I’m still awake at around 2am because my blind date stood me up. and I’m wondering if I should just fall asleep in the Barcalounger or make a pot of coffee and stay up all night watching some really awful John Wayne movies on TV, so I keep channel surfing and this infomercial comes on and the guy who calls him- self “Mr. Success” says, “You don’t have to sweat and slave to get rich. kid. All you have to do is buy my book and I’ll tell you everything you need to know to achieve wealth beyond your wildest dreams.”
Now the $630 a month I get from Uncle Sam doesn’t even keep me in Alpo, but I figure it’s only twenty bucks-I blew that much on Howard Stern’s book and he didn’t make me any richer and if it’s lousy I’ll give it to my brother-in-law for Christmas. So I buy the book and I read it and it’s not bad, and at the end he says to make sure I put into practice all the great information I just read and not forget anything because if I do I won’t become really rich, just maybe upper middle class, and I should buy his cassette tapes for $79.95.
I’m already in for twenty so I say Why not make it an even hundred? After all, What’s a C-note when you’re living next door to Barbara Streisand? So I send for the tapes and drop another fifty on a stereo Walkman so I can listen in private-after all, I don’t want everyone hearing this great stuff and getting rich before I do.
And I’m listening and it’s really exciting because I can just see the look on the guy’s face at the Ferrari dealer when I trade in my ’71 Gremlin for a new Testarosa, and I hear “Mr. Success” say that for only another $149.95 I can get his newsletter every month and get the latest secrets to be even richer right as he thinks them up. I don’t even hesitate this time. I whip out my Mastercard, put the Walkman on pause and tell the operator, “Of course I’ll pay the extra twenty-five bucks to have it sent priority mail, this is important stuff!” And I’m in for almost three hundred now, but that’s not even half a week’s salary for the chauffeur who’ll be driving my stretch limo while I’m tossing double saw bucks to the doorman at the Viper Room.
So now I’m doing the tapes every day and reading the newsletter, even at work, and my boss is getting pretty pissed because I’m way behind, but I’m laughing because in a couple of weeks I’ll buy this lousy company just so I can see the look on his face when I tell him, “You’re fired!”
Then I read in the newsletter that for a limited time only some very special subscribers can actually get “Mr. Success” home phone number and call him for advice, and I’m thinking Wow, what I wouldn’t give for that! And it turns out it’s only four-hundred a year which is dirt cheap. I mean to talk to the man in person! So I get the number FedEx-ed to me and call right away and it’s a recording, but it really is his home and he has a different message every day with great advice. and it really feels exciting to actually call someone as rich and successful as he is, so sometimes I call three or four times a day even though my phone is about to be disconnected because it costs $3.99 a minute.
And then he says he’s doing a live seminar in Key West, Florida, at the Fountain Blue Hotel and I’m invited as his special guest and it’s only fifteen hundred including airfare, so I max my Mastercard and duck the landlord because the rent’s already late but, hell, when I get back I’ll buy the building, and it’s the busy season at work and the boss says I can’t go so I tell him what he can do with his lousy job, and I jump on the plane to go be with my new best friend.
And I get there and go to the seminar and there are hundreds of people with VIP tickets just like me, but I get a seat right up front and I swear he’s talking to me the whole time, and 1 buy all his books, all his cassettes and all his videos, and he autographs them and shakes my hand and I ask him When will I get as rich as he is? And he puts his arm around me and says, “Kid, you’re already rich.” Me, already rich.
So I get back home and I don’t have a job, and my girlfriend left and took my stereo, and I’m out of my apartment but I don’t care because, “I’m already rich!”
Can I borrow a $3.99 so I can call him today?
Paul Ryan writes for the LA Times Laugh Lines, the Tonight Show with Jay Leno and magazines.