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Talkers hit by cross-guesting

Talkshow mercenaries have cropped up again on syndicated shows, and the latest incident is the second in less than two months for Columbia’s “Ricki Lake Show.”

The bizarre new incident came last week, when “Ricki” aired a segment about men who marry their cousins. The episode featured the happy couple and the wife’s disgusted sister, who wasn’t so darned thrilled about the intra-family marriage.

Cut to Wednesday’s “Jerry Springer Show,” when the topic on the Multimedia Entertainment talker centered around men who want their wives to dress sexier.

But one of those couples was the same pair of kissin’ cousins on “Ricki Lake.” And the wife in the other couple was the bitter sister on “Ricki.”

Jennifer and Uriel Soto joined Kim and Mark Oakley as the two couples on “Jerry Springer.” On the previous week’s “Ricki,” the Sotos came on as the cousins and Kim Oakley was the sister.

A Columbia spokesman says that fact-checkers for “Ricki” verified the Sotos are cousins.

Mortal enemies

In other words, Uriel Soto married his cousin and would like her to dress sexier. One week Jennifer Soto and Kim Oakley are mortal enemies; the next they are best of friends.

Back in early December, Lake’s guests included a pair identified only as Helena and John, who discussed the joys of being a bisexual couple.

The same couple appeared the day before on Viacom’s “Montel Williams Show” to talk about prostitutes who love their jobs.

Ads add to scenario

Talkshow vets say they expect more such incidents now that many of the recent additions to the highly competitive chat pack are employing a new guest-grabbing trick: placing newspaper ads for people who fit a certain pre-selected theme.

Readers who “qualify” are asked to phone a toll-free number, with those chosen typically paid around $ 1,000 per person.

Established talkers use more traditional methods to locate guests, such as following up on newspaper stories or asking viewers to call a “speak-up line” if they have interesting stories to tell.

Shunning pre-selected topics

Although no system is foolproof, those who have been around the talkshow world for years say they shun using pre-selected topics because it invites mercenaries and those trying to pull hoaxes.

“No one will know if any of these shows are real,” one source said.

Viewers will be able to judge for themselves.

At the end of Wednesday’s show, Springer invited the Sotos and Oakleys back for a second round.

The host was apparently impressed when Uriel Soto flew into a rage and stalked off in tears after the woman’s mother phoned to accuse her son-in-law of beating Jennifer Soto. He composed himself enough to later come back and deny the charges.

It made for good television.

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