Clark Gable is on the Case

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Schadenfreudenista pin-up Clark Gable III with a client

Last year, Clark Gable III replaced the venerable Joey Greco as the host of Cheaters. Gable has his grandfather’s profile. ‘He’s the handsomest guy ever,’ Cheaters creator Bobby Goldstein told Dallas News.  ‘You think you’re watching a ghost.’ The Cheaters brand was tarnished when Inside Edition revealed that Joey Greco’s Season 9 stabbing had been staged. With his furrowed brow and ambrosial lips wrought through with indignation, Gable represented a fresh start for the grey lady of reality TV.

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Joey Greco takes a hit in Season 9

The Cheaters formula has remained unchanged for thirteen years. The host’s prim, yet florid introduction to the cuckold (‘Afraid that his maneuvers are calculated, she seeks guidance from a trusted and resourceful organization’) precedes black and white surveillance footage of ‘the suspect ‘ romancing their secret lover, vigorously narrated by Robert Magruder, Cheaters‘ éminence grise. The delinquent lovers hold hands over the table at Cheddar’s and visit White Rock Lake at night; they are caught in flagrante delicto by hidden spy cameras in their bedrooms. Segments conclude with The Confrontation: after watching the surveillance footage, the cuckold interrupts and usually attacks the cheaters, surrounded by Clark Gable and a crew in black Cheaters T-shirts wielding shoulder mount camcorders and fuzzy boom mics.

The cheaters hold their assignations in a rotating stable of two-story apartment complexes in Dallas Fort-Worth and Greater Houston. Everything is comfortingly familiar: the midnight strolls, the parking lot battles, the ambient theme playing over the surveillance footage, the slow Cheaters guitar riff ushering in the commercial breaks.

IMG_1321 After the quiz show scandals of the fifties, The Communication Act of 1934 was amended to prohibit ‘influencing, prearranging, or predetermining outcomes… (in) contests of knowledge, skill, or chance… with intent to deceive the listening or viewing public,’ but no laws regulate against presenting acted-out scenarios as real. The veracity of Cheaters has been questioned since Season 2, when Scott Nowell of Houston Press interviewed five people who said they’d earned $400.00 to perform in fake scenes. A woman named Michelle told Nowell she was recruited by the program’s infamous Detective Gomez, who purportedly shoots the incriminating surveillance footage. Michelle said Detective Gomez urged her to ‘take one for the team’ and make out with the metalhead who was cast as her secret boyfriend, an assertion in conflict with the gushing testimonials on the Gomez Detective Agency’s website.*

‘That’s interesting, ‘ Goldstein bristled when Nowell contacted him with the allegations, ‘I don’t know. Dan Rather reporting that Gore won Florida comes to mind. No matter how many quality controls you put into place, I guess there’s always some hanky-panky that could arise.’

Participants respond to ads on Craigslist, Myspace, and Facebook. They earn $50.00 for each person they refer to Cheaters. Oftentimes, a group of platonic friends will make a day of it. Shooting lasts about ten hours. ‘It was a blast,’ one Reddit poster wrote.

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Detective Gomez briefs Clark Gable prior to The Confrontation

 When Cheaters premiered in 2002, the spy footage was a departure from the show’s hidden camera/practical joke predecessors. Jerry Springer’s audience became a Roman mob in the nineties. Cheaters marked another cultural shift: a population acquiescent to surveillance. People began invading their own privacy. Cheaters opened an online Spy Shop, where suspicious viewers can avail themselves of the hidden cameras, GPS trackers, and semen detection kits in Detective Gomez’s bag of tricks.

Cheaters is repetitive. The performances are for the most part painfully false, like a film school melodrama starring the director’s friends. Yet Cheaters endures. A Bulgarian version called Caught Cheating premiered in 2008. The Cheaters website claims a weekly viewership of 1.5 million people in over 100 countries.  It airs Saturday nights at 12:30 on WUTV Buffalo, at midnight on WCIU in Chicago, WLNY in Long Island, KDOC in Los Angeles, weeknights at 11:00 in London on ReallyUK, working the graveyard shift from country to country, up and down the dial.

*eg. ‘Thank you so much for everything. You are the greatest detective ever…. Thank you again for being such a great person and wonderful detective.’ 

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What the Millenium Looked Like From 1977

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The 1977 Special Photo Issue of Us magazine has become poignant with the passage of time. The ads and the pictures on the cover are the only colour photographs in the magazine. It featured stories about the Concorde, the Panama Canal, the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, and a two-page photograph of a toy-maker and mountain-climber named George Willig scaling the South Tower of the World Trade Center.

‘The year 1977 brought Americans a Baptist in the White House, supersonic passenger travel and cinematic encounters with extraterrestrial beings and intergalactic warfare. What’s in store for the future?’

The ‘Speaking Out’ section was subtitled, ‘The future: no diets, less work, and we’ll retire at 47.’ Predictions by America’s leading futurologists about the year 2000 included:

– Thermostats would be set lower in the winter as ‘waste and environmental pollution will become the new sins.’

– The RAND Corporation predicted certain animals would be bred as organ donors for humans.

– The Institute for the Future in California predicted that dieting would be obsolete by 1985 because ‘specially prepared food and supplements’ would control the absorption of calories.

