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Laura Schlessinger

Laura SchlessingerAKA Laura Catherine Schlessinger

Born: 16-Jan-1947
Birthplace: Brooklyn, NY

Gender: Female
Religion: Christian
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Radio Personality

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: The Dr. Laura Show

At its peak or popularity in the 1990s, Laura Schlessinger's syndicated radio show had about 500 affiliates and over 10-million listeners. The program is public spectacle -- the lives of faceless strangers impacted by her advice for three hours daily. Callers are often interrupted before they can finish explaining their elaborate personal problems, and frequently receive beratings for what she perceives as moral, parental, or religious failings. Her advice is consistent and listeners know it is coming from moral high ground.

Schlessinger married a dentist when she was 25, and had at least two extramarital affairs before they were divorced[1]. Her first radio appearance was in 1974, as a caller on Bill Ballance's show in Los Angeles. She became a regular caller, and later a guest on Ballance's show, as he became her mentor in radio, and her first known extramarital affair.

After a few years with Ballance, Schlessinger began the program that still runs today as The Dr. Laura Show, although she is neither a medical doctor nor a psychologist. Her PhD is in physiology -- a degree which has nothing to do with human interpersonal relations. Critics of her show point out the ethical questions of using a degree in one field to imply credibility in another. If most of her audience isn't swayed by that credential, Schlessinger also occasionally refers to herself as a "shrink." She was granted a California Marriage, Family and Child Therapist license in 1980, and later taught at the University of Southern California, USC, and Pepperdine.

While still married to that dentist (and still ostensibly a marriage therapist), Schlessinger met and began another extramarital affair with Lewis G. Bishop, a professor of neuro-physiology and married father of three. They lived together for nine years after divorcing their spouses, and have been married since 1985.

On her radio show, she advocates the basic "family values" -- no sex outside of marriage, moms shouldn't work, divorce is wrong, abortion is wrong, living together without marriage is wrong, marriage too young is wrong, marriage without children is hardly a marriage at all, homosexuality is destructive and in her words "a biological error", gay marriage is wrong, girls should not dress like "sluts", and the family unit is of paramount importance.

Her own family unit has been dysfunctional at best. She describes her childhood as "difficult", due to the rocky, "unloving" marriage between her father, a Jewish US citizen, and her mother, an Italian Catholic war bride. They later divorced. Schlessinger never got along well with her father, and she and her mother had been estranged for at least 14 years before her mother's odd death in 2002. (Her partially decomposed corpse had been on the floor of her apartment for two months before being discovered[2], and police initially suspected murder). Schlessinger has also been estranged from her sister since the mid-1970s[3], and has reportedly told friends she is an only child. She says it was her family that shunned her, not the other way around. "My door is open", Schlessinger has said, on those rare occasions when she mentions her sister. On her show, however, she has often advised listeners to break off contact with troublesome family members. "I love shunning", she says. "It reminds people they have an obligation to others."[4]

In 2000, Schlessinger became the first non-Christian to receive the Chairmanís Award from the National Religious Broadcasters (NRB), but her relationship with God has also fluctuated. She says she was raised without religion, but became interested in Judaism as a young adult. She had an unpleasant encounter with a "female rabbi", but says she later "found her Judaism" with the help of a "male rabbi" at a Conservative synagogue. In 1996 Schlessinger and her son Deryk converted to Conservative Judaism, then switched to Orthodox Judaism in 1998. She has said that her husband Lew, raised an Episcopalian, also converted, but he later admitted he had not completed the conversion. In 2003, Schlessinger announced on the air that she was no longer an Orthodox Jew, that she felt frustrated by the effort she had put into the religion, and complained that she felt little or no connection with God.

