Top Five Most Ridiculous Media Experiences

December/2007: Now that the top five best media experiences have been covered, time for the inverse and the far more interesting... top five most ridiculous media experiences. With successful media like "To Catch a Predator" nationally and prior to that, tons of successful local media stings across the country, I've been subjected to many a bad pitch. And of course, doing a ton of interviews also means that I've dealt with some idiotic media "personalities" or aspects. It was hard to narrow this list down to five, but what follows? Definitely some ridiculousness.

Let's get listing! And yes, beware, each write-up is far longer than the first part of this. Get some popcorn or something, but if you plan on reading this... well, you'll be here a while.

5: Larry and the Dots
I was asked to do Larry King in a "round-table" sort of segment. Chris Hansen and John Walsh were also slated. I guess the point was for us to talk about the "Predator" series and everything to do with it. Of course, the experience was something I found to be, well, quite ridiculous on a number of levels. First, doing remote media is always somewhat difficult because you've got an IFB in your ear, you can't see who they have queued on screen and there are no real "second takes." It would be quite easy to fuck up. However, usually, the host is well... predictable. Either he'll throw it to you at the start of the question or the host will know who should answer what question in a multi-guest setting.

Larry King? Not so much.

Being on a multi-guest show with Larry King was like playing a really warped game of hot potato. You had no idea who he was throwing a question to and he had no idea who he SHOULD throw a question to. He asked John Walsh something about how Predator operates. Walsh has no idea and responded with a confused answer. He asked me something about missing kids... something Walsh is an expert in. He just threw questions around randomly, with that hilting hitchy delivery of his. It was unnerving and annoying to say the least. Still, that wasn't the most ridiculous thing about doing the Larry King show. Nor was it the idea that they wanted a makeup person for me (I declined) because to me, if Larry King can go on TV looking how he looks, then it doesn't matter how I look. No, neither of these... it was the dots.

Prior to the show, the technician has to put together the background, lighting, etc. Usually I have a Portland backdrop behind me on every interview, because normally I'm sent to Fisher Pathways, the main satellite studio here in Portland, Oregon. For CNN, they sent me to a new, different one because... they had the dots. That's exactly how it was explained to me. New studio has the dots (Fisher Pathways now has the dots too!) so I have to go there. They didn't explain what the dots were or why they were important, but I would later learn. Anytime you watch the Larry King show, all the guests have these little slightly-moving dots behind them. Larry King has the dots, the guests have the dots. Everyone has the dots. Check out the show tonight, you'll see dots.

See? Dots.

Well, these dots I come to find out are very important. I get there and the technician brings out this old big TV screen. He pulls out a DVD and explains to me that he has to put on the dots. He puts them on, calls into the Larry King producer who tells him that the dots are too dark. Dots are too dark, have to brighten things. Technician tries to brighten the TV. Dots too bright! Dots aren't showing right! Back and forth, for about an hour... the dots, the dots. the dots aren't working! Eventually, after much boring back and forth, the Technician gives up and tries to order a new TV quickly. Can't be done. So yes, he'll have to get a new TV that shows the dots better at some point.

What happens? They pull out a night-time Portland background and I use that. So you see Hansen... has the dots, Walsh... has the dots. Me? Night-time Portland. I could tell the Larry King producer was none too happy about it because the first thing they say into my ear when I finally get the IFB on? Apologies over the dots, not having the dots, we're sorry the dots aren't working! Like I care if they have moving dots behind me. I'm nice, explain that it's cool, I like night-time Portland, dots aren't a big deal... and then the producer starts bragging about being the guy that created the dots. You see, these are important dots indeed.

It was very surreal. I was barely out of "Wow, dots" mode when Larry King started throwing around random questions like a baseball pitcher with tourettes.

4: Montel and the Hat
Back in 2004, Del, Frag, DMO and I found an abducted kid. Yeah, that's still weird to write. Anyways, there was some controversy because the cops in the area tried to sluff the blame off of their inability to do anything onto the kid, slurring the kid to the media and talking a lot of ridiculous shit. I then attacked them, we eventually as an organization brought enough pressure to bear that the police had to apologize to this family. It's a long story, it's a messed up story. Due to this, every freakin' talk show was contacting the kid and her family, trying to book them. They decided to go with Montel Williams. As part of it, they wanted Del and I to go and "meet the family for the first time" and explain how things went with the recovery.

