Hoaxed Talk Shows Ponder Options
NEW YORK (AP) _ There’s no way for TV talk shows to fully defend themselves against phonies intent on putting one over on them but such hoaxes are rare, producers said after two actors said they posed as guests with sexual problems.
″If someone really has the intention to put one over on you, I’m not sure what all the safeguards are to protect yourself,″ said Delia Fine, senior producer of ″Geraldo,″ one of the shows duped by part-time performers Tani Freiwald, 37, and Wes Bailey, 33.
Shows like Geraldo Rivera’s, Oprah Winfrey’s and Sally Jessy Raphael’s do check out their guests, but the two actors slipped by because they were recommended by a psychologist known to the shows’ staffs.
Ms. Freiwald appeared last November on ″The Oprah Winfrey Show″ in Chicago, posing as a woman who had been married 14 years and hated sex. Then, in May, she and Bailey appeared on ″The Sally Jessy Raphael Show,″ which originates from New Haven, Conn., with Bailey posing as an impotent husband and Ms. Freiwald as his sex surrogate.
In July, the pair appeared on ″Geraldo,″ Bailey playing a 35-year-old virgin and Ms. Freiwald again playing a sex surrogate, a stand-in sexual partner employed by a sex therapist.
″After you go through the first one, they get really easy,″ Ms. Freiwald said Tuesday on ″CBS This Morning.″
Bailey said the only time he was worried during the talk-show stints was when Raphael assured the studio audience that the two were not actors reproducing a scene.
″There was a little clenching in the stomachs ... but we’ve both been performers all our adult lives,″ he said.
The lure, they said, was the thrill of appearing on national television.
″Geraldo tapes at a little studio on 42nd and Broadway, so now I can say I’ve appeared on Broadway,″ Bailey told CBS.
They said they were asked to appear on the talk shows by a Chicago psychologist-author, Dean C. Dauw, for whom Ms. Freiwald was working as an office manager.
″He asked me to do it because the surrogates he does have working for him are neither presentable or articulate enough″ to go on television, Ms. Freiwald said.
Dauw did not return calls to his home or office, but he was quoted by the Omaha World-Herald as saying that Ms. Freiwald worked as an office manager and a sex surrogate and Bailey was a client and that they were not acting.
Linda Finnell, a producer for the Raphael show, said Dauw, who has appeared on talk shows to promote his books, is one of the show’s sources for guests.
″We try to check people’s stories out as much as possible, but when you have a professional you’ve worked with before, there’s no reason to doubt that professional,″ Ms. Finnell said.
Dauw’s reputation also convinced Ms. Winfrey’s staff.
″I don’t see any way we could have double-checked this guest’s (Ms. Freiwald’s) story based on the fact that she was presented to us on a doctor’s referral,″ said Debra DiMaio, executive producer of ″The Oprah Winfrey Show.″
She said guests sign a release ″that says basically they’re going to be telling the truth.″ The show also pays the guests’ travel and lodging expenses, a possible basis for legal action. ″They (Ms. Freiwald and Bailey) accepted something from us under false pretenses,″ she said.
But the hoax was ″an isolated incident,″ she said. ″I don’t think there are a lot of people who want to come on national television and create a personal problem that’s probably considered embarrassing by the general public.″
The shows feed on each other, and an appearance on one show can make producers of a second less wary.
″These people had already appeared on Oprah Winfrey and everybody over here was shocked when it turned out that Oprah had been had,″ said ″Geraldo″ spokesman Jeff Erdel. ″We figured the fact that they had already been on Oprah spoke well for their credibility.″
Lorri Benson, senior producer for ″Donahue,″ called the situation ″a travesty and a real shame.″ ″Donahue″ was not a victim of the phony guests, but did suffer a hoax last year when some audience members pretended to faint.
″Thank God we weren’t involved in this one, but it does, I think, hurt everybody’s credibility,″ said Ms. Benson.
″We absolutely try and do everything we can do (to be sure of a guests’ authenticity),″ she said. ″But if someone is determined to do it, there are ways to get through. We’re always worred about the possibility of this kind of thing happening, so we’re very, very careful about it.″