Excuse Me Y’all, Don’t Be Misled, The Ricki Lake Show Is Not Dead
Grab a friend and some snacks – we’ll provide the tea. We’re traveling back to the 90s, when The Ricki Lake Show was the place for drama and fun unlike anywhere else on TV. Ricki and Kalen are joined by Stuart Krasnow, former supervising producer of The Ricki Lake Show, to talk about the show’s beginnings and its lasting impact on a new generation.
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Ricki Lake, Stuart Krasnow, Kalen Allen
Ricki Lake 00:33
Welcome to Raised by Ricki where we go back to the 90s to explore the good, the bad and the ugly. But let’s face it, mostly the good of the Ricki Lake Show. I am Ricky of course and I’m here with the great Kalen Allen you are basically the perfect person I knew the second I laid eyes on you I wanted you to go on this journey with me.
Kalen Allen 00:54
Oh, darling Miss Ricki like The pleasure is all my you are the icon Honey, I’m just honored to be in your presence darlin
Ricki Lake 01:01
Something about you, your spirit, your experience. You’re in musical theater, you know, TV personality, a talk show host. I just, and you’re young. Let me just spell it out. You’re young. And I wanted to like to just bring someone along that didn’t necessarily grow up with me. And I wanted to look at it through the lens of a young person today, because it’s been almost 30 years since we launched the show and things are really different now. So for you watching my show. Is it new for you?
Ricki Lake 01:30
How did you know me?
Kalen Allen 01:30
I mean, I’ve seen clips, but it was still very, it was still very new to me as far as the format of the show.
Kalen Allen 01:39
Because of hairspray. I did hairspray like everybody else in the theater. Oh, yes, baby. Okay, we’ve run an intel on that. But I’ve seen you in person before. So, you know, I used to work at the Ellen DeGeneres Show. And during one of the summers while we were on hiatus, next to us was the real, which was another talk show. Right? And they were also on hiatus. And during their hiatus, Rue Paul was going to do a revamp of his talk.
Ricki Lake 02:16
So yeah, I forgot. I forgot. You saw me you were at the RuPaul show.
Kalen Allen 02:22
Correct. And it was you and Blac Chyna?
Ricki Lake 02:24
Oh, my goodness, yes. I was in front row too. And my dog, Mama, because I insisted on bringing my dog everywhere.
Kalen Allen 02:33
And Ru asked you about the talk show. And you said that you didn’t miss it. So I am curious as to why you want it to do this podcast to go back and you know, explore.
Ricki Lake 02:45
That is a great question. Kailyn. And it’s true, I don’t miss the day to day grind of doing a talk show, I did it for 11 years from 93′ to 04′ a lot of work. It’s a lot of work. It was a lot of work. And it was the best it was the best. Like I loved it, and I appreciate it. And I was done. When I was done. I was done. But you know, I look back that was 30 years ago when we started. So I have changed and evolved and grown up literally, you know, through the making of that show. I don’t know it just feels so right to be because social discourse is the way it is now. I feel like the world is so different, technology is just it was absent back then. And I just think this is gonna be a fun experiment. You know, I’m going to enjoy this process of just seeing who I was back then. What I thought and comparing it or at least you know, like seeing it with the lens of today and who I am today. You know?
Kalen Allen 03:40
Do you remember any of this?
Ricki Lake 03:43
I don’t I mean, you know, no, blame it on the FBN. But I’m so looking forward to going back with you and our fans and taking a hard look, I think we’re going to look at the good and the bad. You know, some yeah, that happened wasn’t necessarily positive, you know?
Kalen Allen 04:00
Well, I am going to try and help you jog your memory. And so we’re going to do this thing called the almanac. You know what almanac right?
Ricki Lake 04:07
I’ve heard of an almanac.
Kalen Allen 04:08
Okay, okay. I think Benjamin Franklin created the almanac. Is that correct?
Ricki Lake 04:12
No, it’s that was electricity. Right?
Kalen Allen 04:15
I could have sworn Benjamin Franklin, created the almanac.
Ricki Lake 04:19
Okay, okay. I’ll take your word for it. Oh, maybe
Kalen Allen 04:22
Oh, maybe it’s Benjamin Banneker. It could have been Jamin Banneker Okay. Chair. I don’t know if somebody else could figure it okay. But in this Almanac, what I’m going to do to help jog your memory because, you know, usually when I need to remember something I can usually you know how music when you listen to a song, then it takes you right back, right? Yes. So every time we have an episode, I’m gonna tell you when it aired, but I’m also going to tell you what was going on in pop culture, and music movies or whatever. So, you know, your pilot aired in 1993, right?
Ricki Lake 04:55
September 13th. How could I forget?
Kalen Allen 04:57
And guess what I wasn’t born yet. It’s fun.
Ricki Lake 04:59
There’s something so wrong about that.
Kalen Allen 05:04
So, in 1993 in politics, this was Clinton’s first year in office.
Ricki Lake 05:11
Wow. Okay. First year in office so pre-the scandal. That’s when we liked him, right. We all liked him at this point. He was gonna do good things.
Kalen Allen 05:22
Yep, yep, yep. Okay. Now pop culture now this is a big one. Now, I like this because I was obsessed with them. Okay, so Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake and Christina Aguilera all joined the Mickey Mouse Club.
Ricki Lake 05:34
No, they didn’t. Yeah, I have to admit I was a fan of them too. Like, I definitely had the side. I mean, I was, you know, old at that time. So that started and so they were children. They were like, yes. 10-11 years old.
Kalen Allen 05:47
You know who else was in the Mickey Mouse Club? And it’s actually kind of disrespectful, that […] and include his name in this list.
Ricki Lake 05:53
Kalen Allen 05:56
Because let’s talk about stardom. As far as music now, you know, dream lover by Mariah Carey topped the chart.
Ricki Lake 06:06
That was a good one.
Kalen Allen 06:10
Oh, and Janet had released smash album. Janet earlier that year.
Ricki Lake 06:15
Yeah. Oh, it’s classic, classic.
Kalen Allen 06:18
Movies. Ah, classic time for movies. We got Jurassic Park.
