You'll Feel a Lot Better When You're
Instantly, I realized I was sitting next to a row of redneck bikers. I don't know what god you thank for something like that - I suspect Thor would be the patron god of redneck bikers, but if it turns out Jesus or Vishnu or some giant three headed dog with a penis the size of South Dakota was responsible, that's fine, too. Thanks, o divine one.
Wait, let me back up and give some technical details. My pal Keg, currently a fellow member of Team UE, had scored tickets for a taping of the Jerry Springer show. When Keg first joined Team UE, he would daily phone calls from one of our employed friends, asking what the topic on Springer had been. So finally Keg started watching, then figured going to see a live taping would be the logical next step.
There were three of us who went to the taping: Keg, me, and Carrie. We showed up at the time listed on the tickets, only to discover that it was first come-first serve seating, and we could had showed up an hour earlier to get good seats. It was the second taping of the day, the first happening at 5:30, I think. Interestingly, all the security people (who counted heads and ushered people through the metal detector) were African-American women. From Andy Frain to Anita Frain. Like most security people, they seemed awfully bored. And while you had to go through a metal detector, you handed them your coat, and they carried it around the detector. So for all those who want to smuggle in a flask of something-something, take note.
We ended up being the absolutely last people being seated. And, in fact, there weren't seats. We were seated on the carpeted steps leading up to the back of the studio. (Actually, at one point, Jerry was wandering the aisles during a break between segments, and he saw Carrie sitting on the floor, and said, in a sad, wondering voice, "Oh, she's sitting on the floor!")
Anyway, Keg and Carrie were sitting in front on me, and I was on the last steps up to the back. But it's a pretty small studio, so the view was actually great.
Back to the bikers? Wait, just a bit more scene-setting.
I actually haven't seen an episode of the Springer show in a long time, so I didn't recognize the studio. Fake brick walls everywhere, a big industrial-looking fan on one side of the stage, and two entrances from the back of the stage are really all you need to know. The people who work the Springer show were actually kind of interesting, and fell into three basic groups (not counting Jerry).
1. Steve's (Cop) Posse
2. The Working Stiffs
3. The Doomed Production Women
Hypothetical Interview at Dateline NBC:
Interviewer: "It says here you've worked in TV production for four years. But it doesn't say what show?"
Doomed Production Women: (mumbled) "Jerry Springer."
Pregnant (and stripping down for the camera) pause.
Interviewer: "Maybe we should put down 'porn industry' instead."
I have a friend who almost took a job with the Richard Bey Show (a Springer-type show that used to be on local NYC TV). Blessedly, she got a job with 20/20, but before that happened, she had considered how to explain a gap of months (or years) in her professional resume. Pregnancy? Rehab? Prison?
That said, the Doomed Production Women were pleasant, polite and efficient. Most of them seemed to have wedding rings on, too. Just a trivia point to consider: even people who work on the Jerry Springer Show aren't burned out on the idea of commitment with a person, regardless of all the bad evidence they see every day.
Before the show begins, Jerry
tells some bad jokes, which the audience loves. The audience is instructed
how to react and what instruction to follow:
We are all quite happy to be trained monkeys.
The theme of the Show was something like, "My Significant Other Doesn't Know I'm a Stripper. By the Way, They Also Don't Know I'm Bi-Sexual. And I'm Having an Affair with Someone of My Gender." I'm sure the Springer folks had a pithier description.
Essentially, the format for the revelations was familiar:
Secret Stripper explains what's going on. The Husband or Girlfriend or Boyfriend comes out and is confronted by both the Secret Stripper and Cuckolding Other. Then, the sexy dancing!
Each segment had some vague identifying details in addition to that format.
Husband: "You're having sex with your COUSIN!"
Skinny Blonde Girl: "It's not like she's my DAD!"
Then, the sexy dancing! Skinny Blonde Girl made sure to dance on Steve's lap, while Cousin took off her top on stage.
The biker dude sitting next to me commented, "Damn, those are some fine titties." That's when I got the first sense of how lit up the biker dudes were. Todd the Audience Wrangler first notices the Biker Dudes and how they are cursing on-mike.
Boyfriend comes out. Is freaked. Employed, surprisingly. From the mullet-headed look of him, his job is pretending to be Steve Perry in a Journey cover band (probably called 'Escape' or 'Open Arms').
Boyfriend (missing the point of wimp behavior being a BAD thing): "I would go out in a snowstorm at 4 AM to get you a candy bar if you wanted!"
Taller Skinny Blonde Girl: "But you don't spank me!"
Jerry: "Plus, you live in Alabama, so there's no snow anyway."
Then, the sexy dancing! And spanking!
The biker dude next to me shouts out, in a lull, "Hey, if you wanna get spanked, I'm CAPTAIN SPANK!"
At which point, I start laughing helplessly. Captain Spank!
Todd the Audience Wrangler is not amused.
