Ricki Lake’s stint on Dancing With the Stars has reminded me of how much I used to love her talk show.
The Ricki Lake Show aired from 1993 to 2004, and featured serious topics like abuse, racism, and homelessness, along with fluffy fare (“I Went From Geek to Chic!”). It felt gritty, in a way – like a lot of the shows in the 1990s did. In doing some research on the show, I found out that during her first season in 1993, Fred Phelps from the Westboro Baptist Church came on to spew his vile opinions, at that time centering around AIDS and how anyone who had it deserved to die. Ricki wasn’t having it, and when Phelps and his son tried to take over the set, she demanded that the family leave the studio. I don’t remember this (I probably wasn’t watching at that point), but if I had been tuned in I probably would have stood up and chanted along with the audience, “Go Ricki! Go Ricki!”
I remember one of my best friends and I, starting in the fifth grade or so, would call each other every Monday through Friday at 5 p.m. to watch Ricki together over the phone. Of course, we gossiped about what happened at school that day at the same time, and would on occasion three-way someone else into the call, but most of our hour long gabfest was dedicated to the episode. Sometimes, we didn’t fully comprehend what was going on (we were only ten!), and I wonder what it would have been like to watch the show as an adult, understanding everything that was happening. Although I was 20 when the show ended in 2004, I hadn’t watched for a long time; by the time I hit high school, I was so busy after school that I usually wasn’t home when it was on, and kind of forgot about it. In fact, I was surprised when I found out that the show lasted as long as it did.
Ricki Lake was the only talk show I watched, for the most part, although I do remember catching some Jenny Jones, Geraldo, and Sally Jessy Raphael. For the most part, I found Jenny Jones was too scandalous, Geraldo creeped me out, and Sally Jessy was too condescending, although I did enjoy her red glasses. I liked Ricki; she asked interesting questions and didn’t take nonsense from the people who turned out to be lying just to get on the show. She has mentioned recently that she wouldn’t be against having another show, and I for one would watch. In fact, I’d lead the “Go Ricki! Go Ricki!” chant.