The Money Shot: Trash, Class, and the Making of TV Talk Shows

"This is an excellent book. The Money Shot is a compelling and exciting account of the way daytime television talk shows work, how they are put together, what the problems are for both guests and the producers, and how the tension between the need for spontaneity and the unpredictability that entails is all orchestrated. Laura Grindstaff has made a strong and valuable contribution to our understanding of the mass media."—Howard S. Becker, author of Outsiders

"Grindstaff veers in a refreshingly different academic direction. Approaching the subject from the inside, by interviewing producers, assistants, and guests, as well as describing her own yearlong internship at two unnamed talk shows, the author provides a behind-the-camera perspective that differentiates her material from other sociology books on the topic."—Publishers Weekly

"One of the benefits of Grindstaff's participant-observer approach is the access she gains into the inner workings of talk-show production. . . . One finishes The Money Shot anguished not only by what the author calls the 'commodification of emotion,' but by the impoverished reality that such shows manufacture."—Sukhdev Sandhu, Daily Telegraph

The names of all individuals in this text are fictitious. Diana and Randy are likewise pseudonyms, although they refer to real shows.

An excerpt from
The Money Shot
Trash, Class, and the Making of TV Talk Shows
by Laura Grindstaff

Setting the Stage

"Hello Diana. This is Carrie, from Cedar Rapids, Iowa. I'm calling in regards to the show you're advertising on the TV there about 'Toxic Relationships.' About people who are always putting you down. Well, I reunited with my biological father back in 1990, and, I don't know, it seems like everything I do just isn't good enough for him. I do a lot for my father; I try to do all the things a good daughter is supposed to do. But he just doesn't—"

At this point the caller began to cry, and the tape beeped, cutting her off before she had time to leave her telephone number. I sighed and adjusted my headphones more comfortably around my ears. The producers would never have phoned her back, anyway; her story wasn't unusual or dramatic enough. She did cry easily, however, and that was in her favor. Transcribing the 800 line was one of my least favorite jobs as an intern. As much as I sympathized with the people who called in—the majority of them women—it was tedious, recording this endless litany of heartache and complaint. Callers rambled on and on, and they never seemed to get to the point. Sighing again, I cued the tape to the next call.

"Hi Diana. I'm calling about the upcoming Mother's Day makeover show—"

I cut her off there and fast-forwarded to the next call. The producers had more than enough potential makeover candidates.

"Hello. My name is Carlos. I'm seventeen years old. You were asking about 'Runaway Gay Teens.' I'm gay, and I went to a club one night, and a man, he, uh, he raped me and one of my friends by gunpoint. And if I would've turned him in, my parents would've found out I'm gay. So I ran away to Orlando and, uh, went into prostitution. And my parents are having a really hard time with it . . . they're really religious and stuff, and I just want to be who I am, and I, I really need to talk to somebody about it. And I would love more than anything to be on your show, Diana. 'Cause you're the best. My telephone number is—"

I was poised to write down the number when suddenly I felt a sharp tap on my right shoulder. I hit the pause button on the tape recorder and turned around.

"Here, the name tags are ready. Run them down to the dressing rooms, and then stay there because the first guests are due to arrive any minute—I'll be along as soon as I can."

The order came from Heidi, the talent coordinator, who was rifling through a stack of consent forms. Her face was flushed and her voice full of tension. Pushing back from the table, I tossed my headphones aside, grabbed my clipboard, and left the bustling production office for Stage 12 on the other side of the studio lot. Outside, the sun was blinding as it bounced off the metal siding of the surrounding buildings, and the ever-present din of construction rose faintly in the distance.

Within minutes I was at the stage, an immense warehouse containing more offices, dressing rooms, a lounge and kitchen area, the "green room," a control booth, editing suites, and a huge set with seating for roughly two hundred audience members. This is where The Diana Show is taped, one of a dozen or so daytime talk shows produced in the United States, and one of two produced at Zenith Studios. At the sight of a stretch limousine parked at the rear entrance, my heart sank: at least one guest had already arrived. I took the stairs two at a time and went inside, greeted by a blast of cold air and the distant shouts of George, the stage manager, who was complaining about the position of the overhead floodlights. A large, dark-haired woman I didn't recognize sat alone on one of the couches in the lounge clutching her purse—one of the guests, very pale, and clearly nervous. The first show today was about childhood sexual abuse, and, on the basis of the script that I photocopied for the producers, I guessed that this was Karen, a young woman repeatedly molested by an uncle.

