Here I sit in the Continental Lounge at LAX waiting for a flight to Cleveland with a connection to Gatwick. There is WiFi throughout the lounge, so I figured I would use this opportunity to blog a little.

I’m eager to try Continental on a transcontinental flight. I’ve only flown Continental once before, and that I can’t remember anything about the flight because the circumstances of the flight overshadowed everything else. MD and I were on our way to appear on the Ricki Lake Show, God help us.

I had been at a business meeting the night before when I got a call on my cell from MD telling me that someone had called from the Ricki Lake Show wanting us to be the obesity experts on the show filming the next day.

Neither of us had ever seen the Ricki Lake Show (we almost never watch TV of any kind), but we knew it was a national show and figured it would be good for book sales (Protein Power had recently been published), so I told her to go ahead, call them back, and tell them we would appear.

When I got home after the meeting MD told me we were a go, and that the show would have tickets waiting for us the next morning at 6:30 at the Continental counter at the airport.

When our youngest son, Scott, came home that night, we told him we would be gone the next day because we were leaving to be on the Ricki Lake Show. He said, “Oh my God. Have you ever seen the Ricki Lake Show?” We said we hadn’t. He said, “Oh my God.”

It was going to be on that night, so while we packed, we decided to watch it to see what we had gotten ourselves into. As soon as it came on and I saw the topic of the show I could have torn my tongue out for agreeing to appear.

The title of that night’s show was: “You Took My Virginity and then You Took Off.” The show was even worse than the title would lead one to believe. Throughout the show Scott laughed hilariously and kept saying, “I can’t believe you agreed to go on the Ricki Lake Show.”

We flew to Newark on Continental, were picked up by a car from the show, and soon were presented to the studio.

We changed into our TV clothes (a suit for me; a skirt suit for MD) and went to the Green Room. In due course we were summoned to make up. While the make-up lady was applying my make up, she asked if I were one of the experts. I said I was and asked her how she knew. She said, “Oh, it’s pretty easy to tell the experts from the guests on this show.” Which only added to my sense of foreboding.

We went back to the Green Room with full make up awaiting our call. The show we were going to be on came on the monitor, and it was titled: “I’m 500 pounds and Gaining. Help me, Ricki, you’re my last hope.”

As the show proceeded one hugely overweight person after another came out telling his or her story, all of which were heartbreaking. Ricki worked them all into an emotional frenzy, then cut to a commercial with whichever person she was interviewing in tears. All described the hopelessness they felt over their situations, and Ricki would go to break saying that help was coming and that she would solve their problems by the end of the show.

We watched aghast. We thought that perhaps Ricki was planning on offering us as the solution. We had cared for many thousands of overweight patients, and we knew that there were no simple solutions for people weighing in excess of 500 pounds. It takes long-term medical management along with a lot of commitment and self-discipline on the part of the patient. And even with that, it’s difficult.

Finally, toward the end of the show (in fact, so close to the end that I thought Ricky had run out of time, and we were going to mercifully escape) we were called to the set. All the guests whom Ricki had interviewed individually were now assembled on the set. The producer put us on the end of the row.

Ricki asked MD and me each a kind of fatuous question. Ricki asked MD how these people got to weigh 500-600 plus pounds. MD answered that it wasn’t because they ate too much and didn’t exercise enough. She pointed out that these folks had a serious medical problem. Ricki then asked me what kinds on medical problems they might have. I went through the list and reiterated that these people had severe medical problems that required a lot of specialized medical attention.

Ricki then chirped to all the guests something to the effect of, “That’s excellent advice. You’ve all got doctors, right?” The guests all nodded.

“Okay,” she says, “That’s great. When we come back, these people will get the help they’ve been waiting for.”

Then we break for a commercial.

When we came back Ricki announced that her next guest would provide the help that all her seriously ill guests needed. I’ll admit I was curious myself as to what she was going to come up with.

She introduced some guy whose name I can’t remember. He was the president of the New York City chapter of Weight Watchers. He then gave all the guests a free, lifetime membership to Weight Watchers. I was stunned. This was the long-awaited solution?

As the show closed and we were all shuffled off the set to make way for the next group for the next show (Ricki films a bunch of shows one right after the other) it was apparent that the overweight guests were kind of in shock themselves. It was apparent to them that their serious medical condition had just been exploited for entertainment.

MD and I felt awful, and we felt somehow responsible. We talked with each of the guests for a while, gave each of them our cards, and encouraged them to call us. We told them that we would help them as much as we could from a far, and would do it free of charge. None of them ever called.

We were all – MD and me along with all the guests – given a crisp $50 bill for our appearances. Multiple cars took us all to the same rundown hotel for the night, and we split for home the next morning.

The most troubling result of this nightmare was how many people saw the show and commented on it to us. We’ve been on countless national TV shows, and we got more people telling us they saw us on Ricki Lake than any other show we’ve ever been on.  And they all brought it up the same way.

I would call in a prescription for someone, and the conversation with the pharmacist would go like this:

Hey, Doc.  Saw you on the Ricki Lake show.  I was surfing through channels and there you were.  I stopped and watched.

Which I knew was pure out and out bullshit.  Not the fact that they saw us, but the fact that they were channel surfing and just happened to come across our appearance on the show.  These pharmacists didn’t have a clue as to what I looked like.  I was just a disembodied voice to them whenever I called in an Rx.  How could MD and I be recognized while channel surfing if they had no idea what we looked like.  And we were on so briefly, they had to be channel surfing at just the right moment to catch us.

It wasn’t just pharmacists.  All kinds of people we knew told us they saw us.  All said the same thing:  I was just scrolling through channels…

Sure you were.

Made me realize just how many people watch this drivel.  That’s the troubling part.

It’s easy to see why we kind of overlooked our only Continental Airlines experience. I’m hoping for a much better trip this time.


Photo at top courtesy of AllGo – An App For Plus Size People

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