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Entries in al walentis (8)


Gosselins Included in "Biggest Scandals Ever" Show on E!

The E! Channel has been airing an episode of E! True Hollywood Stories entitled "Biggest Scandals Ever" over the past week. The Gosselins were included, placing them right up there alongside Charlie Sheen, Tiger Woods, Mel Gibson and Arnold Schwarzenegger.  It's less than a year after Kate Plus 8 was cancelled and already the Gosselin shows have been reduced to a gossipy "where are they now" kind of show. 

My readers may recall that I was a guest on the the E! True Hollywood Story "Kate Gosselin" which aired early in 2011, along with fellow author and Berks County local Al Walentis.  E! used some of their footage of Al in this week's "Scandals" show but I didn't make the cut which is just fine with me.  (Who likes seeing themselves on TV?  Oh yeah...never mind.) 

Funny how the Gosselins are referred to in the show as "America's favorite family."  I never even heard of them until they moved to my small PA town in late 2008 and they'd already been on TV for a few years before then.  In fact they didn't become a household word until the scandals began in the spring of 2009 and if it weren't for all the mud slinging and tabloid headlines their show would have probably been cancelled and they would have faded into obscurity wihout most Americans even being aware of their existance.  Kate may have complained about the tabs and the paps but financially they were the best thing that ever happened to her.  For a while, at least...

Here's a transcript of this week's show kindly provided by blog reader L.

    Reality TV loves a train wreck, but the Gosselin family seemed to be an exception to that rule.  Until off camera scandals made headlines.  In April 2004, big news came out of the small town of Hershey Pennsylvania. A local nurse, 29 year old Kate Gosselin, was pregnant with sextuplets. 

Kate: I cried. Not tears of happiness, no. Tears of fear. It was scary. They kept counting and counting and counting and counting and I thought they would never stop.

Jon: The fear at the beginning, yeah, how are you going to do this? How are you going to support them?

     The Gosselins were already proud parents of twins. Then, on May 10, 2004, Kate gave birth to three boys and three girls via Caesarean section.

Kate: A very great experience. Wonderful friends made. Awesome nurses, awesome doctors and I am just very thankful for this day. They're healthy babies.

TV Host commentator Michael Kosta: They had to deal with eight kids at once, so there was just naturally a sense of, “We're rooting for you."

     But Jon and Kate needed more than good wishes.

Kate (looks like she's on the GMA set): We were in a position after our sextuplets were born that we could not pay our bills.

Ken Baker (E! News Chief Correspondent): Producers at the Discovery Health Channel did a couple documentaries about their life. and they were such a big hit, that they decided to do an entire TV series on the family.

     Becoming reality TV stars paid off in perks.

Al Walentis: Clothing, Cribs, strollers, car seats, different amusement parks. Just about everything in Gosselin world was being paid for by someone else.

Alison Rosen: People began to feel like maybe the fame is going to Kate's head.

Ken Baker: Kate got a tummy tuck, she also got her teeth whitened, and mind you most of this was documented on the TV show.

      By 2008, the demands of shooting the series took a toll on the young couple.

Stephanie Santoro, former Gosselin nanny: Kate always wanted things her way or no way at all. She always wanted Jon to do things for her. If he didn't do it right she would flip out on him.

Kate: Anyone who has to watch themselves on TV, and how they talk, um, you think, oh, that came out a lot harsher than I meant it too. Or louder or meaner.

Ken Baker: Fame really changed their lives. She was spending most weekends away traveling, doing speaking engagements. She really enjoyed the attention.

      Although the Gosselins kept a lid on their marital problems. Rumors began to spread about tension between Jon and Kate. Then in January 2009, photos surfaced of Jon partying with various women at singles bars.

Ken Baker: He would hit all the local clubs. People were telling me that he'd go out dancing, having fun.

      At the same time, Jon and Kate remained under contract to film their show.

Ken Baker: They were really living totally separate lives, barely communicating. And when the cameras would come they would turn it on and pretend they were together.

Jon (Chris Cuomo interview?): I mean, I am sleeping in an apartment above my garage. I am paying a mortgage on a house I don't even sleep in anymore. 

