What was I doing on prime-time television? Not much good, that’s for sure. I had been an expert witness in the nation’s highest profile child custody case ever: then, before and since. So, I guess you could say the producers of many news shows were looking for some words of wisdom on this very important question of where a little girl would live out her life. But you would be wrong. They were looking for sound bites. And, as my grandmother would say, expert witnesses probably aren’t worth the powder to blow them to hell, anyway.
I will say this: My intentions were good. I believed that if you took a happy toddler out of the only home she had known for two years and put her with people who were strangers to her you would, in some way, shape or form cause her irreparable damage. I could only speculate on how this damage would manifest itself but that was my story, and even under duress on the stand, I was sticking to it. Still do. A lot of good it did.
And then, a couple years later, when there was a similar custody case but with the added thrill of America versus the Cubans they came after me again. For my expertise.
And so, for a brief period of my professional life there were camera crews in my office, a camera crew tracked me down on vacation in Arizona and I did the whole Big Apple green room thing. It was not fun. It was, in fact, frankly miserable.
First of all, do you know what time you have to get up to be on television at eight o’clock in the morning? Five o’clock. And that right there takes all the fun out of the nice free hotel room. The front desk called and said my limousine was there so I went down and stepped right into this really very luxurious vehicle. Talking to the driver is stupid because they’re 15 feet ahead of you with their back turned but I did ask some dumb question about whether the show was filmed in the same place as the David Letterman Show and he said, no, this was at Rockefeller Center and that was on the other network, CBS, anyway. We went a few more blocks before it occurred to me that I thought I was going to be on CBS and when I said this he stopped, turned around and asked, "Dr. Feinman?" Um, no, that would not be me. It ended up the CBS limo was busy taking NBC’s morning show expert to the CBS studios and vice versa. That required a few phone calls and some swearing on the driver’s part to get straight. It wasn’t MY fault; he said, "Good Morning" and held the door so I got in.
Then, I had to buy a suit and, as you know, I’m shopping challenged and cheap so dropping down 700.00 for an Eileen Fisher business suit I would never wear again was a bite. To add insult to injury they have some kind of wardrobe Nazi who comes into the green room and pokes and pulls on your clothing like you’re a manniken wearing clothes from Kiwanis. This fierce woman-I’m sure her name was Helga- kept frowning and sighing and finally, with a grimace she said, "Ya, Vell, it vill do." It will do??? This is more money than I spend in a year on clothing! (Well, it was back then.) I asked her what if it wouldn’t do and she informed me that they had a whole room full of suits they can dress you up in if need be. Great. I should’ve just come in my pajamas.
The only fun part was this: Remember Martin Short as the wedding coordinator in Father of the Bride? Picture him, all fussy and hyper with the dreadful Hungarian accent. Okay- that guy was the makeup man for CBS This Morning. Exactly him. So at six in the morning this charming fellow is diving and swooping around me, screeching,
"Ah, dahling! looka does eyes! does green eyes! I lubba does eyes! An looka dis hair?
Where did you getta dis hair??? I LUBBA dis hair! I don gotta do nudting, not nudting to dis hair! Whatta I do?? It’s so short, dis hair! I lubba dis hair! Ya wanna see my socks??
Don you just lubba dees socks? My sweetie gotta me dees socks in Rome last week.He’s gotta da taste I tell you! I lubba dees socks!" and so on. For at least fifteen minutes, non stop. He was truly a laugh riot.
However. I do not wear makeup. I have not spent fifteen minutes putting on makeup in my entire life so the amount of makeup that Fritz put on me that morning was more than a lifetime dose. The lipstick alone stuck my lips together so that every time I went to say something I had to unsmack my lips. That right there should have been the cue to keep my damn mouth shut.
As I was standing at the curtain, just as they broke for a commercial to seat me and start the segment I felt hands down my skirt. My 350.00 skirt. Hands down inside my skirt. I jumped and this perfectly agreeable fellow said, "oh don’t mind me. I’m just running your mic." And then he put his hands down my silk blouse.
The thing you don’t really realize about those shows from home is that Paula Zahn (history) and Harry Smith have every word they utter written out. In this case, every question. In giant capital letters on big boards. Did anyone write out my answers? No, they did not. Did anyone tell me the questions beforehand? No, they did not. Did I know that there would be guys jumping around flashing blinding lights in my face and doing count downs on their fingers and making frantic timeout gestures with their hands the entire time I was trying to speak with my mouth stuck shut and my skin sliding off my face from the weight of makeup? I did not.
Unlike this post, that situation was serious and painful. Many intelligent and thoughtful people were sought out for their expertise on a case that eventually made it to the Supreme Court of the United States. But, as with so many things, in the end it wasn’t about what I thought or most people thought it should be about. And, you know, for every expert who is convinced of something based on their experience and training you can find another who is equally convinced in the other direction; at the very least you can always find an expert who is willing to say the opposite is true. I don’t want to revisit that case again. I just want to say, about those fifteen minutes? They’re usually not all they’re cracked up to be.