HBO Documentary "Call Me Miss Cleo" explores the life of famed television psychic

Remember Miss Cleo? If you watched late night television in the 1990s and 2000s, you'll surely remember her as the spokesperson for the Psychic Readers Network (PRN) call-a-psychic hotline. I'll never forget her catchphrase, spoken in her (to some, questionable) Jamaican accent: "Call me now!" I never called her, because I had no money and knew that the whole thing was a scam, but plenty of others did, so much so that the Federal Trade Commission sued PRN for fraud. In 2002 the Network was ordered to stop collection on and forgive $500 million worth of outstanding consumer charges.

There's a new documentary about Miss Cleo, Call Me Miss Cleo, that dives into the story of Miss Cleo's past, her time at the Psychic Readers Network, and the aftermath of her involvement with PRN. One thing the documentary makes clear is that while the Psychic Readers Network raked in millions, Miss Cleo did not. As the film explains, in many ways she was also a victim of the greed of the Psychic Readers Network. She recounts in the film that she was paid $1750 for the first commercial she made for PRN, which was then used by the Network to make millions. But none of that money trickled back to Miss Cleo, as she didn't own the rights to her image or the "Miss Cleo" character. 

That's one thing I learned from the film. Angela Johnson, writing for The Roothighlights 6 other things she learned from watching Call Me Miss Cleo:

  1. Miss Cleo was no psychic.
  2. None of the "psychics" at the PRN were real.
  3. Miss Cleo was a fake ass Jamaican.
  4. No one really knows who she was.
  5. She was an advocate for the LGBTQ community.
  6. People loved her.

Miss Cleo died in 2017 at the age of 53. And people really did love her, a lot. The documentary contains interviews with many of her friends, who all had wonderful things to say about her. After being maligned in the press for years, it was nice to see that she had a very positive impact on so many people. I've still got mixed feelings about Miss Cleo, but the documentary did help me learn more about her and about the struggles she dealt with throughout her life.