Laura Schlessinger was born in Brooklyn, New York, on January 16, 1947. She was a family counselor for 12 years, and then started a radio show that grew to attract nearly 18 million listeners. In early 2000, "Dr. Laura's" conservative views of family life led gay and lesbian activists to initiate a public crusade against her. Around the same time, Dr. Laura, a daytime television talk show featuring Schlessinger as host, debuted. The show received minimal success, however, and was canceled in March 2001. The controversial host went on to sign a contract with XM/Sirius radio, which launched her radio show in January 2011.
Early Life and Education
Radio talk show host Laura Schlessinger, also known as "Dr. Laura," was born on January 16, 1947, and raised in Brooklyn, New York. She received a bachelor's degree in biological sciences from the State University of New York at Stonybrook, located on Long Island, New York, and a master's degree and Ph.D. in physiology from Columbia University's College of Physicians and Surgeons. She earned a post-doctoral certification in marriage, family and child counseling from the University of Southern California.
Schlessinger was a faculty member at both USC and Pepperdine University in Malibu, and has taught at UCLA. She was in private practice for 12 years before turning her attention to a national audience. Her radio show, the syndicated Dr. Laura Schlessinger Show on KFI-AM Radio in Los Angeles, debuted in 1990.
She is best known for her no-nonsense philosophy of personal responsibility and self-motivation, which has won her millions of fans, and more than a few critics. Schlessinger is also a best-selling author. Her published books include Ten Stupid Things Women Do To Mess Up Their Lives; The Ten Commandments: The Significance or God's Laws in Everyday Life; How Could You Do That?: The Abdication of Character, Courage and Conscience; and Ten Stupid Things Men Do To Mess Up Their Lives. Additionally, Schlessinger is a much sought-after public speaker.
Schlessinger's radio audience extends to 400 stations across the United States. Her fans admire her humor and bluntness, which allow her to cut to the root of problems. Her critics, however, consider her to be unbearably self-righteous, harsh and insensitive, and question whether callers have an unhealthy attraction to being publicly reprimanded, sometimes very severely. Schlessinger preaches "no sex before marriage," "no marriage before 30," "no abortions," "no day care" and, above all, "no whining." She was publicly ridiculed as a hypocrite when nude pictures from her youth, taken by a former lover, surfaced on the Internet.
Daytime TV Talk Show
The always controversial Schlessinger made headlines in early 2000 when nearly 400 people attended a raucous demonstration outside the Paramount Pictures lot to protest the studio's plans for a daytime television talk show hosted by "Dr. Laura." Protesters accused the tough-talking Schlessinger of homophobia and cited comments that she made on her weekly call-in radio show—heard by an estimated 18 million listeners—including references to gays and lesbians as "deviant" and "a biological error."
Many of the show's advertisers pulled their support due to the controversy, and Dr. Laura premiered in September 2000 to some of the worst ratings in TV history. Though Schlessinger placed a full-page ad in the Daily Variety, attributing her views regarding the traditional family to her Orthodox Jewish background, her apologies were too little, too late: Her opponents at the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation continued their public crusade against Schlessinger. Dr. Laura was canceled in late March 2001, after reaching No. 132 in the nationwide Nielsen ratings.
In July 2003, Schlessinger announced on her show that she was no longer an Orthodox Jew. In a series of monologues over the next month, she explained that she no longer felt a connection with God. Her religious approach to the show lessened substantially following this announcement.
Over the next several years, Schlessinger published a series of successful self-help books, including The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands (2004); Woman Power (2004); Bad Childhood Good Life: How to Blossom and Thrive in Spite of an Unhappy Childhood (2006); The Proper Care and Feeding of Marriage (2007); Stop Whining, Start Living (2008); and In Praise of Stay-At-Home Moms (2009).
Schlessinger went on to sign a multi-year contract with XM/Sirius radio, which launched her radio show on January 3, 2011.
Schlessinger was married to Michael F. Rudolph from 1972 to 1977, when they divorced. She then married Dr. Lewis Bishop in 1985, who was also her manager and business partner. He died in 2015.
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