       Finally, on June 22, 2009, in a move that stunned fans, the Gosselins decided to end their marriage on national television.

Howard Bragman (Vice Chairman, Jon and Kate probably would have split up eventually. It just happens a lot quicker in a reality TV world.

Al Walentis: The divorce papers were filed the day that the episode ran.

Ken Baker: At the peak of all the drama they got over 10 million viewers. They were more than doubling their viewership by finally exposing the true reality of their lives.

     Kate wanted to continue filming the show, but Jon was ready to quit.

Al Walentis: He had a sign made up that said TLC is not allowed here under penalty of law, signed 'Jonathan Gosselin.'

Kate Gosselin: TLC has always said if one of us didn't want it to happen it anymore... and obviously they're not going to stand in the way... Jon is a parent. But, I wish he would think harder about it because it has ended our income, and our paychecks, and our opportunities. It is a terribly hard situation to be in.

     America's favorite family was in turmoil. Scandalous stories about the Gosselin's divorce dominated the media, fueled by the couple's custody battle.

Kate Gosselin: It is very clear that we are two different people at this point, with two different sets of goals.

Ken Baker: After a lot of back and forth, a lot of posturing in the media.  Kate won primary custody of all the kids. As a result, she continued to shoot the series which was retitled Kate Plus 8.

Kate Gosselin: I don't feel like it is time to end it if we are all enjoying it. I just feel the nine of us who want to do it should be able to do it.

     But Kate was having problems coping. During one episode of the show, she lost her temper when the babysitter and the kids took a piece of pizza that Gosselin said was for her bodyguard. “I am so tired of your dramatics,” the nanny told Kate on camera, and then quit.  Due to negative publicity and low ratings Kate Plus 8 was canceled in August 2011.

Howard Bragman: Kate Gosselin needs to focus on being a good mother and making a living and supporting her family.

Alison Rosen (entertainment journalist): Those eight kids are better off without the show. Having a reality show means your life is different and is interrupted. It was a like a tiny child star factory.

     Where the Gosselins go from here is anybody's guess.

Alison Rosen: Kate got a new haircut and now she's involved in extreme couponing, but no one cares.

Dr. Charles Sophy (psychologist): When you are a reality person who was Average Joe, and now you're going back to that person, it's a very tough road.

Alison Rosen: Perhaps Jon and Kate can have success in the public eye again. But, I don't think there are that many people who are clamoring for more Gosselin anything. Except for news of how they are having a tough time and they are in trouble.

Kate Gosselin: In everybody's life you make sacrifices. Everybody has to work, everybody has a job. Ours is a very unique job. It has taught us many things. It's given our kids many opportunities they would not have otherwise had.


Thanks to L. for providing this transcript. :)


Interview with US Weekly Reporter Al Walentis

This interview is about 1.5 pages of the 15 page interview with Al Walentis, the rest of which will be in my book.  Al is a local journalist who worked for US Weekly covering the Gosselin story during the summer of 2009.  I included some of your questions to Al here, and since Al and I had an actual discussion during this interview you'll see that the three interview participants are Al (AW) Me (WG) and "Reader."  Reader, of course, represents your questions to Al. This interview took place on December 20, 2010, the week after the Alaska episode aired.


Al is a local journalist who worked for US Weekly covering the Gosselin story during the summer of 2009.    His book, which covers those months of working for US, can be found at the link to the right.  It's the only book written about the Gosselins other than those with Kate's name attached to them.  If he were to write the book today, I'm sure it would be a completely different story. 


Al Walentis, cap on, is looking toward the house to the right, right before the paps on the milk crate blocked me from taking his picture.  Many paparazzi don't like to have their pictures taken because it hinders their work when they're recognized.  (A picture of Milk Crate Guy blocking my shot can be seen in Al's book.)

 Reader: Do you think Kate or her people throw money at tabloids or paparazzi to make them go away or hush them up?


AW: No, I think the alternative is that Kate herself can be a source of information directly. It could go one of two ways. If it's a source close to Kate and it's something positive, she could have someone else pass it along, or she could be just like Jon and she could contact the tabloids directly.


Reader: Do the Gosselins attract a lot of gawkers when they go out in public?


