My Fantasized Pledge Conversation During the Labor Day Telethon

The Jerry Lewis M.D.A. Labor Day Telethon has always conjured a mixed bag of emotions for me.  As a child, it heralded the the last day of Summer Vacation…and not in a Mardi Gras blowout way, but rather a depressing, low-rent and local way.  While I’m no longer in school, there’s still something about news personalities from the local C.B.S. affiliate in formal wear on a Monday afternoon that makes me want to drink another beer, and another, and another until I pass out, and their awkward banter becomes the surreal plot of a dream during an oily, fitful, alcoholic nap.

As I watched the phone bank volunteers in the background squirm like actors who didn’t know what to do with their hands, I fantasized calling in to make a pledge, and having the following conversation:


“Thank you for calling M.D.A., my name is Steve, how much would you like to pledge today.”

“Hello Steve, my name is Dylan.  The amount of my pledge depends very much on you.”


“I’m watching television right now, Steve, which one are you?”

“I’m wearing a red shirt, um, I have glasses…”

“Wave your hand, Steve.”

Steve waves.

“Are you the bald guy?”

“Well, I guess you could say I’m slightly follicley-challenged…”  We both chuckle.

“Let me get to the point, Steve.  I would like to pledge $1 Million.”

“Oh my GOD, sir!  That’s great…!”

“Wait a minute, Steve, there’s a catch.  I would like to pledge $1 million IF you strangle the gentleman next to you.”


“If you strangle the person next to you, I don’t care how, I will pledge $1 million.”


“If that’s his name.”

“I don’t know…”

“$1 million dollars, Steve!  You’ll be a hero!  You’ll be the talk of the phone bank volunteer circuit!  Besides, it’s for the kids, Steve.”

Then I watch as Steve, tears in his eyes, puts down the receiver.  Next to him, Carl is arrhythmically bouncing to the 90’s Hip-hop song they’re pumping through the studio speakers and waving a Green Bay Packers pennant.  Steve clamps his hands around Carl’s throat.  Carl tries to stand, but Steve wrestles him to the floor.  Partially obscured by the table of phones, I can only see Steve’s head and shoulder blades hunched over.  Every once in a while, he’s thrown upwards by the last throes of Carl’s struggle, but, soon enough, it calms, and, breathless, he returns to the phone.

“Okay…it’s done…”

“I’m sorry, I think I have the wrong number,” I say and quickly hang up the phone.

On television, I watch Steve’s eyes widen as he throws back his head a screams from the very bowels of madness.  That’s when the local anchor woman asks him to get up and dance with her.


There are 2 comments

  1. During college, my pal called and promised $1000 “if Levitch ate a ham”.

    Good times!

  2. I certainly agree that violence (strangulation), drama (seeing Steve throttle Carl, Carl’s feeble attempts to resist losing his life), and suspense (will Steve strangle or not strangle, will the smug adult answer the 2nd grade math question or confess to not being as smart as a 5th grader) all have an important role in boosting a program viewer’s interest and, in turn, boosting a station’s ratings, which, in turn (follow me, although this turning might be making you a mite dizzy) boosts the price that media salesmen can charge for the station’s “air.” In the scenario you’ve described, I’d suggest dropping the fund-raising folderol with its “formal wear and awkward banter.” Go right for the big bucks. Pit Carl against Steve, mano a mano (drama), each man masked and in tights (suspense with some sex thrown in), and each given the task within a determined time period (more drama and suspense) to completely cut off the air of the other by means of bare-handed strangulation (piano wire is too efficient and would mean having to cut frequently to commercial or having to stage more masculine face-offs to fill air time, which could get boring and repetitious). This new show would have all the ingredients for a successful money-raising-a-thon, keep high viewer interest (bets being placed on the likely winner), and keep a fairly low body count. A few problems, however, that your more impromptu scenario averts: FCC censure and recruitment of potential dead guys. Just a thought. I’d tune in for the first few purple-faced, eye-bulging, helplessly-twitching homicides, but then I have to confess that I might get sated and switch to something more brutal like Bridezilla.