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This ad appears on Craigslist:
Has your parole officer accused you of doing something you haven't done? Could this put you back in jail? Then we want to help.
Call us and we'll clear your name.
We've got a show to help you prove who's telling the truth.
If selected, we will profile your story on a new national TV show where guests are polygraphed to get the truth out.
I'm intrigued. My e-mail reply: I am on parole!
Going by the name Hank, I express how much, I, who-is-on-parole, would love to be on their TV show (whatever the hell that might be). Immediately the TV producer e-mails back, thrilled to hear from I, who-is-on-parole. She leaves a phone number. I, who-is-on-parole, phone her. I weave an elaborate tale involving weapons and drug charges. This pleases her. I elaborate. I have something to prove to my probation officer. He said I flunked a recent drug test, which landed me back in jail for 20 days. The producer's even more pleased.
A day later the producer phones back. She wants me on the show! That's right Bubba, I'm booked on Lie Detector (Tuesdays, 8 p.m.), a program on family-friendly PAX TV that has a motto: "The lie detector holds the power to reveal the truth and expose deception wherever it might be found."
But first, there's a question. "You said you were on probation," the producer says. "That's different than being on parole."
Whoops. How the hell am I supposed to know? All my knowledge of the parole system comes from watching two prison documentaries on the A&E channel. Quickly, I clarify: "Yeah, I'm on parole, but this is my probation period."
Then another monkey wrench is heaved into the mix: The producer requests that I, who-is-on-parole, fax a copy of my police report from my latest arrest.
"I believe you," she says. "The executive producer just wants to see a copy of it."
This presents a problem. I put her off. The producer calls numerous times. I put her off further. More phone calls. A friend offers a solution: I surf my way over to SmokingGun.com and, after an extensive archives search, download David Crosby's drug and weapons arrest report, along with the paperwork for Courtney Love's assault-with-a-flashlight charge. Using Photoshop software, I combine the two, heavily utilizing the smudge tool. For consistency, I do a few rounds of enlarging and reducing the document at Kinkos. Randomly, I black out words, stating that on legal advice from my lawyer, I can't go into great detail about my weapons and drug charges. (The case is still pending.)
Hank now has an arrest report.
Faxing off the Crosby/Love document, I expect never to hear from Lie Detector again. There are about a thousand ways to figure out I'm lying in 10 minutes or less. But lo and behold: The show's travel coordinator calls the next day to book my airline ticket to L.A. I'll be put up for two nights at a Holiday Inn! Hot damn. Lie Detector awaits!
This is not the only time someone's lied on Lie Detector. I'm told of a guy who was accused of trying to sell his kidneys over the Internet -- and it turns out he was trying to sell his kidneys! The show vindicates people or catches them lying. I should be put into the liar category.
To look the part of a guy on parole, I've grown a week's worth of bad mustache and wrapped an American flag bandanna around my head. To top off my look, I'm wearing a Jesus T-shirt, suggesting, as with many a con, I found JC while in prison.
Something's working here; when I get off the plane, a production assistant hands me an envelope full of fun cash to use while I'm in L.A.
The show opens with a bald, solemn man, wearing an orange prison jumpsuit, hooked to a lie detector. The screen flashes the words "Truth" and "Lie." Graphics featuring numbers and colored lines show the program's high-tech nature. There's a shot of smiling host Rolonda Watts (known from outings at Inside Edition and The Rolonda Show) with her arms folded.
"The lie detector holds the power to reveal the truth and expose deception wherever it might be found," a narrator intones.
Over the next hour the world's foremost lie detector expert will use the world's most exacting scientific device, the Axciton Polygraph instrument, to separate fact from fiction, truth from lie. Well fuck me sideways!
My segment is cleverly named "Up in Smoke."
Lie Detector host Watts emerges from behind a piece of the set. Her personality can best be described as highly outgoing."OK you all, we all heard this one before, 'I didn't inhale. I didn't mean to get high. I was just in the room, and I got a contact high.'" She mockingly waves her arms around, using her fingers to put quote marks around the words "contact high." "Yeah, right!
"If you're Hank. A guy who's currently on probation and tested positive for drugs, this could be a major setback."