bad TV, nostalgia, religion

How Pat Robertson managed to touch my life…

The featured photo is a screen grab from a news story about Pat Robertson.

Yesterday afternoon, I was dozing after lunch and noticed breaking news. Pat Robertson, an evangelist and wannabe conservative politician, has finally croaked. He was 93 years old. It strikes me as kind of awesome that Robertson died in June– the month during which we celebrate gay pride! I don’t know if there really is a being known as God, but if there is, I’d say this was pretty good timing.

Pat Robertson (nicknamed by his older brother, who used to pat his cheeks and say “Pat, pat, pat”…) was born Marion Gordon Robertson on March 30, 1930 in Lexington, Virginia. Lexington, as some of you know, is a place near and dear to my own heart. Both of my parents grew up within about ten miles of Lexington. My dad was a graduate of Virginia Military Institute, which is located in Lexington. Several of my family members either went there, or to neighboring Washington & Lee University, which is where Mr. Robertson earned his first college diploma. Bill and I got married at VMI, too… So yeah, Pat Robertson’s birth place is special to me.

And Pat Robertson died yesterday in another place near and dear to my heart– Virginia Beach. I grew up in Gloucester County, which is maybe about an hour’s drive from Virginia Beach (when there’s no traffic). We moved to Gloucester in 1980, when I was eight years old. In those days, we all watched television instead of hanging out on the Internet. Although I’m not a very religious person, Pat Robertson still managed to have kind of a profound effect on my life when I was growing up. It was all because of his television empire.

A very old WYAH sign off!

Gloucester was within the viewing area of Pat Robertson’s television channel, WYAH, which he purchased for $37,000 in 1960. WYAH was not a cable channel, but it was the place where Robertson’s Christian television empire, much of which was disseminated on cable TV, was born. WYAH– named for Yahweh– was located in Portsmouth, Virginia. I remember being kind of fascinated by the city of Portsmouth as a little kid, because before we moved to Gloucester, we lived in Fairfax, Virginia on Portsmouth Road. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Although I grew up attending the local Presbyterian church, my parents weren’t super religious. I think church mainly served as a social outlet and place to perform music. My mom was a church organist, although she usually played at churches other than the one I attended with my dad. My dad sang in the church choir, but also in local ensembles. I sat in the pews with a lady whose husband was also in the choir and was a fellow VMI graduate. That was about it for church stuff for me, personally… but I was still heavily influenced by religion, because I happened to live in the Tidewater region of Virginia, where Pat Robertson’s independent TV channel was offered.

Example of WYAH’s ads… at the 3 minute mark, there’s an ad for the 700 Club. At 2:10, there’s an ad for Mother Basilea Schlink, a German Lutheran writer. I see she was from Darmstadt, which is very close to where I currently live.

In earlier blog posts, I wrote about how, back in the 1980s, I was kind of obsessed with television. Back then, things weren’t so syndicated, so local channels had more of a local flavor. In Fairfax, we had the big three networks, PBS (public television), and two independent channels– WTTG and WDCA– both of which were secular. When we moved to Gloucester, we had WYAH and WTVZ. WTVZ was secular, while WYAH was religious. But they showed similar programming– sitcoms that were in syndication, old movies, westerns, cartoons, and other lightweight viewing fare that was pretty kid friendly.

Cartoons on WYAH in 1986!

WYAH had a very annoying announcer with a distinctively high voice who introduced the afternoon cartoons– Tom and Jerry or Scooby Doo. Sometimes I’d watch them, if I didn’t have something else to do. As an 8 year old, I could go play with the other kids in my neighborhood, most of whom didn’t like me much, or I could watch Pat Robertson’s TV channel, WYAH, or WTVZ… or maybe play with my Barbies. A lot of times, WYAH won out, and I’d watch old sitcoms like The Jeffersons, Benson, Wonder Woman, Diff’rent Strokes, or The Brady Bunch.

Most of the stuff WYAH aired was already pretty tame, but any curse words were edited out. I don’t remember if they edited out the racist epithets that were occasionally on sitcoms in the 70s. For instance, on The Jeffersons, one might occasionally hear the n-bomb dropped, usually by George Jefferson (Sherman Hemsley) himself. I don’t think they edited that, but if he said “damn” or “hell”, that would be silenced.

Love the ad for the party line, for the low price of 89 cents a minute!

What I remember most about WYAH, though, were the religious PSAs and ads for a huge variety of Christian religious organizations of varying legitimacy. The channel also offered many religious shows by evangelists, like Jack Van Impe, Ernest Angley, and Star R. Scott, who is a Northern Virginia based pastor.

On Saturday nights, WYAH showed The Rock Church Proclaims, a program featuring services at The Rock Church, which is a huge church based in Virginia Beach. In the 80s, it was led by John and Anne Gimenez. Sometimes, I’d watch the show, not because I was religious, but because I’d never seen a church that had a full band, complete with electric guitars and drums, and pastors who danced. The Rock Church is Pentecostal, and they do things very differently than the stodgy Presbyterians. Below is a clip from a Rock Church “praise break”.

John Gimenez liked to get down when he preached. Presbyterians didn’t do this kind of stuff… I kind of like the organ on this.

Of course, Robertson’s famous show, The 700 Club, was also aired. WYAH is the birthplace of The 700 Club. It’s still going strong.

