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More Hysteria, Please



The Pre-session of Ricki Lake

The Lesbian Session

Poste Restante

Butch Morris




The Pre-session of Ricki Lake



Gary Dauphin

He had decided to see someone in a money-transaction, therapeutic kind of way long before he actually made the call, but whom? The idea that he should "see someone" had been planted in his mind while he was watching an episode of the Ricki Lake talk show. Ricki's sturdy, ex-fatgirl conviction that it was possible to "get help," entered his consciousness with the perfect unmediated directness of broadcast television. (In Ricki's case getting help had meant losing weight, her well-documented slimming down prior to the 1993 season, her inverted, help-gotten-via-pounds-lost touchstone all these years hence.) For him this getting help thing had come as the promise of a kind of grace, the possibility of help arcing out of the television and piercing him like the spears of pixellated angels, the video-assisted penetrations suggesting both the ecstasies and transformative humiliations that are given to those with the strength, who get down on their knees (or onto television) and confess, ask for help. In the 3 am to 6 hours (he keeps odd hours, see? so his set is usually warm when productive members of society are asleep or at work, cold when thirty million glassy eyed American tax-payers collect in phantom communion to chuckle absently at "Home Improvement." Since daytime tv is his favorite muzak, and prime-time is something he best understands in terms of VCR timers and tape delay, he's decided he doesn't watch television anymore. He watches something else which doesn't have a name yet, but that hovers around the edges of what the present-tense calls "television," a something that when broken down into demographic constituents is currently only of interest to insomniacs, the un- and under-employed, the very young, the very old, the homebound, the permanent residents of waiting rooms, the disenfranchised, the mentally ill, the strung-out, and individuals generally either so privileged or so criminal that whole stretches of days and nights are perpetually left unmarked in their to-do lists. This is television intended for coming, as yet unborn, probably quite dark majorities. These will be majorities with cheap cable and lots of time on their hands, and even if every unwed mother father paying his debt to society in re-educative workfare camps were to put in long hours producing exciting new episodes of "Martin," there'd still be a need for back-to-back re-runs of Richard Bey and Ricki Lake, OJ Trial coverage, "Cops," soft-core pornography, real-time video game tournaments, Dionne's Psychic Friends, The Box running nothing but numbers, program-length ads for diet aids, Chia Pets, hair implants, and so on. He used to worry that consuming all that free-floating crud would make him slight crazy, but sitting there just then/just now, the flow makes him feel kind of warm and safe inside: He's a citizen of the future, see? and once the cable and phone companies settle their gentleman's quarrel over who gets to wire his set to the bodega on the corner, he'll never have to leave the house for cigarettes, weed, Doritos or malt liquor again) the late/early hours when he felt most himself, he'd think back to the day's episode of "Ricki Lake" and the people on the other side of the screen (teenage mothers, the cheating husbands, the stoned fourteen year-olds, the girls and boys in need of makeovers, the mothers who wore vinyl hot pants and had de-virginized their daughters fourteen year-old boyfriends, the cabals of administrative assistants who had urinated in the coffee mugs of the office outcast, all of the broken yet exhibitionistic people who regularly come to Ricki for a hearing, for a close-up and for help, really) he would think back to them and regularly decide he too was suffering from something, that they were all bonded by the Sony/Zenith/Trinitron surface between them and that despite the volume on his own behaviors and problems being turned down somewhat in comparison he needed helping just like they did needed the guidance of Ricki and her studio audience and of the day's guest therapist (usually a radio head-shrinker, it should be mentioned, adept at shrinking heads and thereby reducing the problems located inside over the course of a single, electro-magnetically conveyed conversation.) This is what he needed, but even when his need reached sugared-breakfast-cereal-like pitches he realized he was on wrong side of the screen and planned to stay there no matter how much help he needed to get.



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