I caught up with Geraldo five minutes before air time of his now famous "Geraldo opens Mr. Howell's luggage" special that rocked the world.
"Here on this unchartered Island not too far from Tahiti where I was vacationing with my wife, was where we docked our boat and decided to snorkel" he told me in an exclusive pre show interview. "I noticed a handle sticking above the sandy beach so I dug around it and realized it was connected to a suitcase. After several minutes we unearthed this" Geraldo said, pointing to the large brown piece of luggage sitting on the temporary stage.
Although quite weathered it had a distinct look of finery and it was embroidered quite remarkably with the name Thurston Howell III. "So I immediately contacted my agent and the network" he said "and commenced a lightning fast coordinated effort to bring all things and people needed to create a live television event about to be broadcast throughout the world."
The seven days of incredible hype led to the largest viewing audience of any televised event.
"I can assure you that this will not be empty as the Al Capone safe was" referring to the televised fiasco of 1986 that turned him into a laughing stock. "The bag is heavy with contents"
Its contents had become the number one trending topic on all social media.
"It is widely known that the Howells never invested their money, and kept it with them wherever they went" suggested Pat McCormick on his Sunday morning network news show. "so I'm sure without a doubt that there are billions of dollars in that suitcase"
"It's the remains of Mrs. Howell" said Lori Draper on her evening gossip shop "the temptation of Ginger became irresistible so he offed Lovey" Lovey being the pet name for Mrs. Howell.
"Whatever is in that suitcase" said Beverly Hills gas station attendant Lloyd Fong "belongs to me! And I can prove it" This shocking statement came at a press conference on Tuesday. Mr. Fong produced a shady looking document that he claimed was part of Mr. Howell's last will. It read as follows:
I, Thurston Howell III bequeath to my kind and perhaps only friend, Lloyd Fong, the contents of the suitcase that Geraldo Rivera will find.
Mr. Fong's lawyer then held up a book entitled Me and Thurston. "It's all here he shouted as the news media beat feet for the exit.
"I couldn't open the suitcase so I got in touch with the manufacture who supplied me with this" Geraldo said to me, showing it while clasping it close to his chest without offering for me to exam it.
I asked him if he had any other proof or was he going by gut instinct like he did when he opened the empty safe.
Apparently, according to Mr. Rivera, local lore has it that a group of strange people inhabited the island briefly from 1964 thru 1967. Their erratic behavior led the locals to stay clear of them although they kept close watch as the group seemed to hatch brilliant plans to escape from the island only to be thwarted by the reckless behavior of the "Skinny one" who was repeatedly hit over the head with the hat of 'the Fat one'. There were also two extremely beautiful young ladies on the island that the natives would argue over. Half preferring the glamorous goddess like beauty of their dreams and the other half favoring the wholesome girl next door whom they felt was more attainable. They spoke of a king and queen like figure, the male sounded like Mr. Magoo; and a brilliant witch doctor that constantly experimented and showed incredible resourcefulness in building generators and other useful equipment from scrap. The natives were puzzled over why he just couldn't fix the dam boat.
"Geraldo" said the stage manager "you are on in one minute"
It was at that point I was prepared to tell Gerald the truth: That he was referring to a weekly television show that he watched as a kid. That there is no Gilligan's island, no Mr. Howell and that bag, coincidentally belonging to a real life Thurston Howell III probably contains sand.
"Did you watch the documentary" he suddenly asked me "when you were a kid did you watch it?"
"Documentary?" I replied.
"Yes, it was the original reality series about seven stranded people and their efforts to get back home. This must be the island"
"In ten, Geraldo!" shouted the manager.
It was too late, so I reluctantly let him go and felt helpless as the stage manager counted "three…two…one" I felt he was about to suffer total disappointment and embarrassment.
I am forever grateful that I did let him go for what he found in Thurston Howell III suitcase that night changed forever the lives of every man and woman on the planet.
But you already know that.