“Men have a tendency to wander…”

As I was growing up, I didn’t really think too hard about how weird WYAH was, and how I was being influenced by all of the religious stuff on that channel. In 1987, there was a huge scandal involving Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, a couple who had gotten their start on WYAH before they founded the PTL cable network. I never watched PTL, though, because it wasn’t offered on our cable subscription. I remember during that time– I was about 15 years old– Jim and Tammy Faye were constantly in the news.

That scandal probably had something to do with Pat Robertson’s decision to sell WYAH in 1989. By the time I graduated high school in 1990, that channel I had watched all through my childhood, had become secular and was owned by a national company. Gone were all the weird religious programming, ads for religious organizations, books, and music, PSAs for religious groups, and censored sitcoms. Robertson also unsuccessfully tried to run for president in 1988, but he dropped out of contention when it became clear that George H.W. Bush was going to get the Republican nomination.

Pat Robertson asks you to listen.
Busting on communism…
Is your child having an abortion without your permission?

Years later, I learned more about Pat Robertson, as he continued to try to influence politics and continued to build his empire very close to where I grew up. He founded Regent University, and maintained his Christian Broadcasting Network, which was basically a cable version of WYAH, minus the Tidewater flavor. He sold CBN in the 90s.

Yikes! He said some pretty terrible things… and some things were really not very Christian at all.

As a young woman, I started paying more attention to the things Pat Robertson said… some of which I found surprisingly hateful. Like I said, even though I watched his channel, I didn’t pay much attention to the religious stuff. I just wanted my daily George Jefferson or Tom and Jerry fix. But as he got older, Robertson said things that were more hateful, polarizing, and just plain weird. He was famously homophobic, and said many crazy things that infuriated liberals and condemned people in the gay community.

He was kind of disarming, wasn’t he? He sounded gentle and decent, but then he used words like “homo”.

Robertson got right wing Christians involved in politics, marrying far right politics with evangelicals. He was a fan of Donald Trump’s– although Trump is about as unChristian as a person can get. Robertson joined in the chorus of idiot Republicans who claimed that the 2020 presidential election was stolen because Trump didn’t win. Later, Robertson turned on Trump. A lot of people saw Robertson as either laughable or damnable.

Toward the end, he really was a doddering old fool…

I’m sure Pat Robertson will be missed by many people. He did manage to do some pretty amazing things during his lifetime. And even though I despise his politics and am not into his brand of religion, I can’t deny that he did manage to touch my life and influence it, somewhat. I know people who attended his university, and most of my childhood friends who grew up with me in Gloucester watched WYAH, too. So… there is that.

I never hated Pat Robertson. He was an interesting character. I wish he hadn’t played a part in destroying the separation between church and state. I wish he hadn’t championed Donald Trump, whose disastrous time in the White House has seriously fucked up American politics. And I wish he hadn’t said so many hateful, awful things about the LGBTQ community, which includes people I love. But, I’m sure that some people are mourning him today, and as an admittedly less than devout Christian, I do have some regard for them as fellow human beings. So… I suppose I can wish for Pat Robertson to rest in peace, wherever he is– be it looking down from Heaven, or looking up from Hell… or just rotting in a casket.

As I close today’s post, I realize that my sisters in law– Bill’s sister and her wife– were celebrating their LEGAL marriage yesterday, the day of Pat Robertson’s death. They got married in Florida in 2015. Seems very fitting to me that Pat Robertson exited the mortal coil on their anniversary! It’s almost like an anniversary gift from God! Isn’t that awesome? I think so.

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bad TV, book reviews, fashion, fiction, narcissists

A review of The Wig, The Bitch, & The Meltdown, by Jay Manuel…

In a recent blog post, I mentioned that I was reading Jay Manuel’s 2020 novel, The Wig, The Bitch, & The Meltdown. In that post, I wrote that I understood and appreciated what Jay Manuel was doing with his first novel. He was processing trauma by turning it into a fun fictionalized read. I’ve done the same thing on multiple occasions, so I already had a warm feeling about Manuel’s debut into fiction.

I also can’t stand Tyra Banks, even though I watched her reality show for years. My devotion to America’s Next Top Model was less about idolizing a retired supermodel than watching a trainwreck. I don’t actually care much about fashion, and those who have seen me in person can attest to that. I just find narcissists fascinating, even if I want to keep them at an arm’s length. ANTM was chock full of narcissists, and its resident Queen Bee, Tyra Banks, was the most toxic of them all… as far as I can tell, anyway. Obviously, I’ve never met Tyra in person, but I have heard what she says and observed how she behaves. She makes my N chimes ring even louder than Meghan Markle does.

I downloaded Jay Manuel’s satirical novel about reality TV modeling competitions back in January 2022. I decided to read the book when I started watching episodes of ANTM while Bill was away in Bavaria. As I watched ANTM and cringed, I read up on Jay Manuel and his now non-existent relationship with Tyra Banks. I remembered that they once used to be friends. What happened?

Well… Jay wrote his book, and that sure didn’t help their friendship. But there was a lot that led up to the book being written, and having been around a lot of narcissists myself, I spotted all of the red flags in The Wig, The Bitch, & The Meltdown. Clearly Mr. Manuel had loads of experiences and incidents to fuel his creativity when he penned his novel. If only a fraction of the crazy in this novel has any basis in truth, Jay Manuel went through Hell to birth this book. And the price of writing the book was losing his “friends” from ANTM, as it was reported that Tyra Banks was angry about the novel. She allegedly asked people from ANTM not to interact with Jay, or help promote the book. Apparently, people from ANTM value relationships with Tyra enough to grant her request/demand.