"You must be Karen, our guest of honor." I smiled warmly and extended my hand, introducing myself as an intern and Heidi's assistant.

I took Karen first to one of the dressing rooms, fixing her name tag to the metal plate on the door just below the gold star, then to the green room, which was equipped with couches, a television monitor, and an assortment of catered foods. By this time Heidi had arrived, along with the two producers for today's show and most of the technical crew and support staff. People rushed back and forth, readying equipment and attending to last-minute details. The studio audience was filing in; I could hear the comedian doing his warm-up routine every time the outer door to the set swung open ("Why is it that, when a man talks dirty to a woman it's sexual harassment, but when a woman talks dirty to a man it's three dollars a minute?"). The remaining guests were also arriving, including an incest survivor, a boy abused by his baby-sitter, a convicted pedophile, and a psychologist/expert. Heidi gave me explicit instructions to keep the pedophile as far from the other guests as possible until taping began to avoid any friction. This proved easy enough, as the man stayed in his dressing room with the door closed until called by the wardrobe personnel to get his hair and makeup done.

While Heidi made the rounds securing written consent from the guests for their participation, the stage manager wired them for sound, and the producers prepared them for key questions that Diana, the host, would ask on the air. The "ordinary" guests who were neither experts nor celebrities always needed a little extra reassurance before going on television for the first time, and, in this particular interaction, the producers made a special effort to position them as experts, too, of a sort—experts on their own personal experience. I knew the routine by heart:

"Just relax; you'll do fine. This is your life, you've lived it, so there's no wrong answers. Just tell it like it is, straight from the heart. Don't hold back on those emotions because this is your big chance to show millions of people you really care about this issue. And don't be shy—this is your show, so if you have something to say, jump right in there. Now, when Diana asks you to describe the first time your husband beat you, what are you going to say?"

Finally, the executive producer, supervising producer, and director appeared backstage at the same time Diana herself emerged from her dressing room. Taping would begin in fifteen minutes. Diana said a few words of welcome to each guest, then went out to greet the audience. I raced back across the lot to the production offices for the third time that afternoon to retrieve a set of photographs that had to be scanned and prepared for use later in the show. The office was just as busy as before since there would be a second taping later in the day and two more tomorrow. I delivered the photos to the graphics department and took my seat in the control booth above the set just as the director started the countdown. The room was cool and dark, illuminated primarily by the double row of television monitors in the far wall above the editing console. The soundboard looked like a miniature city block sprinkled with neon lights. It was my job to answer the phones in the booth so that those working there were not disturbed during the taping. For me, it was the most interesting of all my duties as an intern because I got to witness two performances at once: that of the host and guests onstage and that of the production staff around me.

"Cold open—no music, no applause!" the director shouted. "Three! Two! One! Roll tape!" The camera was tight on the first guest, Karen, a victim of childhood molestation, who spoke of the abuse that she suffered as a child every holiday when her uncle came to visit. Her voice was high and clear, with a faint Southern accent. Diana, the show's host, prodded for more details, and Karen obliged, tears welling up in her big brown eyes. I could feel the tension rise in the control booth; we were simultaneously horrified by her suffering, incredulous that she would discuss it on national television, and elated that she was doing so with such visible emotion—especially with the November ratings sweeps just around the corner. When the woman broke into sobs describing the time her uncle "shared" her with a friend, the look of triumph on the producer's face told me that this show was indeed a "sweeper." The segment ended with the introductory credit sequence accompanied by the trademark Diana music, and then the director cut to a commercial. As soon as the stage manager gave the "clear" signal, the silence in the booth gave way to the buzz of conversation.

When taping resumed a few minutes later, eight-year-old Troy described how his baby-sitter forced him to perform various sex acts over a period of several years, threatening to kill him if he ever told anyone. Troy's mother begged parents to be ever vigilant when trusting the care of their children to others. "What happened to us could happen to you too!" she said, dabbing delicately at the corners of her eyes with a tissue. Because they were African American, Troy and his mother satisfied the show's mandate for "diversity" on the panel. In a different way, so did the next guest to appear, a convicted child molester out of jail on parole. White, well dressed, and in his early thirties, he was, Diana announced, participating in a radical new therapy that brought perpetrators and victims together in direct confrontation.

