Disclaimer: My experience on a reality television show, while seemingly a lifetime ago, still makes for a good story. Since there are no surly teenagers nearby me to screech, “Nooooooo….not again, Mom!” I’m going to share it Yes, it was a loooong time ago, and yes, I believe Paige Davis may have fallen into a black hole since then, but it was at the height of popularity when our “Trading Spaces: $100 Grand!” two-hour special aired. And yes, it was (high-pitched-soprano-voice) AWESOME.
A long time ago in a career far, far away I got into a little skirmish with Geraldo. I was a publicist, he was, well, Geraldo, and the whole he-said/she-said thing landed on the front page of Daily Variety. There it was, in black and white: my name, my title and my quote. My quote! Hence, my very first brush with fame. While it was relatively small-scale (I mean seriously, how many people – especially those of us on the East coast – actually read Variety?), it was a professional feather in my cap that tickled me ridiculously and caused my boss to seethe. Naturally, I faxed the story to everyone I knew (this being the time when Geraldo was a media presence, of course there was no e-mail), and held onto it for years.
Fast-forward a dozen years, and with the help of a little reality-television show, I found myself in the throes of celebrity again, only this time in a brave new world. Plucked from obscurity, I was given a spotlight of national attention and enough local publicity to humble a politician. Still, it had never occurred to me that along with my fifteen minutes of fame came a little thing called, ummm, opinion. Have I mentioned that everybody’s got one – along with a computer? Had I known that I could evoke such passionate opinions from people I most certainly would have spent a lot less time worrying about the dungaree shorts I chose to wear for the filming of my television stint.
On the show’s website, throughout its wildly popular message boards were beautiful sentiments from virtual strangers: Raves (loved the show!). Cheers (loved you!). Kudos (congratulations!). But alas, like the envious boss who didn’t get acknowledgment, sprinkled throughout these well-wishes was an eye-opening array of not-so-happy campers. At first it was funny. (Okay, at first I didn’t spot my name). But after continued reading (equate it to picking at dried glue on your fingers – when does one actually stop?) it became mildly horrifying.
“Get off the computer,” my husband pleaded. I was addicted.
“Did you read what this guy wrote? That is so WRONG!” He’d simply shake his head. He knew I had crossed over.
According to one eagle-eyed viewer, I was apparently wealthy, therefore rendering me unworthy of the good fortune bestowed on my family. (This perception usually draws great fits of laughter from my family, close friends and the checkout clerk at the receiving end of my mountain of coupons each week.) One anonymous viewer called me arrogant. Arrogant? I won a big prize, had the ever-present camera catch my gratuitous tears, and nearly died from the excitement of the whole experience. Good God. Then there was a woman who ranted to all the other message-board posters that I made her want to barf. Barf? In fairness, I was completely aware that the humidity that plagued filming had turned my hair into a Farrah-esque flashback for most my age, but barf? That was uncalled for.
One of the show’s producers warned, “Oh, by the way, don’t go onto the message boards. Those people are crazy.” Yeah, we got that. Too late.
My love/hate relationship with fame has left me far more understanding of the price that is paid by bona-fide celebs, and not just the flash-in-the-pan variety like myself. It makes me realize how often I’ve become part of a heated discussion about one of the delightfully colorful cast of characters on the “Who Wants to Survive the Average Joe Millionaire” shows I tend to gravitate to on any given night. It is with heavy heart that I think of all the times I purchased a steamy tabloid solely to gobble up the dirt that poor Britney had to endure this past week. Now that I know how it feels to be utterly slammed, I am, of course, repentant.
“Were you on that show?” The hairstylist’s grin has me marked as she escorts my daughter to a chair. My nod is sheepish, but my alert mind is racing: Oh, the bad press that could come out of this! Is my hair combed? Is my holiday-induced weight gain obvious? How quickly can she call the newspaper to report a bad tip?
In the end, the five-dollar tip (for a ten dollar child’s haircut) is hidden in my fist as I go to thank her and depart.
“I loved it,” she giggles, and turns away.
For what it’s worth, I was a pretty good tipper before all this.