By RODNEY HO/ firstname.lastname@example.org, originally filed Tuesday, July 26, 2016
Miss Cleo - real name Youree Dell Harris - has reportedly died at age 53 from cancer. TMZ broke the news.
The supposed psychic was part of the pop culture zeitgeist in the 1990s extolling late-night viewers on commercials to "call me now!" in a fake Jamaican accent. Here's a sample:
She also has a connection with The Bert Show. Although it's now a successful syndicated morning show, the show in 2001 was struggling to find its place in the Atlanta radio landscape. Bert Weiss and his team were competing with the then dominant Steve & Vikki on Star 94.1 on an inferior signal with no name recognition and a minimal marketing budget.
Miss Cleo in 2001 was battling complaints for fraud and came on the Bert Show to defend herself. She charmed Weiss and he decided to do an infomercial with her. "She was the only way we could get on TV in any capacity," he texted me. "Frankly, it was pretty damn radio and she sure did nail a lot of stuff correctly."
Sadly, the infomercial came out before YouTube existed so it has been lost to the ages. Jeff Dauler, a former Bert Show member now on Star 94.1, said he thinks he might have a copy of the ad on a VHS tape somewhere in the attic. Problem: he has no VCR to play it even if he found it.
He did manage to dig up this photo:
In 2002, Miss Cleo's visit on the Bert Show merited the show's first mention ever in AJC's Peach Buzz. Here's a segment written by my buddy Rich Eldredge in February:
"I am an employee of the company, an independent contractor, " Cleo said on the air, implying that she had nothing to do with any fraud that might have occurred. "It wasn't within my control."
She opted to talk to her pals at Q100's "The Bert Show" --- Bert Weiss, Jeff Dauler, Lindsay Brien and Melissa Carter --- since establishing a friendship with the show after filming an infomercial there last year.
Cleo told listeners that her oldest daughter won't even reveal who her mother is at school because of the controversy. "I don't believe my credibility is gone, " she said. "They [Access Resource Services] didn't give it to me, so they can't take it away from me."
Dauler tells Buzz that he believes in Cleo after he and his wife, Jessica, spent time with her in Atlanta last year. Dauler recounted a lunch he had with the psychic at a Checkers where she embraced fans, gave free readings and offered her home phone number to folks she couldn't get to.
Says Dauler: "She didn't charge a dime for those readings, and we were there for three hours. She's a good person who doesn't deserve this."
A month later, it was revealed she was not Jamaican at all. Weiss issued an on-air mea culpa, as reported in Buzz: "I was duped, totally duped. I feel so small. I considered her a friend." Later, to Buzz, Weiss added, "I'd like some proof that she has even flown over Jamaica."
Today, Weiss still has warm memories of her. When she visited one time from Florida, he recalled her coming to his home one night and created "custom made" cigarettes. They played foosball. "Seems surreal," he mused.
"She was a sweetheart," he concluded. "Perhaps a fraud? But a sweetheart."
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.
Download the new AJC app. More local news, more breaking news and in-depth journalism. AJC.com. Atlanta. News. Now.
Download the new AJC app. More local news, more breaking news and in-depth journalism.