The drama of a pair of unscripted dramas

The Baltimore Sun

Two unscripted dramas starring Shattucks unfolded in sync this week.

Molly Shattuck was on Secret Millionaire just hours after Mayo Shattuck took Warren Buffett to Divorce Court.

Life is full of strange coincidences, but none stranger than this: On the same day that the Constellation Energy CEO broke it off with a billionaire, his wife was on national TV bonding with the poor.

Even the stars of these separate dramas were surprised by the convergence that made for an All in the Family teaser for Fox 45's 10 p.m. news.

"The Constellation deal takes a whole new turn and" - in a related story, the promo failed to note - "we talk to Maryland's Secret Millionaire."

"You couldn't have scripted this," Molly said by phone yesterday. "If you tried to plan this, it never would have worked. ... Mayo did say something pretty funny. 'Well, I figured you're going to get all the attention. I figured I needed to get some.' "

Molly was aware that things were brewing at the company. (She was sworn to secrecy, she says, so hold the SEC complaints.) But she thought all that would be wrapped up before her turn came on the Fox reality show.

"Things were building over the weekend. I know all this is happening and I think, 'There's no way this can all converge on Wednesday.' "

Sure enough, Mayo rebuffed Buffett on Wednesday just as Molly was promoting that night's show on live radio.

"I did 12 radio interviews in a row yesterday. And so I'm in the middle of these things. And you know how they queue you up for the next one? And I looked down on my BlackBerry, and I can see it flashing red. And it's Mayo."

He was messaging her with news that it was a done deal. An undone deal, really.

A big victory in the eyes of the Shattucks and most analysts because the company was sprung from a shotgun wedding. But Molly would have to wait to celebrate.

"I had, like, nine more [interviews] to do. I quickly put it out of my head and focused on what I was doing."

Presumably, Mayo was able to focus on his work, too, though he did make sure to get home by showtime at 8 p.m. - an early night for him lately.

On the program, rich people live incognito and on minimum wage in poor communities for a week, then give away at least $100,000 of their own money to someone there.

Molly worked in a grocery store and waited tables in Shenandoah, Pa., where she ultimately helped a woman who takes in lots of foster children, a young widow with kids and a tumbledown house, and a beauty salon owner who runs a food bank.

Molly wound up writing checks totaling $190,000, making her anthracite coal country outing considerably less costly than Mayo's France-by-way-of-Omaha adventure. He owes his rebuffed suitor more than $1 billion in a "termination" fee.

Promos for the show hype the haughty millionaire angle, all the better for the eventual feel-your-pain epiphanies. They show off their yachts and private jets at the outset and say things like, "If anybody deserves to live the life of kings, it's me," and, "My friends like to call me the $300 million man."

Molly is not featured in the promos. The former Ravens cheerleader is known for flaunting her pompons, not her wealth. Yes, she's on a show with millionaire in the name, but she says she hates the name. She also said she declined to answer a question about her net worth in an exchange that was edited out.

She is shown at the start of the episode in her magnificent North Baltimore home - baking cookies and taking care of her kids. When it comes time for the "the reveal" - the part of the show when she comes clean and tells people she's a fraud, a very, very wealthy fraud who's here to help - she does not announce, "I'm a multimillionaire," as some do.

"I come from very fortunate circumstances, and I have the ability to help you," she told one beneficiary. She put it even more delicately to another: "We are a very, very blessed family."

So at least by the standards of reality TV - insert your own joke here - Molly was a class act.

Not exactly John Beresford Tipton, who kept his identity secret when he gave away money to strangers on the old TV show The Millionaire. But this is not exactly the 1950s.

Today on TV, perhaps the best we can hope for is attention-grabbing acts of selflessness. But if you can get past that, maybe that's not so bad. At the risk of looking like a complete sap, I admit it: I thought Molly came across as genuinely good-hearted.

I heard from several viewers who were outraged, if only because Constellation just laid off hundreds, cost stockholders a bundle and, through subsidiary BGE, jacked up electricity rates.

"The money she gave was 'hers.' No it wasn't!!!" reader Rick Wike e-mailed me. "It was the stock holders' money that her 'successful business' husband made while ruining 2 major companies in Baltimore that had been here since the 1800's."

Even before the episode was over, I'd received an e-mail with a subject line: "The Shattuck Broad." The sender found it hard to believe Molly could pass for a poor person given her good grooming and fancy-looking sunglasses.

"They [Millionaire producers] gave me the sunglasses, and they were, like, a dollar," Molly said.

She wore T-shirts, jeans, sneakers for most of the show. Like the other millionaires, she got dolled up for "the reveal." She wore a green-and-white print dress and green heels. Haute couture?

"The shoes are Nine West and the dress is H&M.; Go look it up."

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