This weekend I celebrated my birthday. Hooray me. The bad news is I spent three whole days drinking Andre The Giant’s body weight in White Russians, and at some point my brain left it’s station and was replaced by a set of fuzzy dice. The good news is that in the UK it was a public holiday yesterday (Gee Note: Oh gosh, you really shouldn’t have. I mean I’m flattered and all, but a public holiday to celebrate my birthday is, you know, a bit over the top don‘t you think?) and so I could afford to sit around all day with a tub of ice cream and a good book and patiently wait for my cognitive functions to become, er, cognitive again.
So my first act of the day was to find something to watch on television. Something that would serve the function of being both brainless and mildly entertaining should the fog clear enough for me to be able to concentrate on anything for more than 30 seconds. After flipping through the television guide on the remote and debating whether I had the stamina for an episode of Diagnosis Murder, I finally settled on the Zone Horror channel. The reason? Well coming up was the 1989 tour de force that is The Return of Swamp Thing.
However Zone Horror doesn’t start transmitting until 12pm and I had approximately 10 minutes to go before Swamp Thing graced my screen. Rather than flick through several other channels trying to find an episode of Futurama to watch for ten minutes, I decided to cut my loses and simply wait for the station to spring in to life. In the meantime I resigned myself to sitting through one of those infomercials about a tool that can both sand and cut wood for the amazing price of just £19.99, or a public service announcement about the danger of rubbing your face with a dead pig. Instead the strangest thing happened.
Rather than the usual fluff about some spade that also doubles as a paper weight or something, between the hours of 11am and 12pm Zone Horror transmit’s a live feed from Psychic TV. Now there’s an unsettling trend on UK cable television stations for, um, phone sex. No really, out of the 900 or so channels available to the British viewing public a good 10 of those are dedicated to that very subject. Basically some buxom young lady (Gee Note: Who may or may not be doing this to pay for her law school fees) will be shown on the screen wearing lingerie and yapping on a phone, while in the background some horrible synthesised music plays on a loop.
I presume the idea is that one can pick up the phone and call to hear what the woman is saying. The channels themselves are given subtle titles such as “Babestation” or “Bang Babes” and the whole thing is ghastly, like an Amsterdam peep show but without the weed, cheap beer, and friendly Dutch people. It’s like we’ve fallen in to a wormhole and have ended up watching a human meat market in some dystopian future world that Sci-Fi movies in the 1970’s warned us about.
Anyway it turns out that Psychic TV is the medium version of a meat market. Basically the screen is split in to three, a main section and two side boxes. On the side boxes you see a psychic in each, both on the phone, both thankfully not wearing any lingerie or tassels, or anything that could even be remotely described as alluring. On the main screen you have a psychic hosting a live tarot card reading show. Viewers call in on a premium rate number, or text a request and Mr. or Mrs. Medium will then give them a reading.
I have to admit, I was hooked.
The reason being that the main medium that morning was none other than John Healey. Now Healey is a physically striking figure. A man who obviously likes wearing his hair long, he has unfortunately been struck with a receding hairline of such epic proportions that his head looks like an ostrich egg with a toupee stapled to the top of it. And, as with all TV psychics, he is as camp as Christmas. But amazingly that wasn’t what kept my eyes glued to the box.
No what held my interest was that for whatever reason, Healey that morning was in a fabulously surly disposition.
By the time I joined the program Healey only had time left for two text message requests for a reading. The first was a query from some daffy newly wed, wondering if their recent union was going to last (Gee Note: Which you would have thought they would have worked out before, you know, getting married. I mean if it isn’t going to last then, um, isn’t a bit late now? You already married them for God’s sake. I mean maybe you would’ve been better off just getting a kitten or something?). Healey took out three cards and dealt them on the deck. Obviously being told to wrap it up by the producer, rather than talk about the meaning of the cards John basically said something along the lines of “Look, this one and this one lead to this card here. Which means, I don’t know, there may be a diamond anniversary celebration in your future”. Which is rather vague, even for a psychic. There “may” be a diamond anniversary? That’s like saying that I, Gareth Davies, may win a Noble prize in the next ten years. Unfortunately my ground breaking work will not quite fit any of the existing Noble categories so they’ll have to create a new one. “Gareth Davies“, they’ll say, “Congratulations on winning the Noble prize for Brilliant Awesomeness“. “Thank you”, I’ll reply, “I really deserve this. Yes. Yes I do”.
Or, you know, it might not happen.
Something must have irked the dashing Mr. Healey as he finished the reading by slamming his hand on the desk and looking off camera with a forced smile painted across his face. Whether that’s just his natural demeanour or he was genuinely grumpy about something I have no idea. But whatever it was continued in to the next reading. A text message came from someone, let’s call her Liz, who had apparently spoken to John only the night before. Liz was worried. She had recently lost a ring that obviously meant a lot to her, and had contacted John in order to help her find it. “Please John”, she said, “Can you tell me when I’ll find my ring?”. Healey being the stand up guy he is immediately put Liz at ease by lazily dealing three cards and again saying something along the lines of “Now Liz, we talked about this last night. You have to stop asking about a specific time when you’ll find your ring. No really, you have to stop. What you need to do is look especially hard for it over the next three weeks”.
No really, without a recording of the show I can’t tell you if that was it word for word exactly, but it’s pretty damn close. On national television a crazily desperate (Gee Note: Or desperately crazy depending on how you look at it) woman had just spent an extortionate amount of money on contacting their program only to basically be told to f*** off by a psychic with a forehead the size of Madagascar.
Now maybe I’m doing John Healey a disservice and maybe a short, sharp attitude is a by product of this speed-date like tarot card reading. But in all honesty, to be greeted with this whilst carrying the hangover from hell kinda left me reeling. In fact I had to ask around the room, “Issa… Wha… Did that just happen?”. Sadly there was no one else in the room with me at the time, my spirit guide and the EVP ghosts apparently taking the day off. I can’t blame them I guess. It was a public holiday after all.
As you can gather, by the time The Return of Swamp Thing came on, I was pretty much a lost cause. It didn’t take long (Gee Note: Approximately ten minutes in to be exact. The point where it’s revealed that the evil scientist is Heather Locklear’s step father, having been previously married to Heather’s dead mother, and that they’ve never met before. How that’s possible I have no freaking idea. I mean what, did either of them go to family home for Christmas? Thanksgiving? The Goddam mother’s funeral?!!?) before I started flicking through the channels again.
The problem is that my cable company doesn’t carry Psychic TV, so I had to search online for the broadcast. By the time I’d logged on however John Healey had gone, to be replaced by half an hour’s worth of “Call us now!” type ads. By the time they’d gone another psychic all together had joined the hot seat.
Still at least I have “Bang Babes” to fall back on. At least I have “Bang Babes”.