"What's so radical about that?" the script supervisor sneered from his seat beside the director. "Talk shows have been doing it for years!"

No sooner had the molester taken his seat than audience members, roused by the testimony of the first three guests, began to denounce him as sick and perverted. A short, gray-haired, elderly woman stood up and called him a messenger of the devil. I wondered aloud at the man's decision to appear on the show. The sound technician sitting next to me simply shook his head in disgust—whether at the pedophile, at the show for giving him a platform, or at the behavior of the audience, I couldn't tell. The phone at my elbow rang; I put the caller on hold until the commercial break.

The next guest waiting in the wings was Margaret, the incest survivor. I knew that the two producers for today's topic had disagreed about whether to lead with Margaret or with Karen. Margaret's sexual history was more sensational because she had been raped repeatedly by her father and then again by her first boyfriend, but Karen was more emotional during the preinterview ("fresh" and "raw," as the producers put it) and thus promised a better performance. At the eleventh hour, they decided to use Karen up front to draw the audience in and bring Margaret on later as a success story and role model for other survivors since she now runs a women's political-advocacy organization in San Francisco. Margaret was also, apparently, lesbian, for the host read the following tease off the prompter before breaking to another commercial: "Up next is a woman whose history of sexual abuse by the men in her life caused her to give up on guys altogether! Don't go away!"

This was Margaret's cue to walk onstage. We waited for what seemed like minutes, but she didn't appear in the monitors. Suddenly, the director took off his headset and turned to the supervising producer.

"Bob, we've got problems. That Margaret lady got mad and took off. Just threw down her wireless and took off. Jackie is going crazy down there on the floor; you better see what's going on."

Bob sprang to his feet, disentangling himself from his own headset as he rushed out the door, cursing under his breath. I sat for a few minutes not knowing quite what to do. I turned to the technician. Had this ever happened before? He said no, not to his knowledge, and asked me to pass him the sports section of the paper. I glanced over at the others in the room. The sound man and chyron operator were discussing the show's desperate need for better, high-tech equipment, while the assistant director and script supervisor debated the merits of fake versus real Christmas trees. The director was yelling at somebody on the phone. Taking a chance that the other line wouldn't ring, I slipped away and headed down to the set to see what more I could learn.

The camera operators and various other technical staff had gathered at the edge of the stage. Diana was standing in front facing the audience, explaining that the delay in production was due to a technical problem with the sound system. The producer and associate producer for today's topic were nowhere to be seen, nor was the executive producer or supervising producer. I learned from a stagehand that all four were outside in the parking lot with Margaret. It took them almost an hour to figure out why she was upset and persuade her to return. It seems that, when Margaret heard Diana introduce her as a woman whose history of sexual abuse caused her to "turn gay," she bolted because she felt that the description was silly and untrue. She insisted that the topic of the show was childhood sexual abuse, not lesbianism, and that the matter of her sexual orientation was not open for discussion on the air—she had made that very clear to the producers. At this point the executive producer apologized for the mistake, blaming it on miscommunication between the associate producer, who conducted the original preinterview, and the producer, who wrote the final script. They promised to rewrite Margaret's introduction and tape it again.

Meanwhile, back in the booth, the crew was getting irritable. There was another show after this one, and we were hours behind schedule—after Margaret, there was still the expert psychologist to get through. I knew that it would be quite late before I left the lot. Just as I was picking up the phone to cancel my evening dinner plans, Heidi rang on the other line. She was sending another intern to relieve me in the booth because she wanted my help backstage with the changeover; the guests for the second show were starting to arrive, and we had to clear the dressing rooms for them. Ordinarily, when guests overlapped, we would put the overflow in portable trailers outside, but, because the second show featured "industry people," we couldn't do that. The topic was "Former Child Stars: The High Price of Fame" (back in the production office it was known as "Hollywood Has-Beens"). Heidi was anxious and stressed. Celebrities, even B-grade celebrities willing to appear on a daytime talk show, did not like to wait around. All five guests were former child stars from 1960s television sitcoms, three still eking out a living as actors, the other two having left the industry for jobs in the "real" world. All had been negatively affected by early fame. Overall, the show went smoothly; the producers relied heavily on visual elements such as photographs and old sitcom footage to vary the pace and keep audience members engaged. It was almost 10 p.m. when the last guest was thanked and the last limousine pulled away from Stage 12.