Ricki Lake 06:24
I like that one.
Kalen Allen 06:25
We got Sleepless in Seattle.
Ricki Lake 06:27
Oh, I love that movie. And Rosie O’Donnell is in that and we’re going to be talking to her soon. I’m very excited. mazing. Amazing.
Kalen Allen 06:35
So tell me Ricki does that jog your memory? Like do you remember what was going on for you at that time? Do you know the story of how Ricki Lake found herself hosting the Ricki Lake Show?
Ricki Lake 06:44
Well, okay, I can tell you my story. I have no idea what was going on in the news at that time. But I was, you know, super young. I’d been an actress from the time I was 18. I had gotten my big break in hairspray. John Waters kind of plucked me from complete obscurity. I was a freshman in college. I did hairspray did a bunch of jobs. And I did the show China Beach, which I know you’ve probably never heard of, because you want to learn about the Vietnam War. And it was a very successful, critically acclaimed with Dana Delaney amazing cast. And it was a big deal for me because it was a drama. It was a drama series. So I’ve always been you know, musical Tracy Turnblad. So I got this part I was signed for a season you’re an actor, so they pick you up for the season. You assume your all shows produced, right? So you’re paid for every episode, whether you’re in it or not. And I ended up only shooting 18 of the 22 or something some number like that. But basically you don’t get that money. And I had bought a house this business venture had encouraged me to take my nest egg, my like my, my little all that I’ve earned, which was you know, at that time, I think it was like a couple $100,000 but it was everything I had, and I put it into a house in 1989. And by 1990-1991, the housing market crashed I was let go from China Beach, they didn’t pick up the option for me, I was 260 pounds. And I really had to kind of like reinvent. And so I just looked at my career and I was the cute fat girl for all those years for all those jobs and they dried up. And a big loss for me was dogfight remember that movie dogfight I wanted that film so badly, and I didn’t get it, the skinny girl got it anyway, I had to change at this point. Being the cute fat girl wasn’t working anymore. You know, my agent wasn’t calling. And it was a huge trajectory shift and life lesson for me. Because here I’m 21 years old. And it was like a deeply humbling experience to lose my house, I put all that money in and lost all of it. And I had to move to the valley. This you know, nothing wrong with the valley. But I lived in an area where no one really wanted to visit me. I lived in a pool house. And I just made this conscious decision to the I had this like moment of like, I can’t control this. Like I can’t control whether I’m gonna get my next audition or the guy is gonna like me. And I’ve just said I gotta change this up and no one’s gonna fucking rescue me Save me. And I went on a crash diet and joined a gym. Yeah, I had to change my physicality and make myself unique again, make myself stand out again. I didn’t tell anyone like I kind of laid low in the valley by myself for months. And so it was like when I started to come out after about, you know, five months I’d lost like, I’d lost 80, tremendous amount of weight where I you know, it had nothing to do with health. I mean, honestly, I mean, I guess I wanted to feel better, but it was really about work. And then people started to notice and then, you know, out of the blue, I get a phone call from someone who wants me to come in for you know, a meet and greet for this new talk show they want and I’m like I love Oprah. I love you know, Sally Jesse out I’ll go in and they called me in there and I took it seriously because it was on the Fox lot. Like I didn’t ever heard of those people. It was like three really handsome guys. I was a flirt. Like I was a really big flirt. I didn’t care if they were gay or not. And they just, you know, basically offered me the pilot and I like I was like, Yeah, I’ll do for $5,000. My rent was $550 a month. I was like, that’s rent for almost like the whole year. I’ll do it.
Kalen Allen 10:17
So I’m trying to connect the dots as to how these executives at Fox, they were like Ricki Lake.
Ricki Lake 10:24
So, I think it was Stewart crabs now. So you know, Stewart crabs now who was the supervising producer of the beginning of that he didn’t do the pilot, but he did the start of the Ricki Lake Show and he was there for a couple years. He was the one that had seen me on Letterman, I was always on as a guest on David Letterman. And like many, many times, you know, this is pre-talk show, but post hairspray.
Kalen Allen 10:47
Ricki Lake 10:49
To what, to be on Letterman? It was that was a whole other experience. And you’ll hear oh my gosh, I have stories about that. But, you know, Stewart saw me on one of them and thought I was candid and fun and whatever and just thought of me and added me to the list. There was like 100 people women that they interviewed for this this talk show and they picked me and it just turned into the job of a lifetime really.
Kalen Allen 11:15
Well. I have some good news. All I can tell you is that a doorbell is about to ring because Stuart is here today.
Ricki Lake 11:24
Oh my god Stewart you’re here.
Stuart Krasnow 11:27
This is where Ricki expects me to say that she’s my favorite host my favorite time I’ve ever worked with.
Ricki Lake 11:31
Stuart Krasnow is truly, truly in one of like an all my years of working as a person as an actor as a talk show host. He’s one of my very, very favorites. I love him so much. And I know that I am he can’t say it because he has to be diplomatic. You’re saying what?
Stuart Krasnow 11:53
Come on, Ricki, we’re family we are our love affair changed my life. And it was a true professional slash friendship love affair that just truly transformed everything that I have now is because of that show. And because of you, because of what we did together. And I think we also change the world to be a little bit high and mighty about it.
Ricki Lake 12:12
I mean, let’s break that shit down. You say we changed the world? Well, let’s get to that. But I mean, the pilot episode is 30 years ago now. So and it’s so trippy going back because as I tell my producers, I don’t really go there. Because I lived it because it was so much a huge chunk of my life. And so much happened that was even beyond the show, personally, for me having my kids getting married, getting divorced, all of it. But it’s like this has been really so far, we just started. And it’s so fun to kind of just look back at that time and what life was like for us, you know, behind the scenes with this show. And the experience of seeing the phenomenon that that show was, it happens so quickly. I certainly didn’t expect it, did you?
