I’ve lived through some exciting times in the past few years that I’ve shared with you: What it’s like to go to the premiere of a major motion picture and the premiere of a small one, and what it’s like to sit backstage while your husband is on a late night network talk show. Now I’m going to tell you what it’s like to be in the audience while your husband films a pilot for a possible TV series.
A “pilot” is a potential episode of a television series, in this case what is called a “non-fiction” TV show. The network involved had not committed to actually running the series, but they HAD committed the money to filming a pilot, which they would then use to make their final decision. Since the topic of this episode was UFOs, they called on Whitley.
Two unfortunate events occurred before we left to shoot the pilot. First, Whitley went to the dermatologist the previous day to have some spots removed from his face (dermatologists now like to remove these BEFORE they turn cancerous). This was a matter of freezing his face with a very cold liquid. This turned the spots bright red (temporarily), causing him to exclaim, “Ohmygod, I’m supposed to do that pilot tomorrow!” but it turned out not to be a problem, since they had an excellent makeup artist on hand.
The second problem was more subtle: I had made some EXCELLENT bean soup, and Whitley ate about three bowls of it, which produced the usual results. I asked him, “What do they do if someone farts while being interviewed on TV?” But Whitley is an old pro by this time, and he knew the answer: “The sound man just says, ‘We’ve got background noise’ and they do another take.” (One wasn’t needed).
I didn’t need to tag along, but I did anyway. When we got there, we were ushered into a special “green room” just for us, where we waited backstage until it was time for Whitley to go on the show. I overheard someone talking to a group of people across the hall, in another green room, who turned out to be abductees, so I went over and introduced myself to them. I always like to meet people who have had UFO experiences because, after having read over half a million letters from readers of Communion telling about the amazing things that happened to them, and after putting the best ones into a book, I can usually inform people that what they assumed were unique experiences have actually been had by many other people as well. Most people find this reassuring. This time, I was able to tell one woman that the pattern of dots that periodically appeared on her body was familiar to me from several of the letters I’d read.
I could have stayed in the green room backstage, but I wanted to sit in the audience, where I could gauge the reaction to the show. A director wearing a headset came out and told us all HOW to applaud (not wildly and enthusiastically, but thoughtfully). He also instructed us to murmur among each other between guests, as if we were discussing the show. Since most of us did not know each other, this was awkward. We finally realized that the actual words would not end up on the tape, so we all just leaned over to the person next to us and said, “Murmur, murmur” in a low voice.
Aside from Whitley, there was a man who testified about his personal UFO experiences. He was only seen in silhouette because he said he was nurse and couldn’t afford to be recognized. I tried to get the message to him that when I read all those letters, I discovered that the most common profession among the witnesses who wrote to us was nursing!
Unbeknownst to me, back in the green room, Whitley was making friends with a movie star who was also going to be on the show. He wasn’t there to talk about UFOs–he had had a near-death experience that he said had taught him that the soul was real. He’d been given the choice about whether or not to return to this world and in the fleeting moment when I got to meet him, I told him that I had too. He said he’d found Jesus, and seemed really sincere about it, unlike so many others I’ve met.
Then something very funny happened. The audience for this network has been identified as mostly adolescent males, so whoever put this show together obviously felt they should cater to them. Despite this, most of the audience was composed of women, probably because it was shot on a weekday afternoon. The host introduced a woman he described as a “skeptic,” who went through the audience with a microphone, taking questions and soliciting comments from the people I’d met earlier. As this was going on, the audience gradually started giggling. We couldn’t help it: this so- called “skeptic” was wearing a plunging top that revealed a suspiciously robust pair of breasts, a skintight skirt and high leather boots with stiletto heels. She also sported a barbed- wire tattoo on her upper arm, making it hard for any of us to believe in her veracity.
Later, the movie star told Whitley that he recognized her, since he once saw her in an “amateur strip show” (I guess this was BEFORE he found Jesus, although I certainly don’t think the two things cancel each other out). I’m a feminist who wishes the best for all women, so I was glad to see she was moving up in the world, but the idea that we were supposed to take someone who was dressed like this seriously was ludicrous.
I don’t know if this pilot will become a series or not–most pilots don’t make it–but I have my fingers crossed for them.
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