In the summer of 1989, Dr. Ruth chatted with Anthrax & their moms on “What’s Up, Dr. Ruth?”

By on June 11, 2019

On the premiere episode of the teen-oriented half-hour daytime talk show What’s Up, Dr. Ruth?, host Dr. Ruth Westheimer — who this past June 4th celebrated her 91st birthday (we paid tribute to her here on the blog last year) — talks with with poodle-permed members of the heavy metal band Anthrax and their moms about the phenomenon of heavy metal music, the band’s groupies and other topics during the course of the 30-minute TV show.

This particular episode was the first of 26 episodes — it originally aired on the Lifetime Channel at 10am Eastern on Saturday, June 10, 1989 — and you’ll now find it streaming on Night Flight Plus.

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“What’s Up, Dr. Ruth?” — videotaped at Lifetime’s impressive Astoria Studios — was created to help broaden Lifetime’s appeal with teenagers by having the diminutive psychosexual therapist talk candidly with a few of their favorite musical acts about the problems they were facing in their young lives, topics like peer pressure, S.A.T. scores, step-parents, and drinking & driving.

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Future episodes of “What’s Up, Dr. Ruth?” would feature rap singer LL Cool J as well as teen actor Corey Feldman, middle-aged actor Charles Grodin and the kids from the Broadway show Black and Blue, to name just a few.

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By 1989, Dr. Ruth had already dispensed advice (sexual and otherwise) to adults — via radio shows (“Sexually Speaking”), TV shows (“Good Sex!”), books (her most recent at the time was Sex and Morality: Who Is Teaching Our Sex Standards?), even a board game (Dr. Ruth’s Game of Good Sex, which we mentioned in this previous post) — but she hadn’t yet focused on talking to teens about their problems, sexual and otherwise.

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“Sex is not the main thrust,” Dr. Ruth told the L.A. Times in 1989.

“What I’m really after is a celebration and an exploration of the teen-age years… I hope adults watch it: They are going to learn how great our young people are despite the pressures.”

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The German-born sex doctor — she’d recently turned sixty-one years old when this episode aired — was already very popular with high schoolers back in ’89.

In fact, she was listed as “Favorite Female News Maker” in the 1988 “Heroes of Young America” poll (which technically polled 8th-12th grade teens, not just high schoolers).

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As you’ll see, her audience on this particular day were a mixed batch of metalheads (many wearing headbands or their backwards baseball capsp), metal lovin’ moms and glum-looking teens likely short-bussed in from one or more of NYC’s five boroughs.

Truthfully, they don’t all look thrilled to be there, but they clap appropriately and ask questions when asked to do so by host Dr. Ruth.

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Dr. Ruth admits she’s a little out of her depth here when it comes to the the music Anthrax play, particularly the loudness of it.

“How does a mother react when her child joins a heavy-metal band?” Dr. Ruth asked the L.A. Times writer, before answering her own question: “I probably would hit the roof, but the parents (on the show) said they know they have to leave some freedom to the kids.”

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By 1989, Dr. Ruth had already become friendly with one of the gods of the heavy metal, Ozzy Osbourne, and you can read more about that below.

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In the April 1986 edition of SPIN music magazine, Dr. Ruth and Ozzy sat down for an interview (“Sex & Drugs & Something Else: Dr. Ruth talks to Ozzy Osbourne”) which led to what can only be described as an enduring friendship which lasted for years thereafter.

As SPIN‘s James Truman described it, the “Monster of Rock” and the “Mother-Confessor” got along famously. She even sat on Ozzy’s lap during the interview.

They talked about Ozzy’s drug use, his wife Sharon, his groupies, his childhood, his fear of abandonment and other topics.

You’ll have to supply your own rimshot for this exchange:

Dr. Ruth: “Ozzy, do you talk to your wife while you’re having sex?”
Ozzy: “Only if she telephones in the middle of it!”

Dr. Ruth asks Ozzy,“How did you manage with the groupies?” to which he answers (in part):

“I went crazy for about ten years. But then I began to feel like an object for their satisfaction. I wasn’t getting anything out of it. A quite shot and it was all over. I didn’t want to see them. I didn’t want to talk to them. I just wanted them out of my bed.”

A month later, on May 2, 1986, Dr. Ruth and Ozzy Osbourne co-hosted NBC’s primetime show “Friday Night Videos.”

Because “Friday Night Videos” — which had debuted on July 29, 1983, and later became “Friday Night” and then, finally, “Late Friday” before the show was finally canceled in 2002 — was a network show, subject to oversight by the FCC, they had to keep it mostly clean, as you can see in these Youtube clips:

Dr. Ruth — writing in her 2003 memoir Musically Speaking: A Life Through Song (Personal Takes) — admits that Ozzy was “a funny and charming guest, and as we all know by now, he is a devoted family man.”

She also writes, “I would never have agreed to have Ozzy Osbourne on the program had I known that he was famous for biting the head off a bat during a concert. But since I was unaware of his taste in onstage snacks, he and I had a wonderful interview.”

Watch this episode of What’s Up, Dr. Ruth? — along with other classic ’80s-era Dr. Ruth TV show episodes — on Night Flight Plus.

About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.