Saturday, May 11, 2013

Crazy As A-B-C

Last night, if you tuned into Kitchen Nightmares, you would have seen Gordon Ramsay, as he's fond of saying, do something he's never, ever done before: refuse to save a restaurant. It is not the first time he's walked away- in the British version of the show, he did so to the Walnut Tree Inn- but he had already helped them once, and walked out on a revisit. This is the first time Ramsay has refused to help at all.

The offending restaurant- which for some quite frankly deluded reason thinks the firestorm from the episode is good publicity- is Amy's Baking Company in Scottsdale, Arizona. if you go to the restaurant's Facebook page, you will find that owners Amy and Samy issued a statement which, as  I happened to personally note, was released during the airing of the  episode, I think during the first half. Just in time for enraged viewers to descend upon it. In the episode, it is discovered that the owners had run through over 100 different employees over the previous year; tips intended for the servers instead went into the pockets of the owners; the one server they had at the time of filming was fired for asking a simple question that the editors were happy to replay just in case any viewers doubted who was in the wrong; and all the woes of the restaurant were blamed on people on the Internet who were out to get them.

In the statement released, the owners deny taking the tips, even though one of them, Samy, had admitted on camera, to Ramsay, that they did. The commenters not only quite vehemently begged to differ, but viewers ended up so outraged that some went and did some more thorough digging into Amy's past, which tends to only happen for the really abhorrent reality-show personalities. This dig turned up (PDF) a prior conviction for using someone else's Social Security number to obtain a $15,000 line of credit.

If you'd like to see for yourself how things went down, I can't guarantee that by the time you click they'll still be up as Fox tends to lock down YouTube clips in the early goings after original airing, but I've got an active set here and here.

Despite any protestations that Amy and Samy- Amy in particular- might make, Amy's Baking Company is almost certainly not going to survive having Gordon Ramsay go on television and tell the world that their restaurant isn't worth trying to save. In fact, I have it as the most spectacular torpedoing of a professional career that I have ever seen on a reality show. And as we've noted here before, personal and professional lives are very easy to go down in flames via the medium if one is not careful.

Which leads me into what I consider to be another top contender. The one previously noted was a personal flameout; this is probably the biggest professional flameout after Amy's Baking Company.

In 2007, NBC aired a show called Phenomenon. It was essentially a talent-search competition for mentalists. The show rounded up ten of them; the audience would whittle them down as audiences do, winner got $250,000. The winner of the show's only season was a guy named Mike Super, but that isn't what we're here for.

We're here for a man named Jim Callahan. In episode 2 of the 5-episode run, Callahan, a self-proclaimed paranormalist, performed a trick where he summoned the spirit of author Raymond Hill (I'm not sure who he is either) in order to identify an object inside a case. One of the show's two judges, Uri Geller (you know him as the guy who made spoon-bending famous), enjoyed the trick.

The other judge was Criss Angel.

In the magician's community, there have long been two major camps: those who will claim that every trick is real or at least go along with those that do, and those who are open about the fact that tricks are just that- tricks- and take glee in exposing those in the other camp. Geller is in the former camp. Angel is in the latter camp. Prior to the premiere, Angel had gone on Larry King to promote the show and his own show, Mindfreak, and said the following:

"No one has the ability, that I'm aware of, to do anything supernatural, psychic, talk to the dead. And that was what I said I was going to do with "Phenomenon." If somebody goes on that show and claims to have supernatural psychic ability, I'm going to bust them live and on television. That's what Houdini did for more than half of his life, because those people prey on the vulnerable... Uri -- we had a conversation, because I told him that if he did make that claim, I would have to do the same thing."

Geller shouldn't have needed Criss Angel to tell him. James Randi had made a cottage industry out of regularly tormenting him, with an entire book devoted to debunking him written in 1982, and a few months prior to the show, The Sun- which let's note is a tabloid who we'd normally never link to here- went through 30 years worth of sporting predictions Geller had made and found them to be so bad that they titled the article "The Curse Of Uri Geller". The message was clear, though: Angel was ready in case anyone was stupid enough to try and claim they were somehow supernatural.

So when Callahan was revealed to be stupid enough- and Geller duly played along- Angel pounced.

Angel's offer was the same offer that James Randi had made for years to anyone who could prove paranormal abilities under scientific conditions. Callahan never guessed. He was promptly voted out. Geller never guessed either, but amazingly, there are those that say he ought to be awarded the million dollars anyway.

First off, let's say that Angel opened one envelope and said the other would be revealed on the season premiere of Mindfreak; however, it was not for whatever reason and the contents of the second envelope remain a mystery. The one he did open read '911', with Angel giving the reasoning that, if someone on 9-10 had been able to predict 9/11, maybe it could have been stopped.

Why would someone claim that Geller deserved the money? I could only find clips of the opening that related to that topic. I'll decline to link to it directly, but here you go. The reasoning was that, while Geller refused to answer directly, he launched into a diatribe with Angel in which he mentioned a 9, and later on a 1, and later on another 1. He may not have said them consecutively, and he was throwing around other numbers too, but he said a 9, a 1 and a 1 in the correct order at some point, so give him the money.

No, really. They're serious. Stop laughing. Even if I'm laughing too.

Callahan, for his part, to this day refuses to cede ground, telling his side of the story with the page title 'He Really Did It'. He went on to be challenged to perform a 'remote viewing' test- in which something's written in a box, the box is closed, and the test is to tell what's been written- and hemmed and hawed about it so long and moved so many goalposts that the challenge was rescinded. This is pretty much his going reputation.

Wonder if he saw that coming when he got into the magic business.

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