Tuesday, September 22, 2009

OMG: Bianca does Dr. Phil

We try, Fred and I really do. But we can't watch her all the time, and really? Why does the onus fall on us? Am I truly expected to monitor the computer use of a mumblymumbly year old grown woman, and in a place as huge as Marlinspike Hall, deep, deep in the Tête de Hergé?

It happened at 3:38 in the morning. Yes, I was up but hardly felt like looking over the shoulder of a drunken Castafiore, as she picked and pecked her way across the keyboard.

She's taken to frequenting local pubs after her evening performances at the Opera House, belting out encore performances of L'air des bijoux.

The only way I could tolerate a late night, early morning onslaught of je-ris-de-me-voir-si-belle-dans-ce-miroir-oir-oir-oir? Whiskey. Stoli. The dregs of a house red.

So, out of appreciation for my liver function, I stay safely ensconced in our designated area of The Manor.

La Bonne et Belle Bianca Castafiore decided to surf the net before passing out in her suite of rooms -- rooms that she and some of her ne'er-do-well operatic thugs refurbished last summer, in the style of François Ier. Now *that* was perhaps an episode that Fred and I might have prevented -- but she's wily, very wily, that Castafiore.

Apparently, she is a fan of this Dr. Phil person, a tall, chunky, bald man of indeterminate age -- or 59. As documented in the Dickipedia, Phil McGraw is a "doctortainer of the highest order." Still, Bianca is perhaps not the sort of fan base that The Dr. Phil Brand was designed to attract, and in that lies much of her charm and amazing ability to sour the stomachs of her interlocuteurs.

How was he to know that she idolizes Michael Vick? Still, had he known that she idolized Michael Vick, would he have curtailed the expression of his disdain for that fine, upstanding, dog-murdering human being? Probably not... but we will never know.

A docutainer who makes massive use of slapping around The Obvious with his down-on-the-farm and well-fertilized twangy wisdom, Dr. Phil wrote several blog entries on the controversial subject of animal torture, which obviously cried out for the inclusion of some Celebrity Twit as his Easy Mark, his Straw Man, his Bitch. To wit: Vick.

The doctor is a master of damning with faint praise, a trait that I've always found repugnant. As I perused his blog this morning, after discovering what La Bonne et Belle had done, I could see how Bianca's buttons might have taken a beating.

The man is brutal, despite his hominy homilies. He viciously attacked, not just people who murder animals, but "Mommies" who parent (and drive) while under the influence; He even dared to criticize the recent Gang of Gaffes -- including Serena Williams and Kanye West, though Joe Wilson got off with just a pinch of the cheek. Clearly, Dr. Phil is not afraid to wade hip deep into controversy.

Anyway, in the wee hours of the morning, The Castafiore let loose. I hope Dr. Phil is okay.

We've seized her laptop and hidden it well. The deal is that she'll get it back as soon as her behavior provides proof that she's no longer subject to the demon of stinkin' thinkin'.

She seems to have at least made judicious use of SpellCheck and her English language dictionary -- although she is typical of adult foreign language users, in that she is at her best when... well, when slightly "disinhibited":

Bianca Castafiore says:
September 22, 2009 at 3:38 am

Dr. Phil, you have begun to frustrate me.

Not because of your various (safe) opinions voiced in your blog, but because you couch some of your most interesting notions in disingenuous ways. Your tongue may get stuck in your cheek!

“I don’t drink, but…”
“I haven’t examined him, but…”

The worst of all, though? Your tacit approval of Joe Wilson’s staged and boorish behavior during a speech by the President of the United States.

He was wrong… but he gets a bit of a good-old-boy wink and a nod — because you’d never want to criticize him for being “passionate.”

Clearly, you are saying that Michael Vick is a sociopath. *That* is an interesting statement and I would love to hear you expound upon it.

Vick was convicted, sentenced, and served that sentence. He will never be free from constant public scrutiny. It doesn’t matter in the least whether he can check off as accomplished any of the things you’d like to mandate, because those mandates only exist in DrPhil Land.

In defense of La Bonne et Belle Bianca Castafiore, there are troubling things about -- as she put it -- life in DrPhil Land:
The Doctor Is Out (of Touch)

Symptom: Two high-profile fiascoes and a career of dubious decisions
Diagnosis: Dr. Phil doesn't have a license or a clue

By Barbara Card Atkinson
Special to MSN Entertainment

Maybe it's awful to kick a walrus-mustachioed man when he's down, but I am all for the recent public backlash against Dr. Phil. His producers bailed out one of the teens jailed for (allegedly) violently attacking a Florida teenager, in exchange for an exclusive interview with her, only to backpedal in the face of public disapproval. This boundary crossing is just the latest in a string of Dr. Phil's missteps; it's high time we all admitted that the good doctor is out -- out of touch, out of step and sometimes almost out of his homily-riddled mind.

Dr. Who?
Phillip Calvin McGraw, best known as Dr. Phil, hit the airwaves as Oprah's golden boy in 1998. She seemed to enjoy his straight talk and the way her audiences responded to his no-nonsense approach. It was refreshing, at first, to listen to a shrink who gave advice free of psychobabble buzzwords; he was even a little folksy, some homespun, gingham-aproned Freud. This is the guy who said, "Sometimes you make the right decision, sometimes you make the decision right." Adorable, right? Of course, he wasn't really a shrink, and he hasn't seemed to take his own advice. McGraw has a history of not making the right decisions, nor has he done much to right them.

