yup, yup.

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