First question I had to the booking producer was... "Can I wear my hat?" She said she had to check and then emailed back yes. Then I agreed to do the show. Fact is, if you're a show and you think I can't wear a hat, then I'm not doing your show. I wear a hat. I always wear a hat. I like hats, I have many of them. It's something I always check on, especially with daytime talk shows because I had already heard horror stories about how ridiculous they can be. So we get to New York, they book us in a nice hotel, have a limo service, they really deal you to the nines. Del and I hadn't met prior in person. We had fun. I blogged about all that.

What I didn't blog about was Montel and the fucking hat.

First, if you don't know, TV talk shows tape a ridiculous number of shows in a row. They tape like a whole week at a time usually. The experience is very frenetic, everyone is very rush rush and for good reason. People think that these hosts are all friendly and personable, but they're not. You never meet them. Montel never says hello or anything like that, not even to the kids on the show who had been recovered. You're hustled like cattle, here and there. The producers are all really nice, but the experience is rather weird because once you get on the stage, a talk show host will act like he's your best pal. Just a very fake experience in general.

I'm backstage, we're ready to go on. All of a sudden, I hear yelling from the soundstage area, the area where they tape the show right in front of the live studio audience. "Nobody wears a fucking hat on my show, I don't care who the fuck they are." A pause, the producer responding to which I can't wear. "I don't fucking care what you told him, he's not wearing a hat on my show." Just really angry yelling, near hysterical screaming from this guy in front of his studio audience. It's fucking unbelievable. I'm standing back there and thinking "Wow, this guy is a fucking psychotic." It's a hat, you're screaming because a producer told a guy he can wear a hat. Seriously?

The producer, basically with tears in her eyes, comes backstage and informs me that I can't be on the show with a hat, so it's up to me what I want to do. She apologizes for Montel's unprofessional outburst and I basically replied that he sounded like kind of a jerk and that I was told I could wear my hat, and that I'm cool with Del doing the spot and just going home because again, Montel sounds like a real asshole and not professional. Of course, I end up doing the show without a hat. Why? Del and I were supposed to leave that day, right after the taping. Rush, rush, like cattle, remember? They offered Del and I another expenses paid night in New York. I did the math later on, getting me to do the show without a hat cost ol' Monty thousands of dollars. They had to rebook the flight, get us new accomodations, etc, etc. That was good enough to buy me off.

So I did the show, Montel was nice as pie during the actual questioning part, and then we left. They asked me to come on again a year later for another show, I can't even remember the topic and I declined, explaining that I basically think Montel is crazy. And he has Sylvia Browne on every other day for fuck's sake. He's definitely a crazy psychopath.

3: Everyone wants to be Chris Hansen
With PeeJ, I'm the primary media contact. That means I get all the media requests. Now, just because you work with the media and have basically created a popular show (To Catch a Predator), this doesn't mean anyone will want to hear new ideas from you. When producers contact you, they basically give their pitch. You listen, usually reject it, and then they try to conjole you with compliments, promises or some other sweet nothings... well, as you will come to learn! Beware, number three here? Very long. Why?

Because literally, everyone wants to fucking be Chris Hansen.

- Prior to us doing "To Catch a Predator", Al Roker wanted to be Chris Hansen. Roker's production crew had seen the local stings we had done and "The Roke!" wanted to do the same thing. The pitch? Guys would come to a house, knock on the door and America's Favorite Weatherman would confront them about trying to have sex with a kid. I respect Al Roker (Fuck, never thought I'd write that in my life prior to PeeJ) because the guy doesn't try to be just a weatherman, but the idea of him confronting internet predators is just too ridiculous not to chuckle at. CourtTV ended up telling them that they wouldn't air predators without unblurred faces (this is all prior to large-scale police cooperation), so the issue was moot anyways. Still, you have to give Roker props for wanting to be "Chris Hansen" before Chris Hansen.

- After "To Catch a Predator" got popular, we started getting a deluge of requests. How about Dr. Phil? The Dr. Phil show contacted us wanting to do a segment where we opened a house and had predators arrive. Then Dr. Phil would be in the "Chris Hansen" role grilling predators. We, for obvious reasons, declined the offer.

