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Falcon and the showman

In incidents like last week's 'balloon boy' caper, we all share some blame when those without shame chase their 15 minutes of fame.

October 20, 2009

How's this for a reality show concept? Call it "Schemers": A man and woman fall in love -- with fame, that is. They waste scads of taxpayer dollars and scare the daylights out of the public by telling police that their propitiously named son, Falcon, is soaring off in a wayward balloon. Except he was never in the balloon at all. What a laugh riot!

You'll recognize this, no doubt, as the plot of the true-life story that unfolded last week. The money moment came during that family interview on CNN when 6-year-old Falcon Heene, who it turns out might be more grounded in reality than his parents, responded to questions about why he had hidden in the garage by telling his dad, "You said we did this for a show." Father Richard sighed "Hmm." Mom Mayumi paused for a moment and said "No." Kids say the darndest things, don't they?

The Heenes haven't been convicted of anything, no matter what the sheriff of Larimer County accuses them of. But there is little doubt that they were publicity hounds. And publicity is what they now have in abundance. Even if they do turn out to be hoaxsters, they might nevertheless be able to take a page from Nadya Suleman, the mother of octuplets, who has her own reality show. At the very least, a well-paid exclusive interview with People magazine could be in the offing for the Heenes, and there's always the possibility of an appearance with Dr. Phil, who would no doubt scold them roundly for their publicity-seeking behavior while he keeps a careful eye on the ratings for his show.

Society will tsk-tsk, but grocery shoppers will pick up the magazine at the checkout stand, at least for a quick leaf-through to see if there are any more tidbits of information for them to shake their heads at, scandalized. Then they'll catch the clips, at least online, of whatever talk show signs the deal. And if the Heenes are eventually convicted and sent to prison, there might be an even more riveting reality show awaiting them: life behind bars. Call it "Desperate Hustlers." The supporting cast is sure to be colorful, and think of the precocious new lines Falcon might deliver on visiting days.

The world of celebrity depends on a symbiotic relationship. As much as some people will do just about anything for a Hollywood contract, a good number of the rest of us will lap up the juicy story of their wrongdoing. In reality, perhaps we all get what we wanted.

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