By Kathianne Boniello
The memorial was unusual both for its format and the forum on which it was presented. Begun in 1980, MTV, or Music Television, has made its hallmark with flashy videos rather than by weighing in on serious political issues.
This year MTV gets set to tackle a whopper of a political issue: the debate over federal hate crimes legislation.
The cable channel initiated its campaign last Thursday by airing a list of hundreds of hate crime victims from across the nation, including Steen Fenrich, a Bayside native whose bones were discovered in Oakland Lake in March 2000.
Last Thursday's hate crime list on MTV was culled from local police, FBI and Justice Department reports from as far back as 1992. The list ran commercial free for nearly 20 hours and was displayed in a format that used the victim's first name, age, and the date of the incident as well as the accompanying story. Crimes ranging from vandalism to murder were included.
MTV VJ Kurt Loder could be heard describing the discovery of Fenrich's remains as part of the hate crimes victims' list. The scrolling list was interspersed with pretaped segments that emphasized the phrase “Hate begins with Discrimination: Fight for Your Rights.”
The discovery of Fenrich's murder in March 2000 gripped the attention of the city and Long Island. The saga began when a passerby in Bayside discovered several body parts, including a skull and right foot, in a container near Oakland Lake.
Police said the skull had been cleaned with some sort of acid, and had racial and anti-gay epitaphs written on it. Authorities, who later confirmed the remains as Fenrich's through dental records, contacted the young man's family by a Social Security number written on the skull.
When city and Suffolk County cops arrived at the family's Dix Hills, L.I., home the next day, Fenrich's stepfather John fled to the roof and began an eight-hour standoff with police before committing suicide. During the face-off, published reports said John Fenrich repeatedly yelled that he was a bad father.
A website dedicated to his memory features Steen Fenrich's picture and a poem grieving for his loss. The dominant feature of the website, at homestead.juno.com/christy0413/Comingout.html, concerns supporting hate crimes legislation and those who have revealed their homosexuality or are planning to.
For more information about MTV's Fight for Your Rights campaign, go to the channel's website at mtv. com and click on the Fight for Your Rights icon.