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Commentary : INFOMERCIALS: AN INSOMNIAC’S LATE-NIGHT FIELD OF DREAMS

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Now that the Christmas gift-giving season is safely behind you, now that you’ve exchanged with your loved ones all the neckties and Mighty Morphin Power Rangers anyone can stand, it’s time you resumed life’s more fundamental longings.

It’s time again to dwell upon the things you’d never dare to enter on your Christmas list--things like restored hairlines and restored self-esteem.

It’s time you got back to watching, and heeding, the world of infomercials. Where answered prayers reside just an 800 number away, blessings without end, amen.

Airing night after night for months and even years, infomercials are relentless. Often tacky. Often populated with personalities well past their expiration date.

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And yet ... here you are, planted before your TV in the middle of the night for whatever sleep-depriving reason (melancholia? worry? colicky newborn?). Your guard is down, gullibility up. Well, whattayaknow. You can see the potential in this catalogue of wonders.

“What are some of the dreams that you gave up on long ago?” asks Carleton Sheets, who wants you to reclaim them with his real-estate investment course.

You hear from a former busboy who shed 50 pounds and bought the restaurant he worked in, thanks to Tony Robbins’ “Personal Power” course (“30 days to mastering emotions, physical body, your relationships and your finances”).

You learn about the combination split-, mini- and micro-graft hair transplant from NuHart Hair Clinics. (Says one satisfied customer in an unfortunate turn of phrase, “It makes you look unbelievable.”)

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Taking their place beside hair grafts in the infomercial world are hair extensions, which are clip-on locks of human hair that fill out a woman’s own tresses.

And do it undetectably. “I mean, I’m like a couple of inches away from her and I didn’t even know it was in her hair!” marvels infomercial star Mike Levey, pitching Perfect Hair. “That’s really something!”

On an infomercial for a rival hair-extension product called Secret Hair, a happy customer confesses, “I don’t leave my house without them.”

Laughs Secret Hair’s creator, “I call it ‘hair addiction.”’

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Presumably, Tony Little doesn’t use hair extensions. In any case, this former bodybuilder who in his infomercials presents himself as “your personal trainer” has a ponytail Gidget would die for.

Ponytail a-bouncing, Little talks up his Ab Isolator (the “No. 1 stomach-reduction product on the market today!”) at a rate that would rival a tobacco auctioneer.

When you get done working out with your Ab Isolator, you’re likely to be parched. Thank goodness for the Juiceman! Just throw one rib of celery and two apples into your Juiceman automatic juice extractor, directs its gray-haired, evangelistic inventor, who also goes by the name of Juiceman.

But there’s more to life than hair, money or health. Sometimes you need an epiphany.

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“Your Psychic Experience” is an infomercial hosted by Jayne Kennedy Overton and Kenny Kingston, who is billed as “America’s Most Sought-after Psychic.”

Kingston, a soft-voiced man whose orange toupee makes him a prime NuHart Hair Clinics prospect, promises his special 900 psychic hot line will “aid you, comfort you, guide you. I wanted to help everyone who really and truly needs help.”

To prove his prowess, this seer lets Overton put forth a question.

“I want to know what I can do to make life better for my children,” she says. Then Kingston responds not too earthshakingly, “Let them know how much you love them.”

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Meanwhile, “The Psychic Friends Network” features “our good friend” Dionne Warwick and Linda Georgian, who tells viewers nothing more is required of them than “a telephone and an open mind"--not to mention the $4-per-minute cost of her hot line.


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