By Francisco Alvarado
By Trevor Bach
By Chris Joseph
By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By Keegan Hamilton and Francisco Alvarado
By Jake Rossen
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Since pop princess Janet Jackson revealed her right breast to the nation on Super Bowl Sunday 2004, the Federal Communications Commission has been cracking down on shock jocks with unprecedented zeal, leveling several six-figure fines and threatening more. Last month, U.S. Rep. James Sensenbrenner Jr., a Wisconsin Republican who heads the House Judiciary Committee, told media executives that he would even support legislation that would jail indecent DJs.
As a result, many have fled the commercial dial. Late last year, the genre's king, Howard Stern, inked a deal with SIRIUS Satellite Radio that will take him off public airwaves by January 2006. Gregg "Opie" Hughes and Anthony Cumia, who two years ago were fired by Infinity Broadcasting after playing sounds of listeners having sex in New York St. Patrick's Cathedral, have also headed to the new radio medium.
But satellite isn't the only redoubt for lewd and lascivious radio. For the past five years, Hollywood residents Dr. Johnny and Platypus have used the unregulated, uncensored Internet to broadcast their obscene show. On the Smut Doctors(www.smutdrs.com), they'll say anything, discuss any topic, and stop at nothing for a laugh. In fact, their work would likely make hardened Stern fans blush -- and the government can't do anything to silence them.
"Is there anything we won't do?" Johnny says, pausing for dramatic effect. "Not really."
Johnny's mother, Frances, who lives in -- no joke -- Beaver County, Pennsylvania, isn't surprised that her son started something like the Smut Doctors. "John was always the class clown, an outgoing guy," remembers Frances, a hairdresser. "Actually, we always thought he'd become a politician."
A fair student, Johnny and his friends would produce radio shows on a small tape recorder, his mother says. And he didn't stop there. "After he moved out of the house, I found a bunch of VHS tapes," Frances recalls. "They were television shows that he and his friends made."
Today, Frances has no problems with her son's alter ego, Dr. Johnny, who discusses personal and taboo topics with the subtly and sensitivity of a jackhammer. "That's today's society," Mom says. "I don't thing it's a bad thing, because he does it as entertainment. He's in the adult-entertainment business. I'm proud of him. He's like Howard Stern."
"I come from an Italian family," Johnny explains. "I could be bashing heads open on the street, but as long as I bring home money, the family is fine with what I do."
A tall, stout man whose beard seems never to grow, Johnny moved to South Florida 15 years ago, following the heat and sun. He took a job at a strip club, thinking it would be temporary. It turned into a calling. By early 1999, at 29 years old, he was operating a consulting company, working as a freelance DJ in several South Florida clubs.
That year, Mike DeSuno, then a 24-year-old Chicagoan fresh from the Connecticut School of Broadcasting, landed a job as a disc jockey at T's Cocktail Lounge, a strip club on South Congress Avenue in West Palm Beach.
"After you graduate from radio school," says DeSuno, also Italian-American, "you quickly discover that you're only qualified for one thing -- working in a strip club."
During his first few weeks in the business, DeSuno, who took the stage name Platypus, kept hearing about Johnny. "Everyone said, 'You've got to meet Johnny,'" Platypus remembers. "'You gotta learn from Johnny.'"
As a consultant, Johnny considered T's Lounge one of his primary clients. He often worked as a DJ on big nights. "He was the master," Platypus says. Johnny took a liking to the eager young jock and tutored him. The pair quickly became friends, and two years later, they both accepted jobs at Tootsie's Cabaret, the larger, sister club to T's Lounge.
Every craftsman says his trade is an art, and strip-club disc jockeys are no different. On a sunny April afternoon, Johnny and Platypus sit at a table near Young Circle in Hollywood, about a mile from the waterfront house they rent together and eight miles from Tootsie's. It's 2:30 p.m. They just woke up and sped over in Johnny's black, 2005 Porsche Carrera 4S.
Wearing yellow-tinted sunglasses and a T-shirt that reads "I Know Jesus -- He's My Gardener," Johnny claims that naked women don't make a strip club great. Disc jockeys do. "If we're doing our job, you won't notice us," Johnny says, taking a drag from a Marlboro Light. "Rarely will you find someone who will say, 'Hey, that DJ is great!' But we're the ones who create the general atmosphere. We're like ringmasters. We lead the whole room. No one in there has any clue what's going on. From the entertainers to the bar backs to the customers, it's a room full of followers."
"We're like the guys at the airport with those big cones, directing the planes," Platypus adds.
"It doesn't sound very glamorous when you put it that way, but that's what we do," Johnny says, pausing. "I have cones."
DJs at strip clubs receive a cut of all tips given to dancers. The more drinks customers buy on your shift, Johnny explains, the better your chance of winning coveted Friday-night and Saturday-night gigs. A good DJ working prime time in a popular club can earn in excess of $80,000 annually, Johnny claims, though he and Platypus declined to specify how much they make.