I can understand why Tyra Banks would be upset about Jay Manuel’s novel. The novel is clearly based on Jay Manuel’s relationship with her and others from ANTM, even though the book is fiction. I’m sure she sees him as disloyal, and narcissists can’t abide disloyalty. Moreover, Jay Manuel really took the piss out of Tyra, including plots that were obviously based on things that actually happened on the show. The end result, for a reader like me, is pure entertainment and occasional laugh out loud moments. Obviously, Tyra Banks doesn’t want to be laughed at, and even though she’s made a lot of money and become very powerful in the entertainment business, she doesn’t want to be upstaged in any way.

Jay Manuel is still not as powerful as Tyra is– or was– (like Donald Trump, she seems to have lost some of her popularity). However, writing this book probably boosted his prestige. I was definitely impressed by the imagination and creativity he showed in his novel. There’s a good reason why Jay Manuel was the creative director on ANTM for so many years. On the other hand, a lot of what he writes was obviously inspired by crazy stuff that actually happened on the show.

So… on with the plot…

Pablo Michaels (Jay’s alter ego) is the silver haired, silver eyed creative director of a reality show called Model Muse. It’s a rip off of America’s Next Top Model, set in the present. I mention that the novel is set in the present because Manuel mentions a lot of technology that didn’t exist when ANTM started in 2003, or even when it finally ended in 2018. He seems particularly wedded to Apple products, as he mentions them a lot in the book.

Pablo is not naturally silver eyed or silver haired. This is a look that the supermodel he works for, Keisha Kash (Kash is perhaps a play on the last name, Banks?), wants him to look that way. Pablo and Keisha met when they were both a lot less famous, and they were friends. Over the years, they had shared a lot of pints of Dulce de Leche ice cream. Pablo had become Keisha’s rock, fixing things that went wrong, and always having Keisha’s back. She started her reality show, and he was the one person she trusted to be the creative director. She was right to trust him, though the job means that he never gets any time to himself, nor can he do things that he wants to do.

Pablo and Keisha work with other “legends” from the fashion industry. Noted British fashion photographer, Mason Hughes (modeled after Nigel Barker) is onhand, as is the world’s “first” supermodel, Sasha Barenson (Janice Dickinson). Miss Thing (J. Alexander– Miss J.) serves as a judge and a runway coach. Joe Vong (perhaps Ken Mok) is an executive producer. And De La Renta (perhaps Sutan and/or Christian Marc combined) is in charge of hair and makeup.

Sasha still wears a size four dress, even though she’s in her 60s. But she constantly nurses a sippy cup full of “water” that smells a lot like Chardonnay. Mason is “happily married” to a boyish looking Indian woman, although he seems to like men. Miss Thing is hilarious and witty, but also a bit catty and two-faced. Joe Vong has created many successful reality TV shows, but is completely dictatorial and manic. And De La Renta, like Pablo, seems to be one of the “good” guys who cares about the models somewhat. Keisha’s mother Brenda Paris (Tyra’s mom, Carolyn London) is in prison for trying to steal jewelry from a safe at the morgue where she worked as a photographer. Carolyn London, in real life, is a medical photographer. Tyra always presented her mother as wonderful, but in Jay’s novel, she’s a criminal.

Pablo Michaels is doing all he can to keep the show together, as Keisha and the rest of the cast misbehave in a multitude of ways, showing a complete lack of regard for those who aren’t narcissists. Pablo ties to be the voice of reason as Keisha does everything she can to make more money, become more famous, and expand her brand. Manuel really went to town on this– bringing up Tyra Banks’ memorable foray into the music business by making Keisha release a song, even though she’s tone deaf. In real life, Jay Manuel studied opera, and presumably, he can sing. I’ve heard Tyra’s song, and as a musician myself, it didn’t impress me.

I dunno about this… This was one of the challenges for the models, but she barely used them. The video was all about Tyra.

Manuel also covers Tyra’s attempts at writing, as he has Keisha write a novel. Tyra also famously wrote a novel for teenagers. I have it downloaded, but I can’t seem to bring myself to read it. Maybe I’ll punish myself by reading it soon.

Throughout the book Manuel skillfully illustrates the classic ways of a malignant narcissist, to include having Keisha have a huge meltdown in panel. Tyra Banks also famously screamed at a contestant in Cycle 4, angry that the young woman wasn’t “upset” enough about being cut. The circumstances of Keisha’s meltdown are somewhat different, but the behavior he describes is the same as what all ANTM fans witnessed when they watched that episode.

More outrageous behaviors are described, and if you were a viewer of ANTM during its prime years, when Mr. Jay and Miss J. were on it, you will easily recognize some of the contestants. Manuel blends some of them into new people, including some famous and memorable statements some of them uttered during the show’s run. Some of the incidents are clearly based on things that happened on the show, but others are pretty diabolical (and hilarious) mashups based on things that a malignant narcissist supermodel might do. The part about the wig, for instance, is pretty scandalous. If you’ve ever seen one of Tyra Banks’ famously crappy makeovers, you might have a good laugh… as you also cringe in horror.

Manuel’s writing is often pretty snarky, and there’s a lot of objectionable (but believable) language in this novel. Sometimes, I wish he’d hired an editor. He misspells some words and names. For instance, he repeatedly refers to Mommie Dearest (the book and movie about Joan Crawford, written by her adoptive daughter, Christina Crawford), but he spells it Mommy Dearest. He refers to โ€œdoor jamsโ€, rather than โ€œdoor jambsโ€. He also employs some words that are what one might call “fifty cent words”. At times, he doesn’t quite use them correctly, or he uses them when a simpler word would better suffice.

