Theater of the Mind
  by Margaret Shemo

"Radio, to cliché-ride you, [is] theater of the mind."
   "Dr. Laura" Schlessinger, January 8, 2001.

You know, I was wondering how you would handle the ignominious collapse of
your ill-fated television career.  Even before the debut of your TV show,
you boasted that you were responsible for its unique format.  When it was
determined that the show had to be retooled -- two weeks after its debut! --
you grabbed credit for the change in format, too.  To those who wondered how
you could improve upon perfection, you explained that Paramount had been
stifling you with the old format, but the new show would really be just the
way you wanted it -- at last!  Laura Unchained!  That was your story, and
you've stuck with it for months.  You were indignant when the television
critics disparaged your physical appearance; you described their
descriptions of the evidence of their own eyes as personal attacks on you.

But you also continued to describe yourself as a "hot babe."  Anyone who was
working (or sleeping) at the time(s) your TV show was broadcast had no
reason to doubt you.  Up until today, you've been assuring your loyal radio
listeners that the "Dr. Laura" TV show was doing just fine.  As time went
on, and ratings went even lower, you claimed your show was doing better --
despite all reports to the contrary.  (You didn't exactly claim an
improvement in the ratings -- well, you couldn't, because there was no such
improvement, not in any market.)  On some level, though, you said you
detected success, and who are we -- the audience -- to judge how well you
were doing?  The real proof that your TV show was flourishing, you crowed,
was the fact that you threw a big holiday party for the staff.  (You didn't
mention whether the band you hired for the party played "Nearer, My God, To
Thee," or whether the festivities required a rearrangement of the chairs on the set.)

Today, in the second hour of your radio show, you changed course.  You're
still not admitting any shortcoming on your part, but then, we who know you
wouldn't have expected anything like that to come from you.  Your TV show is
dead and overdue for burial, and worse, it seems that your radio audience
may have gotten wind of the stink.  Now -- and not for the first time --
you're looking around for someone to blame.  (Can you sue the Paramount
executives for malpractice?)  Of course, you decided to cover your flop by
insulting other people.  First, you expressed your contempt for people (many
of whom are in your radio audience) who watch TV for entertainment.
You got off that "theater of the mind" line -- priceless!

Then you described afternoon television -- a category to which your TV show no
longer belongs in any major market -- as the "scummiest people" talking about the
"scummiest things."  Oh, sure, Oprah Winfrey has been a huge success in
every medium she's ever entered, and no one calls her a repulsive hag, and
no one hates her, and there are no naked pictures of her on the Internet,
but -- she's scummy!  You asked one of your employees whether he agreed that
radio was the preferred medium of deep thinkers, and he did, most emphatically.
Now, aren't you sorry you blew your "hot babe" cover?

Was it Groucho Marx, or Woody Allen, who said that he wouldn't want to join
any club that would have him as a member?  Now you're being drummed out of
the Society of Scummy People Talking about Scummy Things -- the Society that
you claimed it was your First Amendment RIGHT to join -- because you couldn't
compete with the dregs of the earth.  Best of luck, Laura, in your new campaign to
convince people that you've failed because your TV show is too "good" for daytime TV.
At least you'll always be "The First Lady of the Theater of Your Own Mind."

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