Lonise Bias doesn't like her popularity as a public speaker.

"It's unfortunate that I have as many requests as I do. We have a problem that's intensifying all the time."Bias is one of the featured speakers at the life-skills conference sponsored by the Utah Federation for a Drug-Free Youth Friday and Saturday at the Salt Palace. She travels around the country talking to young people about avoiding wrong choices - particularly taking drugs. She takes a positive approach - talking about love of self.

"The greatest love of all, and the most necessary, is the love you have for yourself. And part of that is knowing you mustn't do things to harm yourself."

She became a vocal anti-drug campaigner three years ago, right after her son Len died of causes related to cocaine. The University of Maryland basketball star had just been drafted by the Boston Celtics.

"It's been hard," she said, "because the man I knew never used drugs. To my knowledge, he never did. But opinions are like noses; you have yours and I have mine.

"When I travel around and lecture, I don't really talk about Len . . . I talk about our youths and the things that are destroying them. And I talk about what we as a nation are doing - or aren't doing - to solve the problems."

Bias said she gets frustrated when people say, "Lonise, if you can reach just one person in that audience . . . "

"Why should I just reach one. Everyone acts as if kids have fallen from Mars and they haven't. But everything has changed except our approach to try to reach them. And we need to change that approach to fit the times. You can't use '57 logic with an '81 baby. It doesn't work."

She estimated that 95 percent of the youths involved with drugs don't want to be.

Before Len's death, Bias says she was a typical parent - sitting home and not doing anything about drugs. "Now I ask parents, `when will we stop addressing the issues after the tragedy. When will we get up and act before we receive the communications that our children are dead, or drunk, or in trouble?' "

For information about the conference, call 538-3949.