I got a kick out of how Manuel describes Keisha, who is obviously based on Tyra in almost every way. He repeatedly writes about Keisha’s “creepy” little girl voice. If you’ve seen ANTM, you know what he’s referring to, as Tyra does the same thing. He describes what she looks like, and her tendency to not like contestants who look, in any way, like her. Manuel also makes Model Muse rigged– blatantly stating that the winners were chosen long before the runway show at the end of the season. I don’t know if that’s actually how it worked on ANTM, but I’ve always suspected that the winners were ringers. What’s sad to me is that a lot of the young women, who tried out for that show, legitimately thought it would open doors for them. Although some contestants went on to form careers in entertainment, only a few became legitimate working models.

Overall

I enjoyed Jay Manuel’s book, The Wig, The Bitch, & The Meltdown. I found it a fun and entertaining read. I’ve seen a lot of people saying that Manuel isn’t much better than Tyra Banks is. I don’t know if that’s true, but he does appear to have some real talents. I think it would be pretty difficult for him to have an ego larger than Tyra’s. Moreover, while I think Tyra has some talents in terms of self-promotion, I also think she totally got off on being worshiped by the contestants on the show, even when she gave bullshit advice, contradicted herself, or cut them for ridiculous reasons. Jay, at least, seemed to have some sensitivity… and he has the excuse that he wasn’t the boss of the show. Tyra was. He was working at her behest.

I found some of the elements of Jay’s personal story– which he weaved into Pablo’s story– fascinating. Jay Manuel was born in the United States and grew up in Canada. He was adopted when he was a baby, and he puts part of that story into the book. Jay also has a very interesting racial makeup; many people think he’s Hispanic, but he’s actually got Italian, Czech, and South African ancestry and thinks of himself as Black.

I think I’d give The Wig, The Bitch, and The Meltdown four stars out of five. I don’t read a lot of novels anymore, but I legitimately enjoyed Jay’s snarkfest. I laughed out loud several times, or just exclaimed in disbelief; I think that counts for a lot. I also liked the ending. I found it very satisfying.

I’m taking off a star for the editing glitches, although I am impressed by how well-written the book is, given that Jay Manuel isn’t primarily a writer. I hope he’ll write another novel, and next time, hire an editor to give it some polish. And I hope he’s as likable in real life as he is in his writing and on television… although I’m sure those who knew him on Top Model are probably no longer sending him any emails. ๐Ÿ˜‰

As an Amazon Associate, I get a small commission from Amazon on sales made through my site.

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bad TV, celebrities, mental health, narcissists, psychology, Reality TV

“If there is a dark side lurking within you, please bring it forth…” and other weird concepts on ANTM…

Yea! It’s Wednesday! Two more days to go before our home “pack” is complete again, and Bill comes home. There was a time in my life when I loved having the house to myself. That was when I was a teenager, which was many years ago. ๐Ÿ˜‰ I didn’t mind living alone when I was a young woman, either, because apparently I’m not the most likable person, or the greatest roommate. Scratch that. I am a pretty good roommate, but only to the right person. I’m such an oddly shaped puzzle piece that there aren’t that many “good fits” for me in the world.

Against all odds, Bill and I happen to get along beautifully. We genuinely dislike being apart when he has to travel. It’s very boring for both of us. He spends all his time working or sleeping, and I spend mine writing, reading, and watching trash TV. Then he wants to have a chat when I’m knee deep in the trash. Actually, this past week, poor Bill has been working nights, which means he gets even less sleep than usual. We haven’t had too much opportunity to chat. Most of our communication has been through very short emails of little substance. So, we’re both really looking forward to Friday, when he comes home from his latest adventure.

I mentioned yesterday, that reading Good Girls by Hadley Freeman had inspired me to watch old episodes of America’s Next Top Model. I was pretty hooked on that show when it was popular, although I didn’t watch it until Cycle 7, when I happened to channel surf past it one night. I don’t like Tyra Banks very much, even if I can easily see why she’s a famous model. Maybe she’s different offscreen, but I find her onscreen persona very off putting and narcissistic. There were times on ANTM when she acted like a complete twat (in the British sense of the word).

However, I did like a couple of other cast members. Miss J and Jay Manuel were favorites of mine. They could be dismissive and disdainful at times, but I got the sense that they were much more genuine and kind than Tyra was. And I also thought they were legitimately funny and entertaining. Tyra was just nuclear level annoying to me– although I suspect, in her case, that behavior stems from the industry she made her name in, as well as– I suspect– perhaps some family trauma. I don’t know, and I’m not saying my suspicions are true. It’s just that in my experience, people who act like that often have an abusive past, delivered by their families. (raising my own hand, here…) The fact that Tyra has spent years as a model and an entertainer means that she’s also been exposed to a lot of the same types of people– many of whom are pretty damaged.

I do think Tyra Banks is legitimately beautiful, bright, and talented, but her personality comes across to me as entitled, fake, and manipulative. Unless she’s been doing some Oscar winning acting, she has a deep and obvious need for admiration and attention. It was especially clear in some of the widely circulated clips on the Internet showing, which some of ANTM’s craziest moments over its many years on the air.

I’ve studied a lot about narcissism, and it’s obvious to me that a lot of the people who made it on Top Model also suffered from abusive, traumatic pasts that turned them a bit Machiavellian. There are only a few cycles in which it seems like fewer people are drama queens. Those cycles, which I mostly found more pleasant to watch, tended to be the ones that weren’t as highly rated. For example, I loved Cycle 13, which was the “petite” cycle– All of the women were short, like me. I got the sense that they weren’t nearly as blackhearted as some of their taller counterparts. Maybe it’s because they have more concentrated oxygen at such low heights. Kidding, of course… ๐Ÿ˜‰ I am myself only about 5’2″.