"In every way save one this was a typical tape day at Diana," I wrote in my journal later that night. "The pace backstage was frantic, the tension high." As usual, the first show was more emotionally charged than the second because the host found it too draining to do two "heavy" shows back-to-back. The exception to business as usual was Margaret's rebellion, for, although producers believe that the probability of unforeseen or unexpected events increases when "ordinary" people are onstage, the production of daytime talk shows, including the performances of ordinary people, is remarkably predictable and routine. Most of the time.

The following day, while at lunch with some of the staff, I asked them about the incident with Margaret.

"First of all," said Donna, the producer in charge of the taping, "it's a lot of raw nerves when you have a group of survivors sitting next to a pedophile. It's a time bomb waiting to go." Second, she continued, Margaret had been leery of participating from the very beginning because she recently had a bad experience on another daytime talk show: the producers had led her to believe that the topic was about "turning your life around" when, in fact, they were setting up a confrontation with her homophobic ex-husband.

"So she came in with a major chip on her shoulder," said Donna. "She was expecting some sort of ambush or setup, you know, some sort of confrontation." And who could blame her, Donna concluded, given the garbage that other talk shows are producing and the sleazy way they treat their guests? Everyone at the table nodded their agreement. Diana was considered a "class act" with a "clean" reputation, appealing primarily to middle-class women.

"One of the best things about working at Diana," said Rachel, an associate producer and one of my key informants, "is that I never have to do anything I find personally objectionable." She hesitated for a second and then added, "Well, almost never. I mean, I wouldn't want to work on a really trashy show where the goal was to produce sensational television whatever it took."

Again, heads around the table bobbed up and down. "I was at a show like that for a year," another producer volunteered. "It was the worst year of my life. It was horrible." The consensus was that shows geared toward conflict and confrontation had changed the character of daytime talk for the worse. Whereas talk shows used to tackle serious issues in a more or less dignified manner, now they were more raucous and theatrical, with "sleazy" topics and younger, less-educated guests. That is, whereas talk shows used to be "classy," now they were "trashy." I was to hear this lament again and again in various guises during the season that I interned at Diana. It was pretty much the same lament about daytime talk shows that I read in the newspaper, and I remember thinking to myself (not for the first time) as I walked back to the production offices after lunch that, rather than construct an image of "that kind of show" from the outside, I should go take a look for myself.

About a year later I did just that when I started interning at another talk show that I'll call Randy. Aimed at a younger, more gender-mixed demographic than Diana, Randy made no pretense about being classy. Topics were chosen for their titillating and incendiary qualities and focused primarily on interpersonal conflict. As I heard Randy himself say many times to his staff, "This is a show about relationships and conflict, about the drama of human conflict. This is not a show where you pull out a notebook and take down information." It didn't take me long to understand what he meant and to see how the emphasis on "drama" affected the work behind the scenes in ways both obvious and subtle. My clearest glimpse into the backstage relations between producers and guests came one day when Mark, one of the associate producers whom I had gotten to know, invited me to shadow him during the taping of one of his shows. Mark was an affable, easygoing man in his late twenties. He could use my help, he said, since they were going to simulate a homeless shelter on the set and might need an extra pair of arms to carry props. Titled "Provide or Step Aside!" the show was about women who disapproved of a family member's mate. It featured only one story and one set of guests, which was somewhat unusual since most talk shows, Randy included, tended to stack the panel with multiple stories, each with a different set of guests.

Colleen, a twenty-year-old housewife and mother of two, had called the 800 line because her sixteen-year-old sister, Tina, had recently married a man twice her age and was now living with him in a homeless shelter. Colleen wanted to confront Tina's husband on the air for being an inadequate provider; she also wanted Tina to leave him and go live with their older sister, Sharon. Sharon was to appear on the show with an extra plane ticket—paid for by the show—and an ultimatum: leave the husband, and go live with her, or lose the goodwill of the family. Sharon's presence on the show was to be a surprise because Tina had not seen her in more than a year. In fact, before she was contacted by the producers, Sharon had no idea that Tina was even homeless. For their part, Tina and her husband knew only that this was a show about "homeless couples" trying to make ends meet.

