Banter With the Beast
Lisa Kennedy Montgomery on Her Path From MTV to Fox Business
The former VJ Kennedy, famed for her raunchy outspokenness, launches ‘The Independents,’ her show on Fox Business, on Monday. She talks about her Quayle obsession, dildo-cams, and more.
“Do you have a dildo-cam?”
The more things change, the more Lisa Kennedy Montgomery, better known as just plain “Kennedy,” stays the same. Having just raised the possibility, albeit in jest, of a probe of her nether parts—this, during a discussion of the political viability of legislatively compelled transvaginal ultrasounds—it’s clear she continues to enjoy a talk on the wild side.
As a 22-year-old VJ for MTV, in the days when MTV still had VJs, Kennedy was at once transgressive and unpredictable. When I profiled her for Vanity Fair back in 1994, she called herself an ardent Republican, professed an obsessive, stalkerish love for former vice president J. Danforth Quayle, advertised her status as a virgin on Howard Stern’s radio show, and yet—in a notorious appearance as a presenter on the 1994 Video Music Awards—simulated oral sex on her microphone. This, while an unsuspecting Rudy Giuliani, then mayor of New York, stood beside her on camera and, oblivious to Kennedy’s lewd sideshow, blathered on about how great it was to have the awards show back in Manhattan.
That prank, along with her raunchy reply-in-kind to VMA emcee Roseanne Barr’s on-air “joke” that Kennedy had been backstage fellating Rush Limbaugh, nearly got her fired. Miley Cyrus had nothing on the Kennedy of 1994.
Two decades later, she’s 41, a happily married mother of two, an honors graduate in philosophy and politics from UCLA, a contributor to Reason TV and Reason magazine, the author of two books, including the recently published The Kennedy Chronicles, a rollicking memoir of her (occasionally X-rated) adventures in the rock ’n’ roll biz, and the host of Fox Business Network’s latest prime-time offering, The Independents, which launches Monday at 9 p.m.
Yet for all her cred as a femme serieux, Kennedy keeps in close touch with the naughty girl of her past. She still sports the same partisan elephant tattoo on her left thigh, just below the thong-line, that she pulled up her party dress and pulled down her underwear to show off to John McLaughlin during Bill Clinton’s first-term inaugural festivities. And it was during a discussion of her political beliefs, which have evolved over the years from Dan Quayle Republican to Gary Johnson libertarian, when she blurted out the “dildo-cam” quip. It’s hardly the sort of bon mot you’d expect from a rising star in Roger Ailes’s Fox cable television universe.
“I have had babies, so I’ve had ultrasounds and am very thankful for them,” Kennedy goes on—seriously this time—and essentially enunciates a reluctantly pro-choice position that Nancy Pelosi or even Mario Cuomo might be comfortable with. “I think, especially in cases of abortion and reproductive health, there needs to be a much greater self-examination. And I don’t think these issues rest upon laws. I don’t think they belong in the political process,” Kennedy says. “I find it intrusive if government comes in and says just about anything. Abortion, to me, is an issue of personal responsibility.”
She’s sitting across from me in a blond-wood booth, sipping herbal tea in the News Corporation employee cafeteria. A far cry from her MTV days, when she posed for a glossy magazine shoot stark naked on a horse (except for cowboy boots), she’s wearing a high-collar green dress evoking a secretly lusty schoolmarm, or possibly a prim dominatrix. Gone are the days when she wrote “sexual sonnets,” as she called them, to Quayle, who if nothing else was flattered by the attention, telling Vanity Fair: “This is one Kennedy I could support for public office.”
“You know, I’ve tried to call. Marilyn blocked me,” she says of Quayle’s wife. “The other day I had my hair flipped up, and I looked like Marilyn Quayle. And I thought, ‘Maybe if I had my hair like this back in 1992, I could have gotten somewhere.’ But the former vice president and I,” she sighs, “we’ve lost contact. I’m sorry. I’d like to think he is, too.”
A devoted triathlete, Kennedy could probably still rock the Lady Godiva thing, though these days she’s wearing a bulky protective cast on her left foot, a remedy for a stress fracture that developed into broken bones at mile 23 of the New York City Marathon in November. “I asked my doctor when I could start running again, and he just laughed at me,” she says.
Kennedy, who lives in the posh Pacific Palisades neighborhood of Los Angeles with her husband, former professional snowboarder Dave Lee, and their two daughters, 8-year-old Pele and 4-year-old Lotus, is renting a pied à terre on the Upper West Side and logging 5,000 miles a week in the air, taking a redeye every Sunday night to New York and returning to the West Coast on Wednesday afternoons. Meanwhile, she is continuing to host a three-hour morning drive-time music show on Los Angeles radio. It is, needless to say, a killing schedule. “I want my girls to see that if something is really important to you," she says, "you have to move hell and high water to make it work.”
Kennedy’s hour-long Fox Business show, for which she’ll be joined by regular co-hosts Matt Welch, editor in chief of Reason magazine, and telecommunications entrepreneur Kmele Foster, a board member of America’s Future Foundation, will cover the waterfront from politics to pop culture. Kennedy describes The Independents as a forum for civilized debate, in contrast to the party-line shoutfests and snarkfests that dominate cable news prime-time programming.
“We will have just a fantastically well-populated buffet for people hungry for independent knowledge, discussions, and thought,” she says. “People are sick of both parties. They hate Congress. They have a 6 percent approval rating. We’re gonna be in negative integers here pretty soon. But it’s not like I wanna player-hate Republicans. I’ve met a lot of great Republicans.”
Nor does she want to player-hate President Obama, a politician not universally admired, to put it mildly, in the Fox cable empire. “I think that Obama sold himself as a really smart person, and he’s not Woodrow Wilson,” Kennedy says. “He is a statist. At times he aims to be a centrist. It’s funny, he’s one of those people where you hear him talk, and he’s actually a pretty cool guy. He’d probably be fun to hang out with, and he’d get a lot of generational references that no other presidents, certainly no living president, would get—certainly by virtue of understanding inside jokes. But that doesn’t make you primed for the presidency.”
Kennedy hopes to wrangle some of her rocker-pals as guests, she says. “There’s a strong connection between music and politics, and a strong spirit of independent thinking that political musicians share,” she says. “And it’s funny because they tend to be libertarians. Frank Zappa”—whose children Kennedy remains friendly with—“died 20 years ago today [December 4]. He was a libertarian, and he was smart and tough to debate—and we don’t have a lot of people like that.”
The Independents will air Monday through Wednesday and Friday, with Thursday’s 9 p.m. slot reserved for the weekly program Stossel, anchored by libertarian journalist John Stossel, who served as a mentor and helped recruit Kennedy to the six-year-old network. “She’s a libertarian and I love that—there aren’t many libertarians on TV,” Stossel says, adding that Kennedy “is much more of a performer than I am. She lights up the screen.”
Some of their bonding occurred in the middle of a beach volleyball clinic that Stossel ran during a Reason weekend retreat in Puerto Rico. "He was in volleyball shorts and shirtless, and the man is in better shape than most 20-year-olds I know,” Kennedy says of the 66-year-old Stossel, who had been using her as a special correspondent since the summer of 2012. “He’s a really meticulous person, and his libertarian views evolved over time. I think when you start out as a liberal and you come to be a libertarian, you tend to be really forgiving of other people’s political evolution, and you realize that people can change and come into their own. Libertarians can be loners. A lot of us can feel like misfits.”