Stuart Krasnow 12:54
And it’s so funny, we’re in a business where everyone tries to get a hit show, right? But you can’t if there was a magic formula for it, then everyone would make hit shows. It’s like one in the 100 hit one of the 1000s sometimes. So it’s a very hard thing to do. And so when it hits it’s a lightning out of the bottle situation. And that one was meteoric, I mean it at a time when everyone was watching TV, by the way. So it was really you can walk anywhere, see anyone and have people not be talking about the show or, you know, talking about a guest on the show or an episode. And I just want to mention, I wasn’t across the pilot. But if you think about it, that pilot was about I think, overweight girls being bullied or something. And I think that’s the one that got you the show that pilot but these topics are the same. They’re just called different things. So that was all about body shaming, wasn’t it? But we didn’t call it body shaming. It was bullying someone for being heavy or being fat or whatever the word we would use then that seems so wrong now. But the issue is we were hitting them were so ahead of their time.
Kalen Allen 13:53
And you were there from you said not the pilot, but you were there from the beginning, correct?
Stuart Krasnow 13:57
Yeah, I was actually it’s a little weird. I was at Dateline NBC and I just been promoted to like number three on the show. And I was like, I’m not leaving. I’m a news person now. But I had had this dinner with […]
Ricki Lake 14:10
The mastermind I mean, we have to give him credit where credit is due he was the guy that came up with this whole concept.
Stuart Krasnow 14:15
Talk show and make it for young people and have it be a faster pace and younger people younger problem and
Ricki Lake 14:21
yeah, let me jump in and add to that because it was like, it wasn’t just the younger person but it was always taken from the younger person’s perspective. So he’s he would even give the example of like Oprah would do a show. You know, my daughter doesn’t understand me. I need help, you know, and we would do the opposite. My mother doesn’t understand me, you know, so that was the gimmick in a way. Right?
Stuart Krasnow 14:43
And I think what happened was I had loved you as a guest on Letterman. I don’t even know you by the way. I always felt you when I’d see you in the greenroom at Letterman. You are yourself off camera and the same on camera and very few people don’t change when they go from the greenroom there on the show with him.
Kalen Allen 14:59
Well how did you suggest Ricki for the show? Like what came to mind? Or what was the specific about Ricki that you would like she can do this?
Stuart Krasnow 15:07
Well, I think it was, you know, a mutual friend who was working with Garth on the original we love to say who was the original host of the..
Ricki Lake 15:14
Of course. Yeah. Jane Pratt, do you know who that is, Kalen? Have you heard of her? She was an editor. She was an editor of a magazine, a teen magazine like a young girls magazine. And she was like, really hip like way you can admit Stuart, she was way cooler than me.
Stuart Krasnow 15:30
She very relatable, very likable, very smart. But she felt a little adulty to me, I think you always just felt like you were really your age. And you were you were fresh and looking forward to life. You’re so open to everything and open to everyone. And you’re so like, anybody who met you want loves you want to hug you want to be your friend, you know, and I think that was so key. And I think I didn’t know that part going in Kailyn when we went through the string of how he suggested her, but it was definitely the quality of being herself whether cam was on her or not. And just being this bubbly, vivacious person. And I think that personality just struck me as somebody who’d be great for and I liked that she’d been through stuff. In those days, you’d be like, oh, this one went through this. And this one went through that. And the fact that Ricki we’ve gone through this weight loss and was still you know, had a personal relationship with going through something at a young age definitely made her you know, very appealing, I think for you know, who’s going to come into your living room at a time somebody who’s lived a life, you know?
Kalen Allen 16:23
So when you talk about, you know, Ricki being so young, did you ever feel like there was any moment that Ricky had to grow into the role or whether like training wheels? Or did you have to, like, tell them to like, stand up straight or like, don’t slump over or anything like that?
Stuart Krasnow 16:38
She was a complete natural, right out of the gate. But there’s all sorts of weird skill sets that we had to learn and also things that she was adding to the equation that just changed the whole demeanor of what those shows used to be the people who did them literally were like, already grandma grandpa, almost emissions throw shade like that. Because, you know, […] you have people like that, who were still around today, by the way, and they’re amazing. But they were so old, they didn’t seem like someone that a young, so I think for you, you came in there. And I remember, you didn’t want to wear the Blazers, because a lot of the station groups, they believe that, you know, she has to still appeal to older people, it’s not going to work. If she just goes for young people, we don’t even count who those people are. So, you know, she would look at these outfits. But I’m not wearing a blazer like this is, you know, they try to dress you up in red blazers and you felt like a weather woman or a news anchor is something you’d be so mad. Also, you know, just the hairstyles, things like that. Were real negotiations with you, because I think you rightfully so are fighting to be yourself as this in this show. But you had to kind of play the role a little bit. So there was some straddling that had to be done. And I think I mentioned, if I say that..
Ricki Lake 17:44
You can mention anything.
Stuart Krasnow 17:46
But I think it was Garth, about the idea that you do like psychotherapy, like you just did.
Ricki Lake 17:51
Oh, yeah. No, it was Garth. I remember being Garth and he, I had never been in psychotherapy before. And he suggested he put me in therapy, basically, for me to have an understanding about myself and what I was going through, and to make me a better host. And I think it actually was super helpful.
Stuart Krasnow 18:08
Because it’s very cute. At the very beginning, you would be like, these people are 30 years old, and they’re already getting divorced. I’ve never been divorced. I can’t relate to this. So, you know, it gave you that breadth to be able to say that, but what was so great is, to your point, originally, Ricky, it was about that point of view of a 25 year old, right? So you have to approach it as a 25 year old and you would say things like, well, I’m only 25. So I can’t possibly know it’s like to be an I’ve never been married. So I don’t know, it’s like to be married and divorced yet. And then you ask the question. So I think as long as you always tabled it as such, but no other host on TV has to say that.
Ricki Lake 18:40
That’s so interesting. I haven’t thought about that. That’s hilarious. Okay, kids, we need to take a quick break, but we’re going to be right back.
Kalen Allen 18:52
What was the motivation and creating the demographic? Like, how did that conversation go to be like, these are the type of people that we want in the audience. These are the types of stories we want to have on the show.
