I could kick myself. I pride myself on being a writer with a knack for timing and clever ideas. Yet I just missed a golden opportunity to present a winning TV show. It’s too late. The train left the station. The boat sailed. Choose your shot. No matter. I blew it. Yes, I am a writer. And a balaboosta to boot. I could have been a candidate. Now I’m just a viewer.
What for heaven’s sake am I fuming and raving about?
I’ll tell you: Fox just launched a series called “The Cleaning Lady.” Set in Las Vegas, the show includes Cambodians, casinos and criminals – and a child with a life-threatening immunodeficiency disorder. It’s all a mess. Everything is wildly implausible. But that’s not the point. It’s the title that gets my goat.
I could have, I should have, presented a show about a cleaning lady – a balaboosta – a balaboosta from Las Vegas, whose secret power is cleaning. But unlike Fox’s “The Cleaning Lady,” my show would have been believable, because 1) I’m from Las Vegas; 2) I am Jewish; and 3) Like many Jewish women, I am a balaboosta – a super housewife, mother and (you guessed it) non-stop cleaning machine.
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Now, in terms of my credentials, I’m not bragging. It’s genetic.
My grandmother and my mother were balaboostas par excellence. And it’s not just in the genes, but also in the cotton swabs and toothpicks they handed me… to clean the nooks and crevices of furniture, kitchen and bathrooms in as part of my (early) childhood tasks.
As for my TV show balaboosta, here are some possible storylines: A groom calls in distress. She has a big party to prepare, but her oven is in shambles. Put me to work! No cleaning task is too dirty. Brisket sauce encrusted? No problem.
The in-laws arrive, but the bathroom tiles are black with mold? Who are you gonna call? “The Balaboosta.” But of course!
Coffee with milk and sugar stains on your husband’s favorite shirt? And he has a Zoom job interview for a comfortable new position? ! Catastrophe (and divorce) imminent? Do not despair ? Call it “The Balaboosta”. The stain is gone! Marriage be saved!
Think of me (and my show) as a 21st century version of Gertrude Berg – who portrayed Jewish wife and extraordinary mom Mrs. Goldberg on radio, TV, film and on stage from 1929 to the mid-1920s. 1950 – updated with a smartphone, a filler facial and a touch of snark.
And think Vegas gangster, excuse me, alleged gangster intrigues. Think of their bloody hard-to-clean demands? No problem. No job too hard for “The Balaboosta”. Competence and discretion are his calling card. (She’s not yenta, at least when she’s at work!)
After all, what balaboosta hasn’t had its share of bloodstained t-shirts to clean? Granted, gunshot stains on carpet are obviously a bit more labor intensive, but what balaboosta can’t rise to the occasional challenge? And really, what’s the difference between fixing a ratty sweater hole and a bullet hole in a jacket? A hole is a hole is a hole. Am I right?
I am convinced that the balaboosta cleanse program is a show with legs. I mean, if Mark Harmon’s character Jethro Gibbs from “NCIS” could build a boat in his basement for 19 seasons, luring viewers in with greedy devotion, those same viewers would surely be held in thrall. ‘a woman scrubbing the kitchen floors and providing folk cleaning. wisdom to the guilty and to people from all walks of life?
And while I don’t know what direction the Fox show will take — no disrespect to the plot of the Cambodian housekeeper — I do know that “The Balaboosta” can deliver notes week after week, armed only with a Brillo stamp and a bissel kugel.
So what do you think, Mr. Bigshot Hollywood Producer? What do you say? In these times of a germaphobic pandemic, can’t the public handle two maid programs? How about having lunch? Or should I have my men call yours? I am, as they say, available.PJC
Karen Galatz is the author of “Muddling through Middle Age,” which offers middle-aged women (and men) a lighthearted look at the dangers and pleasures of growing old. An award-winning journalist, her national reporting includes The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour and Nightly Business Report. She now lives in Reno, Nevada. This piece first appeared in The New York Jewish Week.