THE PLACE to go for forgiveness is to Merv or to Mike or to Phil or to John -- your friendly neighborhood TV talk show, that secular confessional and corner saloon where virtually no strain of notoriety is considered unconscionable, unforgivable or unmarketable.
You don't even have to say you're sorry. It's all part of the new order of celebrityhood in America.
JOHN: Thank you! Thank you! Thank you so very much. Now our next guests have an incredible story to tell. They're John and Makenzie Papa, the father-daughter heroin addicts who have come to share something very special with us. Won't you please make these two culture heros welcome?
MR. PAPA: Thank you, John, and thank you for having the raw courage to invite us here to share something with you and your audience.
JOHN: Not heroin, I hope! Hahahahaha. Now Makenzie, let me get terribly serious here and ask you in hushed tones, was this a difficult time for you?
MAKENZIE: Yes, John, it was a very difficult time for me.
MR. PAPA: It was a very difficult time for me, too, John.
JOHN: Well, then, you've both been through a very difficult time. And you know, I can dig where you're coming from. Would you say you've changed a great deal as a result of this experience?
MR. PAPA: Well I would say I've changed a great deal as a result of this experience.
MAKENZIE: And I know I've changed a great deal as a result of this experience.
JOHN: Then you've both . . . .
MR. PAPA: Yes, John, and let me just say, we couldn't have made it without each other.
MIKE: And now would you welcome a very special guest -- Congressman Fergus R. Syns, who was recently indicted for accepting $50 million from a man disguised as an Arab. The congressman has had a deeply religious experience and he is here to share it with us. Congressman, it is an honor to have someone so repentant as you on our humble little stage.
SYNS: Thank you, Merv, I mean Mike, and thank you for letting me come here and share my feelings with you. You know, Merv, I mean Mike, this whole experience has been a very difficult time for me and my loved ones, and I want to say here and now that I could never have made it without the support and concern of my wonderful wife and kiddies.
MIKE: Yes, and Congressman, I see you've also decided to share your feelings with Humdrum House publishers. Your new book, "Father, Forgive Them," is coming out soon, right?
SYNS: Yes, Mike, I mean Merv, I mean Mike, and I hope the people of this great nation will avail themselves of this rare, $12.95 opportunity to learn the whole story, and not just the malicious lies spread by the media, the attorney general, the FBI and the House of Representatives.
MIKE: And I understand all the proceeds from the sale of the book will go to charity.
SYNS: Whattt? I think you've jumped the tracks there, sonny boy!
PHIL: And now we have someone very special to share something very special just especially with us: Nanette Crooke, who recently admitted she made up a Pulitzer Prize winning news story. Nanette's new book, "They Know Not What They Do." has just been published. Nanette, welcome to Chicago. You certainly are a brave girl.
NANETTE: Thank you, Phil. I've been through a lot, but I'm determined to survive.
PHIL: As the world's oldest living male feminist, I can understand the pressures that are brought to bear on a woman living in a man's world. I mean, we've just got to face this thing! We have to be more supportive of each other. We have to be more caring. We should hug each other more, and our little daughters should be allowed to take up carpentry. Now we're almost out of time. Nanette, so perhaps you'd like to take this opportunity to break down and cry on the air.
NANETTE: Not just now, Phil, maybe later. But thank you for being such a supportive and caring person.
PHIL: Well, thank you for sharing your feelings with us, Nanette. Now we're just about completely out of time, but tell me, which dirty low-down sexist pig of a male chauvinist forced you to do what you did?
NANETTE: Phil, what happened to me could have happened to anyone. I'm just a symptom; the world is the disease.
PHIL: Oh, I've never heard it put better. Not even by me.
MERV: Thank you, folks, for all that applause. You're marvelous. You really are. You're simply marvelous. Just marvelous. Really. So very marvelous. Utterly and completely marvelous. Marvelous in the extreme. But now I'd like you to meet someone very special. This young man has been the hottest news story of the year. You've read about him in People magazine and he's been headline news all over the country. And his new single is No. 43 with a bullet. Won't you give a warm welcome to the man accused of threatening the life of the president, Travis Treacle.
TRAVIS: Well, thank you, Merv.
MERV: Tell me, Trav, have you ever played Vegas before?
TRAVIS: No Merv, I haven't, but I've got myself an agent now, and well, we'll just have to see what's in store.
MERV: What do you think, audience?
AUDIENCE: Playyy Vegasss!
MERV: Oh, you're just so marvelous I could eat you. Now tell me, Travvy, I suppose all the reporters and photographers have gotten to be quite a burden?
TRAVIS: Yes Merv, how true, how true. The price of fame. Oh, it's such a trial.
MERV: Well, don't you want to say what you could have never made it through the ordeal without?
MERV: You know, don't you want to mention the supportive and caring persons who helped you through this very difficult time?
TRAVIS: Oh yeah, my loved ones.I never coulda dunnit widddout 'em.
AUDIENCE: Yay, yayyy, yayyyyy! We forgive you, Travis!