Stuart Krasnow 19:02
But what happened was, all the guests in those days and still on these shows, they would just fall out like crazy with something like a 60% cancellation rate. So you would just wake up in the morning, your whole show would be a disaster. And one day, we really didn’t have enough people to do the show. And I said, you know, why don’t we just delay the entrances? Why don’t we just talk to one side and then bring out the other because used to always start with a couple out there.
Ricki Lake 19:23
That’s how that started.
Stuart Krasnow 19:25
Cancellations and that’s when and then we started having fun like the doorbell and that’s what it was like, are you ready to meet the guy who cheated on her? So it sort of allowed us to tell the story twice from two perspectives, not just start with him sitting there like this sort of preset chair.
Ricki Lake 19:41
Everyone copied everything we do we’d have all these sort of gimmicks and you know, tricks and games we do and then I’m sure it happened with Ellen too, you know, things that were you know, taken from Rosie or whatever. Yeah, it all caught on.
Stuart Krasnow 19:54
You always have different entrances and different ways of bringing people out but also, it allowed for a surprise walk on to be fine and not so confrontational I don’t think our tone was the same as like a Jerry Springer or some of those other shows because we weren’t Gotcha. We were more like uh-oh who could it be, right when the person was mentioning somebody, so they kind of mentally weren’t prepared. And then it’s still a beautiful surprise.
Kalen Allen 20:14
So then if Ricki was so young, and you’re bringing on these younger people on the show, was the staff and producers also young?
Stuart Krasnow 20:22
I think I was probably like 34, and I was supervising producer and the people, almost everyone was younger than me on the show, we had some really young producers, and we were really raising them to do a different kind of TV. So we really had to have our own language about how to book a guest how to get the other side on board, you know, the ideas of like business and things to do with them that games and all those things. You’re right, that, you know, look at Elon and all those things like, you know, we really played games with everybody, you know, they’re in the middle of some crazy thing in their life. We’re like, okay, now we’re gonna play this game, but it worked.
Ricki Lake 20:52
It was such a good time. Like, it really was so positive. And it was such like an event for people to come see. You remember the lines of people like waiting and waiting to come in? And it happened almost immediately. It was like the first week we looked at the numbers you would give them faxed in. And we just couldn’t believe the rise that, that happened like each day. Just meteoric. Really.
Kalen Allen 21:19
I used to have effect […]
Stuart Krasnow 21:21
Okay, good. I like that. Okay, here’s the thing go, I knew the show was going to work because I was doing the audience warm up, because I felt they were such an important guests in the show. And they just found Ricky without any social media in those days without any real internet presence in those days, people were showing up from Harlem. And maybe it’s like a week and a half into test shows. And these two women family ended up being ones who are on the audience all the time, some of our regulars. And they said, thank you for putting us on TV. I’ve never seen myself on TV before. And I was like, wow, we’re putting on a segment of the population that normally doesn’t get a voice on anywhere and television, no less the time. And you know, I’ve got so resentful and all those trash TV things came out and all those articles and people say, oh, you work in trash TV. What I’d say what I just like, no, no, no, no. Why do you think it’s trash? Because the people who were putting on but because they don’t talk like you? Because they don’t look like you? I would get so defensive. It was kind of racist, if you really think about it. And I don’t know what our word would be for it too. But looking at, you know, we had a lot of people who we would call White trash, but guess what, we gave a voice to people who were willing to expose. And all the phrases because you the phrases like talk to the hand, I got your back all that then it was all that a bag of chips. And then we’d make those the titles when someone our audience would say something or one of our guests we’d be like, then we do a show. Like, you’re not all that. But about a bag of chips, you know, we would like actually take their words and bring them back and all those expressions, there’s no internet that goes out. So we were getting all those expressions into pop culture, because we were giving a voice to somebody who didn’t have it before.
Kalen Allen 23:02
That’s great information. Because I think that’s something that we still struggle with today. You know, we go into all these Hollywood boardrooms and you’re trying to pitch ideas and people say they want diversity. And then they don’t and the thing that’s frustrating is that diversity has always proven to pull in audiences, to pull in money to pull in numbers, but it is it is rooted in one respectability politics is rooted in racism, is rooted in prejudice, you know, and I think sometimes people get so caught up in their own bubbles, that they don’t understand that there are so many other people out there that have voices and honestly create the culture.
Stuart Krasnow 23:41
It’s a win win. When you make things more diverse. It’s our job to make everything as inclusive as possible. I friggin love where things are headed now. It’s the best adjustment ever, that comes from knowing and appreciating and like actually enjoying, and having friends and people and working with a staff that doesn’t look like you like that makes you better.
Kalen Allen 24:03
I love that. So Stuart, working at the show, and being able to watch this show just skyrocket into the stratosphere, like what was that like seeing something that you, you believed in and that you dreamed up, and now is being successful?
Stuart Krasnow 24:20
I think it was such a big hit, that we were beating Oprah in many markets. And, you know, we were hoping, oh, maybe we could like, you know, be the fifth or sixth there are a lot of touches on there must been 12 or 13 to them. So we were number two nationally, and we were beating over in some local markets. But because of that, when you have a hit now is about maintaining the hit. And all the pressure comes with that. And I think that’s where we start to really feel we were riding a wave. But now we had to stay on top and everyone just started imitating us right off the bat.
Ricki Lake 24:53
Stu, I didn’t feel pressure. I don’t remember feeling pressured. I mean, I know it was yes. And that was pressure. When I think like Letterman when I was arrested and had to go on Letterman right then and there and tell the story, and they wanted me to distance myself from PETA, and PETA’s wanting me to plug the messaging, you know, like, it was like this crazy moment that I created, I created that situation.
Stuart Krasnow 25:15
Why do you think you did that? I mean, isn’t that that was your little Justin Bieber moment, like, seriously, because when you grow up in front of the world, and now you have the pressure of having a voice, your heart is so big that I think you had this feeling like, I’ve got to do something bigger with this responsibility in this voice that I have.
