Dave Barry

Classic '95: The book tour from hell


This Dave Barry column was originally published Sunday, July 2, 1995

I'm on Day 15, or possibly Day 73, of a nine-billion-city book tour. I'm surviving on two major food groups: The Bagel Group, and The Cream Cheese Group. I drink hot coffee constantly as I ride from interview to interview. I spill a lot on myself. This is good: It keeps me awake.

Right now I'm a guest on the noon news at a TV station in Albuquerque, N.M. I have no idea why I was sent here; I'm too tired to ask questions. Any day now I could find myself in the Ryukyu Islands, where I would use simple hand gestures to promote my book to the residents, who would purchase it with fish.

The Albuquerque noon news anchor person, a big, boomy- voiced guy named Ted, informs the viewers that today's Top Story is the visit of Hillary Clinton to nearby Santa Fe. The station has a camera crew on location; on the screen, we see a live picture, as it is actually happening, of waiters setting tables in a restaurant. Ted informs us that the first lady will be eating there later on.

Ted, who works alone, reads all the stories, including weather and sports. He also does guest interviews, which are conducted in two little chairs located about 15 feet from his news desk. This means that Ted has to keep shuttling back and forth  between the desk and the chairs, which is tricky because (a) he has to keep talking, and (b) there's a fat microphone cable running down his pants leg. So the viewers see Ted booming out a story from his news desk, and then the screen will show some videotape as Ted, still booming, scuttles over to the interview area, dragging his cable leg behind him, Igor-like, so that when the studio camera comes back on, there's Ted, miraculously in a new location, with his guest. He could definitely use some on-air help. (Connie Chung, phone your agent.)

My interview lasts maybe two minutes and consists almost entirely of Ted and me punching each other in the shoulders with increasing force. This is fine with me; after two weeks, I'm sick of talking about my book. As I'm leaving the studio, I meet Ted's next in-studio guest, a puppy named June Bug, who is the Pet of the Week. It's a shame that I didn't stay to watch the interview, because as I later learned, June Bug urinated on the woman from the Animal Humane Association.

Albuquerque: Where The News Never Stops.

Here are some other book-tour highlights:

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- I appear on a TV talk show devoted to the issue of how bad TV talk shows are. One guest is a college professor who is billed as a talk-show authority and who sounds exactly like Joan Rivers. She watches talk shows constantly and has written a book about how bad they are; she has discussed this on Oprah. Appearing with her is a woman who, as I understand it, was involved in some kind of romantic affair, which she talked about on a bunch of talk shows; now she is on this talk show to talk about how she wants to put this painful episode behind her and wishes people would stop talking about her private life on talk shows. The talk-show hosts and the talk-show audience all agree heartily that talk shows are very bad. I feel like a total sleazeball for being on one.

CLEVELAND -- For reasons that are still not clear, some radio guys decide that a good way to promote my book would be to take a microphone out onto a balcony and record the sound of me using a giant slingshot to shoot water balloons into the parking lot. One balloon explodes near a pedestrian, who looks up and scurries nervously away, no doubt heading straight to a bookstore.

LOS ANGELES -- I'm on a morning TV news show featuring roughly 17 perky anchorpersons, who take turns discussing news stories ranging in significance all the way from Mel Gibson to Heather Locklear. Also there's a lengthy remote interview with -- I swear -- a sea lion named Clyde, who barks relentlessly into the interviewer's microphone, making the same noise over and over, reminding me very much of myself on a book tour, except that Clyde has a certain dignity.

At another point, the Traffic Correspondent, a scarily perky woman up in a helicopter, holds a Bullwinkle the Moose doll up to the camera and refuses to give a traffic report until one of the anchorpersons imitates Bullwinkle's voice.

While I'm waiting to go on the show, I overhear a conversation betweentwo legal experts who are doing TV analysis of the O.J. Simpson Perpetual Trial From Hell. The analysts are complaining about how the trial has sucked all the free time out of their lives.

"I can't even make an appointment with my dentist," one of them says. "I'm going to wind up sending him my teeth in a box."

Today on Geraldo: O.J.'s Dental Victims.

SEATTLE -- At a bookstore, I meet a urologist who tells me and a group of fascinated yet horrified onlookers about items that he personally has removed from the male anatomy unit.

"One was a swizzle stick from a Ramada Inn," he says, causing a violent outbreak of mass wincing. "I still have that one."

* * *

Also on this book tour I got interviewed by Dick Cavett; a TV personality named Fred who wrote a book entitled Onions, Onions, Onions; Danny Bonaduce, the former Partridge Family child star turned radio personality and (I mean this as a compliment) lunatic; a radio personality called "Smash" ("People call me 'Smash,' " he told me); and another radio personality called "The Greaseman," who demonstrated, on the air, at least six unusual and dramatic ways to commit an act of flatulence.

Literature: It's my life.

© 1995, Dave Barry

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