So… about today’s title. It comes from Cycle 10. I had just finished watching Cycle 9, where I heard all kinds of red flag narcissism phrases like, “You don’t know who you’re messing with,” and watched Tyra be totally horrible to Ebony Morgan, a beautiful contestant who suddenly quit when she’d decided that being on the show wasn’t for her.

Tyra was awful to Ebony.

Ebony Morgan was clearly someone who’d had a very traumatic past, and determined that she didn’t enjoy modeling. She wisely and nobly decided to quit the show, and allow someone else to take her place. And Tyra said, “The most unattractive thing in the world to me is a quitter.” Really, Tyra? There aren’t less attractive people than that? How about child molesters? Would you put Ebony beneath someone like, say, Josh Duggar?

In that same cycle, there was a very smart “nerdy” young woman named Victoria. It was clear that Victoria had never really considered what modeling is all about. She was just very quirky and interesting looking. She came on the show and very quickly got the “bitch” edit. They had all of the contestants dress up like plants and Victoria was a cactus. At judging, she was deemed “prickly”, and when she stood up for herself, she was quickly chastised.

“You need to work on charm.” Can anyone blame Victoria for sticking up for herself? She actually wasn’t that assertive here… I’ve seen a lot worse on this show.

Anyone who ever watched ANTM remembers this gem from Cycle 4. It gets trotted out all the time as an example of how toxic this show could be. It doesn’t matter what Tiffany’s “attitude” was. Screaming at her the way she did is verbal abuse. And no, Tiffany… Tyra doesn’t care about you.

Tyra’s public, extreme, ass chewing was way out of line, even if Tiffany should have been eliminated. And she was basically chewed out because she wasn’t upset enough when she got the ax (at about the 5 minute mark).

And then there was my revelation last night, as I watched Paulina Porizkova talking to the models of Cycle 10 for the very first time. I actually loved Paulina on this show. She seemed very genuine, and didn’t behave like a narcissistic twat. She came up to a beautiful blonde woman named Kimberly and said something along the lines of, “You seem to have this High School Musical thing about you, but I sense you have a dark side. And if there is a darker side of you, bring it forth.” Then, she pantomimed as if the dark spirit would come out of Kimberly, exorcist like.

Kimberly also ended up quitting the show. She claimed it was because she didn’t enjoy modeling and couldn’t see spending $500 on a pair of shorts. Some time later, Kimberly was on Tyra’s talk show, where she explained her real reasons for quitting.

Kim doesn’t like modeling… and yet, her obituary mentions her love for modeling.
Kim explains… It turns out, she was experiencing some pretty serious mental health issues related to suicides by people close to her. In 2016, she took her own life.

Allison Kuehn was also on Cycle 10, and was eliminated early. I found her obnoxious when the show originally aired, but watching her last night was almost unbearable. She reminded me a lot of Donald Trump, especially after she got her makeover. She kept talking about how she was the most experienced and best model in the house, after she made some pretty offensive and racist comments to another contestant. When she got eliminated, she cried. It does look like Allison went back to real modeling, though, which is a credit to her, I guess.

Allison was obnoxious, but she certainly wasn’t the only one…

There are so many other examples… I’ve written posts about Renee Alway, for example. I was a fan of Renee’s, in spite of her manipulative, spiteful, and envious behaviors. I thought Renee was absolutely gorgeous, and I thought she had a lot of potential on many levels. Sadly, Renee has had a lot of very serious interactions with law enforcement. She’s been in an out of prison after committing armed robberies, domestic violence, and drug crimes. There were times when Renee seemed open and vulnerable, and that made me think she wasn’t a completely black hearted person. I still don’t think she is. But she had some very serious problems that I don’t think were helped by being on America’s Next Top Model.

Likewise, Renee’s fellow cohort and sometime friend, Jael Strauss, also had severe difficulties after being on ANTM. I didn’t like Jael that much when I first saw her, but now that I’m watching again, I find her very endearing and entertaining. She seemed like a genuinely kind soul. Unfortunately, she had a terrible problem with drugs, to the point at which she appeared on Dr. Phil. And then, in December 2018, after a two month battle with inflammatory breast cancer, Jael passed away at age 34.

So sad. She deserved better than “help” from Dr. Phil. He’s as bad as Tyra.

Angelea Preston was another contestant who, I think, got exploited on ANTM. I didn’t really care for Angelea’s appearances on three cycles of the show, although I’ve looked her up since her last appearance, and I’m impressed by how she’s recovered. Angelea has proven that she’s a survivor, and is telling her story… having “won” the All-Stars edition of the show, and then been disqualified for briefly working as an escort. After she was disqualified, Lisa D’Mato, who had been on Cycle 5, won. Lisa is also speaking out about ANTM, and Tyra has reportedly blocked her on social media.

One last person I want to mention is Jenah Doucette, who was in Cycle 9. She was a very strong competitor. I ran across a very informative Reddit thread she started, inviting people to ask her anything. It seems like she’s doing pretty well now, but she admits that she had a very hard time after being on ANTM. She says she is a recovering alcoholic, and has been through therapy. She might have been an alcoholic anyway, and she might have needed therapy anyway. However, I doubt that the experience of being on that show was very helpful to her.

