Bill Liblick scurries down the hall-He's great, Bill says to Tom. He's new, but he's great-goes right the dingy white room where they dump the ordinary audience, already kept waiting for 45 minutes at least, no place to sit, drinking tanker coffee and skim milk out of paper cups. Liblick skips that scene and glides through the West 57th street studio, unassisted-Hi, Bill! Says a makeup person; Hiiiiii! Bill shouts back- he knows where he's going. And he knows exactly where he wants to sit; in the first row of the second tier, slightly right of center. Pieces of blue paper on those chairs indicate they are reserved, and not for Bill. Bill furrows.
Bill Liblick is the most ridiculous thing to happen in daytime television, at least recently. He's this 36-year-old guy from Co-op City in the Bronx who's made outrageous remarks – Why don't you sit in a little room and lick the wall, because that's what you're good for, for example, and That pig, that piece of trash over there. He shouldn't even be sitting up there. He should be in a mental institution-at more than 300 talk show tapings since 1992. And so, of course, he's been profiled by Entertainment Tonight and Good Morning America, and appeared on Joan River's and Tom Snyder's shows talking about talking on talk shows. And so, naturally, he now has his own publicist, is managed by Stan Bernstein at Global Entertainment, and is represented by Don Buchwald Associates, which also represents Howard Stern. And so, inevitably, he has just returned from a trip to Los Angeles, where he talked to Fox TV, Dick Clark Productions, and Castlerock Entertainment (producers of Seinfeld), among others, about this idea he has called Bill Liblick.
"Everyone is scrambling in L. A. and New York, thinking of what to do. There are several offers on the table," Bill says. "there's about ten different formats in the works for me."
One of them is a sitcom.
Bill! Shouts Amy Rosenblum, Sally's senior producer. Amy! Bill says. They embrace. Bill inquires about those chairs.
Do you want to sit there, Bill? Amy asks. If it's all right. Sure, sure, Amy says, if you want to sit there. The blue pieces of paper are swept away.
So, Bill, Amy says, do you have your own show yet?
Looks like, Bill says. Maybe. But it might have to be in L.A.
Bill, you'll love Los Angeles, but we'll miss you.
You'll come, Bill says, You'll be my producer.
What about my family? Amy asks.
You'll bring your family.
As Amy turns to go, Bill whispers behind her back, She's the best.
The ordinary audience members, filing in, gawk like tourists. There's where the guests sit; that's where Sally stands; and look, over there: It's that guy.
Do you get paid to be on these shows? A pile of hair from Brooklyn asks Bill.
No' I'm just an ordinary person like you, Bill replies.
"When I was 13, 14 years old," Bill says, "I was always fascinated by TV. Everyone would stay outside and play ball; I would go to TV talk shows." Among Bill's favorite programs; What's My Line?, I've Got A secret, the David Frost Show, and Virginia Graham's Girl Talk.
Bill is not just an ordinary person like you. He looks like an ordinary person – the boy – faced, big – big tooth, slightly rumpled variety –but he is what ordinary people, the polite ones anyway, call a character. In Bill's particular case, that character would be Richard Simmons, only in street clothes and without the squeal. Bill describes himself more in terms of what he knows best, as a combination of "Sally –the caring, the compassion –and Joan –the outrageous humor – humor – humor only I'm the one with the balls."
Rose Marie Henri, Sally's executive producer, notices Bill in the audience – He's great, Rose Mary says; She's wonderful, Bill says – and waves him backstage. Bill effusively congratulates Rose Mary on her new job, as executive producer of Multimedia's The Talk Channel, debuting this fall. Rose Mary speculates on Bill's chances. "It's a crowded field," she says. "Bill would have to offer something different.
"He is different."
Bill's also what you'd call a talker, given to baroquely manic answers to questions that are realty pretty much optional. Ask how he got into all this and Bill will start with leaving his job with a Bronx community newspaper chain in 1992 – I can't go into details, he says, then does – then four weeks later his mother passed away – in her sleep on her birthday – and then one day he went to see his attorney at Rockefeller Center – It had to do with my ex-employer – and was asked to go to Faith Daniels – there was one seat, I remember, right in that corner – and the show was about racial separatists – I sat there for 25 minutes, and something happened; my blood started to flow again – and then he raised his hand and it all came out: You are sick pathetic animals! Thank God, the people in the in this audience know what kind of animal you are!
"The audience went absolutely wild; the woman next to me started to cry," Bill recalls. "They extended the show a whole half hour because of me. And I said to myself, 'I like this.'"
