• Bridge Ladies

    Bridge Ladies Sometimes I think a meteor could strike the earth and wipe out mankind with the exception of my mother’s Bridge club — Roz, Bea, Bette, Rhoda, and Jackie — five Jewish octogenarians who continue to gather for lunch and Bridge on Mondays as they have for over fifty years. When I set out to learn about the women behind the matching outfits and accessories, I never expected to fall in love with them. This is the story of the ladies, their game, and most of all the ragged path that led me back to my mother.
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I Can’t Help It If I’m Lucky

FAME – A Five Part Series

Part III

When Food and Loathing was published, something exciting happened. I was invited to go on The Today Show. How the publicist scored this, I will never know. In short order, I was told that I needed a) a new look and b) media coaching. The shopping trips resulted as they always have since fifth grade: in tears. The media coaching was worse. A petite, perky woman with frosted hair,  a fat belt slung around her hips, and bright lipstick tried very hard to get me to sit up straight, look into the camera, and break me of the habit of going silent after a questions was asked, which apparently made me look brain dead. DNR!

I was summoned to the publisher’s office. He had seen the tapes. He said watching me was like playing violin at Auschwitz. I saw myself pulling the bow over the strings. I saw myself standing in Schindler’s line. As a child I had nursed many Anne Frank fantasies — this was not a reach. Look, he said you’ve got to get  a hold of this thing. He said I needed a universal response, a line I could use in any interview that would give me the upper hand, steer the conversation to make my points. He then brainstormed with me, helped me boil my book down into one beautiful sound bite.

Inside the NBC studios, the wardrobe lady ran a lint brush over my body, tsked, and sent me on my way. A make up lady coated me in pancake, and a hair stylist did what she could. I saw Matt Lauer in the hall. Tall! I was seated across from Al Roker, newly thin from his belly band. Four, three, two one: Al holds up the book and calls it the “feel bad” book of the year. High praise, indeed! Then he asked me what I was trying to say, and I pulled out my line. Well,  I said, all women have a secret eating life. That was it, the line the publisher gave me. And three minutes later it was over. Amazon figures dropped into the 100’s for a brief shining moment then skyrocketed back into the ether.

The way I figure it, I have 12 minutes left. What did you or would you do with your fifteen minutes of fame? Besides an Oprah bj.

41 Responses

  1. I would mortgage my house and hire a stand in. I would rather clean the NBC restrooms bare handed than do what you had to do.

  2. I wouldn’t lift my left cheek. You need lessons in entitlement. Media coaching? Christ, you’re selling loathing, they can’t let you sit there ripping apart a wheel of brie with your teeth and hands? Fucking Rosenthal. All men have a secret wanking life, too. If I write Spewed and Loathing, will you blurb me?

    I wouldn’t sign stock at a used bookstore. Nobody is worthy of the unutterable genius that I haven’t yet produced. I’m a pendulous frog, and all the world is my princess. Line up, motherfuckers!

    If The Today Show called, I’d pretend I never got the message–then I’d stop sleeping for fear that my wife would find out. I dropped a page of notes in the coffee shop two days ago, a dozen ideas for projects. This happened two days ago. When I realized what I’d done, in the car twenty minutes later, I broke down. The full crazy. Squeezing my head like I was checking for ripeness. The idea of leaving something of mine behind, the exposure. I started shaking and sweating, checking my pockets then checking them again. From one page of indecipherable notes. I don’t know what happened. Complete panic, like the time I ate too many pot brownies and couldn’t figure out, in a room full of people, which one was me.

    ‘Pot brownies.’ I’m such a caricature. There’s a reason they call it -high- fructose corn syrup, man. Heroin chic for the Easy-Bake crowd.

    • The notes left behind, Horrible. I would have been freaked out too.

    • Funny! “Squeezing my head like I was checking for ripeness.”

    • Did you go back for them? I would have gone back.

      • Of course I didn’t go back for them–that’s what an adult would’ve done. I held my breath until my -wife- went back for them.

        I waited in the car.

    • Nice bit of writing, this. Forget the notes. You obviously can walk the wire without a net. Get to it.

    • It’s not about entitlement. It’s about fear. If you’re able to make people tremble in your presence, they’ll roll out the red carpet for you hours before you’re due and then wet their pants if you wave at them. Of course, it you really want to give ’em something to talk about, that’s precisely when you should expose yourself. Gawkers get very uncomfortable when faced with vulnerability.

