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Swapped spouse gains national notoriety

Marguerite Perrin's outburst has made her reality TV's latest star. Bobblehead, anyone?

November 18, 2005|Maria Elena Fernandez | Times Staff Writer

In the beginning, there was "Survivor" Richard Hatch. Then came "The Apprentice's" Omarosa and "American Idol's" "She Bangs" man William Hung. Now meet Marguerite Perrin, a.k.a. "God Warrior," whose screaming meltdown on Fox TV's "Trading Spouses: Meet Your New Mommy" this month has made her the next instant reality TV star.

In fact, Perrin, the swapped wife on the season premiere of "Trading Spouses," is on her way to achieving her own unique brand of reality TV stardom. No other bobbleheads of reality contestants have ever been auctioned on EBay except for Perrin's. Not to mention the T-shirts, bracelet charms, bumper stickers, magnets and pins.

Sure, there have been plenty of other televised tantrums on reality shows since "Survivor" premiered in the summer of 2000. But when the overweight Louisiana mother and grandmother, with missing front teeth and wild hair, suffered the mother of all meltdowns and declared herself a "God Warrior" fighting against the "dark side," it sparked the kind of national phenomenon you might expect from some other desperate housewives.

Bloggers went berserk, someone wrote a song infused with her rant, and a Florida real estate agent with some time on his hands sculpted her bobblehead from polymer clay and put it up for sale. At press time, the God Warrior Bobble, which cost $10 to make, was going for $750. (The auction ends today at 3:48 p.m.).

Fox ran clips of Perrin's rant frequently to promote the show during the weeks her episodes aired -- at 9 p.m. on consecutive Wednesdays, Nov. 2 and 9 -- though the network has since stopped running them. Perrin, who feels the clips of her as a "Psycho Mom" don't depict her true character, has since appeared on "Access Hollywood" and radio interviews.

Perrin, who is back with her family in Ponchatoula, La., thought her bobble was so funny, she signed a photograph and sent it to 24-year-old John Hill of Orlando, Fla., the real estate agent and mortgage broker who made it. The wobbly doll, which is dressed in a "moo moo black dress and shirt" and is adorned with a beaded necklace and silver medallion like the one Perrin wore during her breakdown, comes replete with her sound bites from the show: "Everything's un-Godly! She was tampering in dark-sided stuff! I give it up to God. I'm a God Warrior!"

But Perrin has only recently started smiling about her televised fiasco. Since the two-part episode aired, strangers have been calling her house at all hours, yelling "Gargoyles" and "God Warrior!" when she answers, and showing up at her house in the middle of the night. Twice she has had to call the police.

"I've been staying a lot inside lately," Perrin, 44, said during a telephone interview this week. "I'm not one of those kinds of people who is unrecognizable. With the gap [in her mouth] and the way I look, I'm not one of these people that can rob a bank and not be the person that everybody knows did it."

To this day, Perrin said she does not understand what went so wrong that she kicked a camera crew out of her Louisiana house and broke down. A devout Christian who owns a dance studio with her 24-year-old daughter, Ashley, Perrin traded homes with Jeanne D'Amico-Flisher, a 47-year-old hypnotist and pressure healer from Boxborough, Mass., who reads tarot cards and has a syndicated radio program called "Love Talk USA" with her husband, Chris.

According to "Trading Spouses" rules, two spouses (typically wives) spend six days with each other's family, living the counterpart's life. At the end, each contestant receives $50,000 and instructions from the other on how to spend it.

During Perrin's visit in Boxborough, Chris Flisher hosted a summer solstice celebration and invited her to his radio program when a Christian astrologer was a guest. At Perrin's home in Louisiana, Jeanne Flisher performed hypnotherapy on Perrin's daughter to help her with her weight loss and went to church with the family.

Perrin said she had never watched "Trading Spouses," but a friend sent in an application pretending to be her, and the producers called. Figuring that participating on the show might give her the money to pay for a gastric bypass operation she has been wanting for five years, Perrin agreed to be interviewed.

"My family put themselves out there because they knew I wanted this," she said. "I have such a wonderful charismatic family. I just thought, goodness, once people get past the initial shock of the weight and the way I look and my quirkiness, surely they would just like me. But it wasn't a good experience for me. Not that I didn't like the family because they were trying in their own way, but it was that their belief systems were totally different and that made me uncomfortable."

By the time Perrin returned to Louisiana, she was frustrated and tired and wanted only to be with her family. Learning that her daughter was hypnotized and that her husband had been discussing the zodiac with her replacement, she said, sent her "to the edge."

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