Ricki Lake 25:31
I just gotten married to Rob and Rob was this want to be activist he was super political and very well read. And so it was my opportunity to kind of use my voice in a way that I thought was going to be for good, you know? And I stand by what I did. But it was a real lesson in just the manipulation in the media. It was definitely something I’m a valuable lesson that I never want to do again.
Stuart Krasnow 25:55
The moment of the subway was a significant one where you realize you couldn’t take the subway anymore, and you were less comfortable walking down the streets.
Ricki Lake 26:02
Yeah, I don’t even remember it though. I don’t really remember the negative, I only remember that it got overwhelming. And I had to be at work on time. And I was stopped a lot. But it didn’t feel scary or anything like that.
Stuart Krasnow 26:13
The difference is Julia Roberts could walk down the street in New York, she was probably the biggest star at that time, one of the biggest stars, she could walk down the streets of New York and people be like, well, you know what’s going up to her. When you walk down the street was like the open of our show, they want to come up they want to high five you they want to yell go, right? They want to hug you. It’s like you’re giving away money or something. They were like, you were their friend, you weren’t some unattainable person. So I think that you really lived in a city that was embracing you. And maybe you just were able to focus on that love, but it was a lot and we had to get security, talk shows didn’t have security in those days. You add your own security guard, the audience had security, […]
Ricki Lake 26:52
And they were there for the birth of my son. They were at the hospital when I brought my little home, my firstborn. I mean, they became like family, our entire I mean, there’s people we keep in touch with a lot of people.
Kalen Allen 27:03
Well, I think that’s also a great statement. I mean, from everybody we’ve talked to, I think, you know, Ricki, everybody knows it as a Ricki Lake Show bit, from what Stuart is saying, it seems as though there were a lot of people that were in this place and cared about it. You know, what I’m starting to wonder as well as, like, we’ve talked about the audience, I want to know, like, what was the process? Because I know Ricki probably doesn’t know this, um, what was the process of like, getting the guest on like, for instance, like when I was on Ellen, the first time I was flown, I think I was flown first class, I stayed at the Hilton, you know, by Warner Brothers, a car service pick me up, it took me like, I was like, I was like, I’ve never lived a life like this. So what was it like there?
Stuart Krasnow 27:41
When you’re in those days, everything’s a very tight budget you’re doing over like Ellen, you’re doing 200 […]. Unlike Ellen, where everyone’s waiting for that phone call to get on that show. Someone’s calling him we’d have these things called cart. So it’d be like we’d make up the topics a lot of times came from the audience or like I really feel the guests gave us our best topics. Somebody be like, well, I star […] that guy and you know, I started […] you and I know it was I know it was a gross I took your phone. So people will take their phone, hit star six eight, and then get the person that’s how they catch a cheater. So then we made a title. You know, I thought everything was great till I caught you with a star six eight, right? So then you take that title and you put it on a cart. A cart wasn’t literally an audio cart, where Ricki would have to go in.
Ricki Lake 28:22
I would go and have to record them every week, like 100 of them. I hated doing them. I hated them. It’s like, ah, is your boyfriend you know, accusing you of cheating on. You know it was that you can be a guest call us at 100-GO-RICKI,
Stuart Krasnow 28:37
Did you catch somebody cheating on you with a star six eight, go do it.
Ricki Lake 28:41
Did you catch someone cheating on you with a star six eighths? If so you could be a guest on the Ricki Lake Show.
Stuart Krasnow 28:48
And then I would call in and then our production assistants are all probably executive producers now. But they literally would type up on a computer like all the transcribe those audio messages, give them to a producer, the producer would start making the phone calls. And the problem Kalen is then you had to call the other side. So yeah, the person who caught somebody’s all in, but the person who was caught cheating is not necessarily like going on the Ricki Lake Show. We would fly them in, we would put them up in a hotel I wouldn’t say, I wouldn’t say it was a five star experience. I would say it’s probably a three star experience.
Ricki Lake 29:24
Never we had to take out the mini bars member we had many bars and then they had to go because they were just..
Stuart Krasnow 29:30
And you know, and you’d have to make sure they checked into the hotel like no producer on that show went to sleep until all their guests arrived and checked into the hotel.
Kalen Allen 29:38
Have you watched the show at all? Since like you’ve worked there?
Stuart Krasnow 29:42
I mean, no, not me. I mean, there’s been little YouTube moments here and there but that’s about it. I mean, like really not.
Kalen Allen 29:47
Well, today’s your lucky day because we got a clip for you. You dumped me but look at me now. Now five women bring their ex boyfriends onto the show and they say they’ve lost weight and look somewhere better, so they want to show their exes with them missing. And we’re gonna play a clip of the episode and you’ll see my recent ex-boyfriend you’ll see his ex-girlfriend Natalie for the first time since her glow.
Stuart Krasnow 30:14
First of all, I would have put on that outfit from Maurice.
Ricki Lake 30:47
He was beautiful. Oh my, where is he now? Let’s bring him out. Where’s the doorbell? Let’s bring that guy out.
Stuart Krasnow 30:54
Show over. Here’s the thing. It’s so funny. Because it’s like, you know, when you look at that set, even, you know, the colors and just, it didn’t look like anything on TV. And then the diversity again of those guests. Just like, you know, and I love that topic. That’s a really fun topic. If that would work today. I mean, that would work on TikTok today, you know, duet your ex, you know, you could do a TikTok version of that, like, show your ex what you look like now, you know, I think there was so much. There’s just so much energy, you know, it just was really, I like that topic.
Ricki Lake 31:28
All right, let’s take a break. We’ll be right back.
Kalen Allen 31:33
Now, what I’m wondering, is one type of episode that I would think would be so hard to forget are episodes that had like homophobes and racists. You know, for instance, like Fred Phelps right now, Fred Phelps was on an episode called crusades against gays, which came out in 1993. And he was a reverend for the Westboro Baptist Church and was doing some awful stuff at that time. I mean, it was always awful. But when I rewatched, the episode, Ricki, I literally just like, I couldn’t believe it. Now, what was the importance to have those type of dialogues on the show?
