Jewish World Review March 22, 2002 / 9 Nisan, 5762

Greg Crosby

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Calamity fame | The day that Andrea Yates was sentenced for murdering her five children, her husband Russell was already making the rounds of the television talk shows. He gave interviews, just as he has all along since this horrible story broke. He has been more than willing to talk to any and all news media. He has appeared on the Today show, he has appeared on the Larry King show. I am fairly certain that he would appear on David Letterman or Jay Leno or Saturday Night Live if asked.

He relates the horror story and his life with Andrea and the kids almost in the third person - sounding more like a detached reporter or police officer than a grieving husband and father.

Think about this for a minute. Here's a man who was married and had five children. One morning he leaves the house for work, and as soon as he's gone, his wife drowns all five kids. Dead. Finished. All gone. His wife is arrested and stands trial for murder.

Ultimately, she is found guilty. Then she is sentenced to life in prison. His entire life as he knew it, has been wiped out. His children - all five of them - dead by their mother's hand. His wife incarcerated in a penitentiary forever.

So, let me ask you -- if you were that husband, at what point in this scenario do you think you would start booking gigs on TV shows?

Maybe I'm weird, but if that were me, I wouldn't want to talk to my mailman, let alone Katie Couric or Larry King on national television. I don't think I'd be emotionally ready to talk to anyone for a very long time. Most people would feel the same way, I think. And yet, there are those who not only don't mind getting their faces in front of a camera, they relish it.

Another one who baffles me is Mariane Pearl, wife of Daniel Pearl, the journalist who was murdered by terrorists in Pakistan. I have tremendous sympathy for Mrs. Pearl. Pregnant with their first child, she suffered what must have been excruciating agony all those weeks waiting to find out when the terrorists would release her husband. Then, finding out that they killed him -- literally slaughtering him on camera, and sending the video tape to the world. His remains have not been found to this day. I can't imagine how I would cope if, Heaven forbid, such a thing happened to my wife. A truly unthinkable horror has befallen Mrs. Pearl.

And yet, through it all, she made herself available for interviews and television cameras. Now, a case could be made that in the beginning Mrs. Pearl thought that perhaps appearing in public and over the airways, might somehow aid in her husbands release. But that was then. Now, many weeks after the news of his death, she is still doing talk shows and giving interviews. At times even appearing cheerful! I don't get it.

Then there are the same handful of spouses of the victims of September 11 that keep popping up on the network morning shows and the cable news stations. Again, I feel terrible about their loss, but why are they still doing TV shows? America has given a billion dollars, give or take a million, through charitable organizations specifically to help them with monetary needs and counseling services. The federal government has granted additional large payments to each of them on top of that.

Yes, yes, I know that money can never bring back a loved one. But can fame? Can becoming a media star ease the pain a little? Does appearing on television act as some kind of catharsis for some people? Maybe they feel that by becoming a celebrity for awhile, they can forget their personal grief - as an actor tunes out his real life by becoming another character. Perhaps staying busy giving interviews helps to keep their minds occupied. But a good Scrabble game might do the trick as well.

There may be very good reasons why certain people who have been hit by tragedy need to drown their sorrow in front of a television camera -- I just can't think of any right now.

Everyone grieves differently. Some people cry openly and some cry privately and some don't cry at all. There are those who open up to their best friend. There are those who confide with their shrink. There are those who talk to a clergyman. Then there are those who talk to 270,000,000 people on television. I just don't get it.

JWR contributor Greg Crosby, former creative head for Walt Disney publications, has written thousands of comics, hundreds of children's books, dozens of essays, and a letter to his congressman. A freelance writer in Southern California, you may contact him by clicking here.

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© 2001 Greg Crosby