Backstory: 'I lied to Oprah, too'
Inspired by the nationwide acclaim from West (Dr. Phil) to East (Maury Povich), the staff of the Oprah Winfrey Show has decided to devote one episode a week to confronting a truth-stretcher like the chastened James Frey. The "I Lied To Oprah, Too" hour has all four networks bidding, even begging, to air the mea culpas.
So far, Oprah (a name that, according to a small native American tribe on Chicago's West Side, means "puller-outer of truth by hand") hasn't decided whether to go to prime time, Broadway, or both. In the meantime, several celebrities have taped confessions.
Tom Cruise: Admitting he is more in love with himself than with his almost bride was especially difficult for this megastar, since he is not even promoting an upcoming film. But his facial expressions of love when confronted by a mirror unexpectedly lowered from the ceiling made his previous denials seem hollow. Promising to do penance by slicing lox at the weekly Scientology brunch, Tom finished his confessional by begging Oprah for forgiveness while bouncing in his chair. Her slight nod of approval as he paid a bill for new cushions indicated forgiveness.
Rush Limbaugh: Under relentless questioning, he tearfully admitted that John Kerry did not spend the Vietnam War in a strip club in Boston, Hillary Clinton is not secretly married to Ellen DeGeneres, and that he owns the most complete collection of Pete Seeger records in America.
Tony Blair: Seeking to restore his dulled luster, the British prime minister confessed that when meeting with President Bush he has used a small earpiece so a translator could tell him how to react. Learning to smile and frown via remote was difficult for the usually glib leader. He says he has thrown away the earpiece and plans to tell the truth about how he really feels as soon as he figures out how he really feels.
Ralph Lauren: Ripping a "Ralph Lauren" label off the back of Oprah's jeans (she bravely smiled through the emotional pain), the famed designer then sewed on a new "Ralph Lifschitz" label. He announced that from now on he would market all his clothing under the name he was born with. The diminutive designer ("I'm 5'3" and I love it!" he yelled at various moments) also said his company would no longer sell clothing to anyone who has changed their name, nose, or lip size. Oprah promised to only wear Lifschitz clothing for at least a week.
Pat Robertson: Confessing that he hadn't spoken directly to God, but to a clerk in heaven via cellphone after a bad Mexican dinner, the televangelist promised to be more accurate when identifying the cause of a natural disaster. He insisted that next time he would be certain to get the clerk's name when he blames the probable California earthquake on either Brokeback Mountain or the banishment of Jiminy Cricket from new Disney-Pixar animated films. Oprah refuses to give him her blessing until he stops eating Mexican food.
• Chuck Cohen is a satirist and advertising writer in Mill Valley, Calif.