Stuart Krasnow 32:11
That was my fault, but I also stand by it. I want to put him on and I fought for it, because I was so upset seeing these, you know, again, no internet. But I think when I was such a news hound coming from news at the time, and I would look at this and go like, oh my God, this guy is putting up these things and going to people’s funerals about AIDS and like, protesting and putting, like putting this for us, like we need to get this guy on and just confront him like let’s put them out in front of young audience is gonna rip them, because everyone in our audience like knew instinctively to defend anybody who was different. The idea is to put somebody on who’s doing something horrible, letting them we call them in those days, human pinata’s, it’s the guests that you could put on that everybody would have an issue with, and the audience just eats them alive for the hour, basically. But it’s like how else are people going to be accountable if they can’t see the faces of people they affect? And we put people on there who had AIDS and had, you know, confronted him and whatever. And, you know, I don’t think other shows would have put them on.
Stuart Krasnow 32:11
Do you remember what happened when we had him on because, you know, I was not on board. I did it because I always did what I was told. But I was not comfortable. It was too serious. It was cute. Scared me. I don’t have any sort of insight into religion like that any religion. And so I felt like I was sort of in over my head and I was brand new, it was the seat.
Stuart Krasnow 33:34
It was pushing you.
Ricki Lake 33:35
And I’d always been shown up till then respect by everyone, either in the audience or on the stage. I controlled my house. And I was feeling my really comfortable in my role. And then he just came at me to this day. I don’t know what he was shouting proverbs out me. And I remember him saying that I worship my rectum. Do you remember that? My heart was beating like a rabbit. I felt so small. In that moment, I felt so scared. But I also felt like, wait a minute, like, I’m doing my job I’m with my people. I’m you know, this is my place. And so I, I just took a breath. And I just remember saying, you may still be a reverend. But this is my show,
Stuart Krasnow 34:29
I think I’m having a deja vu moment. I think we were told that we needed to do more issues because we this, you know, everyone would give these notes. So we want this to shut off to more serious issues. So I guess I was thinking and then I think there was some conversation like what’s our Geraldo moment What’s the thing that is going to get under Ricki skin that she can freak out at somebody and yell at somebody that’s on her set and have issue with them? So I think knowing how much you literally love gay men more than anything and love gay people and gay women? Yes, that’s transsexuals everybody was different, whatever. I think because of that, that was probably my motivation. I was probably like, there’s gonna be like a Rando moment because you’re gonna be screaming and yelling at somebody, we’re gonna see a different side of you. Oh, maybe that was sort of the motivation.
Stuart Krasnow 35:20
What’s our young version of a controversial show? Somebody who hates something else, you know?
Kalen Allen 35:25
Now, were there any times because I know Ricki has talked about like, certain segments. She was like, nope, not doing that. Were there any times that you feel like you had to step in? And say, oh, we probably shouldn’t do this or not?
Stuart Krasnow 35:36
No, I think it’s so funny because I had come from news. And we had a gay committee at NBC News that we had to like, sort of weigh in on, there was a local news story, Five Signs That Your kid is gay. So everybody was like with a warning sign siren was the worst, most horrible sweep story in a local news market. And all the gay people at NBC News at the time, formed a committee and said, We need to start teaching everyone else like what to do. So we would always say it sounds weird to say the word black, exchange the word gay for black, and you’ll get the right answer. And what I mean by that, so with these topics we would never have done there’s other shows that got in trouble for things like this, we never would have done today, we’re surprising you with your gay lover with your gay crush, because we would never say today were surprising with your Black crush, that was our trick, we’d always put the word Black and instead of gay, people should know what’s coming. And we shouldn’t label things that didn’t have to be labeled and really think about it was very modern in its way and other shows, copied our blueprint of what we were doing, but didn’t adjust the language and put words in there that didn’t have to be in there sometimes, like gay or Black. We never did that.
Ricki Lake 36:44
Interesting. I think it was year two or year three of the show. Do you remember there was like this whole political climate that they kind of kept pointing the finger at the Ricki Lake Show and me and said that we were responsible for the demise of young people in this country do you remember that?
Stuart Krasnow 37:00
Yeah, I mean, I remember the whole storm. I mean, there was also stations that dropped this when two guys held hands.
Ricki Lake 37:06
Right, we can go back. I can tell me more about that. Because I vaguely remember that.
Stuart Krasnow 37:10
We were like, you know, these stations didn’t want they didn’t want men touching each other. They didn’t want men holding hands. We’re not even talking kissing. Wow. Yeah, wow. But we really believe in putting it out there without saying what it was. The way you normalize something is by saying our next couple. Sometimes we would surprise the audience be like, Well, my partner cheated on me too. And then the guy would come out, they’d freak out. Because they didn’t know as a guy that was like a celebration. They would be like, Oh my God, it’s another dude. And they’d be celebrating it. But we treated it like any other couple. I think that was my trying to say that.
Ricki Lake 37:42
Yeah, yeah. Yeah. I mean, it’s such a good thing to bring up because it’s true. And I always equated it to like my work with John Waters and being surrounded by divine and the cast of characters from then. But it was a decision that we made in house to make sure that we weren’t crossing the line in that way. It always was a feel good treat. uplifting. Yes, yes, yes. Wow. It’s really interesting to go back. First of all, how have you retained so much in your brain of what happened? Because honestly, so much of it is a blur for me.
Stuart Krasnow 38:15
When you’re the one out there. It’s almost like you have to get dressed up. You’re putting on makeup. You’re in front of 200 people, all eyes are on you. You’re leading everything. You’re running everything. I feel like it’s having like your wedding day, like twice a day. I mean, do you have to go out there you have to hit an adrenaline piece inside of you that so much higher level and when people would producers like to go? Well, what do you mean, she just chose to go home and I’m stuck here till midnight. It’s like, why don’t you try doing that? Because that hour, hour and a half that you’re out there taping is like the equivalent of like seven days on your feet sometimes.
Kalen Allen 38:49
Well, what we have found as soon as we announced this podcast, people are so nostalgic about this show and just loved the work that you all did every single day and the voices that you were able to amplify what do you think the reason for that is? Why has this show been able to stand the test of time?