I arrived early at the studio, not wanting to appear ungrateful for this opportunity to help out backstage (assisting producers on the set was not a typical activity for Randy interns). The office manager was circulating a memo that listed the green rooms in use for that day. Below the list was a postscript that stated in bold, block letters: PLEASE DO NOT DISCUSS THE SHOW TOPICS OUT LOUD WITH ANYONE! NO EXCEPTIONS! Mark was still in a meeting, so I joined a small cadre of production assistants—also known as "PAs"—lugging mattresses and bedding from the service elevator to the stage. The floodlights had not yet been turned on, and the temperature was a chilly fifty-two degrees. Whereas the set at Diana was large, with "Town and County" decor, comfortable padded chairs in the audience, and wall-to-wall carpeting, the Randy set was smaller and more sparsely decorated: the backdrop to the stage consisted of plain beige paneling with the word Randy written in large, masculine script across one side, and the space for the audience was filled with metal folding chairs. Overhead, on the catwalk, a member of the crew was tinkering with a temperamental lighting fixture. He was almost invisible, dwarfed by the huge cables and wires that snaked the length of the ceiling.

Heading back to the production office, I fell into step behind a producer and one of her guests from another taping, a show titled "Why Can't We Get Along?" They took the hallway at a fast clip, heels clicking sharply on the linoleum. The guest was a pale young woman in her early twenties wearing a very short skirt and heavy makeup.

"You're the first one on," the producer was saying, "so we're relying on you to make an impact, to make sure viewers out there don't get bored and change the channel—you gotta talk about the stripping right off the bat, OK? Don't take forever to get it out. Say what you came here to say. And, whatever you do, do it big. This is national television, remember, and my ass in on the line."

Mark was just emerging from the executive producer's office. His face was grim, and I knew that this meant a last-minute problem involving one or more of the guests. Last night, Tina and her husband, Andy, were discovered by the police sleeping in their car in a residential neighborhood. Then the couple had been detained at the downtown police station because Andy had refused to respond when questioned about his relationship to the young girl.

"I got some soft money approved from accounting," he told me. "A PA is on her way down there right now to bail them out."

Meanwhile, Colleen, her husband, Ben, and the other sister, Sharon, had arrived and were all waiting together in Green Room 2. Mark and I entered just as the producer, Kelly, was leaving. She handed Mark the guests' legal documentation, which included birth certificates as well as driver's and marriage licenses. Everything checked out, she said, and they had all signed consent forms guaranteeing the authenticity of their identities and stories. Kelly was a slight, dark-skinned woman with a no-nonsense attitude. Mark told me that he liked working with her because it allowed him to play the "good cop" with guests: while she demanded strict compliance and refused to make exceptions or entertain special requests, he was friendly and sympathetic, a division of labor that ultimately made him more influential with particularly "difficult" or demanding guests. This strategy had proved useful only yesterday during the taping of an episode on white supremacy, in which one of the guests, a member of the KKK, picked a fight with a black man sitting in the front row of the audience. The bodyguards intervened, but the guest attacked again as soon as they released him. Because Mark had listened to the KKK guest with a sympathetic ear earlier in the green room and had thus established a personal bond with him, Mark was eventually able to calm him down when no one else could.

I took a seat on one of the couches at the back of the room while Mark turned his attention to Colleen, Ben, and Sharon. They sat around a small table littered with coffee cups and half-eaten bagels, talking among themselves. They seemed pretty relaxed considering that they were about to make their debut on national TV.

"OK you guys, I just want to go over a few things," Mark said. "Nobody is chewing gum, right? Good. Now, when you're out there onstage, be careful not to giggle or fool around during the commercial breaks because it looks strange to the audience if you're crying or angry one minute and happy the next. We don't want people thinking, 'Hey, what's up? Are these guys actors or something?' OK?"

Colleen interrupted him. "Don't you worry. I was mad at Andy before I got here, I'm mad at Andy now, I'll be mad at him during the show, and I'll be mad at him after the show."

Mark said, "OK, good. Now, I know the producer already talked to you about your stories and all, but I just want to go over a couple of points again. The most important thing is that you speak your mind. Show us your feelings. Don't be afraid to take charge, OK?" He stood up and rearranged a couple of chairs in the room to simulate the stage. "Like, for example, Colleen, when you walk onstage and Tina is sitting there, grab her hand, let her know you care, tell her you only want what's best for her. 'Tina, you're only sixteen years old, you're just a baby! What are you doing living with this man in a homeless shelter? You need to be in school. You deserve better than him.'"

Sharon, the older sister, interrupted at that point and said, "Don't call her a baby. She hates that, and she won't listen to you."

