NY Mirror

TV appearances are my crack cocaine—point a camera and I'll sparkle—but I've been craving a return to more reliable television gigs, particularly the kind that actually send some coinage afterward. I'll still do absolutely anything, mind you, but I'm a little weary of the piecemeal jobs, the ones that bump your scheduled segment because there's a late-breaking story about a seven-year-old midwife. (That actually happened to me once, and I still want to take that freakin' kid and . . . no, she's a doll.)

So for years I've been pitching my wares to the big guys by doing more pilots than a horny flight attendant. I've auditioned, begged, prostituted, and performed a soft-shoe routine on my knees. As you can imagine, that can be even more dispiriting than the piecemeal lifestyle.

My sad saga? Well, about four years ago I shot my very first pilot—a house party kind of show hosted by a wan model who asked the guests for the meaning of life before cutting to various card tricks and music videos. I was there to spice things up by reciting blind items to a pretend socialite who'd feign drunkenness and keel over when I whispered the answers in her ear. She wasn't picked up. Neither was the pilot.

illustration: Koren Shadmi

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Then a lovebug over at AL ROKER's production company decided I was the shit and pitched a show with me leading a sort of titillating yet civilized dinner party conversation. Alas, at the same time, another channel picked up a show with JON FAVREAU leading a sort of titillating yet civilized etc., etc. My hopes for a regular meal ticket were suddenly flushed into the Gowanus. (And it turned out neither of those channels was exactly begging for me anyway.)

But five minutes later some hope nouveau came ringin' on my wind chimes. Al Roker himself—a genuinely nice guy—had me and IFC's ALISON BAILES join him in a pilot for a movie show, a sort of cinephile's E.T. as hosted by the Mod Squad. Having just met, we had to summon more instant chemistry than a LIONEL RICHIE tour band, but the world failed to reward us for it. I was crushed that the show wasn't picked up, even as I ran around crowing, "I worked with Al Roker!"

But I wasn't ready for the glue factory just yet. I dusted off and auditioned for Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, finding the idea for the show such a stereotype that I simply had to be part of it. Gay TV is where I belonged—or so I tragically thought as I practiced my carefully tousled hair and dangerous wrists. At the audition, we were shown a video of a straight person who supposedly needed a makeover, complete with his friends' rudely dismissive comments. So when it came time for me to impress the producers, I came on like gay gangbusters, screeching, "That guy needs more work than Asbury Park! What a hideous, orange-alert mess!" I bombed bigger than a suicidal terrorist, and I never even got to backtrack, since one of the other auditioners in my group dominated the whole session with pre-rehearsed, windy speeches and boring platitudes. He hadn't listened when they said they were looking for team players. I hadn't listened when they described the show as "Extreme Makeover with heart." Both of us were sent back to the Meat Rack.

But there were other op'nin's and other shows, and next time I would surely try to listen a little. I seized the offer to meet a top tube exec and truly heard him when he assured me, "Doing this channel without you would be like MTV without MADONNA." (I.e., you're really old but indispensable.) Well, he's not in the same position there anymore, and now I guess they are doing the channel without me (though, interestingly, MTV still uses Madonna).


'HO SPRINGS ETERNAL

I was ready to shoot my agent, but I was suddenly thrown a brand-new chance at superficial wholeness. A producer I'd once worked with wanted me to co-host a showbiz-related program he was excitedly winding his arm to pitch. It was more than a pitch, actually—this was the surest bet since TORI SPELLING auditioned for her father. See, he had already schmoozed the intended channel's development guy, so we had the kind of in that people sell their fetuses for. And we had an actual meeting set up! Reeking of gift-bag scents, we swaggered into the big man's sanctum, determined to play tough and not sign any old contract on the spot. But as it turned out, devastation was on the menu once again, with stale croutons. In fact, we deflated like fake titties in a car accident when we noticed that Mr. Man was avoiding any mention whatsoever of our proposed show, going on instead about his messy personal problems! WTF? Either he was ingeniously testing our chat skills or he was the most self-absorbed little kook in Christendom. A possible third scenario was that we sucked big-time, as witnessed by the fact that after the meeting he never returned my producer friend's calls, even to say, "Thanks for the therapy"! I was back to doing Canadian public-access satellite Internet dinner theater!

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