Standing, hand over heart, singing the National Anthem was the last thing I expected when I bought those tickets. It’s not like we awaited a major sporting event or a presidential inauguration. Far from it.
Our guest of honor has a reality show and the kind of “talent” that requires those quotation marks.
Still, there I stood crooning about the dawn’s early light, getting in full the tackiness I paid for: “Theresa Caputo Live!”
To know the name is to know the suction power of TLC’s “Long Island Medium,” the reality show about a woman who “twocks” to dead people. Not only do I watch it and weep every Sunday, I went, unbound, to see the live version at Planet Hollywood Resort recently.
Yes, I realize the sign of the cross normally follows such a confession. They don’t call ’em guilty pleasures for nothing. Still, I have no doubt the gavels are pounding in unison right about now. Before judging, though, first hear my plea.
Whether you believe in the stuff or not, the show has appeal. Either from an anthropology point of view or for sheer entertainment, there’s something significant about a grown man crying like a babe when a lady with daggers for fingernails claims his mother just called. From heaven. And left a message. With the daggers for fingernails lady.
Of course, mothers hear that and think one thing: Well, maybe if he’d called his mother more …
It’s when Caputo starts talking specifics – crocheted blankets, hair bows, paint-stained work pants – that people really break down.
That only happens when she has a great channel with “spirit,” as she refers to them. Sometimes, though, the connection is on par with a cellphone in an underground parking lot.
Either way, it makes great TV. What it doesn’t make is great live entertainment. I discovered as much shortly after singing “The Star Spangled Banner” to a “Teresa Caputo Live!” sign, which felt only slightly more dignified than I imagine pledging allegiance to Kim Kardashian’s backside must feel.
When Caputo finally made her grand entrance that Sunday afternoon, she wore Christian Louboutin platform pumps that sparkled like chandeliers. She delivered a speech in which she explained that relationships like mother, brother, and husband have flexibility with spirit. Ah, the fine print. Apparently, if she says a father is trying to get through it could be anyone who felt like a father figure.
I’d let that one slide, but what she said next got a few heads shaking.
She claimed spirit enjoys the practice of “piggybacking.” If you’re thinking “Grandma would never engage in such tomfoolery” you’re right and wrong. Caputo found a way to justify triple-digit tickets by ensuring audience members that if a reading for someone else sounded like their own loved one, then, well, it was.
And with that, she zipped into the audience and asked folks in the good seats who’s son died in a car accident.
Mediums really know how to get a party started right.
Two women stood. Caputo told them about their tattoos that pay tribute to the young man, the necklaces they wore in his memory and the guilt the younger woman feels for missing a public dedication to him. Right, right and chillingly right.
It was just like watching “Long Island Medium” at home, except with worse seats. All was going well. Until she meandered into the crowd.
That’s when I started to feel a little dirty. See, I was there simply as a “Long Island Medium” fan. A majority of the audience, however, was there as someone’s desperate survivor. That came through loud and clear when Caputo asked the crowd, “Who lost someone with an M name over here?” and a dozen voices called out, through tears, “right here!”
That was tough. I felt sorry for those people. And then I became one of them.
Caputo hiked up the side stairs into the balcony area and asked if anyone knew a young girl who “died from medicine.” Why yes, I did. Did she have a connection with butterflies? Yes again.
As the woman with the twinkly shoes carried on about freeing the burden of guilt and the inevitability of this girl’s passing, I nodded my head from across the room. Caputo delivered that message to the mother of a young girl who died from a bad blood transfusion. That’s when I got a taste of just how easy it is to believe something you desperately want to hear.
For me to believe the message was also intended for me would mean my loved one was “piggybacking.” My loved one was above that nonsense. And so am I. Kind of.
You won’t find me at another live medium show with hundreds of mourners. But you will find me on my couch most Sundays, watching Caputo communicate with the dead through another, better kind of medium: TV.
Contact Xazmin Garza at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0477. Follow her on Twitter @startswithanx.