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The redhead I'd joined up with for a video project six months before was Katy, a Seattleite in her 40s with a flair for the zany, a respectable job as a community grant writer, and a late-night Springer habit. She'd been dialing talk show guest-search numbers for a long time, to no avail. On February 16, 1-800-96-JERRY answered. From a menu that included categories such as "Are you having sex with an animal? Press one," and "Are you in love with an object? Press two," Katy chose the simplest formula, the love triangle. She pressed three and was given 60 seconds to tell her story.Fernando, unfortunately, was unavailable. Katy recruited another friend known as Doc to fill the role. Doc was Swedish. If anyone asked, Katy decided they would say he was named Fernando after the Abba song. But no one asked. Logic had no place in the world of Jerry Springer. Salem suffered a slight moral crisis when she had to sign a nondisclosure form that stated that her story was true. It passed.
She scrambled one together, throwing out my name as her lesbian friend and Fernando as her red-hot Latino lover. She was confused. She needed to make a decision. "It's kind of an emergency!" she squealed, leaving her number, hanging up.
A producer called the very next morning. "Katy, we want you."
There seemed no turning back.All together now: "JER-RY! JER-RY!"
One by one we signed.
I asked for a copy of the form. I was not given one.
My companions were whisked away. A producer tamed me like a circus lion.
"Jerry's going to say, 'What's going on, Salem?' And you're going to say—?"
"Don't smile. Try not to use the words fuck and shit too much."
"Why the fuck not?"
"If too much gets bleeped, the home viewing audience won't understand what you're talking about."
"Can I use the word cocksucker?"
"That's a good one," she nodded in approval.
"Can I throw a chair?"
"That might not be the best idea," she responded. But she didn't say no.