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Dr. Phil delights local fans

By ERNEST HOOPER
Published November 7, 2004


Rebecca Smith, Shirley Wright, Deb Randall-Darby and her daughter, Dawn Randall, were determined to get good seats for Dr. Phil McGraw's Saturday afternoon appearance at the Tampa Convention Center.

How determined? The Zephyrhills quartet showed up at the convention center just before midnight Friday and got in line. They thought nothing of rolling out rock star treatment to hear Dr. Phil's rock solid advice.

Little did they know the good doctor was going to pay an early visit to their makeshift camp.

McGraw, who spoke in Orlando on Friday night, arrived in Tampa late Friday to find the women eagerly awaiting. A producer got out and asked if the women had lined up to see Dr. Phil. Before they could finish answering, the straight-talking motivational speaker had bounded out of the limousine to greet his fans.

"I was yelling at Rebecca, "Wake up, wake up! It's Dr. Phil,' " Randall-Darby said.

Thanks to McGraw, the women got seats in front of all 6,500 attendees, but in a way, they were smart to camp out as if they were headed to see the latest pop sensation.

Fans waved signs, women stood on chairs, little girls shook their fists in the air and a husband and wife embraced as the show got under way. As strains of Kool and the Gang's Celebration echoed through the convention center, fans thundered approval with cheers and claps.

And that was just for Chandler Hayes, who came out to warm up the audience for McGraw.

Yah-hoo.

Among those who couldn't control their enthusiasm was Mary Lavelle, 53, her daughters, Alana Coddington and Gina Beck, and Gina's husband, Dave. They had come from Spring Hill and lined up at 3 a.m. Not only did they get good seats, but they ended up making 12 new friends from Brooksville, Seminole, Pinellas Park and Tampa.

McGraw, who rose to fame as a frequent guest on Oprah before starting his own successful syndicated show, bonded in much the same way with the audience, which received free admission thanks to sponsors WTSP-Ch. 10, University Community Health and KB Homes.

Although the audience was mostly women, there were a number of husbands who had to deal with some good natured ribbing from McGraw. He noted that men use 1,500 words a day while women use 5,000.

"That's because we have to repeat everything," a woman shouted from the audience.

Added McGraw: "The scariest words for a man are "Could we talk?' Men use 1,500 words a day and they use 1,496 before they get home. The four words they use after the get home are "remote, dinner,' and the two big words at the end of the night, "Hey baby."'

That kind of humor peppered McGraw's 90-minute talk, but his overall message was a call to arms for parents. Dressed in all black, he advised moms and dads to have love in their heart and a really good plan for raising their kids.

From there, he blended stories from his life with step-by-step lists to address the challenges of raising kids in a society where, he said, families are under attack.

"I want us to say, "I'm not going to surrender to a changing world, I'm not going to let MTV, Lil' Bow-Wow and Lil' Kim raise my kids,' " McGraw said. "You have to resolve to resist the noise and put family back into your life, back into your community, back into your church."

* * *

Two final thoughts.

As McGraw spoke with heartfelt sincerity and the conviction of an old-school preacher, I couldn't help but think of how he seemed so much more genuine than all of the politicians we heard from during this election year. The guy could be a political consultant in 2008 ... if he doesn't run himself.

The other thought was how there are probably so many more people who needed to hear his parenting advice. WTSP will air a special from today's show in December, but I wonder, can we require new moms and dads to watch a Dr. Phil tape before they leave the hospital?

That's all I'm saying.

Ernest Hooper can be reached at 813 226-3406 or Hooper@sptimes.com

[Last modified November 6, 2004, 23:26:23]


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