"Would you let your daughter listen to Ozzy Osbourne singing about rape?" one asks. "Don't kids have rights?" fires another. (She answers no and yes.) The official Encore entourage stands aside nervously. This can't be good for business. But Gore just sips on her soft drink and stays calm. She is accustomed to this. After a few moments, she takes control.
"How old are you?" she asks one young man with blue hair.
"Seventeen," he answers.
"My concern isn't with you all," she says to the group. "You all are old enough to make your own decisions. We're talking about preteens in my book. We're all concerned about younger kids."
The crowd yesterday was no match for Tipper Gore, mother of four and senatorial spouse. Her husband, Sen. Albert Gore Jr. (D., Tenn.), happens to be running for president. The crowd was not persuaded by her arguments; it wasn't a crowd that had come to be converted. But it listened.
"Did you know that Weekly Reader just did a poll?" she said. "It said that 10-year-olds feel pressure to take crack and drink. 10-year-olds! Younger and younger kids have to deal with more and more explicit sex and violence than ever before . . . thrill-killing, sex abuse, incest, chaining a naked woman to a torture rack. Things have changed. Children need guidance from their parents. My message is to parents to tune in."
Tipper Gore, 38, has been no friend of heavy-metal fans since 1985, when she helped form the Parents' Music Resource Center and got 20 major record companies to agree to label certain albums with the admonition: "Explicit Lyrics - Parental Advisory."
The young people who came to Walnut Street yesterday were not part of any group. They were not organized. Several were students at Temple or Drexel. They had heard that she would be signing her book and simply came to protest. They were well-mannered. Gore had seen this phenomenon several times since she started her 17-city promotional tour in April.
"I believe putting ratings on things is censorship, and I don't believe in censorship," said Misha Ben-Safed, a freshman at Temple. "There's more violence on Satuday-morning cartoons than most rock albums."
"The fact is that she wants to put ratings on things that she has no right to rate," added Charlie Daniels, a Temple junior. "She's just tying in with the rest of our society - so facist, censoring everything. Book-banning and
"To me, she represents everything in this society that young people have to fight against," said Karen Bolo, 19, of West Philadelphia. "Young people don't have any rights, and she's just making it harder."
Gore has said that she opposes censorship and supports an artist's right to expression - even if that means Madonna kneeling in front of a guitar player on stage and making crude gestures with thousands of 14-year-old girls in the audience.
"Just don't blind-side people," she said at the book-signing. "Let the kids and parents know what to expect." Gore said her mission was to stop ''cultural strip-mining" by record companies and other big entertainment corporations that "take immense profits and run without thinking about the effects of sex and violence on young kids."
"I am adamantly opposed to censorship," she said. "I believe an educated and informed citizenship will pressure industry to reduce the levels of explicit sex and violence."
"I grew up in the '60s," she added. "I love rock music. My husband gave me Bruce Springsteen's live . . . set for Christmas." Her daughter listens to Wham! She says she even likes and respects Jello Biafra, the irreverent singer of the Dead Kennedys.
At 1 p.m., as scheduled, she broke off her book-signing and headed for another appointment; today, the schedule says Atlanta. She disappeared. A moment later, the protesters dispersed as well, but not before one shouted
from outside: "Thanks for letting us picket your store."