The last few days of taping were not without their high points. Oh no. Between the angrified comics and the careening celebrity contestants, Mickey and I were juggling more bodies than County Hospital on a Saturday night.
Navigating the network executives about who to book was as always, a trip through Delusionville. I came up with a list of celebrities but each one was met with a "Yeah but what if," response.
I called in a favor to book Tom Green and I wanted to pair him with Tony Hawk. I thought that would be fun, right? "Yeah but what if you get Ashton Kutcher and Jamie Kennedy?" I explained Ashton wasn't available and I was more likely to secure Hillary at this point than Ashton. I asked if they wanted Heidi Fleiss. Yeah but only if I could get Monica Lewinsky with her. After days of this dialogue, I sneered, "Well why don't we just book Arafat and Sharon and solve the whole problem right here on Game Show Network?" My words hung in the air.
Yesterday's taping went really smoothly and after the previous day's tapings, that was just fine by us. Yesterday we had uniformly great comics and only one celebrity panel - Alex Michel, the first Bachelor versus Charlie Maher, Trista's runner-up on The Bachelorette. Having watched both series, I really felt I already knew these two mooks and as it turns out, I did. Charlie was just as sweet and dreamy in person. Alex was remote and focused. Alex won the game.
But the day before was a free-wheeling series of events for which the Game Show Network had never prepared. First up was the treasure team of Evan Marriott struggling against the brain power of Darva Conger. Not surprisingly Evan stood slack-jawed at the podium.
"What's the bar where everyone knows your name?" Jimmy the host fired off the first question. Evan punched the button and stood there, silent. Buzz.
"That would be a wrong answer, Evan," Jimmy smirked. Darva answered correctly. In fact, Evan didn't answer a single question correctly and grew more grim by the moment. By the end, he was in full pouty pout mode. When he announced his charity, he mumbled something about "ce-REE-bral palsy." A proud day for that charity, no doubt.
We also had "Uhura" against "Chekov" in the third taping. Having never seen an episode of Star Trek, I was less excited than the ton of geeks who flocked to this particular taping, each with their imaginary phaser guns in hand. It was a shame to see these two icons of the dorkhood fumfle on the easiest questions imaginable.
It wasn't until the last show of the day that things deconstructed. I first met Heidi Fleiss a few months after she was released from prison. She spent over three years in stir. She was still under house arrest and could not leave the limited perimeter of her home. She was a tough chick then, calcified by the justice system that used her as an example of I don't know what. We hung out a few times and I tried talking her into doing a radio show for me even though she speaks as if she has twenty tongue piercings knocking around in her mouth. I hadn't spoken with her in the last two years but when I called her to ask her on the show, she immediately said yes.
When she came weaving onto the stage held up by her driver on heels that could only have been found on xtremeheels.com, I was shocked to see what two years of drugs and plastic surgery could do. Thinner than Lara Flynn Boyle and outsized lips that looked drawn from Finding Nemo, she looked past me. In fact, she looked past everyone. I finally urged the network to agree to have me pair her with A.J. Benza, a guy who looks better on camera than in person.
A.J. had never met Heidi and after spending three hours with her, I'm still not sure he did. When they were both ushered onto the stage for the taping, Heidi steadied herself on the podium and waited for the game to begin. When Jimmy introduced her as "the Hollywood Madam," she whooped loudly and threw her stick arms up in the air and screamed "Flesh peddler!"
Without missing a beat, Jimmy retorted, "And you should probably buy some of that back, Heidi." The audience cracked up and Heidi flashed a vacant smile. A.J. rolled his eyes. When they were asked what charities they were playing for, Heidi announced to everyone's surprise, "The Heidi Fleiss Legal Fund," at which point the producers converged on me.
"She can't do that! It has to be a legitimate charity!" the Standards and Practices guy was shouting at me. They stopped taping and I went on stage.
"Heidi, is your charity a non-profit and does it have a federal ID number?" I aped the questions they demanded. She lolled.
"Yes it's a real charity," she was indignant, "call my brother. He'll tell you." I knew Jesse, her brother, and spoke with him. All the while, production was stopped. Jesse explained they were in the middle of the paperwork and did not have the number yet.
I went back to the producers and the S&P guys and told them. "Fine," one said, "if it turns out to be fraud, she'll not get the money." We started taping again.
I sat in the back with the producers, praying Heidi wouldn't win. She couldn't. She didn't even understand where she was. But at the last moment, she pulled through. A.J. was visibly disgusted. In the final bonus round of the game, the contestant is shown pieces of a puzzle from a still of a famous comedy movie.
When Heidi's pieces were revealed, she said, "Rambo?"
"Is it the very funny ''Rambo'?" Jimmy laughed while pointing up to the screen that clearly showed Chevy Chase in Vacation. Buzz.
Heidi walked away with twenty nine hundred dollars for her favorite charity - herself. She'll need at least that much to correct those scary lips.