This is a feature I did on Paget Brewster, co-star of "Let's Talk About Sex" (and as of 2002 on "Andy Richter Rules the Universe"), in 1994 when I was in college and she had been plucked from a bartending gig to host her own talk show on KPIX-TV in San Francisco. The article appeared in The Advocate at Contra Costa College, San Pablo, Calif.
Former bartender sets her sights on Ricki Lake's demographics

If you've ever watched Ricki Lake and said "I could do that," you're no different than Paget Brewster. In fact, Brewster got up off the couch a few months ago and signed up for time on San Francisco's public access Channel 53 to do her own show, but the waiting list is so long she's still waiting.

Now Paget Brewster has her own show -- on KPIX Channel 5. And if the producers have their way it will be nationally syndicated by next year.

The show first aired Jan. 16 at 1:30 a.m. and it will stay on late night through its early development, to work out the bugs. In the talk show business they say "Paget" is getting "the Mo roll-out" -- starting in a local market and as the show develops, selling it into syndication. The term came from "The Montel Williams Show," which was marketed the same way.

Brewster acknowledges that she is very much a rookie in the talk show game. "I'm a dork," she said after her first week of taping. "You can see me screw up all the time."

She has a definite presence, and during show tapings, joking with the audience and guests. But on the television her personality (and the personality of the show) sometimes gets lost under the weight of particularly dynamic or obnoxious guests.

But that may change as Brewster gets more accustom to being the pace she has to keep during taping -- keeping track of which audience members have questions, reading cues from producers, and making sure her guests get equal time. It's a lot to think about when just a few months ago all she had to remember was how to mix drinks.

Her resume looks like that of many other 25-year-olds -- she dropped out of art school, was in a band, waited tables, and had been an office temp. Most recently she was tending bar in San Francisco.

It was a bet with a bar patron that took her from serving drinks to dashing around the audience on a talk show with her name on it.

Brewster, who grew up at a New England boarding school where her parents were teachers, had spent a year at Parsons School of Design in New York but "failed out." She was in a band that had a few club hits in New York. She worked with friends on independent films. She performed improvisational skits in Central Park before moving to San Francisco.

But last year a talent agent who hung out at her bar made a bet with Brewster -- he would send her on one interview and if she got the job, he would represent her.

The interview was for a show on F/X, Fox's start-up cable station, and she did not get the job. But the agent saw something he liked and sent her out a few more times. Group W, which owns KPIX, was looking for someone to build a talk-show around to compete in the 18-35 audience that until this year Ricki Lake has owned.

Now "Paget" is one of a batch of new shows in the genre (including shows hosted by actresses from "Beverly Hills 90210," and "The Cosby Show").

Why jump into such a saturated market? "Because they said they would pay me to do it," Brewster laughed.

She said she realizes that the competition is stiff and the talk show genre has been done to death, but, she said, "if I thought this was going to fail, I wouldn't do it."

Inca Cavenecia, the show's audience assistant, said that Group W was looking for someone to build a small show around, and when they met Brewster they gave the project priority.

"Group W is so behind this," Cavenecia said, "and they're dumping tons of money into it."

The "Paget" show is less formal than the competition, Cavenecia said, citing Brewster's ability to joke with the audience and even with the off camera crew during the show. "They're giving her as much freedom as she can possibly have, which is one of the things that will set the show apart.

Brewster said she identifies with her audience because until she got the job, she was just a working stiff trying to pay the bills.

"I'm like this wiry freak they pulled out of a bar two months ago and said 'let's throw it on the wall as see if it sticks,'" she said.

The show tapes on Fridays and Saturdays at KPIX, and airs at 1:30 a.m. weekdays.

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