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Authors: Augusten Burroughs

Sellevision

BOOK: Sellevision
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sellevision

AUGUSTEN BURROUGHS

sellevision

S
T
. M
ARTIN’S
G
RIFFIN
N
EW
Y
ORK

This novel is a work of fiction. The characters, companies, and television stations portrayed in this novel are entirely fictional, with the exception of certain actual persons, television stations, or companies that appear in the novel and are used fictitiously. All events and conversations depicted in the book, including those involving actual persons, television stations, or companies, are entirely the product of the author’s imagination.

SELLEVISION
. Copyright © 2000 by Augusten Burroughs. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews. For information, address St. Martin’s Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010.

www.stmartins.com

Design by Kathryn Parise

ISBN 0-312-26772-X

First Edition: September 2000

10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

For Lawrence David

Acknowledgments

M
y deepest (and I
can
be deep) gratitude to Jennifer Enderlin and everyone at St. Martin’s Press who laughed. Love and thanks to: Suzanne, Mark, Pick, Lona, Jon, Margaret, John Elder, Mary, Judy, John, and Jack. Special thanks to Christopher Schelling. In memory of Pighead.

sellevision

one

“Y
ou exposed your penis on national television, Max. What am I supposed to do?”

“I didn’t expose it, Howard, it just sort of
peeked out
.”

“It ‘peeked out’ during the Toys for Tots segment in front of twenty million viewers, many of whom were, not surprisingly,
children
. It’s twenty-four hours later and we’re still receiving faxes. The phone lines were so jammed last night that no one could get through to place orders.
Plus
I’ve got every mother in the country threatening child-abuse lawsuits.”

Howard Toast, the executive producer of the Sellevision Retail Broadcasting Network, glared at the show host who was sitting in a black leather chair on the opposite side of his large glass desk. Behind Max and facing Howard, a bank of television monitors silently played live broadcasts of Sellevision, QVC, and the Home Shopping Network as well as broadcasts from the other three “B-class” networks.

Howard leaned forward and said quietly, “Jesus fucking Christ, Maxwell. This isn’t the Playboy channel, it’s
Sellevision
.”

Max ran his fingers through his hair, a nervous habit. “Look, I was wearing a bathrobe, it was Slumber Sunday Sundown. We were
all
wearing bathrobes.”

Howard’s normally placid, waspy features contorted with frustration. A vein on his temple pulsed. “Max, the other hosts weren’t
naked
under their bathrobes. It’s just—well, there’s no excuse—seven-year-old children and their mothers just should
not
know that you’re uncircumcised.” He took four Advil from the bottle on his desk and washed them down with cold coffee. “I mean, this could be worse than that Cuban raft-boy thing.”

Max wiped his hands on his slacks. “Look, I’m sorry, it was an accident. I already told you, Miguel knocked my latte over onto my lap in the dressing room while he was doing my makeup. What was I supposed to do, wear soaking wet boxers? C’mon, man, I had less than
four
minutes before I had to go on air, I had no choice.”

Howard straightened the stapler on his desk. “You should have borrowed Miguel’s underwear,” he said angrily.

“Miguel is
Hispanic
. He doesn’t wear underwear. Besides, that’s a disgusting thought, even if he did.”

“Not as disgusting as showing your dick to families all across America while they’re sitting down to eat dinner.”

Max rolled his eyes. “Jesus, Howard, you make it sound like I did it on purpose. Like I’m some kind of
exhibitionist
or something.”

Howard leaned back in his chair, sighed, and looked up at the ceiling. There was a silence between them, and Max glanced over at the executive golf-putting toy in the corner of the office. Howard leaned forward and placed both hands on the desk, palms up, like he had nothing left to offer. “Max, I’m very sorry this had to happen, but if I put you back on air, I’ll lose my job, the station will be boycotted—as it is, you’re just lucky your penis didn’t make the cover of USA
Today
.”

Max leaned in, blinking. “So what are you telling me? You’re saying, what, that I’m fired? Is that what you’re telling me?”

Howard nodded his head solemnly. “Yes, Max, I’m afraid we’re going to have to let you go. There’s no way we can let you back on the air after this, just no way.”

Max’s hands flew up. “I can’t believe you’re firing me over this.”

“I’m sorry, Max, I really am. I’ve got a few friends over at QVC and the Home Shopping Network, I could give them a call, see if they’re looking for anybody. But you might have to start off doing the overnight. And if worse comes to worst, there’s always”—he shifted his gaze toward one of the television monitors that was currently displaying an electric egg scrambler—“the E-Z Shop Channel.”

“I can’t fucking believe this,” Max said, slumping in his chair, letting his mouth fall open.

“Max, America’s
premier
retail broadcasting network simply cannot be associated with a controversy of this . . .
magnitude
.”

“Oh, well, gee, I guess I should take that as a compliment,” Max said sarcastically.

“It’s not funny, Maxwell. It’s sad, is what it is. It’s very sad that you were so careless. You’re a good host. But you crossed a line and, well, there are consequences.”

Max left the office, mortified as security personnel accompanied him while he collected the possessions in his office, and then escorted him out of the building like a sex offender.

P

eggy Jean Smythe sat in her office, reading an E-mail a viewer had sent her. Because of her high-profile time slots as a Sellevision host, she received dozens of E-mails each day. She normally responded with a standard forwarded thank-you letter. But if an E-mail was particularly flattering she would sometimes respond personally with one or two lines.

The reason viewers loved Peggy Jean was because they could relate to her. She often spoke of her three boys, “four if you count my hubby.” She was a “working mom” and a good Christian woman who often hosted Jewelry of Faith programs, which featured crucifix cufflinks and Star of David money clips, both of which she presented with equal pride. She was attractive—blond hair worn in a short but full style, blue eyes, fair skin. Her roundish face seemed approachable and trustworthy. She was highly polished, yet friendly and accessible. Peggy Jean knew all of this to be true, because she had seen the consumer research. In fact, she had personally attended many of the focus groups.

BOOK: Sellevision
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