April 27, 2002
BOB GARFIELD: We're back with On the Media. I'm Bob Garfield.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: And I'm Brooke Gladstone.
MIKE PESCA: And I'm Mike Pesca!
BOB GARFIELD: Brooke, why don't you deal with this.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Very well. Every so often our Producer at Large Mike Pesca joins us in a segment called Mike's Pockets to disgorge the little bits of media fluff that have lodged there. Now, normally this isn't the type of program that exchanges interviews for plugs, but Mike I understand there's a new project that you're working on right now.
MIKE PESCA: That's right, Brooke. I'm here plugging Neulasta, the new wonder drug from Amgen [sp?] Inc. Fight the effects of febrile neutropenia with Neulasta.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: You lost me at Neulasta.
MIKE PESCA:Okay. That was just a dramatization of what you might see coming out of the mouth of actor Rob Lowe. He's been hired by Amgen to be a celebrity spokesman for this new drug, Neulasta, and he's getting himself booked on Entertainment Tonight and the Rosie O'Donnell Show, not to plug a new movie or The West Wing, but to plug this new drug.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Does he have to list all the disclaimers?
MIKE PESCA:That's a good question. The FDA says that if he mentions the drug by name rather than just speaking generally about the condition he has to give out a 1 800 number and list all the side-effects, which would have been a good rule if it were in place when he was doing the rounds for St. Elmo's Fire.
BROOKE GLADSTONE:[LAUGHS] So what's new here? This is part of a continuing trend. Drugs are aggressively advertising, and diseases rely more and more on celebrities to draw attention to them, and so what you've got now I guess is a kind of icky marriage of celebrities endorsing prescription drugs! Celebrities have been testifying on the Hill for quite a while for certain diseases. Michael J. Fox and Christopher Reeve go up there, and they could attract a whole lot more attention than any expert on paralysis or Parkinson's disease ever could!
MIKE PESCA: Right. And this wasn't testimony, but the actress Angie Harmon recently appeared on Capitol Hill endorsing an anti-peeping Tom bill.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Because she was peeped?
MIKE PESCA:Actually because she played a character who was peeped, so I guess to viewers of that Lifetime Special, she was peeped. But this week, celebrity testimony was taken to a new extreme. Listen to this.
MUPPET ELMO: When you learning a song, you can actually read the words to a song too, so that means you're learning to read also!
BROOKE GLADSTONE: I got it. Former Deputy Treasury Secretary Stuart Eizenstat.
MIKE PESCA: Try again.
MUPPET ELMO: Elmo loves music, because Elmo gets to dance and Elmo gets to sing.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Yeah, that's, that's Elmo Goes to Washington.
MIKE PESCA: That's right. Elmo, the Muppet. Congress took testimony from a fictional character -- a fuzzy red sock being manipulated by a guy sitting under the table -- and I'm just guessing -- Enron money.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: [LAUGHS] So what was he testifying about?
MIKE PESCA:He was a spokesman for -- oh, did you know this by the way? -- Elmo is a spokesman for a trade group? It's the Rubber and Vulcanized Metal Manufacturers.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Really?!
MIKE PESCA:No, I made that part up. I don't think there's such a thing as vulcanized metal, actually. But why should I be truthful when Congress -- U.S. officials -- are questioning puppets?! He's actually a spokesman - that part's true - for NAM [sp?] which for some reason stands for The International Music Products Association. He wants Congress to allot 2 million dollars for music education which is a good cause -- yeah, yeah, yeah --they heard from a puppet!! What did the Cookie Monster know and when did he know it? Okay, so there were only two representatives in the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services and Education that day. Duke Cunningham of California seemed to be "pulling the strings," if you will. He read questions from a script --who's the puppet there? -- and then the subcommittee Chairman Ralph Regula was also there. I, you know I just hope before they consider NASA funding, they hear from Yoda.
BROOKE GLADSTONE:[LAUGHS] I can't believe they settled the debate on Arctic drilling without first hearing from Chilly Willy and Tennessee Tuxedo.
MIKE PESCA: Yes, a little right flipper, left flipper balance.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Thank you very much, Mike.
MIKE PESCA: At long last, Mr. Snuffaloffagous [sp?] --have you no sense of decency?!?
BROOKE GLADSTONE: On the Media's producer--
MIKE PESCA: [AS MR. SNUFFALOFFAGOUS] Well-- Miss Piggy, I'm not sure you fully grasp the issue of Hog Subsidies.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: [AHEMS] On the Media's Producer at Large--
MIKE PESCA: [AS MR. SNUFFALOFFAGOUS] Thank you for your testimony hear today, Mr. Snagglepuss [sp?] -please exit stage right.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: -- and so will On the Media's Producer at Large, Mike Pesca. [MUSIC]