Date:: 16th January 2003
Author:: Mark Dawidziak
Source:: Cleveland Plain Dealer

Hollywood- “Everybody Loves Raymond” star Patricia Heaton took a stand Monday night at the 30th annual American Music Awards. The Bay Village native stood up and walked out of the Shrine Auditorium, disgusted by what she described as “an onslaught of lewd jokes and off-color remarks.”

A two-time Emmy winner for her portrayal of Debra Barone on “Everybody Loves Raymond,” Heaton was at the awards ceremony in Los Angeles to introduce a prerecorded retrospective of executive producer Dick Clark’s annual music bash. But the sitcom star grew increasingly upset with the raw and raunchy comments made by presenters, performers and the hosts for the evening, the Osbournes.

“I’m no prude, but this was such a vulgar and disgusting show,” Heaton said yesterday morning after seeing her four sons off to school and before leaving for the Burbank studio where “Everybody Loves Raymond” is taped.

Known for her candor in a town where stars routinely are warned to modify and suppress opinions, Heaton rarely shies away from speaking her mind, even when her views don’t conform with the Hollywood company line.

“I arrived a little late and was seated in the audience,” Heaton said. “I was going to present what’s called a video package – a look at 30 years of the American Music Awards. Well, what was passing for humor basically ranged from stupid to vulgar, and I just thought, ‘I’m not going to be part of this.’ So I walked out and said, ‘Get me my car. I’m leaving.’ ”

A prerecorded audio clip introduced the retrospective after Heaton bolted the Shrine Auditorium.

She was not alone in noticing the harder edge to this year’s American Music Awards. Show-business industry publications and reporters covering the event noted that the Osbournes and other performers kept the ABC network censors working overtime.

Print advertisements for the live awards event showed a roaring Ozzy Osbourne saying, “I’ll be bleeped!” He was – often.

“The entire evening became about bleeping,” said Heaton, the sister of Plain Dealer reporter Michael Heaton and the daughter of retired Plain Dealer columnist Chuck Heaton. “It was as if they were trying to become more like the MTV awards. But it’s one thing if this kind of stuff is on MTV at 10 at night. It’s quite another if it’s on ABC at 8 o’clock. I don’t know what Dick Clark was thinking.”

Low points for Heaton included one performer’s graphic references to three-way sex and Sharon Osbourne’s joke about what she called Mariah Carey’s “fake” endowments.

“I really didn’t know what I was getting into,” Heaton said. “I mean, there was Ryan Seacrest pulling open his co-presenter’s shirt, then noticing there was a 12-year-old girl in the front row. And he says, ‘Don’t worry, honey, you’ll have a pair of these soon.’ And everybody went crazy. It felt like I was in the Roman Colosseum. As far as I’m concerned, it was an affront to anyone with a shred of dignity, self-respect and intelligence.”

Heaton says she is not expecting any repercussions from the decision and certainly isn’t expecting a “you’ll never present in this town again” backlash.

“And if there is,” she said, “who cares?

“When I was waiting for my car, one of the security people came up to me and said, ‘I just want you to know how much I admire what you’re doing.’ So I wasn’t the only one who felt this way. The camera coordinator for the awards was our camera coordinator from ‘Raymond.’ And when I walked on the set the next day, he started applauding.”