So after a stop and start, the episode finally aired. The original airing date was May 24 so I sent postcards to my mailing list and generally alerted the world. I went to my boyfriend’s house and he gave me a consolation prize of the book and the film of “The Perfect Storm.”
Todd had wrapped it himself and stuck a big computer-generated “Miss Lynn Benson’s ‘Win Ben Stein’s Money’ Consolation Prize” placard on it, complete with graphics of Ben and Nancy. It was so sweet I nearly passed out. At 4:45, Todd’s phone rang. I’d left his number on my home answering machine so that people could call me to say how great I looked on TV.
It was Mike, calling from Boston.
“Uhm, I’m watching the show and, uhm, you’re not on it.” Todd and I watched at 7:30 till 7:31, then turned on “Out of Sight” instead. Perhaps not coincidentally, that was the first time I spent the night in his bed. Don’t worry, we behaved.
- * *
A few people called and e-mailed to say they hadn’t seen me on TV so I told them I’d let them know if I learned when it might air again. Having no idea whether the episode had been postponed or already aired was maddening.
I checked the schedule on-line at comedycentral.com. No dice.
“Shit!” I summarized. “I spent $500 to do the show and another $200 on publicity and now I might not even get to see it.”
Finally, while surfing the Web on July 4th I decided to re-open my investigation. I found the Comedy Central search page and typed the keyword “noir.” It returned with a snappy, “Hey Chief, is this what you’re looking for?” and listed: 7/12/2001 7:30 PM All Times ET/PT Win Ben Stein’s Money (ep#5048) [cc] Not all is black & white as three suspects try to steal $5,000 of Private I. Ben Stein’s money in this Film Noir tribute.
I called and left messages for Mom and Dad, both out with better things to do. Called Dean, my dearest friend from high school, and left a message with his cookie that I’d be on TV later the next week. Mom and I sent e-mails to everyone we knew, and I called my friends from Trinity.
I sent an e-mail to my ex-boyfriend Todd (things happen quick around here — try and keep up) who invited me to watch it at his house. At first I demurred but later accepted, figuring who am I trying to kid? “The Perfect Storm” was not only the name of his consolation prize to me but also perfectly summed up our relationship, which was brief and intense, leaving me drenched, breathless and dashed against the rocks. I’m still awaiting my FEMA disaster aid.
I called John and asked if he’d like to have a late lunch on the 12th, followed by busting in to The Cats and watching it on their 4:30 East Coast satellite feed.
“Be on time,” he reminded me.
I, who am always on time. On a day of intense personal importance. As if.
On the day itself I took a walk to expel some of the building free-radical energy. John and I met at Andale Taqueria in Los Gatos. I had the first of what became many beers of the day, evening and subsequent morning. John and I had a great lunch, the most comfortable time we’ve spent together since the dot-com bomb. But by the time we were done with our burritos I looked at my phone and it was only quarter to 4:00.
“There’s a TCBY a couple doors down. Want to get some yogurt?” We walked up the street and he was sure to point out his stellar parking spot. John always gets the good parking spots. Of course, John has a killer car and is suave as hell, so it oughtn’t to surprise anyone.
Ordering and eating our yogurt took up another 25 minutes, after which we stood and agreed to meet at The Cats. Except for my cabins, The Cats is my favorite place in Los Gatos. It is a ramshackle roadhouse that’s been there so long it used to be a bordello. I guess it used to be a gay bar in the 70s, but hello, wasn’t nearly every bar a gay bar in the 70s? I mean, disco? Now it’s a regular bar with live music nearly every night except for Monday (when they’re closed).
My parents went to The Cats once when they were living in Sunnyvale in the 1960s. Dad never forgot the entertainment that night. “It was some folkie on a guitar with a lisp. One of his songs was ‘Little Green Appleth.’ I wanted to ask him, ‘Why that song, man?'” Deep in reminiscence, Dad sang me the chorus: Oh, God didn’t make little green appleth And it don’t rain in Indianaopolith In the thummertime…
Anyway, I moved to my mountain homestead on December 1 (y2k) and left for London on the fifth. The first time I went to The Cats was shortly after I returned from across the Pond. I met Alan the bartender on my first visit. He was the first non-landlord person I met in Los Gatos.
I remembered this as I rattled the door handle of the establishment at 4:20. T-10 and counting. A minute later, Alan appeared. “Hi Alan. I know you’re not open until 4:30, but can my friend and I come in? I’m going to be on TV tonight.” He let me in and I took a seat by the window, waiting for John.
“Is it your game show?” Alan asked. He’d been well-versed on my adventure.
“Yeah. It’s on at 4:30 on Comedy Central.” Even though I haven’t had DirecTV since moving away from Redwood City, I remembered that the channel we wanted was 249. Ben Stein fandom is a lasting legacy, indeed.
John arrived and I waited impatiently for “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” to be over already. His moment of Zen featured the stripping of the man who won Wimbledon, so that assuaged my anxiety. A bit.
