Tuesday, December 19, 2006

I totally forgot, but I booked Bin Laden when I was producing Jenny Jones.

It was the mid-nineties. Daytime talk shows were all the rage. I was two years out of college and working as an associate producer on the popular talk show. There was serious pressure for me book good guests. During the show a show topic and phone number would come on the screen.
“Is Your Brother’s Wife a Hoochie Momma? Then call us at 800 JENNNNY.”

People leave their stories and phone numbers on “carts.” Interns worked 10 hours a day straight transcribing the names and numbers on long sheets of paper.

Hard working interns and production assistants would listen to the phone messages and then give us the information. They all sit next to each other at a long table in the basement of the studio with headphones a blue Bic pen and a stack of paper. They have to put at least five names on each sheet of paper and they have to get through the stack each day. They couldn’t get up from the table. The volume of calls was so high, the EP had to limit bathroom breaks.

This one guy, Eric, started as an unpaid intern – I recommended him for an unpaid PA job. Eric always gives me the best names. Eric really liked it there. He was afraid he might have to leave because like most of the other guys he developed a urinary track infection. I promised to keep it secret.

Eric ran to my part of the cubical, he had a sheet of paper in his hand. He ran up taking two or three stairs at a time. He did so because he had a great lead and he had to get back to the long table.

I thanked Eric and told him if these pan out I’ll put in a good word for him to get a paid internship.

Originally, bin Laden was just an audience plant. Our host, Jenny, went over to him went over to him and handed him the mic. "Yes, um, Jenny, I have a question for that one over there," he pointed to the heavy woman on stage. "You think you're all that. But you need to be on Jenny Craig, not Jenny Jones." The crowd went nuts. The heavy woman stood up and slowing twirled around. "You can't handle all of this!"
"I wouldn't want to," he yelled back barely making over the screams of the audience.

Originally he called in for “My Mom Dresses too Sexy.” I told my producer that this guy was great.
“Do you love him?” she asked?
“Yeah, I love him.”
“Do you love him, love him or just love him?”
“I love him, love him.” That should have sealed the deal. She got on the phone with him to check him out.
“So Osama, I hear your Mom dresses too sexy…”
That was his cue to just start going off on his mother just as we planned.

Bin Laden was great. He went right into his thing about how she embarrassed him and his country and brought shame to his home and how she should be killed in public and so on.

My producer wasn’t impressed. “I love him. But I don’t love him, love him.”
“He has an accent. People will be turned off.”

Besides, she continuded, his standards for “too sexy” was way different than the people who watch our show. I couldn’t argue with that. We were looking for woman in short shorts and tank tops, not totally covered but showing some leg. I think he understood.

Finally I made him an audience plant.

I didn’t tell her, I just did it. I was allowed to book the plants, so I brought him in without telling her.

When the fat woman spun around and give Osama the “hand” that was the money shot. You hear about the hand, but you seldom see it. It’s a talk show staple. Like when the monkey peed on Carson - it meant I had arrived.

For the audience plant we paid him $50 and gave him a car to and from his non-disclosed location. After his appearance I asked him if he would come back. He was very excited, but needed me to cover his day’s wages. I made it sound like a big deal, but it was no problem.

Our boss loved him. I gave Eric some of the credit and Eric got a promotion and a salary.

I was then promoted to producer.

Bin Laden appeared on one of my many Boot Camp shows. His son was too wild and Bin Laden was at the end of his rope. We had to call in "Moses" the retired general who runs a boot camp style place where bad children go to be whipped into shape.

Osoma was pretty calm until someone in the audience (Eric’s plant) said that if Bin Laden spent less time at work creeping around caves and more time with his children, his son might not need to act out. Bin Laden did not take this lightly. He stood up and pointed at the guy. "You don't know," Bin Laden yelled at the guy, "You don't know me. You don’t know me. And besides, you need to sit down with those tired ass Jerry Curls." The audience loved it; they went nuts. Osama was right; the guy's hair-do was tired.

Years later I saw him on a video on the news. The footage was grainy, but he had lots of energy and charisma. I wondered how his kid turned out. I thought about my producer who almost didn’t put him on because she didn’t people would listen to him. Boy, was she wrong.

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