'Stop me before I guest again'

Kevin Cowherd

July 26, 1993|By Kevin Cowherd

"Geraldo," the show many critics say leads the pack in exploiting its guests, has set up what it calls the first "aftercare" program for the victims of "post-talk show stress."

--The New York Times


The producer, an officious young man named Arthur dressed in dark slacks, crisp white shirt and red suspenders, met me in a small office off the main studio.

"Tim," he said, "as a cross-dressing 300-pounder, you . . ."

"Jim," I said.

"Pardon me?"

"My name's Jim."

"Yes, yes, of course," Arthur said, glancing at his watch. "Well, Jim, we're wondering: Can the staff of 'Geraldo,' uh, help you in any way?"

"A Snickers bar would be nice."

"I'm sorry, a Sn. . .?"

"Peanut butter and caramel in a chocolaty coating. If it's not too much trouble."

"No, no," he said, reaching for the phone.

Moments later, a page entered wordlessly with a tray full of Snickers.

"Actually," Arthur continued, "the help we had in mind was for stress."

Then Arthur told me about a wonderful new program the folks at "Geraldo" had dreamt up.

As Arthur explained it, many of Geraldo's guests suffer from something called "post-talk show stress."

Apparently, they get out there in front of the cameras and the studio audience and start talking about their predilection for shaven-headed transsexuals, or how they're dating their daughter's ex-boyfriend, or how they're sorry that they chopped up their whole family with a chain saw.

Well, pretty soon Geraldo is snarling and waving his mike and the audience is hissing and screaming -- and the whole thing can be pretty traumatizing.

Then these guests go home and pretty soon they're laying in bed all day blubbering and downing fistfuls of Prozac and . . . I don't know, I was sort of concentrating on the Snickers bar at that point and missed a lot of what Arthur was saying.

But I did hear him say: "So we can arrange for you to talk to someone about your appearance on our show last month. A psychologist, for instance."

My appearance on "Geraldo" . . . Lord, what a nightmare that was!

It started with the floor director saying "Stand by" and the red light winking on, and then I heard Geraldo yell: "ENORMOUSLY FAT, UGLY MEN WHO DRESS IN THEIR WIVES' CLOTHING! NEXT ON 'GERALDO!'"

I gotta admit it shook me a little, especially that "ugly" business.

But I told myself: Relax. This is what you've been waiting for. A chance to tell your story. An opportunity to show people you're not some sort of monster.

After a commercial break, the red light went on again and now Geraldo was pointing at me and saying: "Meet Jim Wiznewski, a 300-pound cross-dresser from Los Angeles. Jim's wife Arleen came home early from work one day and found Jim parading around the house in a frilly negligee!

"Then a neighbor spotted him taking out the trash in heels and a tight mini-skirt. Soon the landlady caught him wearing a house dress while changing the transmission fluid in his car -- which was when Jim was forced to admit his secret life!

"I think we'd all agree that Jim's a pig and a disgusting human being . . . Jim, welcome to the show!"

Good God, what an intro! The audience applauded politely, but the show went straight downhill from there. I couldn't get a word in edgewise -- Geraldo kept calling me sweetie and honey, and these two skinheads in the front row kept asking me for a date.

It got real ugly, lemme tell you and then someone released a weasel and the thing started running up and down the aisles, and all heck broke loose.

Anyway, the more I listened to Arthur talk about the "aftercare" program, the more it sounded like it was for me.

I've been in it three weeks now and my therapist feels I've made tremendous strides in putting the show behind me.

Also, I've met some of Geraldo's other guests and they are truly wonderful people, particularly Estelle, the 70-year-old Hasidic nymphomaniac, and Andre, a man unable to relieve himself in a public restroom unless someone sings "The Star-Spangled Banner."

Our motto is: We take it one day at a time. Recovery is a long, arduous process.

Incidentally, my wife said someone from Donahue called the other day.

But I don't think I'm ready for that just yet.

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