May 2, 1997

Something for Nothing

Stories of people trying to get rich quick or otherwise make something for nothing. As everyone knows, there's no such thing as something for nothing. You always pay a price.

Chris Ware

Lottery Players

Ira visits the lottery stand in Chicago that sells more lottery tickets than any other: Hannah's Finer Food & Liquors. There he meets two men who want to get rich quick. Of course, one is trying to win the lottery by spending $3,000 to $4,000 a year on it, so it's hardly something for nothing. But still, he hopes. The other man is a model of hopefulness: he plays the lottery even though he thinks it's fixed and black people never win. That's how much we want to believe we can get something for nothing — even though we know we can't. (4 minutes)
Act One

Hands On A Hardbody

A contest held every year by a Nissan dealership in Longview, Texas in which twenty-four people stand around a $15,000 hard body pickup truck. When the starting whistle blows, each person puts one hand on the truck. They wear gloves, so as not to mess up the paint job. And they stand there ... and stand there ... until one by one, people get tired and drop away, and one person is left standing. That person gets to keep the truck. Excerpts from a documentary (Hands On A Hard Body) by filmmakers Rob Bindler, Chapin Wilson and Kevin Morse. We hear a long interview with Benny Perkins, who won the truck one year and was back the year they made their film to try to win again. He says a contest like this is not easy money. You slowly go crazy from sleep deprivation. (17 minutes)

Act Two

Guinea Pig Zero

Ira interviews Bob Helms, creator of the zine Guinea Pig Zero, which is about people who make their living by donating their bodies to science for medical experiments. Bob says he wouldn't do spinal tap studies or psychoactive drugs (he calls the people who do the latter "brain sluts"). Overall, he says, it's a much better job than most nine-to-fives. (8 minutes)


“Run Another Test on Me” by Kaia
Act Three

Tao Of The Dumpster

Writer Dirk Jamison, who gave up a 9-to-5 job and succeeded in getting something for nothing: he decided he'd feed the family by diving into dumpsters for free food. His father's very zen attitude about this, and how it affected the family. Dirk is the author of Perishable: A Memoir. (16 minutes)


“Busted” by Waco Brothers
Act Four

Another Success Story

Hollywood is all about the idea of getting something for nothing, and no show on the subject would be complete without a Hollywood story. Writer Sandra Tsing Loh provides it. (8 minutes)