Doc in a Cheap Suit
It's a sad fact that, these days, many a high-profile "personality" is going to have at least one good lawsuit lobbed his or her way, but Dr. Phil seems to repeatedly provoke lawsuits. The Texas attorney general investigated him for a possible health club scam in 1973. McGraw sold expensive lifetime memberships to a health club in Topeka, Kan., and resold the contracts to a financial institution, so the members had to keep paying whether the club existed or not. According to the court papers, three different Topeka banks sued him for more than $40,000, but he never showed in court and monies were never recovered. He had moved on to Texas, where he obtained a doctorate from the University of North Texas and began to practice psychology.

In 1989, the Texas State Board of Examiners of Psychologists imposed disciplinary sanctions against McGraw for what was deemed an inappropriate "dual relationship." McGraw admitted he hired one of his clients, a 19-year-old woman, to work in his office (can you say "breach of ethics"?), but denied her claim of a sexual relationship. The board ordered McGraw to pass a jurisprudence exam, undergo a psychological evaluation, take an ethics class and have his practice supervised for one year. Did he make amends and make it right? Well, as of 2008, no. Nineteen years in, and he still hasn't met the board's conditions. His license to practice psychology was revoked and, from that point on, he has not been licensed to practice psychology at all. As the man himself has noted, "Failure is no accident."

McGraw, who said, "We teach people how to treat us," exhibited poor judgment again when he decided to feature convicted murderer Laurie "Bambi" Bembenek. Bembenek was scheduled to appear on the "Dr. Phil" show in 2002 to clear her name. It didn't go well. She later filed a lawsuit against Dr. Phil and more than 50 of his staffers for, she said, being held against her will in an apartment with no way to contact the outside world, while awaiting potentially show-stopping, name-clearing DNA results. Bembenek claims the forced confinement led to a panic attack, which drove her to escape by climbing out a window. She fell and shattered her leg, which later had to be amputated below the knee. Despite whether Bembenek was detained against her will, one wonders at the "stinkin' thinking" involved in allowing an emotionally fragile, convicted murderer to become so agitated that she felt her only recourse was to shimmy down the outside of a building on a bed sheet ladder.

In 2006, Dr. Phil was named as a co-defendant (along with CBS) in a lawsuit filed by two brothers in relation to the Aruban disappearance of U.S. citizen Natalee Holloway. McGraw hired a private investigator to interview the Kalpoe brothers. They claimed they were recorded without their knowledge and the material was doctored, but later broadcast as being a true representation, portraying them "as engaging in criminal activity against Natalee Holloway ..."

Sure, maybe McGraw's involvement would break open the case as the one tactic that had so far eluded the combined forces of the U.S. and Aruban officials -- a trained television host.

Daddy Issues
McGraw has long been an outspoken critic of pornography. Eyebrows were raised, then, when he stood as the best man in his son, Jay's, 2006 wedding to Playboy playmate Erica Dahm; the elder McGraw even hosted the wedding at his Beverly Hills, Calif., mansion. Against porn? Fine. Supportive of his son, regardless? Terrific. Altering his "Dr. Phil" Web site to remove all of his comments about porn right after the fact? Umm, "What in the hell were you thinking?"

In January 2008, McGraw's behavior motivated a psychologist (an actual one, with a license and everything) to lodge a complaint with the California Board of Psychology, alleging that Dr. Phil was practicing illegally when he visited Britney Spears at Cedars-Sinai. McGraw was, reportedly, counseling Spears as well as inviting her to join her family on his stage for an upcoming televised intervention. After his unannounced hour-long visit, he made several long-winded statements on his show about Britney's mental state, which really chapped the family spokesperson. ..
Testing Patience
Who hasn't Dr. Phil ticked off? Thelma Box, a former business partner, alleges that McGraw sold his stake in Pathways, their self-help company (started in 1984), an entire year before he told her. Box also insists she co-created and co-authored the materials used in Pathways seminars, material that McGraw uses today in his show, but she has never been given any credit. [...]

And now this: Last week, Dr. Phil had his producers bail out Mercades Nichols, one of the six teenage Florida cheerleaders accused of beating another girl, videotaping it and posting the footage on YouTube. Nichols signed an exclusivity contract with McGraw's people, allegedly in exchange for her $30,000 bail. In light of the public outcry, producers have since announced they made an error in judgment and they have no plans to go forward with the show. Dr. Phil has yet to make his usual half-apologetic public statement, although now might be just the time for McGraw to heed his own advice: "If you want more, you have to require more from yourself." [...]

Maybe the problem isn't McGraw and his stern-talkin' daddy-tude; maybe the problem is that people are listening to him as if he's got a clue, or at least more of a clue than the rest of us. All facts point to the contrary. Just glance at McGraw's personal life (read his unauthorized biography, "The Making of Dr. Phil," for details about his never-mentioned first marriage and early company dealings); look at his business track record. Or take it from me. Just like Dr. Phil, I'm an unlicensed unpsychologist, and my advice to you, in classic Dr. Phil speak is this: "That dog really, really don't hunt."

Barbara Card Atkinson is a frequent contributor to MSN Entertainment.

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