Dr. Laura disapproves of divorce and pornography, but as a divorcee she posed for what can be called a "beaver shot" with her legs spread. In October of 1998, this and other naked photos of Schlessinger appeared on the internet. The photographer was Schlessinger's ex-boyfriend Ballance, but as the woman in the photos was so much younger than the present-day Schlessinger, she simply lied at first -- stating that it was a different woman[5]. She then sued for copyright infringement, making the unlikely claim that while the woman in the pictures wasn't her, she owned the copyright to the pictures. Eventually Schlessinger admitted her identity as the subject of the photos[6].

When asked why he posted the pictures, Ballance replied at length. "The fact is, she has been stealing my material for so many years. The fact is, she told so many lies about our relationship, an example being our being together just a week or two, and that she was on my show just a few days, or a few times rather. She was on my show for two and a half years. We went together for a torrid two and a half years. I'm tired of being lied about and the longer it goes on the more people believe her. They'll think I'm the interloper. People will begin to assume that I was the beginner and that she taught me everything I know."[7]

In a memorable August 2010 broadcast, a caller who described herself as African-American asked for advice in dealing with people's rude comments about her interracial marriage, and Schlessinger replied using the word "nigger" several times, criticizing the caller for being overly sensitive and adding, "If you're that hypersensitive about color and don't have a sense of humor, don't marry out of your race". Schlessinger apologized the following day, and announced the next week that she would stop her program at the end of 2010. After the furor passed, Schlessinger announced that instead of ending her show, she would simply move it from syndication to Sirius XM.

"If you're gay or a lesbian, it's a biological error that inhibits you from relating normally to the opposite sex. The fact that you are intelligent, creative and valuable is all true. The error is in your inability to relate sexually intimately, in a loving way to a member of the opposite sex -- it is a biological error."

[1] Interview, Larry King Live, 29 September 2006, trying to dodge the question. But see Rebecca Johnson, "The Just Do-It Shrink", The New York Times Magazine, 17 November 1996. Her affair with Bill Ballance began while Schlessinger was still married, and her affair with her current husband Lew Bishop began while he was still married.

[2] "Host's Mother Dead of Natural Causes", The New York Times, 11 April 2003, citing both the estrangement and the length of time the corpse was undiscovered. This corrects the earlier suspicions of foul play, seen in for example "Dr. Laura's Mother Apparently Murdered", CNN Saturday, 21 December 2002.

[3] Walter J. Gottlieb, "Dr. Laura's Dose of Reality", The Washington Post, 26 July 1995.

[4] Laura Berman, "Dr. Laura Explains It All", The Detroit News, 18 October 1996.

[5] The New York Post, 23 October 1998.

[6] "Yes, That Naked Woman on Web Was Dr. Laura", Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 28 October 1998, quoting her official spokesman Keven Bellows saying, "They are genuine."

[7] Interview, The Tom Keykis Show, quoted by Los Angeles Radio People, 26 October 1998.

Father: Monroe Schlessinger ("Monty", civil engineer, d. 1990 stomach cancer)
Mother: Yolanda Ceccovini (d. 2002 mysterious circumstances)
Sister: Cyndi Harris (marriage and family counselor, b. circa 1958)
Husband: Michael F. Rudolph (dentist, m. 1972, div. 1976)
Bill Ballance (talk radio host, extramarital affair 1975-77)
Husband: Lew Bishop (professor, cohabited 1976-85, m. 1985, one son)
Son: Deryk Schlessinger (b. 5-Nov-1985)

    University: BS Biological Sciences, SUNY Stony Brook
    University: Marriage Family and Child Counseling, University of Southern California
    Teacher: University of California at Los Angeles
    Teacher: Pepperdine University
    University: PhD Physiology, Columbia University (1974)

    Tubal Ligation reversed
    Converted to Judaism 1996 (conservative)
    Converted to Christianity 2003
    Italian Ancestry Maternal
    Russian Ancestry Paternal
    Jewish Ancestry Paternal

    The Year Without a Santa Claus (11-Dec-2006)
    Her Final Fury: Betty Broderick, the Last Chapter (1-Nov-1992) · Herself

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