- John Walsh and his production company contacted us wanting to do TCAP editions on America's Most Wanted with Walsh in the Hansen role. We declined the offer, again. Walsh went on to do his own TCAP-copies while trying to attack the "To Catch a Predator" shows saying that his are better (Which, btw, is pretty fucking odd. The point is to expose pedophiles, what is this competition shit?). Of course, they never mention that they tried scooping us up away from Dateline.

- Internet gossip website TMZ wanted to discuss a show opportunity with us. Again, another entity wanting to be Chris Hansen. I still to this day have no idea how the hell this would fit into their syndicated gossip show. Apparently my mind isn't attuned to the level of genius that show producers are. I've been attacked a couple times on since turning down the proposal though, so I think they're uh... not happy when jilted?

- Current talk show host Steve Wilkos (Ex-bodyguard of Jerry Springer) and his staff emailed me a very unique proposal. Oh, did I say unique? Here, judge for yourself:

Dear Perverted Justice/To Whom it May Concern,

I would like to make a request for your participation on the new "The Steve Wilkos Show". Steve Wilkos, a former police officer and Marine, was Head of Security for "The Jerry Springer Show". He now has his own talk show, starting this fall.

We would like to tape an episode similar to Dateline's "To Catch a Predator" - with the hopes that it will be ongoing through the series. If you have an exclusivity with Dateline, it is still possible that we may be able to work with you as well, we are daytime not primetime - and like Dateline, we are also an NBC/Universal show.

In exchange for working with us, you would be featured in the show, as well as have your organization mentioned on the show, and in the credits.

To Catch a Creep (working title)
The Steve Wilkos Show
Tentative taping date: Mid-Late August
On location and possibly in our Chicago studio

To Catch a Creep, huh? Well, we turned down this opportunity as well. I did recently catch Wilkos on his show grilling a convicted sex offender so apparently they found another way to do this. It's not that I hate guys like Wilkos, they're just trying to put on their show. But to cook up something like this without even consulting with us? It's amazing how unimaginative producers can be. Too many are simply wanting to copy other crap rather than trying to put heads together to come up with something new.

- Ever hear of Dr. Keith Ablow? Well, he Dr. Keith Ablew and I think his show has been cancelled. Awful, awful show. I saw one episode about polygamy where ol' Ablow was going on and on coddling and defending the polygamists. At the end of the show, he pretty much came out and said there was nothing wrong with that lifestyle and that people should have an open mind. His production crew wanted his show to have a weekly segment where Dr. Keith put on his Chris Hansen pants and confronted predators we'd have arrive at a location. Unfortunately, it simply wasn't meant to be as I turned them down. Ironically, this was the same producer that pitched us the T... oh wait, that comes up later on!

- The whipped cream and cherry on the top of the wannabe Hansen parade? The Maury Povich show. It's not that I have all that much against Povich, I've never been on that show and... well, there's a good reason I've never been on that show. The Povich show has some sort of weirdness going on with it. They put a producer on getting our cooperation to work with them. I talked to this lady a few times, because they would email and call with various ideas. The producer well, how to put this delicately... was a sexkitten? At least, that's how she came off or was ordered to come off. Constantly hitting on me and saying stuff like "I just can't wait for you to come out here" and basically asking me out to dinner (Weeeeeiiirrrrrddddd), the whole experience just creeped me out. I will give her the credit of having a very attractive voice though. It almost felt like the whole Sirens thing in the Odyssey, really.

As if wanting Maury Povich to be an ass-kicking predator confronter wasn't bad enough, I kept getting the feeling as if they thought I'd be so stupid as to believe their producer really wanted to "get to know me" in person. Well, later on, I heard about a lawsuit at the Maury Povich show. The producer in question's name was Bianca Nardi. The person suing the Povich show? You guessed it, Bianca Nardi. You can read more about the lawsuit here.

