Opinion: Oprah, Ellen, Got Cash to Give Away? I'll Take Some, Please

Filed under: Opinions

Ellen and Oprah picture

Oh, Goddess Ellen. Oh, Goddess Oprah. Please hear our pleas. Illustration by Dori Hartley


You know things are getting desperate when you see the ads for Oprah Winfrey's new OWN network, and the first thing you say is, "Gee, I hope she'll still be giving money out on her next show -- 'cause I sure do want some."

Along with her fellow daytime hosts, Winfrey's known for lavishing gifts upon unsuspecting viewers -- everything from supplying each member of the television audience with the latest best-selling novel to hooking up a stranger in another state with all that her bleeding heart desires.

I'm talking cars. Homes. Family vacations. As I recall, one sweet afternoon, not too long ago, every person who sat his or her butt down in a chair at Harpo Studios received a brand new set of kitchen appliances.

First thought to pop into my head: "I wonder if you can sell all that cool stuff."

I certainly wouldn't have room in my little apartment for a mansion's worth of techno-gadgetry, let alone a refrigerator that not only makes my drink for me, but tells me how beautiful I look while sipping it. As a single parent, my daughter and I would never even be able to use all that stuff. But, ooh la la, the bills I could pay if I unloaded it all on Craigslist!

Truth is, times are hard and if you're not independently wealthy -- or being supported by someone else -- there's a good chance that, if you're sitting at home watching celebs giving fortunes away on daytime telly, you are -- you guessed it -- unemployed.

And, let's face it, you could use some help. You want what those lucky audience members are getting: Money. You want to buy your kids all the games they beg you for. You don't want every night to be pizza night. The insipid messages inside the Dove chocolate wrappers aren't working for you anymore. "Hey, at least you still have you" is about as helpful as Sarah Palin is when it comes to wildlife conservation.

Your back aches and you realize that not only are you not 20 any more, but you're not 30 or 40, either. You're 50 freakin' years old! Life wasn't supposed to turn out this way. It's a sizzling hot reality TV show in the making: "Woman Loses Everything." Only, you're not lucky enough to have your show picked up by a major network.

But someone else is having good luck, and it's happening right now, over there on that flat-screen TV you're still paying for.

Flipping channels, you watch them: the Saints of Benefaction, the Goddesses of Giving, the very Improvers of Life Itself -- the talk show hostesses with the mostesses.

Yeah, guests like Josh Groban make you wince, but who cares? You can always press mute while they're on. Quick! Unmute! It's giveaway time.

Glued to the TV, you witness a great act of charity in progress. A woman, just like you, wrote a letter to a celebrity talk show host. And, now, the crew is at this woman's door, surprising her and putting her on the phone with the beautiful and generous host, who's smiling graciously from her television studio.

The lucky woman cups her hands before her face, as gift after gift is bestowed upon her. Her tears are real, her gratitude sincere. Her needs were met, and all because she wrote a letter to a celebrity, asking for help.

And, I wonder: What do I have to do to get a handout?

Write a letter. It's so easy! Just go to the celebrity's website. The wonderful Ellen Degeneres has a section on her site that makes it easy for those of us who have come to this place in our lives. It's called, "Is It Time for Ellen to Change Your Life?" Why, yes, Ellen, it is!

There's a photo of two hands fanning out a mega-wad of bills, so there's no mistaking what this section is dedicated to. The form allows for 1,500 characters, which seriously narrows your ability to bitch and moan competitively, but somebody has to read these things, so I can't blame them for trying to keep the rants to a minimum.

My question, though, is how do you write the letter that gets noticed?

These ladies make dreams come true, but how do you get their attention? What makes one letter of woe more noteworthy than another?

I'm not sure, but I think there may be a teensy-weensy, tadsky-wadsky bit of, um, butt-kissing involved. I've noticed that the letters written and read on air seem to be written by folks who include heavy praise for the show, and an almost compulsive need to be a part of its audience.

If we were to be honest when writing to a celeb for money, here's what we would really jot down: "Dear (insert name of talk show host), You're rich, I'm poor. You're giving away money and I want some. Thanks, (insert name of desperate person who has turned to begging)."

But, "I'm poor and I'm dying" doesn't feel like it's enough. We believe we have to flatter the celebs, owe them our lives and swear that without the grace of their afternoon show, we'd be lost forever. It's like we're trying to downplay the guilt we feel for asking, by assuming that the celeb's ego needs stroking -- and maybe it does.

Why can't we just simply ask for help anymore? How did it get to a place where the mere mention of hard times instantly makes one a martyr who lives in a victim mentality? Who do you have to sleep with to be taken seriously as someone who suffers?

These hosts who give out money are good people. I don't care if the money comes from their personal stash or if it's from the network. So what if it's all for a ratings boost? And if it's all one big philanthropic ego-trip? Whatever. These hosts are doing what they should be doing: giving back to the people.

So, because I am THE PEOPLE, I wrote to one of the Mistresses of Mercy. I formulated my letter and jam-packed it with the anecdotes of my defeat. If asked, I'm prepared to submit a urine specimen, undergo a lie detector test or hand in my tax returns. I declared my undying love for the host, and I've come to terms with the fact that if I do get chosen for a public handout, my face and life will be broadcast all across the nation. I am one with my martyrdom. A proud victim, and an unabashed beggar.

I've never played the lottery, but I can't help but wonder if buying a ticket might bring back a better return than my plea. But, while I wait for the powers that be to either summon me in or delete me out, I can still watch TV.

I can sit by my phone, and, when it rings, maybe I'll hear that simultaneous knock on the door. And, when I open the door, maybe a camera crew will greet me, usher me out to my new car and, just as I slide in behind the wheel, hand me a duffel bag full of cold, hard cash.

I can't wait.

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