Didn't you once tell me while watching Barbara Walters that what with life's opportunities you'd rather do interviews on TV than sell muffins, now bagels, in the mall basement? In fact, you said you'd do anything to get behind that TV screen, even if it meant cheapening yourself by allowing the crew of "Life Styles of The Rich and Famous" into your living room.
Given your longing to appear on the small screen, I think you should come to Powertown. Everybody here gets a chance to go on TV, even "wife of." Melvin Thistle from State and Lionel Portant love to leave parties early saying, "Ted Koppel needs me this evening," or "I have to get a good night's sleep, I'm on the Brinkley show again." It's a more impressive excuse than saying you have to take the early morning shuttle.
Naturally, "wife of" doesn't get on these prestigious shows, but I have had some small TV experience because a producer wants me to give them poop on Washington parties or the weird lives of ambassadors' wives, or, most recently, because I'm promoting a book.
Generally I have four minutes of air time, and Mr. Ambassador has given me four pieces of advice:
1.Never answer a direct question.
2.Always interrupt the host.
3.Avoid any discussion about the president, Mrs. Reagan, our prime minister or our former prime minister's ex-wife.
4.Never tell them who my favorite senator is.
Actually, Beverly, most of my TV memories have to do with waiting in those little anterooms before I go on. They are almost like a congressman's anteroom, filled with quaint and curious people, although in my experience, none of them has been rich or famous. The last probably go on a higher-class show than "wife of" frequents.
These shows usually have certain things in common -- not quite enough chairs for everyone in the anteroom, and a very long wait before they throw you in front of the screen. This gives me lots of time to make friends with the other guests waiting for their four minutes of fame. Introductions aren't considered de rigueur by the TV personnel, although I remember a particular one made by a staff person.
She said, "Sondra (I had just met her a minute ago), this is Hal," pointing to a nondescript sitting on one of the two chairs. "He's written a book about rich and famous hairdressers." She also introduced me to a lady in her seventies in the other chair. "Meet Marie. She's going to talk about her hair transplant. We're having a hair show except for you, but we'll fit you in somehow."
It wasn't difficult getting a conversation going with Hal and Marie now that I knew their topics. However, I was completely stymied about two years ago on another show in Canada as to the identity of the guests. There were six ladies wearing identical yellow overalls and blouses. Curling Club? Cattle raisers? (I was once on a show with Women Charolais Breeders of Alberta.)
Finally I said.
"You ladies must be members of the same club."
"We're former baby bouncers, and this is our uniform." they answered.
Beverly, I didn't quite get it. I thought they had something to do with wrestling or emptying out the saloon at Fort Collonge on a Saturday night. Foolishly I asked, "What's a baby bouncer?"
After some explanation, I realized they they had been a little harder on their children than their social worker and psychiatrist considered desirable. Now they appear on TV in yellow overalls.
Other people I've met waiting in the TV anteroom include:
1.A publisher who rejected three of my books. We had an hour of silence together;
2.A 20-year-old rock singer, not famous, who was going to speak in favor of dirty lyrics;
3.The vice president's children, except I didn't know who they were until they were introduced on the screen;
4.An unhappy doctor who was supposed to inform viewers about AIDS but kept wanting to leave before the show because his wife was in the labor room and he felt his place was beside her.
I told him Mr. Ambassador used to check into the best hotel in town when I went into the labor room. But the doctor was of a younger generation and actually attended something called birthing classes with his wife, and was not soothed by my words.
I've been on three shows with people who run diet centers, showing off their best pupil. The pupil always looked marvelous, having taken off 105 pounds in 10 months. But I couldn't help noticing that those who ran the diet centers were definitely overweight.
Actually, Beverly, the worst part about going on TV is not the waiting or the interview. It's when you actually see yourself on the screen.
Granted the face is greasy and the camera adds 15 years and 15 pounds to "wife of." But I never knew I had this little tic on the left corner of my mouth when I talked. Nobody ever mentioned it, not even Mr. Ambassador, who's been pretty frank with me these last 30 years.
It was Lionel Portant who gave a few words of wisdom when I told him how horrified I felt looking at my image on the screen. He said, "I used to think I looked terrible when I first went on talk shows years ago. Now I look at my old reruns and I realize I was a pretty handsome fellow. Comfort yourself with this. When you see how you looked five years from now, you'll be pretty pleased. It always gets worse as you get older."
Your best friend,