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California and the West | MIKE DOWNEY

Virtual Virgins Exposed Prior to Climactic Scene

July 22, 1998|MIKE DOWNEY

It was a hot little story while it lasted. Some people thought it was sweet. Others thought it was sick. But it sure had America talking. (Hey, America has to talk about something.)

"Mike" was a teenager, an honor student and a virgin.

"Diane," ditto.

They decided to make love.

Smart, stupid, whatever, they were not the first kids to make this decision and they won't be the last.

With one big exception:

They decided to do it on the Internet.

Live.

In front of millions of strangers.

Sweet, sick, whatever, it was historic. It was news. Mike and Diane would boldly go where no boy and girl had ever gone.

With one big exception:

It was a fake.

*

A hoax, a fraud, a sham, a scam, a con. Call it what you will.

You can even call it what the people involved call it:

"A public service announcement."

Tuesday afternoon in L.A., the whole gang got together at a condom shop on Melrose to explain themselves.

Everybody took a seat in the back of the store, beside more bottles of jams and jellies than they sell at Knott's Berry Farm.

Adam Glickman, the store owner, says a quick hello and thanks for coming "to share this saga with us."

He turns things over to a Ken Tipton, an independent producer, a.k.a. "Oscar Wells."

Ken introduces his stars.

"I'd like you to meet Michelle Parma, or 'Diane,"' he says.

"Hi!" says Michelle.

"And this is Ty Taylor, or 'Mike.' "

Ty likewise says hi.

Turns out that "Diane" is not a teenager at all. She is an actress in her low 20s, originally from Dallas, who is also a waitress at Ed DeBevic's retro restaurant in Beverly Hills.

Turns out that "Mike" is no teen, either. He is an actor, 23, who just moved here from Birmingham, Ala.

They auditioned and got the parts.

Parts in what?

In "the world's largest PSA," to use Tipton's words--a public service announcement to be watched all around the world, advising boys and girls to not, repeat not, have sex.

What Tipton did was film an 18-part soap opera--also his words--in which "Mike" and "Diane" would be followed daily, falling in love, making their big decision, telling their parents, getting an AIDS test, shopping for protection, yada, yada, yada.

Actual dialogue:

Diane: "I just wish I had started exercising last month. I want to look OK for the camera."

Mike: "She looks great, but you know women--they're never happy with their bodies or their hair color."

Diane: "Don't mess with me, or I'll turn this into the first public execution."

And on the big day, Aug. 4, with everyone at home presumably on the edges of their seats, Mike and Diane would come to that magic moment in life, when they . . .

Decide not to do it.

Actual dialogue:

Mike: "I love you so much . . . that I can wait another four years, can you?"

Diane: "That's the most romantic thing you've ever said. I would wait for you forever."

The End.

Well, not quite the end. Before a fade to black, "Oscar Wells," our on-camera narrator, tells the audience:

"Sixty years ago, Orson Welles chose to shock the nation with an experiment that illustrated the power of a new communication medium called the 'radio,' when he broadcast a fictionalized Martian invasion of New Jersey. Over the last 18 days, we chose to educate the world with an experiment that illustrated the power of the new communication medium called the 'Internet.'

"Thank you and good night."

But then the truth got out, that none of this was real.

And that suckers are still born every minute.

*

Our Orson Welles-wannabe thinks it shouldn't be that big a deal. Tipton's theory is that "when David Copperfield says he's going to make the Statue of Liberty disappear," he doesn't really.

Ah, but we know Copperfield's tricking us from the get-go.

America thought it was getting a real-life "Truman Show," so we could observe real people in a real situation. We thought Mike and Diane were a couple of Trumans. It turns out they were like Truman's wife and neighbors: phony.

Reporting live, from a condom shop on Melrose, thank you and good night.

Mike Downey's column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Write to him at Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles 90053, or phone (213) 237-7366.

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