Thursday, January 3, 2013

Tom Goes to the Chair: The Dark Filling of the Fluffy 'Cake Boss'

Posted By on Thu, Jan 3, 2013 at 11:49 AM

My wife watches "Cake Boss," which means that if I want to share the living room with her on those evenings, I have to half-watch it, too. It's an innocuous little show about a guy who runs a bakery, Carlo's Bake Shop, in Hoboken, New Jersey.

Bartolo "Buddy" Valastro has been working in the bakery since he was 17. He took over from his dad, Buddy, Sr. and is married to the former Elisabetta "Lisa" Belgiovine. They have four kids—Sofia, Buddy III, Marco, and Carlo Salvatore. It's really not stereotypical of New Jersey at all. For example, his wife, who speaks perfect Italian, has blonde hair.

The show revolves around the workings at the bakery, which has now become a sensation and a place to which people make pilgrimages. One of my basketball players, Maya, asked, for Christmas, to get Buddy's book and a bunch of baking pans. When she went to visit NYU last spring, she made a side trip to the bakery.

Buddy has a fun-loving crew who play pranks on each other and then they make cakes. That's about it. Believe me, I wouldn't be watching it if my wife weren't watching it, although he did make a bitchin' life-sized cake of Betty White for her 145th birthday. I love Betty White, especially as mega-aggressive cougar Sue Ann Nivens on the old "Mary Tyler Moore" show.

Anyway, the problem is that this sweet little nothing of a show has taken a dark turn. Buddy's mom, Mary, has been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, also known colloquially as Lou Gehrig's Disease), for which there is no cure. The other night, they showed her sitting down for dinner; oddly, some doctors think that a high-calorie diet may stave off the symptoms, at least for a while. Mary Valastro is thinner than the Republican platform on immigration and she has to force herself to eat. The scenes of her trying to handle silverware were gut-wrenching.

I don't know how long this is going to go on. It's the choice of Buddy Valastro and his mother, I suppose, but you just know that there is some snot-nosed TV executive fresh out of Business School who is salivating over the prospect of watching this women waste away, as ratings soar.

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