There is a lot of talk these days about print media dying and newspapers becoming ancient artifacts, which as a rule makes me kind of sad, because as a 79-year-old man I fear two things: change and stairs. But I have to admit that sometimes even the newspapers themselves do not make a very strong argument for their own relevance and survival. Take, for example, this interview of Self-Potato by the New York Times on their Arts Beat Blog. Do you think this is going to make it into the sacred pages of the actual New York Times? Of course not. “Ooh la la, we need that space to talk about Iraq and health care reform because our priorities are FUCKED.” Wake up, New York Times. An interview with a woman who gave a ridiculously wrong answer on a game show it is sometimes hard to believe people still actually watch is the real scoop!* Journalism!
But look at me going on about the future of information. Let’s get to the interview with Self-Potato! Which I have reproduced in its entirety after the jump. Because newspapers will be replaced by FREEDOM!
New York Times: How long have you been a “Wheel of Fortune” fan?
Lolita McAuley [Self-Potato]: Ever since my mother was watching it when I was a kid.
NYT: How did you become a contestant on the show?
S-P: I had signed up on computer, and they sent me an e-mail saying the Wheelbus was going to be in Stockton. So I drove out to audition. You filled out a small card and put it into this giant lottery thing, they spin it and draw out a few names and do practice rounds. My name didn’t even come up. So I decided to stay for a second showing, filled out another card, and put it in again. This time my name came up as like the second person. Then you do a little pretend show, they take your picture and your information and say they’ll contact you in about two weeks if they really like you.
NYT: When you finally got to the “Wheel of Fortune” set in Los Angeles in October, what was that like for you?
S-P: To me, it was a wildest dream come true. I have family that lives in L.A., so they got to come and watch. I’m so glad, I’m so thankful, I’m so excited. And of course, very nervous.
NYT: Did the other contestants seem more at ease?
S-P: A little bit. I was actually very comfortable before the cameras started rolling. They had done my makeup and I was really excited. I didn’t look like me, but I looked like me – you know what I mean? It felt movie-star-ish, real glamorous, real nice. But once we were actually on the set, I just felt my hands start to shake a bit and my heart start pounding.
NYT: Do you get stage fright?
S-P: Yes, yes I do. I hate to admit that, but I do. And as a teacher, I probably shouldn’t.
NYT:: So can we talk about that moment?
S-P: My self-potato?
NYT: Yes. What happened there?
S-P: The first toss-up round they had, I knew it and pushed my buzzer, but Pat didn’t call on me. O.K., no big deal. So the next one, I remember pushing the buzzer but not really believing that he would call on me. And once he called on me, my mind went completely blank. Because I did know the puzzle. Self-portrait. And when he called me, my mind went completely blank. And I looked up there, and I said, “Self-potato.” Even after it fell out of my mouth, I wish I could just go and hide. I wish they could somehow say, “Oh, we’ve got to re-tape that.” You’re like, if this could go away, I would be all right now. It came out of my mouth, I couldn’t take it back.
NYT: Your family that was watching you in the audience, how did they react?
S-P: Well, my sister, she felt kind of bad. She was being a little protective of me. She told me that she had heard some girls in the bathroom laughing and so she didn’t like that too much. I said, “Oh, come on, Maria, you know that if it was anybody else, you’d be laughing, too.” My cousin who was also there, he came and gave me this really big hug. And he says, “Wow, you got everybody in our section wanting some potatoes.” I know it was stupid, but I was glad it was funny too.
NYT: Are you aware that the video clip of that moment and that phrase itself have taken on lives of their own on the Internet?
S-P: The only people that have really talked to me about it are my friends, that I told them I was going to be on, and some of my family. No strangers or anything like that.
NYT: Do your students know about it?
S-P: Actually, my students don’t. I taped it, so I’m going to show them on Friday.
NYT: How do you think they’re going to react when they see it?
S-P: Oh, I think they’re going to laugh really hard. They’re really going to know their teacher’s human.
NYT: Did you know that someone has already set up a Web site called selfpotato.com?
S-P: [laughs] Oh goodness. That’s O.K. with me. I’m not hoping to get rich off this.
NYT: Have you given any more thought to what a self-potato might be?
S-P: No. Not at all. It just seems like a really good joke right now. I don’t think it’s anything more.
NYT: After all of this, are you still a “Wheel of Fortune” fan?
S-P: Oh, yes, yes. Very faithfully. My kids know, 7:30, everything’s quiet. Leave Mommy alone.
Oh, Lolita McAuley, you’ve got everybody in our section wanting some SELF-POTATOES!
*Just kidding, New York Times. Please continue to actually report the news. You are great at it, mostly!