Stuart Krasnow 39:08
I think it was programmed to be an after school babysitter for latchkey kids and for people who needed a place to go and it was actually underlined in some, it was little fires everywhere I think had they would they would come home from school and they were watching Ricki Lake and that Reese Witherspoon like scripted shot, but it’s about that era when the show was on in the 90s. So I think it’s sort of like, it was a it was supposed to be a place for young people who were younger to like watch. And certainly our audience wasn’t just 18 to 34 because 12 year old were watching to see what things were going to happen. And I think before the internet that things that unified us and gave us a sense of community where the shows we watched I mean, I would go to school the next day. I remember I would like be upset if I slept through Saturday Night Live because I knew all the kids like in seventh grade would come in and talk about the skits based on suicide pretend like you Oh, that was so funny. I like slept at all. Thank you. But you know, because you know, part of being included was having these communal experiences. And that was TV, when TV was the thing that we all shared at the same time. Everything’s very fractured. Now, as we know, everyone chooses their own lane of content of what they want to watch as we know. But back then it was, it was much more connected. And I don’t think anybody opened up the door, and specifically went for this, the teen angst kind of audience. So we really gave them I think, a place to go a lovely said amplify the voices. And I know, look, with our confrontational things. Were there things that are like, Oh, my God, that people go after each other. But it was a slice of life and openness and vulnerability to it.
Ricki Lake 40:39
Stuart, I just love you so much. And you’re, as I’ve said, you’re one of my favorite people. But also like, you’re such a wealth of knowledge from that time, you really brought me back. And I think you brought Kailyn along for the ride and hopefully people listening. Thank you so much for being here.
Stuart Krasnow 40:55
It’s my honor, it’s so my honor to be asked, Kalen. You’re so awesome. And I love seeing it through your eyes of somebody who didn’t grow up with it. So you really have that fresh outside perspective. And I’m so glad you guys are doing this podcast. I just think it does give you a chance Ricky to look back at where we all went. And it was a magical time. And there were many challenges to it. It was very hard to be successful.
Ricki Lake 41:16
I grew up during that time. You were like everything you were the it girl. We told that story.
Stuart Krasnow 41:23
I remember you calling me from jail. That was a terrifying phone call my life probably because I’m like, why […] the phone call? I want to kill you right now. So you weren’t the phone call every one phone call? I love you. Bye.
Kalen Allen 41:41
Okay, now, Ricki, cuz you know, I gotta go back because you know, I’d be over here taking mental notes. Before we go any further. What is the story about going to jail?
Ricki Lake 41:54
Oh, did I gloss over on that? Yeah, like, per usual. It was it was such a crazy surreal experience. So John Waters always said, do not trust anyone who hasn’t been arrested at least once. That’s like a motto of his, okay. And I’m this sort of clean cut very sheltered, very naive, very Tracy Turnblad. But, you know, a do gooder like I want my heart is in the right place. I want to make a difference. And so this was going to think back it was 1994. So I’m on the show for a year. This shows a big hit. I just gotten married, I’d married this great guy, Rob Sussman, who was wanting to be political, you know, he’s very sort of, well read and interested in politics. And so we went to a dinner, you know, I’m invited to everything at this point, like, you know, and it’s just my life like, I don’t think of it as anything really that extraordinary. But it was so I was called to this dinner invited to go to this big dinner party at the Odeon, which is like a very infamous place for like hanging with cool people. And so I’m invited this dinner. Madonna is there with Tupac Shakur. They were, I guess, dating at that time. Okay, now, of course, I’m starstruck by them. You know, I’m like, I cannot believe that. I’m like, on the roster of people at this table, you know, this big table. It’s probably like 30 people. And I’m seated. My husband and I are seated next to Dan Matthews. And Dan Matthews was the head of PETA, like the PR of PETA, which is the people for ethical treatment of animals and we’re just you know, making small talk getting to know each other and he I overhear him talking about their next kind of stunt their next you know, PETA event was to go and pick it outside of Saks Fifth Avenue on Fifth Avenue in New York City. And they’re going to pick it Karl Lagerfeld use of fur. Okay, got it. So Rob and I we overhear him and he’s telling them, they’re going to go down and pick it make signs and I’m like, Oh my gosh, like, I was like, this is my like, I actually agree with what you’re doing. I believe it’s wrong to use fur at this time. You know, we don’t need it to keep warm and slaughter these helpless animals I want in he’s like, really, Ricki you want in? I was like, totally, totally. And I looked at my husband. And he’s like, yeah, like, it’s a way for us to like use my voice and my platform. Okay, so I’m all in I’m stoked. I can’t wait to like put myself out there in this way. And the night before, they call me and they change the plan. And they change it from picketing on Fifth Avenue outside of six sacks with Avenue, which is a public place to Karl Lagerfeld personal offices. And the difference is a misdemeanor to a felony. And here’s the thing so the timing of this I was going to be on Letterman the next day Okay, so in my mind you know, having done Letterman many times I’m like oh my god I’m have a great story to tell and I’ll push the cause you know, of raising awareness that we should not be using for so I you know, I’m sorry, because it’s perfect. I was on the cover of People magazine to was that was coming out the following week. So this was like perfect timing in my mind. And they you know; I didn’t think anything of it being a public place. I went with my husband, I was madly in love at the time and there was about I think there’s about 20 of us, okay. And I show up, you know, I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. And I was wearing this really cute you can look up pictures of me where I was wearing this coat this cute coat with a peter pan collar and I, you know, innocent is can be, and we basically break into his offices, we handcuff ourselves to each other, we sit on the floor and we chant fur is dead. Passion is the fashion, fur is dead. And some of the people are stickering, the place with stickers all over the place that says fur is dead.
Kalen Allen 45:37
Wait. Hold on. Now, when you got there, and they decided to storm the office, you didn’t say, oh, maybe I shouldn’t do this.