I remembered that there were never commercials between the end of Daily Show and the beginning of WBS$, so I perched on the edge of my seat and the introduction began.
“Lynn, it’s in color!” John exclaimed.
“That’s just the beginning — it’s always in color.” I said, too scared to blink. My breath caught in my throat.
The introduction cut away to the show. In black and white. YES!
“Oooh, there’s Lynn!” John said delightedly as Ben walked past the contestant podiums on-screen.
We watched as Ben did a film noir voiceover to the action and then Nancy began introducing the contestants. I was second in line. Nancy commented on the fact that I live in the Santa Cruz Mountains and draw water from a well (I think she was picturing me cranking up the bucket Heidi-style, but after all, what do Southern Californians know about water besides attempted theft?).
Ben piped in, “Where she lives in the Santa Cruz Mountains happens to be the place where they grow the chronicest weed in all of California.”
I laughed, and Nancy added, “All right, you’re my new best friend, Lynn.”
They edited the show by not showing Terry’s incorrect first answer. He’d chosen the first question and answered it incorrectly. I rang in with the right answer, and won the follow-up prize as well (thanks to Becky’s Dictionary of Cultural Literacy).
The scoreboard read Lynn: $100, men: $0.
Alas, it was not to continue…
The questions I rang in first with, I answered incorrectly. Welcome to my life. The best part of the show for me was when Nancy said “I didn’t know it either, Lynn,” after I incorrectly answered a question about the equinox, and followed that up with, “Lynn might not know what ‘equi-‘ means but she does have the best chronic.”
Both she and Ben said that my appearance on the show could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Ben? Nancy? How about it?
By the time the episode was over, everyone in The Cats knew I’d been on TV.
John left and I enjoyed my second beer of the day, then got in my truck and drove to Todd’s, stopping at the grocery store for Smartfood and a six-pack of Lagunitas IPA.
My cell phone rang after I was underway — it was my friend Brad, calling to offer good luck wishes. He sounded disappointed that I’d already seen the episode, and asked me to not tell him how the game ended. I made him promise to read the “day of taping” column once it was over, so he’d know I wasn’t a complete dumb-ass that day. He asked where I was going to watch the 7:30 broadcast and I said I’d be at Todd’s.
“Hmmmm… how long has it been since he’s seen you?”
“A couple of weeks.”
“Maybe he’ll want to snuggle.”
Todd cooked me dinner and we watched the episode. He taped it on the cassette he’d prepared the first time the show was supposed to air, marking out the May date in favor of the correct July date.
Mom called and said I looked great on TV.
Dad was out of town so I wasn’t expecting to hear from him.
Todd, alas, made no overtures that could be construed as pre-snuggling, so after the show was over I left his house and drove to downtown San Jose, where I met friends for Big Lil’s “Stand Up, it’s Thursday Night” comedy review show.
Afterwards we went back to one of their apartments and they asked to see the tape of my TV appearance, so we popped it in and I watched it again. At the end of my segment, once I got the boot, Jim looked over at me.
“Jeez, Lynn, you look like you’re at Disneyland,” commenting about my smileyness.
I didn’t tell him that once it became apparent that I wasn’t going to win, I just thought about my parents sitting there together, watching me from the audience.
* * *
So, it’s been a month since my debut and it didn’t change my life, sigh. Mom’s friends sent her e-mails complimenting me on my appearance.
Jeffrey blamed my poor performance on my white-trash rental car: “Bad carma.”
One of my favorite customers from days-gone-by at Aimnet said I came off as funny and charming and commented that the camera “obviously” likes me.
I told Steve, who hadn’t seen the episode, that Ben Stein said Santa Cruz County grows the best pot in the state.
“Wrong: Mendocino,” he replied.
Brandon said he didn’t care for my hat.
Katherine couldn’t watch it because that was the day her poodle decided to burrow under the German shepherd’s fence (both Gigi and Katherine are recovering nicely).
A guy I went on a date with a few years ago called my work number and asked if that had been me on TV a couple of weeks ago.
I told Mark, who hadn’t seen the episode, that that Ben Stein said Santa Cruz County grows the best pot in the state.
“Wrong: Mendocino,” he replied.
I called Dean-o this past Saturday but he wasn’t home, so I left him a message asking if he’d like to attend the Moffett Air Expo and, by the way, had he seen me on TV? I checked my home voicemail an hour later and was happy to hear his voice.
“Yes, Lynn, I saw you on TV and what can I say, you looked supreme. It was actually kind of strange, seeing you on television, but more about that later.”
What was even more strange was that it turned out he’d left me that message before checking his own answering machine.
Doo dee doo doo, doo dee doo doo…
The final kicker is that I received my lovely parting gift two months ahead of schedule. Instead of a $215 backpack, though, I opened the box to reveal $215 worth of backpacks and water-bottle carriers.
Which, come to think of it, might prove handy as I’m hiking around the Santa Cruz Mountains, in search of the chronicest weed in California.