WHERE DO the TV talk shows find the weird and kinky people who make up their guest lists?
"To get these people, you have to go out to the street to find them," said John DiSciullo, producer of "People Are Talking" on superstation WWOR-TV (Adelphia, International Cable, 10 a.m) in New Jersey.
DiSciullo, a former Buffalo resident, was a producer on "A.M. Buffalo" for six years. Three months ago he moved to WWOR, where he is one of five producers working on "People Are Talking," hosted by Richard Bey.
It is the producer's job to line up the guests. In past three months, DiSciullo has taken to the streets to round up guests ranging from teen-age prostitutes to homeless men.
"There's a lot of tough sidewalk negotiations going on to get these people," DiSciullo said. "You have to convince them it's not a put on and they will be on television."
Sometimes that leads to strange street theater. DiSciullo mentioned pulling up to a shelter for the homeless in his station's limousine to talk some residents into
coming on television.
Finally, a man agreed. "I was feeling pretty good that I got a guy to come on," DiSciullo said. "I'm sitting in the back of the limo with the guy and I asked him to tell me something about himself.
"He took a swig of the wine bottle he was holding and said, 'Well, I've had a tough time ever since I was arrested for bank robbery.' I felt a little nervous sitting next to him, but everything turned out all right."
WWOR is the same station that produces the Morton Downey Jr. show. Downey's success has given the independent station an identity. Since it is not a network affiliate, WWOR can't depend on a hit series or national news anchor for its image. Now it has Downey, one of the hottest TV personalities in the country, but there are drawbacks to his success.
"I fear for Downey's life on or off stage," DiSciullo said. "They have a metal detector in the studio, but you still worry about what might happen."
One of the main elements in Downey's show is the audience. Most of they time the yell and scream and egg Downey on. The audience delights in Downey's insults of guests and appear to be the kind of people who would attend a "Death Wish" film festival.
It turns out that the emotional make up of Downey's audience is no accident. DiSciullo said there is a producer in charge of the Downey audience, insuring the right kind of people are in the studio.
The producers and the audience may be important, but once the show starts the host is in charge. "Once you're on the air, it's in the host's hands," DiSciullo said. "He controls everything and sets the tone of the show."
What about the controversy Downey has caused? DiSciullo admits he is personally troubled by some of Downey's antics but said it does generate an audience.
"There is an appetite out there for it, because viewers are watching it," DiSciullo said. "People may complain about Morton Downey, but they're watching him."