Ricki Lake 45:45
Felt like Tracy Turnblad. I mean, it just felt in the moment that we were just doing something that was bigger than us. I knew that there was a chance of me getting like a slap on the wrist and getting like a citation. Like I knew that was probably going to happen. But what happened was, you know, the mayor was Rudy Giuliani at that time. And he wanted to use me as an example. So basically, we were arrested from the offices, they had to take us out and they threw us in like a paddy wagon, which was also very much like hairspray, you know, and they brought me to like a jail, like a regular jail first. And then they moved us to the tombs, which is like this infamous disgusting place. And, you know, I was scared. I was definitely like, what did I get myself into? We were separated my husband and I at one point, we were in the first jail. I remember being behind bars and like, I would send notes to him. When we were moved to the tombs, it got scary. Like it got like, oh my god, what the fuck did I do? I cannot believe I got myself in this situation. I called my mother collect. And I called Mary Connolly, the producer on Letterman. I know Mary, you know, Mary from Ellen days, she was up there, but she was a producer there. And to this day, she says it’s the best pre interview she’s ever done, because I was literally in jail, calling her doing the pre interview. And then also there was a TV on the wall as well. And I remember seeing myself on like the news being led out in handcuffs and the whole thing and it was it was just so surreal. And I was kind of in deep shit trouble, like, it was definitely like something that, what did that work thing? Well, it’s not a network. I’m with Sony and Sony wanted me to distance myself from PETA to basically say that, Oh, I was duped. I was taking advantage. I didn’t know what I was getting. No, but I knew very well what I was doing. I was standing for a cause that I believed in. I just didn’t know I would be charged with felonious burglary breaking and entering. I’m trying there was a there was a list of charges. So this is on your record. No, no, no, it was expunged or it was the charges were dropped. It took like six months. But it was a very, you know, because I was a brand now like, like I understood in that moment. And we and I was in jail for 30 hours, 30 hours. And when I finally got released, Sony got me an attorney. And I got out. I went straight to Letterman, I went straight like they brought someone brought me close to there, I took a shower with my husband, I remember in the dressing room there. And it was you know; it was PETA wanting me to like push the cause and Sony telling me to like distance myself and the mayor. I mean, I was on the cover of The New York Post at that time, that seems called Ricky’s big scam, because everyone was trying to say that I was like, an opportunist when it couldn’t have been further from the truth. You know, the show was a huge hit. I didn’t need more publicity. But I really, I mean, in my heart of hearts, I wanted to do the right thing for the animals. You know?
Kalen Allen 48:35
So you talked about it on Letterman
Ricki Lake 48:37
I had to talk about the whole thing was about it. It was actually, you know, I was definitely nervous doing that. But it was, it was a proud moment, actually, you know, and in the end, I learned a lot about the media, you know, and I learned, like, you can be manipulated so easily by everyone, you know, and I’m so glad I did it, but I would never do it again. You know, it was definitely a life lesson for me. And I got to really sort of understand my power at that time to you know, like, like, people were paying attention to what I did.
Kalen Allen 49:10
Yeah. And how actions come with consequences almost to a heightened. Yeah, you know, degree. Yeah, I think I, you know, for multiple reasons. I am very cognizant on how I carry myself in the world, and also the people that are with me.
Ricki Lake 49:27
Yeah, you know, I mean, there’s sort of a responsibility when you’re a public figure, I think to just, you know, I don’t wanna say behave, because you know, you want to you want to be yourself, but yeah, you’re just like being cognizant of that. I get it, I get it.
Kalen Allen 49:40
Well, it’s funny that you said is like, because I’ve had conversations, you know, with friends and stuff, like I get very strict with people when I go out to places you know, like, you know, I mean, even before then, like, I do not tolerate people being rude to like, waiters and stuff like that, you know, but I stressed that even more, you know, I just make it very known to be like, if you are going to be with me places, you know, I don’t really care what you do on your own time. But there’s a way that we have to carry ourselves because it’s almost your representation of me as well. You know what I mean? Was that the only time you went to jail?
Ricki Lake 50:22
That is the only time. But that was a moment, man. That was like, I mean, it was something. Yeah. So that’s my story of the time I spent in jail. Boys and girls.
Kalen Allen 50:40
What a time. What a time. Now, Stuart, that was great.
Ricki Lake 50:46
He had so much to say, and I really appreciate his perspective. And yeah, it was complicated. It’s like, it’s there’s a lot that went on, that maybe was not kosher certainly would not be seen as, Okay, today.
Kalen Allen 51:01
Yeah. Well, well, I mean, but I think that’s okay. There’s a lot of stuff that we watched from back in the day, and we’re like, oh, I can’t believe French TV. You know, that’s because we were living in different social climates, we have also had such these pivotal moments that have happened within the world that have changed us. So I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing. It’s more so like, wait, it’s kind of like how life is things happen in our life.
Ricki Lake 51:23
It’s really interesting. I mean, I find it super interesting to go back and see the things we said the things we got away with saying the things we did how we treat I mean, it’s just all like a fascinating anthropology experiment going down memory lane like this.
Kalen Allen 51:37
Well, life is all about evolution and growth. And as long as you continue to figure out how to grow from the things that you’ve done before, that’s all you need to do.
Ricki Lake 51:44
Yep. I mean, that’s basically why we’re doing this. One of the main reasons we’re doing this is really to go back and reflect and see how far we’ve come. Well, I feel good. I’m actually tingly all over. Thank you so much for listening to our first episode of Raised by Ricki with Ricki Lake and Kailyn. Allen. We’re going to be back next week.
Kalen Allen 52:04
Yes. And if you love this episode, honey, there is a full second episode with special guests. Rosie O’Donnell […] right now, but make sure your rate and review us because we want more people to be able to discover us, okay?
Ricki Lake 52:18
Yes, please help everyone find this show. Thanks for listening.
This show is produced by Claire Jones and Nancy Rosenbaum. Our associate producer is Tiffany Buoy. Our senior director of new content is Rachel Neill, VP of weekly production is Steve Nelson and our executive producers Stephanie Wittels Wachs, Jessica Cordova Kramer and DeRay Mckesson, and the show is mixed by Johnny Vince Evans. Music is written and produced by Jellybean Benitez, Jason Peralta and Jay Coos for Jelly Bean Productions.