I Have a Secret To Tell You on National Television. That was title for the episode of Ricki Lake I appeared on in 1994. My friend Aurelius was obsessed with Ricki Lake from John Water’s movies. She had been watching her talkshow for weeks searching for topics we could meet the criteria for. One day she told me that I “should be getting a call from Ricki Lake.” She had told me the title of the show but not the secret. Someone from the show called me for a telephone interview,
“Do have any idea who might want to reveal a secret to you?”
“No, I can’t think of anyone.”
“Can you think of a secret that someone might be keeping from you?”
“Not that I’m aware of.”
“Has anyone mentioned anything about the Ricki Lake show to you?”
“Are you in a relationship with anyone?”
“Yes, I have a boyfriend Greg.”
“Do you think he would be willing to come on the show?”
“I don’t know, I can ask him.”
Later someone called to get our address and ask our meal preferences. We were all in college together at Pratt. They picked us up in limos, Greg and I together and Aurelius separately. Greg and I were vegan at the time and they had gotten us Falafels.
Greg had purple hair and an eyebrow ring. He had this weird style, kind of a cartoon hobo. He had this thing for really big round shoes with platforms. He wore fat old men’s pants, the widest he could possible find with a belt and pins to hold in all the excess fabric. He was into stripes, Sonic Youth style. He made a lot of his own clothes; he liked polyester and the color brown.
I had bleached blonde hair and a tongue ring. I was in between my rave, punk and gothic stage, never fully committing or identifying with any one scene. I had made a spiked collar out of velvet and metal drywall screws that security tried to take away from me until they realized I was a guest. I was wearing an infant’s shirt, one of those ribbed lap tees, where the collar overlaps the shoulder. I had been getting them at the discount stores and buying the largest size I could find, this one was royal blue and I had painted a black bat on it. I was wearing black vinyl pants that I had made, let me remind you it was the early 90’s and cool.
Aurelius had a shaved head with a patch of bangs in the front Tank Girl style and was the most tattooed and pierced. She was wearing her usual uniform of black: baggy guy’s shorts, combat boots, a Christian Death t-shirt and as many silver chains and necklaces she could manage-a walking metal detector’s nightmare.
After eating falafel in the Green Room they walked me out to backstage where I had to wait in a booth listening to music on headphones. I was nervous walking out and as the audience kind of cheered and gasped I felt it necessary to expose my tongue ring. Aurelius was waiting for me on this little loveseat. Greg was sitting next to her in a chair. Aurelius began her speech.
“I just wanted to bring you here because—I LOVE YOU RICKI! I’ve watched all your movies—“
“Thank-you” Ricki says,
“What did you want to tell your friend?”
“Well I just wanted to say that Greg didn’t get even get you anything for Valentine’s Day (audience boos) and I would treat you much better than that (audience awes). I’m in love with you and I want you to dump him and go out with me (audience goes crazy, clapping, screaming, gasping).”
I feigned surprise. I opened my mouth and covered it with my hand. I opened my eyes wide as if in shock, realizing I had all the acting abilities of a cartoon. Ricki said,“You seem really surprised.” I was thinking do I? Am I believable? That was so FAKE. Greg just kept cursing, they bleeped out everything he said. I just played dutiful girlfriend and said that “it wouldn’t be fair, I couldn’t just dump whomever I was with” as if etiquette was relevant given the spectacle we had just made of ourselves.
I had told my Dad that I was going to be on the show, he had his friends at the bar recording it while he was at work. When he came by to get the tape they warned him
“I don’t think you want to see this.”
After watching the tape he told them that he thought that I “had handled myself very well.”
My aunt couldn’t even watch the tape “with all those things in your face.” I can’t remember if I had the cheek and septum piercing then, but I had them when she picked me up from the train station when I came home to visit once. She had just gotten a new used car and her son began asking me about my piercings as we were pulling out of the parking space. Just as he was contemplating out loud what would be his first piercing she ran into a parking meter and ripped off her side view mirror.
Ten years after the show I was still being recognized from the show, which was miraculous since I was kind of a chameleon with my ever evolving style and hair color, eventually returning to bleach blonde or as I like to call it, a failed attempt to recapture my youth. We lived in Fort Greene/Bed-Stuy where people would ask us on the street, the subway and yell out of car windows:
“Yo, you were on Ricki Lake!”
“Whatever happened with that girl?”
“Did you dump that guy?”
We’d usually be recognized apart and would make up different answers. Aurelius would say, “Yeah we got married,” pointing to her girlfriend, being white and blonde could pass for me since all white people really do look alike. I’d say. “Yeah, I dumped that guy,” which was true but not for reasons that would make for good TV, not yet.