The sexy dancing! And then the Fellow Dancer turns out to be in the audience! Much aggressive making-out commences! A black guy one seat ahead stands up and flees in a homosexual panic. Yet he can't stop watching. Accept your latent homosexuality, Panicking Black Guy! You're here, you're queer, get used to it!
Captain Spank announces, "Why the fuck has Jerry got faggots on the show?" I suspect this is not an expression of homosexual panic.
Girlfriend runs off-stage. Jerry goes and interviews her, and she relates her disgust.
"More tits!" Captain Spank demands, at a somewhat silent moment. Todd the Audience Wrangler starts staring at Captain Spank and His Funk Posse. Todd the Audience Wrangler has earlier asked everyone to cheer for naked men as well as women, yet Captain Spank wants none of it.
It is during the lull between the third and fourth segments when Jerry starts wandering the audience and asking questions of audience members.
"What happened to all the fightin', Jerry?"
"I love you, Jerry!"
I got to shake Jerry's hand. He has a firm, dry grip.
Blindfolded Boyfriend is brought out on stage.
Then, the sexy dancing! It is only vaguely dirty, in a way that makes you suspect that Yet Another Blonde Girl and the Fellow Dancer have stolen all their Dirty Dancing moves from a late night Cinemax movie.
Sadly, Yet Another Blonde Girl neglects to remove Boyfriend's blindfold throughout her dance.
So he is not actually able to view her Skinemax-inspired "wildness". When his blindfold is finally taken off, she kisses Fellow Dancer, and Boyfriend does a satisfying double take. Ba-boing! They all head off-stage, with Boyfriend clearly having Skinemax-inspired fantasies his own self. "Maybe this'll be just like in 'Beverly Hills Bordello 5"!"
"I'll show you wild!" Captain Spank avows. "I'll fuck you raw!"
This is the point where Captain Spank and His Funk Posse realize Todd the Audience Wrangler is fed up. Plus, as Captain Spank announces, "We ain't prolly gonna see no more tits." So they rise as a group and leave.
Keg, Carrie and I grab the chairs.
His bride of two years, with whom he has a young kid and whom he has knocked up again, has decided to enter the high-paying world of stripping. She is a Wayward Wife!
How did Wayward Wife come to this career path? Is this a new degree from DeVry?
No, it turns out Husband introduced her to a Siren Stripper of his acquaintance at a mall. "But I never gave her no twenties! She's nasty!"
Siren Stripper turns out to be somewhat heavy, which the audience interprets at "fat as shit" (though most all of us are not svelte ourselves). Wayward Wife is also a bit heavy, as well as three moths pregnant (as previously stated).
Husband gets down on his knees, starts to cry (though his back is to the audience, we can hear his sobs), and demands of his wife to reaffirm her fealty to their marriage and children.
"When was the last time you had a job?" she demands.
"Four years. But what about the kids?"
"The kids are coming home with me and her."
"Baby, what are you gonna eat? Cottage cheese?"
This mocking of Siren Strippers weight is the only moment when we in the audience don't laugh at Husband and his pathetic pleas. There's no CRYING on SPRINGER, you dolt!
Then, the sexy dancing! The audience cheers under the instructions of Todd the Audience Wrangler, though many of them clearly want to boo the Cottage Cheese.
The final segment brings everyone back out on stage, to allow the audience to mock them and call them names. Todd the Audience Wrangler has warned everyone not to ask for hugs, or spanks, or lapdances, or any other damn question that's been asked a thousand fucking times before. So the audience asks for hugs, and spanks, and lapdances and other familiar things.
When one black woman tries to ask Wayward Pregnant Wife a serious question about rising her kids, she is shouted down by a Todd the Audience Wrangler-led chant of "Go! On! Oprah! Go! On! Oprah!"
And in this final segment, when they film for eight minutes to cut down to a final three, I have a crisis. I have thought of something to say, something that has likely not been said before on any other show.
I debate raising my hand to tell the Wimp Boyfriend: "Dude, you'll feel a lot better when you and your hair go back to playing in your Journey Cover Band."
It is not a great line, but it isn't bad. And all the other questions frankly suck.
So it seems possible this mocking comfort of a person experiencing sorrow on camera might have a good chance to make the final three minutes. I prepare to raise my hand.
And then I think, "I might ask a question that gets my face on the Jerry Springer show."
And then I think about my friend who was saved by 20/20. And about the Doomed Production Women. And about how I'm on team UE, just like most of the guests.
And I realize that I just don't want to end up as part of the permanent record of Jerry Springer. So the statement goes unstated.
The final question is asked: "Are you going to keep stripping?"
This seems a bit odd, since Todd the Audience Wrangler has asked us not to boo the last question, which is a planted question that will produce a patriotic answer for "any guys overseas who might see the show."
The Busty Brunette Coworker gives her prepared answer. "In this economy? And with a President named BUSH? Of COURSE I'm going to keep stripping!"
Todd the Audience Wrangler leads us in a chant of "U! S A! U! S A!"
Jerry gives his final thought, which even he clearly thinks is almost poetic in its meaninglessness. We stumble out into the Chicago night, feeling surprising unsoiled.