Next Donahue: Death, live

Kevin Cowherd

March 15, 1993|By Kevin Cowherd

Phil Donahue says he would broadcast an execution on hi talk show.

"What's wrong with it?" he said. "Let's see future bad guys watch these people fry right here on television."

-- Associated Press

Breezy opening theme. Fade in to studio audience applauding. Donahue is standing stage left next to an ominous-looking electric chair. He wears a bemused expression.

Donahue: "Thank you, thank you. Well, we've got a special treat for you today. Billy Clyde Semple has been on Death Row in Florida's Railford Prison since 1987. He was convicted of killing three people in a bizarre murder-for-hire plot that unraveled when -- get this -- the getaway driver fell asleep at the wheel! What is this -- 'The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight?'"

(Laughter.)

Donahue: "But now he's exhausted his appeals, so we're gonna put him to death right here on our show!"

(Wild applause.)

Donahue: "With me is Railford assistant warden Earl McFarland and the executioner, who must, by law, remain anonymous behind this smoked glass partition. Mr. McFarland, nice to see you, sir."

McFarland: "Nice to be here, Phil."

Donahue: "Now meet Billy Clyde Semple. An eighth-grade dropout, Mr. Semple joined the Army at age 17, but was thrown out for slugging his commanding officer. He drifted through a series of menial jobs until that fateful morning when . . . yes, Mr. Semple?"

Semple: "I didn't do it."

Donahue (cups hand to ear): "Come again?"

Semple: "I . . . didn't do it."

Donahue (rolls eyes): "Oh, come on, Billy Clyde! Puh-leeze!"

(Boos and hisses.)

Donahue (looks beseechingly at audience): "Doesn't every Death Row con say he didn't do it? I mean . . . yes, ma'am. You have a question?"

(Phil scurries over with outstretched microphone to a middle-age woman wearing a T-shirt that says: "Let Me Throw The Switch!")

Audience member: "Yes, I'd like to ask Mr. Semple if he feels any remorse for the families of the men he murdered."

Donahue: "Billy Clyde?"

Semple: "Look, I didn't do it! A bunch of us were drinking that day. Then someone suggested we take a ride to . . ."

Donahue: "By the way, don't forget that on tomorrow's show, our topic will be: School principals by day, drag queens at night. I'm sorry, Billy Clyde. You were saying . . .?"

Semple: "Uh, so we went to the convenience store to buy more beer. And when we got there, all three guys were already dead! I had nothing to do with it!"

Donahue (hands on hips): "You know what gets me? You know what really burns my bacon? You come here with your pious baloney, all your neat, pat little answers. YOU JUST DON'T WANT TO FRY, DO YOU?"

Semple (agitated): "Phil, there were no fingerprints at the scene and no eyewitnesses! Plus it was a known fact that the district attorney and presiding judge were . . ."

Donahue: "I'm sorry, we have to break for a commercial. We'll be right back."

(Applause. Fade out.)

(Two-minute commercial break.)

(Fade in.)

Donahue: "Let me give you the lineup for next week's shows. On Monday, Joey Buttafuoco joins us; now he says Amy Fisher was his weekly bridge partner, that's all. Tuesday: Real Fat People -- The Fattest You've Ever Seen! Wednesday: Nazi lesbians on college campuses. Thursday we'll talk with ex-'Star Trek' cast member and current cult de-programmer George Takei. Friday: The Rat Lady From Madagascar. Caller, you have a question?"

Caller: "Yes, I'd like to know how many volts Mr. Semple will be receiving?"

Donahue: "Mr. McFarland?"

McFarland: "Approximately 2,000."

Donahue: "Two-thousand volts! What is this -- a junior varsity execution?!"

(Laughter.)

Donahue: "Anyway, we're almost out of time. Mr. McFarland, if you'll do the honors . . ."

(Semple is led by guards to the electric chair. Electrodes are fastened to the shaved portions of his head, arms and legs. The guards step back. A gentle wisp of smoke is visible. Semple seems to stiffen for an instant, then slumps forward.)

Donahue: "Well, that about does it. The coroner'll be out in a moment to verify that Billy Clyde is, in fact, dead. Remember: Joey Buttafuoco on Monday. So long, everyone."

(Applause. Closing theme.)

(Fade.)

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