– The amount people spent buying cosmetics, exercise equipment, and health club memberships would double.

– The average retirement age for American workers in 2000 A.D. would be 47. By 2050 the average lifespan would be 100.

– The Red Cross predicted that heart, lung, and liver transplants would be commonplace by the 1990s.

– National parks would have wear-resistant hiking paths, electronic guide systems, and camping would be controlled by a national computerized reservation system.

-Space would be so limited that cemeteries and roof tops would be used for recreation.

-By the 1980s, people would be able to punch up train schedules, make plane reservations, and comparison shop on mini-computers which hooked up to their television sets. By the millennium, facsimile newspapers and magazines would be printed at home.

-‘There will be jet-powered backpacks. Human cloning will be a reality.’

-‘Apes and other animals will be bred for low-grade labor.’

Balzac’s Pineapple Orchard

Fir0002 Flagstaffotos‘The latter half of 1838 was spent at Les Jardies, where the novelist was busy either with his pen or in improving the interior and exterior of the property. A scheme for cultivating a pine-apple orchard in his grounds kept him from fretting over the sorry termination of his Sardinian dream. He intended to set five thousand plants, and sell the fruit at five francs a piece, instead of twenty, which was the ordinary price. After deducting the expenses of the undertaking, he reckoned he could gain twenty thousand francs a year out of his pine-apples. If they had been willing to grow in the open air, he would undoubtedly have gone from theory into practice. But, as this difficulty presented itself in the initial stage, he threw up incontinently his market-gardening; and, since he was in urgent want of cash, he bethought himself that, lying by him, he had a collection of Napoleon’s sayings, which he had been making for the past seven years, cutting them out of books that dealt with the Emperor’s life. The number was just then five hundred. For a sum of five thousand francs he disposed of the fruits of his industry to a retired hosier named Gandy, who published them subsequently under the title Maxims and Thoughts of Napoleon, the preface being also supplied by the novelist.’

Balzac by Frederick Lawton, London: Grant Richards Ltd, New York: Wessels & Bissell Co, 1901.

Photo: Fir0002/Flagstaffotos

Women’s Libbers

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‘Men who are prejudiced against women in executive positions have usually had a bad experience with one who swaggered in with a chip on her manly shoulder, believing that she had to fight her way up, and fight men to do it. A gal like that can make it tough for the rest of us. Many in the women’s liberation movement have done that—but few of them are executives… They have nothing to lose but their uncombed hair.’

From My Way of Life, by Joan Crawford, Simon and Schuster, 1971

New-Englands RARITIES Diſcovered

Image‘There are none that beg in the country, but there be witches too many, bottle-bellied witches amongst the Quakers, and others that produce many strange apparitions if you will believe report. Of a shallop at sea manned with women. Of a ship and a great red horse standing by the mainmast; the ship being in a small cove to the eastward vanished of a sudden. Of a witch that appeared aboard of a ship twenty leagues to sea to a mariner, who took up the carpenter’s broadax and cleft her head with it, the witch dying of the wound at home. With suchlike bugbears and terriculamentae.*

New England‘s Rarities Discovered, John Josselyn, Gent.  1672

* Terriculamenta, Latin: Things that excite terror

Utopian Socialism Explained

Image‘What is wrong with people nowadays? Why do they all seem to think they are qualified to do things far above their capabilities? This is all to do with the learning culture in schools. It is a consequence of a child-centered education system which tells people they can become pop stars, high court judges or brilliant TV presenters or infinitely more competent heads of state without ever putting the necessary work or having the natural ability. It is a result of social utopianism which believes humanity can be genetically engineered to contradict the lessons of history. What on earth am I to say to Elaine? She is so PC it frightens me rigid.’

A handwritten 2002 memo by the Prince of Wales to an unnamed member of his staff. He was reacting to a memo by a staff member named Elaine Day which suggested that secretaries and personal assistants with university degrees should have the opportunity to train as private secretaries or senior advisers.

A statue of the Pharaoh Akhenaten from Karnak, Photograph by Gérard Ducher

Future Shock with Truman Capote

Photo by Roger Higgins, New York World-Telegram and Sun.

From Lawrence Grobel’s Conversations with Capote, Nail Books New American Library, 1985.

Do you think that man will ever change?

No.

Will we become more and more corrupt? Will the world become more totalitarian? Are we heading toward that?

I don’t know. I think something’s going to happen. I think the world’s getting overly populated. Something’s going to happen in the twenty-first century. Everything’s going to change, so drastically that I’m not quite sure what it is. I feel as though the whole world is going to become one for once. I mean, there aren’t going to be any countries. I feel there’s going to be a terrific war. I don’t know when. There’s going to be a great depopulation in the world, and from that is going to arise an entirely different kind of civilization than we know today.

Do you feel that the works of art and the culture that we have preserved will disappear?

There’ll always be museums. Museums of the spirit, museums of the canvases. But I do feel there’s going to be some drastic change. I don’t feel that it’s very rapidly coming, but I think, within the next hundred years as we look back at today, we’re going to be quite amazed.

Are you happy to have lived at this time, or is there any other period when you would have preferred to live?

I would have preferred to live in the eighteenth century.

In what country?

I would have preferred to live in France and been very rich.

Photograph by Roger Higgins, New York World-Telegram and Sun