DeadAir 2012: Oh. The humanity.

"Now boarding..." This Week's DeadAir 2012 Nominees

This Week - Monday, July 18, 2005
"Bleach & Ammonia: A Love Story "

The Pied Piper of Crazy Love

Name: Jennifer Wilbanks

Transgression(s): Playing the granddaddy of all "I just need some space" cards. Also, imitating a living Keane painting.

Evaluation: Relationships are never easy. Add marriage to the mix and it's a pressure-cooker. Cold feet, pre-wedding jitters, second thoughts. All familiar stories, and things most normal people deal with in mostly normal ways--drinking to excess before the wedding, so that their sweating and trembling at the altar is interpreted as a hangover and not mortal fear; a last-minute tryst with a pool-shooting barmaid named Trina on the hood of her Camaro and then frantically burying your lipstick-stained underwear at the bottom of the kitchen garbage can; vomiting yourself thin enough to fit into your size-3 wedding dress so you'll at least look good as you're surrendering yourself to a lifetime of matrimonial obligation, etc.

Meet Jennifer Wilbanks. She's not a normal person. You already have sort of met her, unless you were living off the grid in the late days of April when her Marty Feldman-eyed mug was splashed across MSNBC and CNN as a nation got out its yellow ribbons and prayed for the safe return of another missing white woman. It was all a very tantalizing story at first--she'd gone jogging just over three days before her wedding and never came home; they found a sheaf of shorn hair in a nearby park; all the guests were invited and she was excited about her wedding, so someone must have taken her. Sure, every picture of her looked like she'd be terrified at choosing invitation envelopes much less going through with an entire wedding, but it was a story heart-rending enough to bite on. Then, her fiance, whom her family vouched couldn't have had anything to do with her disappearance, balked at taking a polygraph*. This was clearly another Laci Petersen Debacle unfolding--a doughy, self-imagined playa dispatching a woman who had suddenly become an impediment to his lothario lifestyle.

But then Jennifer showed up--not decapitated and floating in San Francisco Bay, but calling from a pay phone in Albuquerque, saying that she'd been kidnapped by a Hispanic man and a white woman in a van and, and, and they cut her hair off, and, well, she can't remember much about them....yes, she was with them four days, but.....Alright, she wasn't kidnapped. She went to Las Vegas, on a Greyhound. She just needed some space, you know?

Which could have been accomplished simply by saying, "I just needed some space." Instead, she set off a nationwide manhunt that cost $50,000+ and countless man-hours in an embarassment that ended with her being led through the airport with a beach towel over her head. Jennifer's high-profile "me time" was the relationship equivalent of taking a sick day by dynamiting the county's power grid and calling in a terrorist threat to the local Dow Corning plant. And she gets a six-figure book deal out of it.

Nominated by B. Kelter, 7.12.05

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*This is surely a discussion for a different day, but fiance John Mason's lawyer thrust him into the forefront as a false-positive Scott Peterson when they advised him not to take the polygraph test until he negotiated acceptable terms and conditions for doing so. The police spent the better part of two days getting him to take the lie detector test--two days where he could have been eliminated as a suspect and they could have looked elsewhere--and, barring that, wondering why he wouldn't unless he was....guilty? When it turned out that Jen had taken a wrong turn into Albuquerque it was clear that he wasn't guilty of anything. What's still unclear is whether the attorney who gave Mason this advice on the polygraph was drunk, retarded or even a lawyer at all. Of course, another position is that he got the same spotlight bug as Monica Lewinsky's first lawyer, William Ginsburg, and wanted to optimize his face time, maybe parlaying it into more billable hours and a higher-profile clientele. But that would be very cynical to suggest that, wouldn't it?

Name: Dr. Neil Clark Warren

Transgression(s): Creating creepy pod-couples professing glassy-eyed love for one another on endless basic cable commercials to the cloying chirpy strain of a really bad Natalie Cole song.

Evaluation: Okay, just for the record, we're all for True Love here at DA2K12. I myself married a wonderful woman in 2004 after years of speculation that I was either gay or that there were bodies of teenage boy laborers in the crawlspace of my apartment building, and I couldn't be happier.

There's something different at work here, though; something more than a little unsettling about Dr. Warren's Bionic Love Army. Too much shiny white enamel, the unnatural glow, the robotic simpatico of people who nod dumbly at each other's every utterance and are frequently seen in public wearing matching Snapple t-shirts. Laugh it off and call them harmless, but years, maybe even months or weeks from now when you see them showing up on television for another reason--stacked like cordwood in rows of a few hundred other robed couples next to a brushed steel vat of poisoned grape drink, or being led away in handcuffs with blood-spatter dotting their face as they promise to honor their dead spouse by making a sweater out of their hair--you just remember how you laughed and rolled your eyes when we warned you first, right here.

Mitzi & Brad

Match Date: July 14, 2003
Tattooed Each Other's Names on Genitals: July 15, 2003

Chuck & Sharla

Match Date: May 21, 2002
Married: May 21, 2002
Had Gall Bladders Surgically Exchanged: November 6, 2003

Raif & Kristee

Married: September 6, 2003
Executing Mutual Suicide Pact: September 6, 2013


Nominated by B. Kelter, 7.14.05

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Name: Tom Cruise, Katie Holmes

Transgression(s): Mistreatment of furniture, Brooke Shields. "Psychiatry is a pseudo-science", says the Scientologist. "The kettle is..." Well, you get it. And Joel, get off the babysitter.

Evaluation: We all knew something wasn't right with "Cocktail", but then he came out with "Rain Man" a few months later and most of us forgot about that portentous chink in the armor, just as we did when he started shilling for Scientology. Travolta did "Pulp Fiction" and we forgot about his Scientologist extracurriculars; so we did with Tom through "A Few Good Men", "Jerry Maguire", "Magnolia" and so on. But then he fired Pat Kingsley, his publicist of 14 years, and suddenly it was all out in the open, the real Tom that his trusted gatekeeper had been , for his own good and for our own comfort, keeping from the public for almost a decade and a half. The secret is out and while he's not exactly Michael Jackson, he's still someone we probably want to keep our children away from--a protective instinct Marty and Kathy Holmes would be wise to follow.

We're not putting Katie on the plane just yet. This is one of those things that unfolds so fast that it's months before you realize how weird it is and get out; just a stupid, willful, ill-considered, youthful indiscretion, like two decades ago when I snorted crank that I watched someone make in a soup pan in their mother's kitchen. She could very well come to her senses and cringe at this momentary lapse in judgement. We'll leave her on standby for six months and see how this improbable courtship plays out.

Tom's the real transgressor here (Never mind the jumping on furniture and the Scientologist handler he's assigned Katie; just weeks into their relationship he took her to dinner at ex-girlfriend Penelope Cruz' parents' house--now that's plumbing new depths of bizarre). He has recently received a seat on the plane with our bump of Brooke Shields, after her masterful excoriation of Cruise following his Scientology-approved counter-diagnosis of her alleged post-partum depression. We couldn't let this one go without an official writeup, though.

Nominated by B. Kelter, 7.9.05

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