It began with the perfect idea.
Truth With Dr. H! was a hit TV tabloid show.
Ratings soared and the credit was mine – the freshest voice to emerge in media psychology. It didn’t matter that I just turned 66. I was the next generation to reveal great truths about the human condition – an ageless baby boomer. You could follow me on broadcast, cable, or online; watch the You Tube clips that spread like a pandemic, or read my book, Truth With Dr. H!: The Real Story as a hardcover, paperback, or ebook. Some downloaded the audio version and listened, mesmerized while they drove, exercised, or commuted. For the most loyal fans, there were refrigerator magnets, tee shirts, tote bags, and the ubiquitous “H” pendants forged from 100% recycled plastic water bottles.
Fans were captivated. Guests were discussed, issues argued, and there was an ongoing dispute over who were the villains and heroes. The debates reverberated in clubs, dive bars, posh restaurants, and at family dinner tables. Social media was swamped.
Everyone had an opinion.
Critics described the show as unscripted drama with a dollop of true psychology – Dr. Phil, Oprah, and Springer rolled into one lip-smacking format. Late night TV hosts alluded to us in their opening monologues. Viewers saw themselves in our good, bad, and evil guests. The angle was simple.
Good old truth. We love it, hate it, and play with it. At best, it’s slippery – elusive – different for each of us. I believed it all until that infamous moment, taped live for national TV, changed everything. After that, my truth was never the same.
The Perfect Idea, as usual, emerged magically from the calculating minds of tabloid TV producers. It was designed to enhance the brand – make me more prominent on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit. If Anderson Cooper, Lady Gaga, and Justin Bieber could have millions of followers, couldn’t I?
My face, with wide brown eyes and tightly controlled curly hair, was on commercials, print ads, and pop-ups. Entertainment Tonight, TMZ, and CNN covered me along with the hottest celebrities of the day. I was seen and heard everywhere. I loved the role. I grinned at the camera and shrugged off the shadows – forgetting that the wolves were always waiting.
No one in my family escaped them.
Human camps were shadowed by wolf packs over 150,000 years ago. Inevitably, some wolves learned not to be afraid of the strange, two-legged creatures. Those individuals wandered into the camps and were domesticated; evolving into the species we call dogs. Outside the glow of campfires, the wild wolves remained predators – looking and sounding like dogs, but very different in nature.
The wild wolves in my family were psychopaths. We were paired in time by forces no one could identify. God? Satan? Coincidence? Our pasts crossed over and over again, spanning five centuries. The psychopaths needed us to continue their legacy of broken souls. Kabbalists called it gilgul – the recycling of souls – returning over and over again, repeating the same horrors in a different context.
Did we need the wolves, as well?
Despite my Francis Klein handmade glasses from France, Noritake gold trim china cup, and embossed parchment letterhead, wolves stalked The Perfect Idea.
I couldn’t escape them.
My production team ran with The Perfect Idea. I had several teams. Each followed specific themes. We were all seasoned New Yorkers, requiring philosophy to justify behavior. No one played the role of an empty-headed Hollywood blonde. We claimed to be above power and money, immune to greed, and in awe of truth.
We were skilled at deluding ourselves.
The Perfect Idea was no exception. It fit neatly into my rationale that each theme reflected the ultimate postmodern truth. “In postmodernism,” I explained repeatedly, “the only absolute truth is that there are no absolute truths.”
It made my show easy to design. Almost anything fit within that definition. Truth could be found wherever one looked. We often carried truth to the extreme, nestling it safely in viewer illusion. People loved it.
Is your ex-boyfriend in jail really the father of your baby?
Did your mama cheat on your papa?
Is your toxic lover having an affair with your best friend?
There was always someone who fit the bill – a “guest” willing to exchange dignity for 15 minutes of fame. Finding people was never a problem.
I remembered the brainstorming that led to The Perfect Idea that changed my life.
“We have to do something big,” I said to my production team. We sat around a large, elegant bamboo conference table with a platter of colorful raspberry macarons.
They were the best in the city.
We clutched personalized mugs of caffeinated hazel nut coffee and called out questions. Griet Vansalee, my executive producer, stood in the corner of the room and observed.
“Do you want to find out your baby’s real father?”
“Did he get you pregnant and then demand an abortion?”
“Why can’t you say no to your abusive lover?”
“What happened to the baby he made you give up?”
There was no end to the ideas. Everyone had problems and secrets; every family seethed with conflict; each of us was immersed in crime, whether real or perceived.
The postmodern id had gone viral.
The last question stuck. We expanded it.
Were you pressured to give up your baby by an abusive lover and now want to find out what happened?
It worked. Viewers loved to hear tragic stories of cute babies and wide-eyed abandoned children. Those truths were as popular as cheating lovers, spouses with secret families, and intimate betrayals. This idea had both.
The next step was to find stories. The question was posted on the Truth With Dr. H! Website. Respond by email if you’re interested in telling your story. I made requests during the show and taped an announcement that appeared between commercial breaks. The words were blazed onto a vivid blue screen and paired with heart-thumping background music.
Were you pressured to give up your baby by an abusive lover?
Were you too young to make the decision to defy him?
Do you ever wonder about what happened to your child?
Contact us. You can tell your story on Truth With Dr. H!
The staff went to work, sorting through stories, telephone calls, and videos. We were inundated with responses. Bookers poured over names and lurid tales, interviewed prospective guests, and debated who would be best for ratings. Eventually, two gripping stories were selected, 53 year old Moeda and her daughter, 37 year old Ayla.
Moeda, in a throwback to relatives from 17th century New Amsterdam, used the corrupted Dutch word for mother. She never wanted people to call her Ayla’s mommy. She changed the spelling from Moeder to Moeda because she thought it was cool. That was very important in 1976 when Ayla was born and Moeda was still a teenager.
Sixteen years later, Ayla ran away from home to be with her fierce, 52 year old biker boyfriend, Mack. Mack battered his teenage lover, forcing her into becoming his sex slave and servicing gang members at his request. Ayla happily obliged. Things went sour when Ayla got pregnant and said nothing until it was too late for an abortion. Mack couldn’t beat the kid out of her. She gave birth to the biker’s baby and abandoned her child when he was one day old. Mack had given her an ultimatum – me or the kid.
Ayla, also a child, saw no other choice.
Moeda didn’t find out about the baby until Ayla showed up at her house, 18 years later. Ayla was tired of her now-white-haired boyfriend. Even the fierce tattoo of the Nazi Iron Eagle covering his chest was sagging in aging male breasts.
It was a tearful reunion between mother and daughter.
Moeda and Ayla both wanted to find the abandoned baby. He was an adult now – around 21 years old. Ayla confided that she gave him a name – Joshua.
“Joshua was born a slave and later became Moses’ military commander,” Ayla explained. “He was a spiritual and military leader who lived to 110 years old. If my Joshua is like that, we will find him.”
Moeda grieved the loss. “I have a grandson to love, but I don’t know where he is.”
“That’s what I wanted for my son,” Ayla pressed, “life, love, and respect. All the stuff we never got. I left a note with him . . . I don’t know if they changed his name.”
Moeda had her doubts. Anyone who had to wrestle with abandonment and the foster care system didn’t have much of a future – which was why she never gave up Ayla for adoption.
Regardless, Mother and Daughter set out to find the baby. Neither knew how to negotiate the system. They hit brick walls wherever they turned. When they heard
Dr. H’s request, it seemed like an ideal solution. They applied and my producers found them.
It was the perfect story – guaranteed to boost ratings.
I approved everything.
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