I am the weakest link.
Here I am rattling in the "media feeding booth" of the Waterhouse Magic pregame shuffle, burger-and-dogging it with WKMG-TV6 media relations and mouthing superfluous journalistic credentials. They already know my game because they're playing it too, you see.
"I'm here to explain the process of celebrity," I say to the amusement of only myself.
"What you're saying is that you get to talk to second-level celebrity," laughs the TV station's know-too-much media rep.
Anyway, those of nonserious employment situations (second-level celebrities ... and their interviewers) are by now aware of the syndicated afternoon version of the smug Brit-import hit game show, "The Weakest Link," airing weekdays at 4:30 on Channel 6. Hunky host (in that geeky sort of way) George Gray has been hustled into town for the obligatory "local media" junket and is to reprise his celebrated schtick in the halftime of the Magic-Bulls game.
His demeanor is L.A. real-estate confident, and I'm quite certain that he is to become my favorite person from the moment we meet eyes. Except he has a dirty-denim girlfriend, Megan, who is likewise my favorite person, if only for recounting her limousine trek to a Cher gig with a gaggle of all of her gay friends and sharing my interest in the girth of Simon LeBon's privates. I'm marrying both of them. George and Megan, not Cher and Simon.
"What are you doing here?" kisses Megan. "You should be in L.A.!"
Well, not really. The real mission of journalistic subversion (cough) is the sit-down interview, and, as of yet, I've been limited to populated conversation in the ominous arena backstage hall, as we're ushered as an entourage to the court for a "Weakest Link" walk-through. After the formalities, we're directed to a guest dressing room -- sort of a cinder-block prison with a vanity-bulbed mirror -- for our formal meeting of the minds.
"Well, weeklies are always very PC, feminist writing up front and then salacious ads for massage in the back, right?" queries the quiz boy.
"I combine the liberalism with the hand jobs," I tart. "I'm bringing it all together."
OK, down to business. Gray, who has rags-to-riched-it to minor fame from a career of smoky stand-up, is an instantly affable character of anecdotes and inflected vocalizations.
Do you know all of the answers, George?
"I've never once claimed to be Alex Trebek," he confesses.
"Not even Pat Sajak ..." I chuff.
("Oooh, mind your p's and q's with this one!" shakes the publicist. ... I'd like to buy a bowel.)
"I don't claim to be more book smart than any of the contestants," Gray smooths. "I just claim to be faster on my feet. You know, you can know all your little trivia, but I'll whoop ya!"
It's not about the trivia, anyway. It's about the disses delivered upon an individual's voting out. How do you come up with your dismissals?
"Completely off the cuff," he cuffs. "If I know what you do for a living, what your name is and where you're from, then we can play. If someone plays back, I can turn around, be like, 'OK, you're dead!' Then I lay into them for like 10 minutes. [He imitates cat hissing sound. ... Yikes!] Of course none of it ever gets aired, but we've got 200 people in the audience. That's enough to put them in their place. I mean, come on. I made a living as a stand-up. You're not gonna beat me. Not in my house ..."
(His favorite quick-release put-down -- or 'who-slam' as they call it -- turns out to be, "Who here is the Tito in this Jackson 5?" Very funny.)
"It's like if a really good friend whips you at backgammon -- not only do they whip you, but they taunt you."
"And you're drunk ..." I infuse, closing my eyes and attempting to reconcile a backgammon reference.
"And naked!" he plays along. "You for five minutes are probably the most bitter and angry part of your personality, even if you are usually a good sport. You're upset. Somebody just poked you ..."
Ouch! I love backgammon!
"I don't know if it's a fact," supposes the steering publicist, "but I think we have had a wider and greater diversity of contestants than any other game show."
"Is that excluding 'Shop 'Til You Drop'?" quizzes Gray, momentarily out of line. "But seriously, we bring people in from places like Alaska, and [that's] not cheap. Especially when they're on screen for three-and-a-half seconds. It's like, thanks for the plane ticket; you suck; get out of here."
Are you better than co-"Linker" Anne Robinson? She seems a little, er, firm.
"Nooooooo," he panders. "A lot of people say she's mean, but when you meet her, you want to give her a hug."
Do you hang out in black together and drink mean brown liquor?
"Mint juleps," he corrects. "It's very strange."
At this point I lean in and touch his leg, like maybe Barbara Walters would ... or more likely a dirty old man.
"No means no," he dismisses. "Bad touch."
"Oooooh, irresponsible journalism!" I cooh, subverting as we speak.
"He thinks yellow journalism is a golden shower," stings Gray.
Isn't it? Guess I am the weakest link. Goodbye.