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Dana Parsons

Episode Would Get Audience Member Where It Hurts

July 14, 1993|Dana Parsons

I guess I'm the last guy in town to hear about the Virginia woman who, in an act of marital revenge, grabbed a 12-inch kitchen knife and, as her husband slept, cut off his . . .

This is where the painful part comes in.

Cut off his . . . member.

Forgive me for the euphemism. It's just that there are some words I hate to see in a family newspaper, especially when they appear in the same sentence with "12-inch kitchen knife."

Anyway, the woman said she did the deed because her husband chronically abused her and had raped her that very night.

The woman's assault occurred last month, but there's a new twist. Just a few days ago, she filed for divorce.

Dear God, please don't have her claiming sexual incompatibility.

For the record, the woman's husband denies that he was an abusive husband or that he sexually assaulted her.

Once upon a time, the reporting of the crime would be the end of the story.

But that's why God invented TV talk shows, and that's where this saga of trouble-in-paradise may well be headed.

The prosecuting attorney in the case said the other day that media calls have come from as far away as Japan. "I don't think I've seen anything like this," prosecutor Paul Ebert said. One presumes he was referring to the media interest.

The injured man's attorney, who works for an entertainment firm, has been quoted as saying his client is considering how best to sell his story to the media. The injured man, who is 26, has been approached by "every tabloid and every mainline news organization, except the nightly talk shows," the attorney said.

At this moment, careers are probably hanging in the balance for the people who book guests for Oprah and Geraldo and Jane Whitney.

My personal favorite in the sweepstakes would be the Jane Whitney show, a relative newcomer in my sphere of awareness but fast becoming a favorite. Hey, when I'm willing to watch a show at 11 o'clock instead of "Cheers" reruns, it's got to be great.

There's just something about Whitney, something about her constant state of perplexity and the pained expression as her show chronicles the daily unraveling of civilized society. She usually presents both sides of the story and, quite often, doesn't take any guff from either side. My guess is that she would have both husband and wife on stage simultaneously, in addition to an expert on spousal anger.

The best part about Whitney's show is the description of the guest that appears on screen under his or her name. Inasmuch as this probably represents their once-in-a-lifetime moment of fame, there's a lot riding on it. It's sort of an epitaph for the living.

Accordingly, my all-time Whitney show favorite was the lesbian who was wearing a respectable business suit as she discussed discrimination in society. Somehow, her reason for being was reduced to: "Dresses Butch for Political Reasons."

You could almost write the script yourself if Jane landed the Virginia couple:

Jane (to husband): "I guess my first question to you would have to be, Did you have any idea your wife would do such a thing?"

Husband (tagged for home viewers as, "Had Member Cut Off by Wife As He Slept"): "No, Jane, I really didn't. If I had, I probably wouldn't have stuck around."

Jane (to wife, identified to viewers as "Claims Abuse Led Her to Emasculate Husband"): "What you did sounds so extreme. Why didn't you just leave him?"

Wife: "I was just so angry at what he had done. All I could think of was making sure he never did it again."

Jane (to audience): "By your applause, what do you think? Did she go too far?"

The audience will probably break down about 50-50 on whether she did.

This is the America we have come to recognize as the 21st Century beckons. The country is now filled with so many wacky people doing so many bizarre things that we actually may have moved beyond horror into tragi-comedy.

Worrywarts like me probably have it all wrong. Maybe Jane Whitney and Geraldo don't bum us out; maybe they cheer us up. Maybe we're so desensitized to weirdness and trauma these days that we get a perverse chuckle out of the Virginia couple.

In case you hadn't heard, the Virginia man had his member sewn back on, after his wife led officials to the field of tall grass where she had tossed it.

So, his luck already is turning.

And by the end of an hour with Jane, who knows? I'd say it's even money that the couple might reconcile right on the spot.

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