Mark replied, "OK, well, you don't have to use those words exactly, but, you know, talk about how she's still young, how she's got her whole life ahead of her, and she's sleeping in a car for god's sake!"

All three guests were from a small town in the Midwest, and neither Colleen nor Ben had ever been on a plane before. Ben, a rather quiet, shy man, was a welder and frequently out of work. He and Colleen have two small children. As for Sharon, she'd left home at a young age and was living on her own in Arizona. As the women chatted, they kept looking over at Mark to see if he was paying attention. Sharon asked when the show would air, lamenting that her unruly red hair would look awful on camera. All of them were wearing dress clothes provided by the show's wardrobe department. I leafed through the few pages of script that Mark had given me—a much less elaborate kind of document than producers at Diana were required to write.

At that point, we were interrupted by a knock on the door. One of the production assistants pulled Mark aside and whispered that the guests we'd been waiting for—Tina and Andy—had arrived and were sequestered in Green Room 1 with the producer. They would be ready for Mark in about ten minutes. Mark excused himself, and I followed him back to the production offices. Earlier in the day, he had done a computer search for facts about homelessness to use during the show but wasn't happy with what he'd found. He asked me if I knew any professors who studied homelessness, and, when I said yes, he told me to get in contact with them while he went to see how things on the set were progressing. I telephoned a friend who quoted me half a dozen or so statistics about homelessness and the lack of affordable housing in the United States. Mark chose three and had the chyron operator in the control booth type them in to the character generator. Later, I was asked to find the number of the National Coalition for the Homeless so that they could flash that on the screen as well. (As it turned out, neither the facts nor the telephone number was used during the taping—although possibly they would be inserted later during the final edit, either along with the credits or as transitions in and out of commercial breaks.)

Mark then went to greet Tina and Andy, the homeless couple. He told them that it was important for them to hold fast to their convictions throughout the show, not to lose their energy or to lose sight of why they were here—to defend themselves and their love for each other.

"Don't let Colleen and Ben get the last word," Mark warned. "You've got a good relationship, and you love one another. That's all that matters, and that's what you have to let everyone know." To Tina he said, "You need to tell Colleen that you're not a baby anymore. Don't be afraid to look her right in the eye. Say, 'Girlfriend, we're sisters, and I love you, but this is my life, and you can't tell me how to live it, so just lay off.'"

Tina gave an uncomfortable laugh. With her soft brown curls and cherubic face, she looked much younger than her sixteen years. "I don't say girlfriend; I don't talk like that," she said.

"Of course, say it in your own way," Mark agreed. "The important thing is not to hold back on your feelings." Addressing them both, he said, "I'm giving you the license to express yourself. Don't be afraid to butt in, interrupt, do whatever it takes to get your point across—don't wait for the host to call on you, and don't let anyone push you around. You are the star of this show."

As the taping drew near, the pace got more frantic. Mark ran a couple of photographs to the graphics department to be scanned into the computer and sent me to his office for the consent form that Tina's parents had signed allowing her to marry Andy before she was of legal age. I then ran to wardrobe for extra clothes to pile in one corner of the stage so that the "shelter" would look more lived-in. On the floor where the front row of the audience would normally be was a park bench strewn with old newspapers and debris. The show began with Randy, the host, sitting on the bench between Tina and Andy.

Colleen, Ben, and Sharon watched from the control room. Mark was there with them in order, in his words, to "keep them pumped up" and to help them identify points to respond to when it was their turn to go out onstage. Both Colleen and Sharon began crying the moment they saw their sister pictured in the monitors. They cursed Andy for marrying a mere child and then failing to provide a home for her.

Colleen took the stage at the beginning of the second segment. As she waited nervously in the wings, the producer came running over and said, "OK, now, this is it, this is the intervention, this is where the intervention begins."

Initially, Colleen was alone onstage with Tina, and then, in the third segment, the producers reintroduced Andy. The two sisters cried a great deal, although I noticed that Colleen stopped long enough to yell periodically at Andy and to check her makeup during every commercial break. Tina wept almost continually throughout the entire taping, her face growing increasingly red and blotchy. She missed her family and her friends, but she loved Andy, she said. When one of the audience members called him a "sicko pedophile," she ran off the set and had to be coaxed back on by Randy himself. The security personnel were clustered in one corner watching the show on a monitor, and some of them were crying too.