      P.S. I love a wife fearing man almost as much as a wife who picks up ideas her husband left behind.

    • “squeezing my head like I was checking for ripeness” line of the month!

  3. I would hope to go on and promote our book, but more then likely I would stammer for a response. As a watcher of the Today Show, I long for a good old fashion man hug from Al Roker. I’ve heard he’s the best.

  4. I would invest it in long-term securities. Well-placed, I might be able to make it return a hundred minutes or more over time.

  5. Tell jokes, do some gratuitous hugging, roll around naked in peacock schwag. The usual. Oh wait, peacock is NBC … Get me Colbert! Get me Stewart! Audiences in 10s and teens!

    P.S. I refuse to wear pearls, canary yellow or heels.

    • I’ll wear your pearls and yellow and heels, and raise you some sparkly berry-pink lipstick. But I’m only putting out for George Stephanopolous.

      (I had to type his last name really, really slowly. So many o’s.)

  6. Oh, Betsy. You get tired of hearing it, but this is all I can say: You are so, so unequivocably funny. I want nothing from you, and only read you for sheer entertainment. So that’s something.

  7. Well, that takes care of any vestigial interest I might have had in fame. What a nightmare……

  8. My 15 minutes? Most likely I’d squander it. My media coach would try to beat the nervous giggle out of me. My stylist would declare my hair unfit for broadcast and slap a wig over it. I’d embarrass my children, forget to thank my husband (or, as I’ve done in the past, utter a former husband’s name during climax), but it would all be ok, because at the very moment of my 15 minutes, there’d also be a global disaster necessitating the preempt of any show I was on, so nobody would see it anyway.

    Sigh.

  9. I would have told your publisher to go fuck himself.

  10. When the platform becomes a gang plank?

  11. Oh, such a story. You are so brave (always).

    I recently went to a closing film at a film festival, and they made everyone go up the green carpet (no sic) because *we all were stars* that night. The media were trying to figure out if my husband and I were anyone worth stopping, but we managed to slink by. This was all being piped into the theater to amuse people already seated. When the real stars came, with their GF’s 30 years their junior, that was the real show.

    I’m too cagey for all that crap.

  12. If I had to go on the Today show, I would be all about damage control, trying to stay calm and not fall into apologetic ingratiation. I would have some rehearsed lines. I would have a reward for myself lined up when it was all over.

    I’d probably cry over the shopping too. I hate shopping, nothing ever fits right. I know Cornell professors who study this fact.

  13. Flop sweat. Nothing but flop sweat for me. Panic attacks are me.

  14. I’m an insufferable do-gooder. I’d use it as a platform to save the baby armadillos (shells too soft to withstand a speeding 18 wheeler tire) and push for the legalization of weed to solve all our budget crises, all the while being too stoned to realize very little of the sudden surplus would not be used feed the poor and bring peace to the world but instead go directly to the largest piece of the American pie, the Defense Department.

  15. This is appalling, and every writer’s nightmare. It makes me think of reality home shows where nearly every homeowner, before starting the cleanup or whatever, awkwardly shouts, “Let’s do it!” Did they make you do that, too, Betsy? Did they make you shout, “Let’s do it!” in the Green Room?

  16. I would stutter, hate the world, and ham it up.

  17. Been in media for a loooong time. It’s one of those things, you do it enough, it’s like taking a shit in somebody else’s backyard.

  18. If the 15 minutes could be parceled out in one minute increments – during prime time, maybe one during the Super Bowl half-time, perhaps pre-empting the start of a State of the Union address- I’d give it a whirl.

    But only if the person holding the lint brush is a cute guy.

    Thanks, Betsy – I’ll laugh about this for the rest of the day!

    • Epilogue: this WAS the only item I could laugh about today. Why do I get stuck with the supposedly Hard-Ball Lawyer who instead of “leading the negotiation”, folded before everyone was properly seated at the table? I almost wasted my future 15 minutes of fame on a violent crime spree!

      Geesh. OK, now I’m feeling better. Thanks for letting me rant.

  19. You know they have drugs for that frozen panic, right? Every actor I’ve ever worked for got jacked to the gills on Ativan and beta blockers before talk show appearances. Well, except one. But she was taking daily Vicodin and Prozac that her gynecologist prescribed. Which is kind of off topic. But not really.

  20. If I were to appear on the Today Show, I can’t predict exactly what I would do,*** but I know that I would handle myself pretty well.

