The Doctor Is In

Sometimes in my job, I get to meet celebrities. Usually, they are D-listers.

Last week, I filled in producing an interview show. The producer told me that one of the guests was Dr. Ruth, the famous sex therapist.

I didn’t think much of it. Of course, I told my parents, who were excited for me. But they were alive through the entire ’80s, and I wasn’t, so Dr. Ruth’s appeal was a little bit lost on me.

I got an email the day we were supposed to tape the show that Dr. Ruth was taking an earlier train back from a trip to Washington DC. She wanted to come to our studios early to get out of the cold and sit and make phone calls.

Even though this meant I would have to go into work two hours earlier than I had originally planned, I said yes. To be honest, I was annoyed by the entire thing.

When Dr. Ruth arrived, the first thing I noticed was that she was tiny. I towered over her, and I’m only 5’4. She’s probably no more than 4’9, if that. She immediately greeted me (in her signature German accent), “Hello Allison, nice to meet you,” and then thrust her bag and coat into my hands.

As she walked in, she gave me a list of demands. She wanted to know where the bathroom was, where she would be sitting, and if she could have herbal tea, a sandwich, and the NY Post, in that order.

This all added to my annoyance. I sat her down, asked her what kind of sandwich she wanted, and went downstairs to buy one.

When I came back up, she was on the phone. I laid down the sandwich and tea, leaving the room quietly. When I returned with the Post, she was off the phone.

“This is the best sandwich I’ve ever had! Did you pay for this with your own money?” she asked.

“Yes, but I’ll expense it through the company,” I responded.

“No! I don’t want you paying for me! Did you pay for the newspaper?”

I explained to her that we got newspapers delivered to our office daily, and reassured her that I wasn’t paying for any of it. She kept alternating between thanking me and insisting that she would pay for whatever she had taken. And then she asked me for about five more requests, but by this time I didn’t take offense to it. Even though she wants a lot, you can tell that she’s a nice, friendly old lady.

I went back out to my desk after getting her what she wanted, but every so often she would come out and ask me for something else. She wanted to see the video of her that we were going to use. She wanted her manager to email me material to print out for her (she doesn’t know how to use a computer, but I did note that she had an iPhone). She wanted me to put pillows on her seat in the studio so she could be eye-level with the interviewer. And every time she would emerge from the room to ask me about something new, one of my coworkers would see her and talk to her, or ask for a picture. She gladly posed for every single one (including one with me).


When it finally came time for the interview, I walked her back to the green room. By this point, she had another bag, filled with things that people from my office had given her.

“You’re really popular here,” I noted.

She smiled and said delightfully, “It’s good to be Dr. Ruth! So many freebies!”

I could see why. There’s something about her that just lights up–and makes you want to give her stuff.

In the interview, she shone. I even laughed out loud when she started talking about sexual stuff. At 85 years old, she’s so full of life and energy.

On her way out, she thanked me again for everything I had done and made sure to tell my coworkers that I had shown her a good time and taken care of her.

As she walked out the door, she said, “If you don’t get the money for the sandwich, I’ll send it to you!”

And you know what? I bet she would.


Stalking Whitney

I remember the moment I found out that Whitney Houston died.

I was sitting in Applebees in the Staten Island Mall. This is particularly strange because I eat at Applebees about once every 3 years. And I almost never go to the one in the mall. But I was hanging out with some friends from high school that I hadn’t seen in a while, and they wanted to go there.

My phone pinged, as it usually does every 45 seconds, and I looked down at it.

“AP reporting Whitney Houston is dead at 48,” the email said.

I was shocked. I mean, yeah, I knew about her issues. But I didn’t expect her to die.

I told my friends, and we chatted about how sad it was for a bit. But I thought it would end there.

The next day, I was working with our New Jersey unit. Even though we have the words New York in the name of our station, we cover parts of Bergen County, NJ. Weird, I know.

The thing about our Bergen unit is that there is almost no news to cover. A big story is a water main break or a car robbery. So I figured I’d have a nice quiet day–maybe I’d cover a farmer’s market or something.

Turns out Whitney Houston’s mother, Sissy Houston, lives in Bergen County.

I drove to Edgewater and found Sissy’s building, all while listening to Whitney’s music blaring through the car radio. I could tell I was in the right place, because there was another news van parked outside. But the apartment complex looked deserted.

So for about an hour, I waited outside the building. During that time, only about 3 people went in or out of the building–and I could tell by looking at them that none of them were related to Whitney.

The whole time I felt kind of sick to my stomach. I don’t know how the people from TMZ do it every day. If I did encounter Sissy, what was I supposed to say? Sorry about Whitney, but do you have time to comment about it to your favorite local news station? I really loved “The Bodyguard”…so how do you feel about your dead daughter? Do you think she was lying when she said “crack is whack”???

After waiting in the January chill for over an hour, I was finally cleared from the scene by our assignment desk (the news truck had left as well–I guess no one talked to Sissy that day). I went down to a local shopping center and interviewed random people about how they felt about Whitney’s death.

I was glad to finally go home at the end of the day, mentally exhausted and physically frozen from standing outside for so long.

Even though I never got the interview, I have become famous around my office for my attempts to chase down Sissy Houston. In fact, many of my coworkers refer to me as “the girl who got the exclusive sit down,” even though I didn’t. They like to tell people she picked me over an interview with Anderson Cooper or Katie Couric. If only.

But I guess I could be known for far worse things.