So now to follow up on last week’s post about this alleged TV show that Michael Shermer and I were allegedly “guests” on. I was supposed to be the host and was giving some tests to three psychics, one of which turned out to be a character (“Shirley Ghostman”) of a UK comic named Marc Wootton, but of course I didn’t know that. For his final bit of zaniness, he channeled the spirit of actor Lee Majors who told of the afterlife (Lee Majors is not dead).
Later in the show, after “Shirley” had been “thrown out and escorted from the grounds” (so I believed), Michael and I were having our discussion, on camera, about my findings with the psychics. Suddenly the studio doors slammed open, and in ran Shirley, pushing a cart holding a bodybag! I knew that Shirley was unbalanced and belligerent, so I stood the hell back and expected that security was going to tackle him and get him out of there. No such thing happened. In fact, the film crew hardly reacted at all. Michael had not had my previous experience with Shirley, so he stepped up cheerfully and asked to see what was in the bag. After some tussling, they got it open, and there’s some guy with a desk calculator or something taped to his chest, and another to his arm: The Six Million Dollar Man. Shirley was right: Lee Majors had died, and here was the body to prove it.
At this point, Michael (clearly less naive than I) asked if he was being punked, if this whole day was a setup and a joke on him. I told him no, this was real, and this guy was just a nut. This is why Michael is the publisher of Skeptic Magazine, and I’m just some guy.
I was aware the crew was short on time, and I know that time costs money, nowhere more than on a production set. So I had no patience for Shirley’s hijinks, and refused to play, standing over against the wall like a curmudgeon. I damn near called the police, because Shirley was as belligerent as ever demanding that I give him the $50,000 he claimed to have just won, and nobody on set seemed to take any interest in getting him out of there or in calling security. Michael was much more fun than I.
Long story short, they eventually put on a show that looked like they were wrestling him and his Six Million Dollar Man out the door, and Michael and I gave a brief 5-minute conclusion and wrap-up for their show.
So I would like to take this opportunity to illuminate for you just how big of an idiot I am. All day long I noticed red flags about the production, but it never occurred to me to heed them.
- The first red flag came when they told me I was going to be the host of the segment for their big show on Showtime. This is without ever meeting me, or having any conversation about the format of the show, or anything. But I hadn’t met them yet either, so I just figured they must really know what they’re doing. Pretty much always a bad assumption to make, class.
- Their web site was a default iWeb template. Perhaps 10 minutes of work had gone into it.
- The next red flag waved when I arrived at the studio. One of the producers, a friendly guy calling himself Steve, told me they’d secured a $50,000 prize to award to any psychics who could pass my tests today. That’s a fair amount of money to fool away, given that they’d paid very little attention to the tests, and hadn’t really even asked what I was going to do. It was extraordinarily half-assed.
- Next, I saw the set. They’d told me this was for Showtime, but the set looked like it was made from whatever random crap furniture happened to be in the adjoining office. Most pitiful was the show’s logo, “Versus”, which appeared to be hand drawn with a Magic Marker on foamcore. Steve probably noticed that I practically fell over when I saw the set. But, trusting fellow that I am, I just figured, well, their show is really going to suck; but they’d paid me so I resolved to give them the benefit of the doubt and do my best as their host.
- The makeup girl was the most lackadaisical person I’ve ever met, and I even brought an assortment of extremely obvious pimples with which to challenge her. She left me to mop sweat off my face by the gallon all day long — it was about 120 degrees under the lights, with no A/C, and I was there all day. I’m sure they got plenty of footage of that.
- Throughout the day, the director, Misha, couldn’t have cared less what happened. He never gave me any meaningful direction, he never spoke to me or to the psychics about what he wanted to see, and he was completely unfazed by the absurd direction Shirley took his show. (Like all these red flags, this one makes perfect sense in retrospect – but at the time I took it as merely sad, rather than as a tipoff.)
- Part of what they wanted me to do was have a conversation with Michael Shermer. Two skeptics chatting away like old pals? Makes for some real wild television. I even brought that up to Misha and Steve, but they shrugged and acted like they didn’t care.
- All day long, the crew and a few extra random guys sat around like wooden statues. They were completely uninterested in Shirley and his Six Million Dollar Man, as if they’d seen it all a hundred times before. Even when I asked them for help, they might as well have been asleep.
So, obviously something was wrong. It was painfully obvious from the minute I got there. But, fool that I am, I never caught on. I will publicly admit here and now that it never occurred to me that the show was a setup, and I could not possibly have been given more obvious hints. You’d think I would have been at least slightly skeptical. Nope. They got me good: hook, line, and sinker.
But even though I knew something wasn’t right, they’d paid me to “host their show”, so I gave it my level best all day long. Even when I stood off set being a curmudgeon, it was because I did not wish to contribute to their time being wasted.
After the fact, Michael searched online and found that for some weeks, people had been Twittering and posting warnings about their production company, saying that it’s fake, and to stay away. Even Daryl Hannah was sucked in by them within the past couple of weeks, though we’re not certain if it’s for the same show or not (probably, given the time frame and the same ambush format). We’ll never know, because she saw the fake right away and dumped them.
And, as more than one person has already emailed me, anyone who attended The Amazing Meeting 6 in Las Vegas last year even watched Shirley Ghostman do the same sort of ambush to Chris French in the UK. Chris played the YouTube video on the big screen. How did Michael and I miss that? Well, I spoke right after Chris, so I was probably out of the room preparing my talk. Anyway that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
So I’ll conclude by giving a simple word of advice, and as always, do as I say and not as I do. Be skeptical.