The claims in the lawsuit included the following:
Among the many inappropriate things she says she was forced to do under threat of being fired include the following:

# wear short skirts, low-cut blouses and push-up bras
# go backstage and have her breasts photographed or videotaped
# speak in a "sexy voice" and talk "dirty"
# use adhesive tape on female guests breasts to create cleavage, earning her the nickname "tape lady"
# pose in "sexually explicit positions"
# go undercover wearing hidden cameras or microphones to bars to "secretly videotape married men agreeing to have sex with her"
# watch porn with Faulhaber in a private room

I can definitely testify to the bolded section. I would not in any circumstance believe this producer was speaking in that voice or flirting with me unless she were ordered to by her superiors. I keep trying to find a resolution to this suit, but "journalists" are great at reporting seedy gossip... not so great at following up on it. Regardless, I'm glad I was born with a brain large enough to see through such things, otherwise we might have been subjected to Maury Povich trying to talk tough to internet predators.

Truly, everyone wants to be Chris Hansen.

2: The Predator and the Movie Premiere
Everyone knows what extravaganza's movie premieres can be. Red carpets! Stars! Cameras! Screaming fans! Well, one movie wanted something extra to spice things up... an internet predator to randomly show up. Now, I'm no movie producer, but that's a really stupid fucking idea. We can't remember which movie it was, exactly. Del says the movie was "Hard Candy", but I think the movie was "CHAT", I'm 99% sure of it. Either way, what a terrifically awful suggestion.

I can't imagine the scenario, really. How in the world were we to get the predator there to begin with? "Hi, I'm thirteen and I'm going to a movie premiere about internet predators, lol, want to come and have sex with me?" Not to mention, how in the world is anyone supposed to stop the guy when he gets there, or how was he supposed to actually be interviewed for the... audience? Yeah, just a minute ago you were thinking that nothing sounded more ridiculous than Maury Povich confronting internet predators, weren't you? And now you're thinking "Wow, that's more ridiculous, holy shit."

I'm not sure precisely how they were going to plan on doing this, as we rejected the pitch very quickly.

1: Tyra fucking Banks
You might wonder why I feel so confident doing this blog entry now. "But Xavier", you might be thinking, "there could be a more ridiculous media experience to cover later!" Fact is, I can do what I do for another twenty years and nothing will ever top Tyra fucking Banks. Or, well, Tyra fucking Banks producer. The same producer that wanted us to do weekly "stings" with Dr. Keith Ablow also wanted us to do something "new" with Tyra! Then the female producer proceeded to give me the absolute worst pitch of all time.

You see, they wanted us to pose as perverted photographers. Yes, adult males. We were then to go into internet chat rooms in the Las Vegas area and solicit teen girls to do photo shoots. Yes, photo shoots where they would be expected to take off some of their clothes. The girls would then arrive at the location, be greeted by a male Tyra producer (I guess), and then after they agreed to but prior to them disrobing, Tyra Banks would pop out from behind the back like Soul Sistah Number Eleven and lecture the girls on being so unsafe!

That, for so many reasons, is truly the most awful idea of all time.

But, it gets worse. The producer also went out of her way to say that we could not have any of our gay volunteers working on this, as the show "isn't a gay show" and that there were not to be any gays working on this or any gay females or males, apparently, to show up to their mythical photo shoot. To this day, I have no idea why she said this. She was leaving me a voicemail, so it's not like I brought up gay people. She was just rambling on about this idea they wanted to have us help them with. I guess we just have a rep of having a lot of gay volunteers. No matter where it came from, the idea that the Tyra Banks show couldn't have gay volunteers associated in any way is a bit odd since y'know, America's Next Top Model has all sorts of gay "characters" on the show each year. The entire pitch was bizarre enough, but that factoid capped it off in quite the odd way.

After that, I stopped taking calls from the producer who pitched me that level of awful. I doubt it will ever be topped, as no producer before or since was daft enough to suggest that we go solicit kids to do pornographic photography shoots. Of course, now that I watch "highlights" of the Tyra show on E!'s "The Soup", I understand the level of lunacy associated with the Tyra Banks show. Then, however, I was almost scratching my head until it bled. The world is often too stupid for me to process mentally.


There you have it, the best and most ridiculous five media experiences in our four and a half year history. Perhaps I'll be surprised and we'll end up having pitches or... whatever... top the level of crud I've described, but it'll take some work on the part of those in the media. Without any doubt, I seriously don't know how I would have lived with myself had we taken up the vast majority of those pitches.

People in the media world can be very stupid, very often.