The call came in last Thursday at 8 p.m. As a rule, I never answer my phone at that hour. Doing morning television and radio, my bedtime is stupid o’clock and my alarm is always set for insane o’clock.
Groggily, I reached for the phone. The Caller ID said “WMR.” WMR? Western mountain region? Winchester magnum rifle? Wayne M. Rogers? Why was Trapper John from “M*A*S*H” calling me?
Cautiously, I answered. “Hello?”
The crisp voice of a highly efficient secretary said, “Is this Miss Miller?”
“Miss”? That’s what my mother’s friends call me. But this didn’t sound like Muffy DeLaplante.
“Yes,” I said, hesitantly, sitting up in bed. My spider sense was tingling. This was not a telemarketer.
“Please hold for Governor Romney.”
The line went silent for a moment. My mind was racing. This had to be a prank call. But who? The man-who-owns-my-show-and-is-trying-to kill-me-for-the insurance-money? My secret boyfriend, Sean Hannity? Then it hit me. It had to be Jim Ward, my Voice Deity. He’s the only one I knew who could pull this off convincingly.
I leaned back on the pillow and smiled, waiting for my Merry Mook to make his mischief. I’d pretend to go along, then smack him down like a Whack-a-Mole.
“Is this Stephanie Miller?” The breathy, preppy voice was spot on. Jim was getting better.
“Yes, Governor,” I cooed. “How nice of you to call!”
“I hope I’m not calling you too late. I’m here at Dick and Lynne Cheney’s — they just had a little party for us, but I really wanted to talk to you tonight.”
Wow. Jim was really pouring it on now. Even throwing in the bit about the Cheney fundraiser. I’d joked about it on the air that very morning (“I didn’t know they had catering on the Death Star.”) I was surprised he even remembered — usually Jim’s busy surfing the Internet looking for stories about Roswell or the Grassy Knoll.
I played along. “Oh, Governor, it’s no problem. I was up knitting uniforms for our Olympic team.”
“Gosh, that’s great!” gushed Jim/Mitt. “I heard you were a swell girl.”
I swallowed hard. Wait a minute. Something was wrong. This didn’t sound like Jim at all. There wasn’t even a hint of irony in the words “gosh” or “swell.” Was it possible? Could it really be?
“Can I tell you why I’m calling, Stephanie?”
I shot bolt upright. This was not a joke. It may have been a Chardonnay-induced hallucination, but it sure felt real. Get a grip, I told myself. Breathe.
“Uh, yes?” My voice came out like Mickey Mouse on helium.
“I’d like you to consider running with me.”
Dear Lord. Where was my therapist’s emergency night number? I knew I should have kept it by the phone.
“Uh, Governor, that’s tremendously flattering, but — you know I’m a Democrat, right?”
“Of course I do. Think what a coup that would be for me. You’d be my Lieberman.”
I winced. He meant that as a compliment.
For the first time in my adult life, I was literally speechless.
Finally, I managed to stammer, “You know I’m gay, right?“
“Check,” said Romney crisply. It sounded like he was working off a list. “Mary Cheney is right here, and she’s says you’re just like her. That’s good enough for me.”
My dogs must have seen the blood draining from my face because they began licking me. I was as white as they were.
“The important thing is that you’re a woman,” said Romney, now back to his checklist. “My people tell me I need a woman.”
“Don’t we all,” I wanted to say. Instead, I tried again to point out how impossible this idea was.
“Sir, you do realize that I’m pro-choice? Isn’t that a deal breaker for you?”
“Heck, no!” he boomed softly, sounding like a cross between John Boehner and Harry Reid. “My mother was pro-choice. I used to be pro-choice. Everybody makes mistakes. If I can forgive my mom, I can certainly accept your apology.”
Apology?! “But, Governor, I don’t intend —”
He cut me off. “Now, Stephanie. May I call you Stephanie? Now, Stephanie, don’t get caught up in all these silly little policy details. They don’t matter to anybody but the press. And people don’t like the press. The only important thing is that you’re a woman, you come from good Republican stock, you have beautiful dogs — you know I’m in the doghouse there, so that will help us a lot … heh, heh, heh.”
He was laughing at his own joke. Someone had to. I felt an aneurysm coming on. I had to get off the phone.
“Governor, can I take a little time to think about this? It’s a lot to consider.”
“Of course, of course,” said Romney. “Take all the time you need. Will 24 hours be enough? I’ve got the press conference scheduled for next week. And certainly we’ll want to have your mother there. She’ll be so proud. Two Republican vice presidential nominees from one family. Historic. Truly historic.”
It felt like he was talking to himself now. He might as well have been because my head was exploding. All I was hearing was “Wah, wah — wah, wah, wah,” like I was Charlie Brown and some never-seen grown-up was speaking gibberish to me.
Suddenly a light flashed in my brain. It may have been the aneurysm, but it felt like inspiration.
“Governor,” I said, my voice now clear and strong. “There may be one more problem you haven’t considered.”
“And what would that be, Stephanie?” His tone was patronizing. He knew he’d thought of everything. CEOs were never surprised by mere subordinates.
“You’ll have to give me a speaking slot in Tampa. And I’ll use it to endorse President Obama for re-election. I’d be the running mate who bitch-slapped the presidential nominee at his own convention. Now that would be historic. And think of the ratings! We’d beat ‘Idol’!”
There was silence at the other end of the line. Finally, he spoke. “You’d really do that, wouldn’t you?”
“In an upstate New York minute,” I replied.
“Well, I’m sorry you feel that way, Miss Miller. We could have won together.”
“Governor,” I said hanging up the phone, “there are some things even I wouldn’t do for ratings.”
That was the only lie I told him.
(Photo: Getty Images)