I probably shouldn’t watch these old episodes of Top Model, but I’m finding them very engrossing and, I’ll admit, often entertaining. They help pass the hours before Bill gets home on Friday. And, if you’re interested in psychology, it is interesting to pay attention to the interactions among the contestants, especially so many years later.

Thanks to reading Good Girls, falling back down the “fashion rabbit hole”, and watching old episodes of Top Model, I’ve also started reading Jay Manuel’s novel, The Wig, The Bitch, & The Meltdown. I don’t read many novels anymore, but I couldn’t resist this one. I suspect the book is highly influenced by his time with Tyra Banks, who is now a former friend of his. Stay tuned for a fresh review, which I hope will come sooner, rather than later…

For now, I need to walk the dog, play guitar, and go buy some more half and half at the store. Then, I’ll probably dive back into my ANTM reruns, which do a good job of keeping me from binge watching YouTube DWI videos. So, have a happy hump day. Catch you later.

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bad TV, celebrities, humor, obits, Reality TV

A fond farewell to Jerry Springer, a man after my own heart…

The featured photo is a screenshot of our television in 2012, when I was watching an episode of Jerry Springer in North Carolina.

Yesterday, after I wrote yet another heartfelt post that I suspect most people won’t bother to read in its entirety, I went off to do what I usually do on Thursdays. I walked Noyzi, then did the dreaded vacuuming, noticing that right on schedule, the ants have invaded the kitchen. This happens every spring and goes on for a few weeks. I vacuumed up the ones I could see, figuring they’ll be happy in the grey bin, where there’s lots of trash.

Then, after after I vacuumed, I turned on the robot mower and broke out the weed trimmer, giving the backyard a nice sprucing up. We’ve recently had a lot of rain, so the grass grows quickly. Our new rain barrel is collecting rain that will be handy in the summer, when it stops raining so much and everything shrivels up.

After I did my chores, I took a shower, ate some lunch, and promptly bit my tongue. Ouch! Then I started watching videos by H.G. Tudor, and got a bit lost in a new game I downloaded… Such is the life of an Overeducated Housewife. It wasn’t until later, when I called up one of my banks to complain about their inability to send me texts, that I noticed that famed TV host Jerry Springer had died yesterday in his home. He was 79 years old.

I know a lot of people joked about Jerry and his bizarre daytime television show, which started off a lot more conventional before it turned into daily theater of the absurd. There was a brief period in my life when I would, on occasion, watch Jerry’s show in the afternoons. They offered a break from the mundane. But I decided I liked him when I saw him host America’s Got Talent years ago… I think it was in the summer of 2007. Below is a direct quote from me, written on Facebook in 2012.

โค Jerry Springer.

See how he treats Mary? This is exactly what I mean… He was so kind to Mary, and showed genuine concern for her. It was a side of him that I found very endearing.

It was on that show that I saw a very likable side to Jerry Springer. Then later, I watched his show, and realized that he was kind of the straight man, officiating among a cast of bizarre characters who never failed to make me laugh. There was something about Jerry that struck me as kind… and he would often inject humor or reality into the weird. He didn’t take himself too seriously, and would openly tell people that if they were on his show, they might want to re-examine their life choices.

There’s something to be said for Jerry’s honesty and self-awareness. He was a good sport.

From March 2011… is watching Jerry Springer. I forgot how funny this show is.

Jerry Springer was a bit like Charro. People didn’t take him seriously because of his entertainment style. He was laughing all the way to the bank, though, and he genuinely made people smile and laugh. Yes, one could argue that his show “made fun” of people who might be regarded by some as “freaks and weirdos”, but if you watched that show for more than ten minutes, you realized that the vast majority of people who were on it were totally in on the jokes.

From 2013… Watching Jerry Springer being interviewed by Rosie O’Donnell. I must say I have an odd appreciation for Jerry.

As you can see from my Facebook quotes, Jerry got me through some times. Our brief sojourn in North Carolina could be pretty dull for me, since we lived in the middle of nowhere. It got to the point during that time period when I would look forward to 4:00PM, when the grinding, electric guitars that started Jerry’s show would crank up, and Jerry would introduce the surreal topic of the day. Then, there would be a cast of people who looked like they were doing community theater… or maybe acting out Rocky Horror Picture Show, or something.

And from November 2011… I forgot how funny Jerry Springer is.

It’s been a long time since I last saw Jerry on TV, but I did read that even though he’d been ill, he was hosting a radio show in Cincinnati. It featured folk and Americana music. As is true for almost everybody, there was a lot more to Jerry Springer than met the eye. I never got to see his show, Judge Jerry, but I’ll bet he was awesome on it.

Um… it’s “ho”, not “hoe”. A hoe is a garden tool.
I used to fantasize about going to a taping of Jerry Springer’s show… LOL!

I’d much rather watch this shit on TV than read some of the comments on news articles. At least this shit makes me laugh instead of making me want to cry.

Oh my… American TV is really… something. I give props to Jerry for keeping a straight face.

Watching these old clips have made me laugh and smile again. It’s not often that I have genuine affection for TV hosts or politicians. I truly think Jerry was one of the good guys.

I must point out that the uploader gave this video an offensive name using the so-called “r word”. The actual episode was called “Burned By Love”.
Hamburger Helper… for the woman I love.”

Anyway, I know it was bound to happen sometime, because death happens to all of us. And not everyone can live as long as Harry Belafonte did. Jerry had a pretty good run, though… I will miss him, and always appreciate the many laughs he sent my way. May he rest in peace.