WG: I don't think so, and I never understood why she needed a bodyguard [at home or when shopping locally] in the first place, do you?


AW: During that summer, June, July and part of August 2009, when there was a media hoard at the house, she probably did. Before that, she didn't have the media camping out down in front, and she could come and go and they could call a photographer if they wanted to have their picture taken. Then I think Kate thought it got out of control because the photographers were there, and she probably asked TLC to provide a bodyguard [other than Steve] to keep people outside of the gate and to keep people from coming inside.

The gawkers would come to the house because they deliberately sought the Gosselins out, but otherwise you don't see people gathering around when they're out in public.


WG: Kate had ample room behind the house where they could have picnics or play without any photographers being able to see them. If she hated the photographers as much as she said, why not just go back there?


AW: That was always the case, and begged the question, why would Jon sit in the bay of his garage, when he could go twenty feet and dip his feet into the swimming pool, or put a lounge chair back there? Both of them knew exactly what they were doing and where the photographers were. Jon, during the summer when he was represented by Mike Heller, decided to let the photographers in on everything, whereas Kate always likes to control what she's doing, and she always looked concerned when they would get photos of her shopping. Maybe that was because then, photographers could actually get in her space rather then being behind the fence where she could control them. Here she was, out in public, and her response was to absolutely ignore everything.


WG: Act like she was pretending it wasn't happening, make no eye contact or anything. That's how she was with everyone at the corn maze. She would walk right by people and literally act like they weren't even there.


AW: Oh yeah, that's how she's always had been since the beginning of my involvement with the story. She was that way to everyone. There was one exception, when Chris got the video of her at the grocery store and she did respond to him verbally. There was one other time, it might have been when the dogs got out, and my partner waited for her at the gate and said something to her about getting them back inside, and she said, “thank you.” But nothing beyond that.


Reader: Why did you treat Kate so kindly and treat Jon so shabbily?


AW: I don't think I treated Kate kindly, but the Kate camp is very close-mouthed and you're not going to get anything other than the instances of people having encounters with her in public, like her wanting $20 for an autograph and things like that.


Reader: Were you ever contacted by TLC, Figure 8 films, or a PR rep or anyone in regards to telling you that you shouldn't be writing the book?


AW: No, never. I think TLC doesn't want to call attention to it, and their concern might be that if they read it and could see that someone from TLC cooperated with it, it would be in violation of their internal policies.


Reader: Did your source pull out of your book because he was intimidated by Kate?


AW: No. Jon and Kate didn't even know I was writing the book, other than when I tried to approach Jon to comment on it. Approaching Kate would've been futile, and that would've only been pretense anyway, because she would have called TLC and TLC would have said “absolutely not.”

Jon at that point didn't care if I was writing it or not, but at that time he was operating under the assumption that he was going to get his own book deal and also be able to sell his life story.


WG: It seems to me that people have the impression you're still in the loop. They're not understanding that this was a temporary thing for you because you worked for a couple of months for US Weekly during the summer of 2009.


AW: Even if my US Weekly partner and I were still friendly, he's probably out of the loop now. At the time he was telling me that Jon was a friend, but he also seemed to realize that Jon could drop him in an instant, and each one was using the other and as soon as it was not to either's advantage to be so-called friends, that was going to end.

Do you think that Jon is being sincere now?


WG: I really do. I've always thought that goofy summer of 2009 was just Jon acting out and having his second childhood, and I still think that. From my perspective, I think the whole experience he went through was traumatic, not only the reality TV show but the marriage, the relationship was very abusive and traumatic to him, so I think he was shell-shocked, and that wasn't the real Jon. I think the Jon we're seeing now is the real Jon. I think by nature he's probably monogamous and faithful, and he went just haywire for a while.


AW: If Jon chose to talk about his life today and how he's a changed man, I would be happy to write an addendum and update the edition.





Interview with a TV Producer ~ Part II

I will be interviewing Al Walentis, author of The Secret World of Jon and Kate: The Stupidest Story in the History of the Universe and the People Who Covered It.   If you haven't read it, Al worked as a reporter covering the story of the Gosselins for US Weekly.  His book, which is the only book about the Gosselins other than those "written" by Kate, chronicles the story during the crazy summer of 2009.  I contributed a chapter to the book which covers psychological aspects of the impact of reality TV on the family.  The book can be purchased by clicking on the amazon link to the right (look for the little green book.)

