What with super gonorrhea getting the Trump bump and billboards in my neighborhood warning of a “syphilis tsunami,” this sure feels like a good moment to remember Wendy O. Williams’ public service announcement about venereal disease. It would have been nice if she had mentioned condoms or dental dams instead of recommending better taste in partners, but let’s give her credit for raising the issue at all.
The PSA was taped for U68, a Newark UHF station that switched to a music video format during Reagan’s second term. Its brief lifespan dates the clip to ‘85 or ‘86. While I was a mere child, I don’t recall the blitz of safe-sex advertising beginning until some years later, though I distinctly remember that the President wouldn’t talk about AIDS.
Now, I didn’t know Ronald Reagan personally, but I suspect his life experience did not overlap much with Wendy O.‘s. Having come up in the Times Square sex show scene and acted in 1979’s Candy Goes to Hollywood, WOW would have considered VD a matter of professional interest, and one about which she was loath to moralize. (“Fuck That Booty,” the last track on Kommander of Kaos, is many things, but prudish?) Right and wrong, guilt and shame—none of that should enter into a simple matter of personal hygiene, unless it is wearing musk, which is a wrong and shameful habit.
Tl;dr: don’t forget to remember not to get the heps, herps, HIVs, syphs, or claps. And when you get to the free clinic, tell ‘em Wendy O. sent you!