    *** Betsy, I’m lying about not knowing exactly what I would do. My lifelong dream has been to write the Great Global Novel, then apear on the Today Show.

    As Al Roker or Ann Curry (I am a realist) begin the interview, the lights dim, the music starts, I shed the suit and tie and stand in the spot light wearing a black, skin-tight, full-bodied unitard (with pull-up hoodie).

    The world’s eyeballs** are then transfixed as I treat them to a performance that is essentially a three-minute synopses of my novel’s major themes and plot points expressed through the medium of interpretative dance.

    ** Especially those in the sockets of those of whom many advertisers and publishing executives perceive to be demographically correct.

    After the performance, I bask in the applause of the witnesses in the studio. Out of the corner of my eye, I spot him. It’s Matt. He’s sheepishly making his way towards me, skirting the periphery, hoping in vain to avoid a razzing from the crew for dumping my segment off on Ann.

    Humbled, he extends his hand towards me. Apologetically, he says, “If I’d have known beforehand what your book was about….”

    I raise my (index) finger to my lips, softly “shhhh” him, and then in my gentlesy voice, I say, “It’s OK, Matt. It’s OK….”

    Stunned by my magnaminity, Matt emits a sound like that of strong young water buffalo who has just been jabbed with a flaming spear: “AAOOOHHRRGGGGGHHHHH,” he wails, tears and mucous spraying everywhere.

    Ann and Al are in tears, too.

    I swear. People may still belabor the fact that Willard Scott is overpaid, but thank God, he and his Smuckers were around that day, because the Today Show wasn’t over, but its regular hosts to were so overcome by my performance, that to pretend that was they had just witnesseds was just morning television and then continue with the normal-formal routine would have desecrated something almost sacred and transformed it into something pointless, profane, and almost “Good Morning America-ish.”

    That’s why we have Willard.

    Matt, Meredith, Al, Ann, and Willard. You guys are number one in the morning for a reason! All the best.

    • Back when I was more famous, I used to have telephone chats with Matt and Bryant about their love of vintage wristwatches. They both seemed very nice. I don’t think I’d be too flustered to talk with them on TV, having spent my life mugging for the unseen camera anyway.

      Old School Rolexes, by the way. I kept trying to convince them to upgrade to Pateks, which were too European for them.

      • Vivian,

        Well, I guess I was right all along. I figured that these two were …. hmmmm….. how shall I say it? Highly fetishistic individuals.

        I’m going to ask you a personal question, Vivian. Don’t be alarmed. You are not a suspect.

        Vivian, on any occasion that you can recall, did either or both of these two individuals, Mr. Gumbel and Mr. Lauer, conspire to ply you with Dom Pérignon, return with you to your apartment , and then implore you to let them parade around your bedroom while they wore your shoes?

  21. I’m relentlessly unphotogenic, so if any broadcast opportunities arise, I’d be tempted to hire a stunt-not-quite-double.

  22. It’s just occurred to me that, in responding to this post last night, I didn’t answer the question.
    So. What would I do with my fifteen minutes? The answer is (self) instructive – nothing. I wouldn’t do anything. I’d hang out with Mary (my wife). Perhaps play with our dog. And maybe give our kids (now grown) a call. That’s it.
    No wonder I’m not famous…..
    What a bore I must be. But that’s ok. My writing is good, and it takes me on a harrowing, terrifying & exhilarating journey. It’s all the excitement I can stand.

  23. I’m a little disappointed that an Oprah BJ is a besides. Man, you would have all the media you need by the nut. Not to mention it might be kinda nice. She ain’t that bad. In fact, she’s not bad at all now that I think about it. As long as she didn’t start crying in the middle, or the end. That would upset me. Fifteen minutes of fame is not enough for me, so I have no answer. But now you have me thinking about Oprah. I can go with that. Thanks!

    • PS. On the local news around here, in Portland, Oregon, in the last two weeks, and I’m not joking, one of the big stories was that some scientist had figured out that food can be addictive, and Women often eat to feel better. That’s the news, baby, that’s the news. So, why wouldn’t a reintroduction of Food and Loathing, or a Part II, not sell somehow? I, of course, have nothing to do with the book business other than being a wanna-be writer, but what-up? Why not? “Fat girl isn’t a loser after all.” Something like that. I’m almost sure I would never make it in the PR biz. But hey! Cycles! Cycles!

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