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bad TV, true crime

Watered down Lifetime movies that put girls in confinement…

As I have repeatedly and pitifully mentioned this week, Bill has been away on a business trip. And, as I often do when he goes away on business trips, I’ve been watching a lot of made for TV movies, as well as a couple of 80s era classics. Lifetime made for TV movies are usually pretty cringeworthy, although sometimes they turn into “guilty pleasures.” I typically watch the movies they make about true crime cases, especially if I’ve already read about a case. I am a bit of a true crime buff, as some regular readers might already know. I probably ought to stick to writing about books and movies, though, because when I write about true crime cases in the news, I sometimes get angry reactions from family members. It’s never my intention to cause pain to anyone when I write about true crime. I just find the criminal mind and police work kind of fascinating.

Anyway, more than once, I’ve written about Lifetime movies and how sometimes, they’re pretty terrible. Sometimes, I think their treatment of true crime stories is downright disrespectful, such as it was with Secrets of a Gold Digger Killer, which was about Celeste Beard Johnson, who married a wealthy older man and murder him for his money. I also thought Lifetime’s movie, Girl in the Basement, which starred Judd Nelson, and was based on the horrific 2008 Josef Fritzl case out of Austria, was also pretty badly done. This week, I’ve watched three other Lifetime movies that weren’t too terrible. They weren’t great– but they didn’t make me angry, and I never cringed while watching them. However, I did notice that the three made for TV movies had something in common with the aforementioned Girl in the Basement

Girl in the Box

Girl in the Bunker

Girl in the Shed

Do you see the same trend I do? Granted, all of these movies are based on true stories about yucky men who abduct young women or girls and put them in different forms of confinement. But, when I went on Lifetime’s “channel” on Apple TV, I noticed this list of movies with similar titles.

To clarify, I don’t typically go on Lifetime’s Apple TV channel looking for entertainment anymore. When I was younger, Lifetime used to be more my speed. They showed television that was supposed to be “for women”, which includes awesome classic sitcoms like The Golden Girls, health related programming, or movies that were made by the big three networks of yore. I’ve noticed that more recently, Lifetime has gotten into the business of making movies. Most of them are very slick and kind of campy, filmed in Canada, and often boast talent that was on the “big screen” a few decades ago. Again, I usually watch the ones about true crime, so I honestly don’t know what other subjects Lifetime covers. I’m sure someone can tell me.

In any case, this week I watched Girl in the Box, Girl in the Bunker, and Girl in the Shed. I’ve already shared my thoughts on Girl in the Box, which was what started this week’s Lifetime movie trend for me. It was Sunday afternoon; Bill had just left for Bavaria. For some reason, I thought of the 70s and 80s era true crime case involving Colleen Stan— “the girl in the box”. I went looking to see if there was some fresh programming about that case, and discovered Lifetime’s 2016 movie that was based on the case. Because I had nothing better to do, I decided to download it and watch it. Then I noticed the other two movies with similar titles, and downloaded those, too.

A couple of days ago, I watched the 2022 movie, Girl in the Shed: The Kidnapping of Abby Hernandez. Prior to watching Lifetime’s movie, I had not heard of this case out of Conway, New Hampshire, which began on October 9, 2013. Fourteen year old Abby Hernandez was just days away from her fifteenth birthday when she was kidnapped by a creepy psychopath named Nathaniel Kibby. Just like Colleen Stan before her, Hernandez was hitchhiking, something she apparently did frequently. Kibby picked her up. He was seemingly friendly and trustworthy until he stopped the car, handcuffed her, and blindfolded her. He took her to his home and, for about nine and a half months, kept her imprisoned in a storage container/shed.

Girl in the Shed by Lifetime.

In Lifetime’s treatment of this case, Kibby is played by Ben Savage– brother of Fred Savage, who is very familiar to me as a child of the 80s, thanks to his starring role on The Wonder Years. Ben was on the show Boy Meets World, which I never saw, because it was popular at a time in my life when I was too busy for TV. Abby is played by Lindsay Navarro, who looks quite a bit older than fourteen. I’m sure that’s by design, of course. Not only do younger actors have more restrictions on how much they can work, but I’m sure the subject matter of the film may have prevented using younger, more believable actors.

In the Lifetime movie, we see still baby faced Ben Savage as Kibby, vacillating between a conspiracy theory obsessed weirdo to someone with a conscience. He sees giving Abby a “storage shed” to live in as a kindness. He straps a shock collar around her neck to stop her from screaming, but also to prevent her from having to wear a gag. He uses the threat of a taser to keep her under control. He wears a totally creepy looking face mask to prevent Abby from seeing his face, assuring her that someday he’ll let her go. Abby somehow realizes that to survive, she must befriend her captor, which is what she does.

Meanwhile, her mother, Zenya (Erica Durance) is depicted as the only one who never gives up on finding Abby. I’ve noticed that in Lifetime movies, the police are usually depicted as jaded, skeptical, and uncaring. When Zenya calls to report her daughter missing, the cops assume she’s run away. When Abby is forced to write a letter home, and news of it gets leaked to the press, the public turns on Zenya. She gets hateful phone calls and nasty letters in the mail (I don’t understand this practice at all, but people really do this…).

When Kibby loses his job, he gets into counterfeiting money. This is ultimately what leads him to release Abby, as he’s been to prison before, and doesn’t want to go back there. A woman calls him on the phone and threatens to turn him in for paying her with counterfeit cash. It seems kind of crazy to me, but I guess it really happened. Kibby drops Abby off near where he had picked her up months earlier, and she’s left to walk home. There’s no information about Kibby’s prosecution, which took place in 2016 and ultimately led to a federal sentence of 45-90 years in prison.

