They Didn't Ask Me (dr_phil_physics) wrote,
They Didn't Ask Me

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When TV Shows Inspire...

I've been "Dr. Phil" to my students and some of my friends for a long time -- since 1989 when one of my mentors, Dr. Bob, anointed me Dr. Phil after I got my Ph.D. in Applied Physics. There are a few people who don't think it's right -- a member of the university faculty needs to be scholarly, more formal, more something that I just don't got. (grin)

It's All My Good Friend Oprah's Fault

Just kidding about the "good friend" part. Oprah Winfrey is a wonderful actress, a sincere interviewer and a great Chicago powerhouse in an otherwise New York and L.A. male dominated arena of television & movies, but we've never met. She did, however, introduce the world to her friend Dr. Phil McGraw, who is tall, Texan, balding and beardless -- sort of an anti-Dr. Phil to me. (grin)

When the ads began to roll prior to Season One of The Dr. Phil Show, I suddenly realized that if I wasn't careful I might get a whole lot of mail. So I created a webpage saying I am not the other Dr. Phil. Since then I have created more and more elaborate ways of trying to "hint" to people searching the web for Dr. Phil's address, that my office is not it.

You would think that (a) Physics, (b) Michigan and (c) pictures of this fat dude with a beard would be sufficient to steer people away -- especially as I provide the link to the show's FAQ page which has the contact information they seek. But somehow I must be "fooling" people. That this is a way to hide Dr. Phil's "real" address in plain sight. I've had daydreams of some e-mail secretly wending its way around the nation saying "Here is Dr. Phil's real address, if you know where to look." Never to be stopped like the Ancient Mariner, doomed to sail the Internet seas until eternity ends...

And anyway, to much of the world, isn't "physics" the same as "psychology"? (shudders)

I've even written to The Dr. Phil Show, including some printouts and some misaddressed correspondence. Never heard back from them -- they must think I'm a crank. (sigh)

But even today, if you Google "dr. phil's address", the very first hit you will get is:

Dr. Phil's Mailing Address
Dr. Phil's Homepage. Dr. Phil's Mailing Address:. I am NOT the "other" Dr. Phil -- Dr. Phil McGraw -- who has the TV show. Please do NOT mail or call me ... - 3k - Cached - Similar pages


By the way, I think Google's search engine must be deranged. I clicked on the link "Similar pages" next to the above entry and got 24 hits. Not a one is either from my web site, Dr. Phil's website, or has the term "Dr. Phil" visible in the entries. But there is a listing for something called Streakarama -- a website dedicated to, well, er, streakers. You know, those people on college campuses who run around in tennis shoes... only...

The convolution of this particular Dr. Phil and streaking is too horrible to imagine.

/An Aside

I Get Letters

Despite my best efforts, however, I have gotten a slow but steady run of phone calls, e-mails and snail mails. About half I would imagine come from kids aged 10 to 15.

For those on the Internet, hasn't someone told them not to willy-nilly send e-mails to people? Yikes! I guess that people are so into their TV Dr. Phil, that the fourth wall between the show's set and their living room has dissolved and they have no qualms about writing to their friend Dr. Phil.

Mostly they want something. Mom needs a new car. (Maybe they should write to Oprah on that one.) Mom needs to lose weight. (Given my size, that's almost cruel to write me about how their Mom is fat and it's killing her and "I" am the only person who can help.) Mom needs to be pampered like "I" did to that other mom on the show the other day.

I received a CD from a couple who were trying to help their friend, who does a musical impersonation act at a lesser Las Vegas club -- and couldn't "I" use my Hollywood contacts to either feature him on "my" show or get him a big break with one of "my" Hollywood buddies. Sorry -- this Dr. Phil doesn't have any Hollywood buddies, and if I did I'd be lobbying them to do more thought-provoking SF and more/better science literacy issues and examples, rather than dumbing down TV and movies further. (double-sorry)

And I Won't Take No For An Answer

The all-time winner was someone who called my office. I patiently explained that I wasn't the Dr. Phil on television. A few minutes later the phone rang again, and they asked for me by my name. "Did you just call here?" I asked. Click!

Later that day I got an e-mail, which I swear was from the same person, and a few days later, a letter in an envelope with the same story from the e-mail.

One has to admire perserverence in the face of irony.

Prompted By...

These thoughts were prompted by an email from the other day and I letter I just got. Two different people, two different stories. But I guess The Dr. Phil Show on Friday 6 May 2005 must have been inspiring, because two different people wanted my to make their mom's day for once in her sorry miserable life. I'm not trying to be funny here. The stories are full of cancer, obesity, illness and "the dog just had to be put to sleep."

I've cleaned up and sanitized these two missives, but I just can't pull the trigger and post them in my blog. You'd get the wrong idea. You'd stare too much at the horrible spelling, grammar and lack of punctuation, and start thinking of poor-trash-of-an-indeterminate-color. Yet somehow, they both had found either my e-mail or my office address and cared enough to send something.

At times I have tried to reply and steer them in the right direction. One e-mail response called me "mean", I guess for not being the right Dr. Phil. The first time I received a letter in an envelope, I wrote back a letter on university letterhead and I must've mortified/embarrassed the hell out of them because another little envelope with a folded up bit of notebook paper arrived with this painful, abject apology.

I've friends who like Dr. Phil a lot, and others who hate his "easy" brand of self-help. I enjoy seeing him on Jay Leno and David Letterman. I have to believe, because it is easier for me while watching him, that he is sincere in his attitude and in another venue might be up for sainthood for having to patiently deal with some of these people.

And I'm sure there are people who hate me for bringing this all on myself. After all, if I didn't refer to myself as Dr. Phil, I'd not have this problem.

If You REALLY...

Even if after reading all this you suddenly decide you need to post to this blog so Dr. Phil will read about your problems, may I gently suggest that you hop on over to:

Dr. Phil McGraw's TV Show FAQ Page

where the TV Dr. Phil McGraw and his staff will be much more useful to you.

(And all the rest of you smartassed friends of mine are just wankers -- grin)

Dr. Phil

Dr. Phil and his friend Sam

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