"We've got a good show for you tonight," Greg Kinnear began Talk Soup the night of Bill's debut, going right to a 25 – second slice of Bill's much longer rant. Coming back from the clip, Kinnear exclaimed, "Let's get that guy his own talk show, for crying out loud!"
Billy! Sally Jessy Raphael exclaims backstage putting her arms out. Sally! Bill and Sally grab each other's elbows and squeeze, placing their faces inches apart.
The projects Bill's developing: In Your Face, where "at the end of the show I would tell the audience how I feel and I would go in their face. It would make it very exciting"; Billy's Court, a mock trial where "the audience would be the lawyers" and "I would give sentence at the end of the show. So the show would build up to a kind of a climax; you'd want to watch it because they'd be so much fun going on"; and "then there's a fun kind of a talk show which would be a mock of a Letterman or a Leno kind of a talk show where I would be crazy and kind of have fun. I mean, if someone in the audience sneezes, I would say, God Bless You,"and then there's One In a Million, a sitcom about a guy who appears in the audience of a lot of talk shows and becomes a celebrity. If he had to do one, the talk show or the talk-show sitcom, which would it be?
"Maybe I'd do both," he says.
The topic of Sally's show today (airing July 28) is "My Mother Hates my Fiancé." Ginger isn't happy that her 29-year-old son Vincent is engaged to Elia, who is 17 and pregnant, because "she lies, she steals, she's needy." Ginger also complains that Vincent runs home whenever he needs to do his laundry, and doesn't even take care of the one kid he already has. "It's not my kid." Vincent responds. "He doesn't even look like me." In keeping with new daytime – talk-show tradition, Ginger also makes unexplained out-of-left-field comments like, to Elia, "I didn't put my in-laws in prison, like you did."
Elia has been dating Vincent since she was 12, Ginger says. "I didn't date him when I was 12 years old," Eila responds. Okay, I met him when I was 12 years old and I started dating him when I was 15." Sally breaks for a commercial.
Sally comes back and introduces Karena, a Seattle mother who doesn't like her pregnant 17-year-old daughter Jennifer's fiancé, Rico, because he doesn't have a job and gets into gun battles with members of her family. Karena, 34, has had nine children by the different men and is currently caring for her daughter's other child.
Bill raises his hand; Sally is all over him.
Bill to Karena: "Leave your daughter alone; let her go on."
The audience applauds.
Bill to Ginger: "You can't just take care of grandchildren. You have to love your son; you have to tolerate your daughter-in-law."
"I do love my son, " Ginger protests.
"Get out of his life!"
Bill to Vincent: "Are you going to be a mama's boy, or are you going to cut the apron strings?"
The audience explodes.
"So there," Bill says during the commercial, "You saw me in action."
The one time Bill feels he stepped over the line: "You girls, you're nothing more than white trash…. You're proud that you hump and dump these guys…. Look what you look like Look at you. You're nothing but low, common bimbos. You sit there with your legs crossed. Look at you. You're legs crossed? Open them up! That's how you get what you want!"
"The audience loved what I said," Bill says now. "But I felt…I don't know."
During the break, the psychologist is brought out. She recognizes Bill and smiles; Bill waves. She is good, Bill says.
"We have more than interest. A deal will happen before the end of the year," says Stan Bernstein, Bill's manager. "Sooner than that." Bernstein says he doesn't want to set his sights too high, but "if CBS, for argument's sake, said, 'Let's go late night' – boom boom boom – Bill, with the confidence he has would say yes. I would not say no." Bill's agent, David Katz, is less gung ho. "With somebody like Bill, he's going to get one chance, and that's it, Katz says, "Is he a flash in the pan? Who knows? He's certainly been intelligent enough to get this far."
"I just don't know," says Mary Duffy, Montel Williams's supervising producer, asked about the potential of a Bill Show. "Maybe it would be a good idea on a cable channel." But Gail Steinberg, executive producer of Ricki Lake – where Bill is so beloved he was invited to the show's end-of-the-season wrap party – thinks, Why not? "It's almost been like he's had his own talk show all this time."
Shows over; the audience is shuffled out a side door. Bill takes the staff exit.
On the sidewalk outside, Vincent and his pregnant 17 year-old fiancée are standing around, smoking cigarettes. Bill walks right up to them.
"You pissed me off," Vincent says.
Bill won't let it go. "You know what you should do?" he tells Vincent. "You should invite your mother over to your house for dinner one night. I mean it."
They talk privately for a few moments longer. Bill shakes Vincent's hand and turns to leave.
Vincent calls out: "Thanks, Bill."