Airing SMU's Dirty Linen on National TV
Dec 16,1983 / Montrose Voice 15
By Joe Baker
I must hand it to students and administrators at Southern Methodist University.
The majority of them might be bigots,
homophobic, naive or somewhat ignorant.
But they are true southern ladies and
gentlemen. They don't like to air their
dirty linen in public.
Airing it in Dallas is all right. It's even
all right sometimes to air it throughout
Texas. But, please, not on national television.
The folks at SMU have been in a tizzy all
week over an invitation extended to a
flamboyant anti-gay activist to appear on
Phil Donahue's talk show.
Ted Brabham's invitation to appear on
the popular daytime program, along with
a member of the Gay and Lesbian Student
Support Organization, has brought public
expressions of dismay from SMU administrators and student leaders for fear millions of viewers will see him as a poor
representative of the university.
Kind of ironic, isn't it? They didn't mind
cheering Brabham on when he was the
leading critic against recognition of the
campus gay group.
But that was when the story was relatively confined to SMU's own backyard.
Once it hit the big time and started to draw
national publicity and attention, the SMU
folks got embarrassed about their self-
appointed guardian of campus morality.
It seems that Brabham is a little too
"flamboyant"—that's their word, not
mine—for SMU. Funny, hey, isn't "flamboyant" the word used usually to describe
Nobody has tagged Leslie Cooper with
the word, either. She's co-chair of the gay
support group and also has been invited to
appear on the Donahue program, along
Indeed, Leslie is anything but
flamboyant—and I'd bet that SMU administrators and student leaders were wishing she could be viewed as the official
representative of the university.
But, of course, she can't because she's on
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the "wrong" side in this battle!
Reportedly, when SMU officials learned
that "Donahue" producer Susan Sprecker
had invited Brabham to appear on the
show, they pleaded with her to reconsider
his appearance, or at least to allow a less
controversial student leader.
Sprecker refused, sticking to her judgement that Brabham speaks for a large
number of SMU students who oppose
recognition of the fledgling gay organization.
The "Donahue" controversy has added
new fuel to the campus uproar over gay
rights that has raged since the gay support group first sought recognition as a
campus organization last spring. The stu-
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dent senate has voted twice—the last time
16-15—not to sanction the group.
Brabham, who admits harboring aspirations of a political career after graduation, calls himself colorful and articulate.
And he likes controversy—and publicity.
Some SMU administrators and student
leders started questioning Brabham's
motives after a move he took before the
second senate vote in October.
He infuriated them by sending 1,000
SMU alumni a letter asking them to notify
university President Donald Shields that
they oppose the gay organization. The
letter—written on SMU stationary—also
asked for contributions to educate the public about the "dangers of homosexuality."
Shields responded by maKing a public
statement to disclaim Brabham's letter,
saying Brabham was not acting on behalf
of the university. Shields said he resented
the implication that he could be swayed by
SMU students leaders also then began
disavowing Brabham's style and actions.
The result: He's not just as controversial
among those who agree with him as he is
among the university's gay men and
Student body president Homer Reynolds says it is not only administrators
and student leaders who are dismayed
over Brabham appearing on the Donahue
show. He says the majority of the students
feel that way.
"I think the concerns that were articulated to me were not just frustration, but
sheer disgust that a persons such as Ted
would, in essence, be representing SMU on
national TV," said Reynolds.
"He's an opportunist, a media hound.
He'll do anything to get his name in the
press, and that turns a lot of people off."
Personally, I think Brabham's television is a god-send. He's just the kind of
spokesman against homosexuality that
the SMU gay groups needs to gain public
support and achieve official campus
Keep on talking, Ted. Keep on doing
your dirty tricks.
This country may have a few problems.
And people may not always agree with
each other. But there is one thing for sure:
big-mouthed bigots always come across as
Isn't television wonderful?
For those who are interested, the
Donahue show in question will be aired in
Dallas on Jan. 10.
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