In olden days a glimpse of stocking

was looked on as something shocking . . .-Cole Porter's "Anything Goes"

OK, I give up. Let's talk about the Starr report. Why not? Everybody else is. You can't avoid it. You can't escape it. And now that there's a video version, there's no denying it - like it or not, that's entertainment.

And it's probably going to be instrumental in opening the door even further for raunchy sleaze to become part and parcel with "acceptable" mainstream movies, television, music, etc. That is, PG and PG-13-rated films, prime-time/over-the-airwaves TV and out-of-the-radio-and-into-your-ear lyrics will become even more graphic than they are now.

If you can imagine such a thing.

In fact, we may not be all that far away from R-rated broadcast TV right now. And if you think I'm exaggerating, look how far we've gone already. Just a few years ago, would we have seen a 7 p.m. sitcom about a man wandering around New York City, um, . . . how can I put this delicately? . . . in a distinctly noticeable state of arousal? And at the same time, his wife is wandering around Manhattan clad only in a towel!

That was the season-opening episode of "Mad About You" on Tuesday. But you didn't have to watch the show itself to see its vulgar, tasteless ideas acted out. Brief but frequently run promos for this program had been airing for a couple of weeks before the show itself!

There's Paul (Paul Reiser) in a diner, bumping into people. There's Jamie (Helen Hunt), on the observation deck of the Empire State Building, opening her towel and flashing a strange man.

So, even if you chose not to watch the show - as was the case with me - you might have been . . . pardon the pun . . . exposed to it anyway. Several times.

Or worse, your children may have seen it. Several times.

This is the crude 'n' vulgar '90s, of course. But to me, it's just not funny.

Of course, the equally crass details of the Starr report are much worse because it's being sanctioned, or excused, by using the label "news." And while the "Mad About You" promos were shown on only one channel (KSL/Ch. 5 locally), the Starr report is everywhere.

Even if you choose - like me - not to read the Starr report, so many people are talking about in so much graphic detail, that, as a friend of mine says, you pick it up by osmosis or with peripheral hearing.

My wife, Joyce, was recently trapped in a car with a very nice, cultured woman who would, under normal circumstances, never talk about such things. But because it is "news," because it's "important," she regailed Joyce with lurid specifics about President Clinton and Monica Lewinsky - until Joyce finally said, "Too much information." And asked her to stop.

In a previous era, the sleazy activities of high-ranking politicians and Hollywood stars were protected by publicists in league with newspaper writers, who merely hinted at scandalous activities in gossip columns.

And even as recently as Watergate, the specific details of Nixon's criminal activities were kept from the public. (In fact, the most incriminating documents of that investigation are still locked up.)

But today's free-and-easy "too much information" style has had a steady impact on us for some time now.

For example, I now know so much about Woody Allen that I have a hard time watching his movies - even those that were once among my favorite films. ("Manhattan" has become unbearable.)

But these days, with the Starr report on radio, TV and the lips of well-intentioned friends, I don't want to even switch on the TV.

CNN or the Playboy Channel? Is there a difference? (Only in what is shown, not in what is said.)

So, if the Starr report has given license to graphic sexual talk to become the norm in everyday conversation, what does it mean for the future of entertainment?

Jerry Springer as the host of "Entertainment Tonight"? Or maybe he'll anchor the "CBS Evening News."

It's been a lot of years since Cole Porter wrote the song "Anything Goes." And these days, though the lyrics may seem antiquated, the sentiment rings all too true.