Back in the control room, Mark reminded Sharon that she must talk directly to Tina and get to the point. They were running out of time, and, if nothing else, she had to say, "Here's a plane ticket, come home with me." Sharon was very nervous. As she stood waiting in the wings for her cue, she kept wiping the palms of her hands on her skirt. Finally, Randy announced to the audience that there was another family member waiting to speak with Tina: her older sister, Sharon. Sharon then rounded the corner and met Tina's gaze: I would not have thought it possible for the younger girl to sob any harder, but the sight of her older sister produced a fresh flood of tears. Sharon was more quiet and subdued onstage than was Colleen, who was clearly enjoying the spotlight. Toward the end of the segment, the arguing between Colleen and Andy escalated, and the audience, emboldened, taunted Andy with increasingly derogatory comments, but there was no physical confrontation between him and Colleen, and time ran out before Colleen's husband, Ben, could be introduced. Just before the show ended, when everyone was yelling at everyone else and Tina was still sobbing, tears streaming down her face, Randy made her an offer. He said that, if she went to Arizona with her older sister, he would put her up in her own apartment until Andy got back on his feet and was able to provide for her—in the meantime, she would enroll in school. This brought the audience to its feet, everyone clapping and cheering, "Randy! Randy! Randy!" Quite a publicity stunt, I thought, although I did not doubt that he would keep his word.

Backstage immediately after the show, the guests were fairly quiet. They weren't separated in green rooms as before but sat together in a lounge adjacent to the production offices. Tina retreated to an inner changing room, where she continued to sob uncontrollably. Andy attempted to console her. Then things began to heat up again as Colleen joined them, followed by Ben, and pretty soon I heard yelling and the crash of an overturned chair. The cameraman and bodyguard ran in at the same time. The latter threatened Ben with bodily injury unless he behaved himself; the former got it all on tape. Ben retreated meekly to the lounge, and, minutes later, Andy followed, but the three sisters stayed in the changing room, and I could hear Tina crying on and on. Apparently, she was trying to make up her mind what to do—stay with her husband, or go to Arizona with Sharon. Meanwhile, the producer was attempting to herd everyone into limousines so they wouldn't miss their flights; I could tell that she was torn between needing to get everyone out of there and wanting to let the cameraman film the drama. First Tina decided to stay with Andy, then she said she was going with Sharon, then she changed her mind again and chose Andy.

Finally, the whole lot of them were herded down the elevators to the cars waiting outside. The camera was running right up until the elevator doors slid shut. The last thing I overheard, the executive producer told Mark to contact a camera crew in Arizona and put them on standby at the airport there—just in case Tina changed her mind yet again and decided at the last minute to go with Sharon. "Make sure you get somebody who's used a camera before," she snapped. She was a tall, thin woman, with piercing brown eyes and an imposing demeanor. She was used to be being obeyed.

I went back to the production office, my head spinning. I was grateful for my afternoon assignment to the audience department, where the main task was to book the studio audience over the phone when people called to request free tickets. About an hour prior to the second show, Latisha, the audience coordinator, appeared at the door, panic-stricken: several large groups had failed to show up for the taping, and the audience was too "thin." So I grabbed my coat and joined several other interns who had been ordered to give away tickets on the street. Like the others, I found myself instinctively avoiding middle-class businessmen in suits and targeting instead women shoppers and groups of teenagers hanging about. I had the most luck with tourists standing outside the lobby of the nearby Hilton.

It was late in the evening when, exhausted, I finally went home and long after midnight before I finished writing about the day's events.


Copyright notice: ©2002 Excerpted from pages 1-14 of The Money Shot: Trash, Class, and the Making of TV Talk Shows by Laura Grindstaff, published by the University of Chicago Press. ©2002 by the University of Chicago. All rights reserved. This text may be used and shared in accordance with the fair-use provisions of U.S. copyright law, and it may be archived and redistributed in electronic form, provided that this entire notice, including copyright information, is carried and provided that the University of Chicago Press is notified and no fee is charged for access. Archiving, redistribution, or republication of this text on other terms, in any medium, requires the consent of the University of Chicago Press.

Laura Grindstaff
The Money Shot: Trash, Class, and the Making of TV Talk Shows
©2002, 330 pages, 18 halftones, 4 line drawings
Cloth $65.00 ISBN: 978-0-226-30909-5
Paper $20.00 ISBN: 978-0-226-30911-8

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