If I were to go only on the Lifetime movie, Abby and Kibby were practically buddies. There’s no mention or depiction of the horrors of what actually went on in this case. Granted, again, it might be because the case involves a then fourteen/fifteen year old child. But the Lifetime movie waters down the story so much that it seems like Kibby was just lonely and looking for a female friend. The reality is, Kibby sexualy assaulted Abby on a daily basis. And no, that’s not something I necessarily would have wanted to see, but not including that part of the story really dilutes it and undermines just how truly awful Abby’s ordeal really was. Also, the shock collar thing… that was a new one for me, but the way Savage plays it, it’s like Kibby was trying to be “nice”. There’s nothing nice about taking away someone’s voice. But at least he didn’t threaten to cut her vocal cords, like Cameron Hooker did to Colleen Stan.

Reviewers on IMDB had similar impressions that I had. One reviewer even went to school with Abby and was disgusted by how this story was portrayed. I kind of wonder why Lifetime bothered with this… since the actual ordeal isn’t accurately presented at all. I get not wanting to depict CSAM, but this is so whitewashed that it’s kind of laughable. It definitely could have been better. At least it wasn’t horribly offensive, though. Ben Savage isn’t a scary or convincing predator, so I didn’t have any nightmares. His brother Fred, on the other hand, has portrayed creeps convincingly… both on screen, and apparently in real life.

I thought Girl in the Bunker was somewhat better, although it was still pretty watered down from the truth. This 2018 Lifetime made for TV movie is based on the real life case of fourteen year old Elizabeth Shoaf of Lugoff, South Carolina, who was abducted by the late Vinson Filyaw on September 6, 2006. Filyaw, who died in prison of natural causes last year, had been a construction worker, but posed as a police officer to gain Shoaf’s trust. He placed her in handcuffs and walked her around the woods, disorienting her until he finally put her in a 8×8 foot underground bunker, where he had all the “creature comforts” of home.

Girl in the Bunker by Lifetime.

According to the Shoaf was on her way home from school when her boyfriend gave her some marijuana to keep. The boyfriend was apparently a fan of weed and didn’t want to get busted by his parents. Shoaf had the weed on her when she ran into Filyaw.

Meanwhile, Elizabeth’s family was wondering what happened to her. I hadn’t realized it at first, but Elizabeth’s mom was played by Moira Kelly. I just happened to watch Kelly’s film, The Cutting Edge (1992) the other day. I almost didn’t recognize her in Girl in the Bunker. I had been wondering what happened to her. An even bigger surprise was who they got to play Vinson Filyaw. I’m sure most of you reading this have heard of a 1982 film called E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial. I didn’t actually see that film for the first time until 2002. However, I was ten years old when it was released, and it was HUGE. Well, the guy who played Filyaw was none other than Henry Thomas, who famously played Elliott in the movie, E.T. He was more convincing as a villain.

I also thought, Julia LaLonde, the girl who played Elizabeth, was a very good actress and looked like she was about the right age. I could believe she was fourteen years old… or at least somewhat near that age.

Again, there’s no mention of the horrors of what actually happened to the real Elizabeth Shoaf, who was stripped naked, bound in chains, and repeatedly assaulted. And again, I wouldn’t expect a graphic depiction of that on television. But, if I was going to go on what was in the Lifetime movie, I’d come away with the idea that ol’ Vinson was just looking for a friend to ease his loneliness. It looks like most of the reviewers on IMDB liked it, as most of the comments about it are pretty positive.

I have noticed that censorship has changed a lot over the years. It used to be that the censors were a lot more concerned about “bad words”. You’d never hear someone on primetime TV say the word “shit”, for instance, even if you did hear them drop the n-bomb or homosexual slurs. It seems like violence, even if it was sexual in nature, was less taboo. Now, the language is less restricted, at least as far as words like “shit” are concerned, but they don’t want to depict true crime in a way that remotely approaches the horrors of what actually happened, particularly if the story involves minors. It seems to me that if being accurate is so problematic for legal reasons, maybe the genre shouldn’t be tackled by filmmakers. But at least in these two cases, the victims survived.

I’m reminded of an old plotline on The Brady Bunch. Bobby Brady is driving his family nuts because he’s obsessed with Jesse James, who was a cold-blooded killer. Bobby sees him as a hero. Carol and Mike Brady try to teach Bobby a lesson by letting him watch an old movie about Jesse James, but all of the parts that show him as a bad guy are edited out of the movie. Their point is lost, and Bobby is even more convinced that Jesse James is a great guy. To be fair, I don’t think Lifetime goes quite that far. I mean, even though Ben Savage is unconvincing as a menacing creep, we don’t get the idea that his character is a hero. And Henry Thomas is somewhat convincing as a criminal, even though he’s not shown actually doing what his character did in real life. But the point is, if Lifetime is going to make movies about horrifying crimes, they probably ought to do more to actually depict the crimes as horrifying… and make the villains less likable.

Anyway… I’ve probably written more about this subject than it deserves. The dogs didn’t get a walk yesterday due to bad weather and my interminable wait for packages to arrive. So, I probably better sign off and walk them, do my Thursday chores, and get on with my last day of loneliness. Maybe today, I’ll watch an old, campy, guilty pleasure favorite, like Xanadu or Flash Gordon. There are only so many Lifetime movies a person can take in a week. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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