What would you like to ask Al Walentis?  Now is your chance.  Leave your questions in the comments here, or email them to me directly at 

                                           *     *     *     *     *     *

This is part II of my interview with an anonymous television producer.  The producer works for a network other than TLC and s/he has worked on reality TV shows as well as other forms of programming.  This segment of our conversation goes more into how ratings work and how realistically reality TV participants are portrayed on their shows.   I hope you enjoy it and I look forward to our discussion.

TVP: The ratings are an interesting thing. I noticed there's a question about how far the ratings have to drop before a show is canceled. It doesn't matter. Ratings don't have to drop for a show to be canceled. It can be canceled for any reason or it can be kept on if they see a viable interest in it.


WG: Even if the ratings aren't good?


TVP: Absolutely. They don't have to have a show go into the black to keep it on the air.


WG: How is interest in a show expressed, if not in ratings?


TVP: DVD sales, among other things, cross-over promotional types of things.


WG: So in other words, if the TV commercial revenue is only a small part of the revenue generated from a show, as long as the overall revenue is good...


TVP: Yes, the show doesn't have to generate any revenue to keep it on the air. Is it as good investment? No. But the rules set by the shareholders and set by the heads of development determine whether they'll keep it on the air or not. So, there's no set rules that if it drops below this rating, we have to take it off the air.


WG: But don't low ratings encourage them to move on to shows that will rate higher ratings?


TVP: Absolutely.


WG: It's just not as black and white as most people think it is.


TVP: It doesn't have to make sense, that’s the thing. To you and I, if something doesn't make money, we try something else. Ultimately you have to decide to stop doing it. [In this case] TLC has to make that decision. Do we keep the show, as far as the ratings are concerned? In the cable market a 1.4 is actually a decent rating going across the board. You can make money off that. Now if you're comparing that to what their high was, like a 10.6 or so, that's a dramatic drop. But 10.6 was a dramatic high, too, when you're averaging a 3 or 4 before that.


WG: Speaking of the 10.6 ratings high, that was what the viewership was on the Hawaiian episode when Jon and Kate went to Hawaii to renew their wedding vows, and later on when looking at the time line it was apparent the marriage had already dissolved before that, but they kept producing shows.


TVP: Right.


WG: What do you think about that?


TVP: As a person or as a producer?


WG: Both.


TVP: As a producer you have a responsibility to deliver a product for your network.


WG: Even if you have to blatantly lie to do it?


TVP: I'm not defending the ethics of everybody out there, but for me, that's not something I abide by. But there are people who will fight you that the truth is relative, and nowhere is there an actual affidavit at the top of the show saying “everything in this show we promise to be true and nothing but the truth.” It's not there. So it can be completely fabricated because they're not telling you that this is a testimonial. There's a lot of loopholes. As a producer, you have say as far as your content goes, but you always answer to a higher power, an executive producer, or to a head of development, or to the shareholders. There's always somebody above you who makes those decisions.


WG: So as a producer, you can excuse it, more or less.


TVP: You can fight it, but ultimately you'll lose the battle. The network gets what the network wants, and if you're not going to do it they'll find someone who will. So it's black or white in that way: Either you do it or you don't.

As a person, I'd feel morally pretty bad about putting stuff out there and showing it as the truth and knowing full well that it isn't. But, I don't work for TLC, so I really don't know what their motivation was or even what the nature of the relationship was that morning. It may have been what the tabloids said, who knows.


WG: I think one of the differences between this and other shows is that the viewers have really been emotionally invested in this show. They feel like they've seen the kids grow up, they've come to love the children, they've been through the marriage, they've been through the divorce, they've been through all kinds of important life things, so they're more invested than they might be for other shows. So when they find out that something like that, and it's part of such a big production, in an hour long episode of a show that's normally just a half hour, that the whole thing was fabricated, that the kids were taken to Hawaii to be a part of it, that they bought those pretty outfits, that they stood on that beach and did the whole shebang, viewers feel manipulated.


TVP: Absolutely.


WG: Because that feels to them like a lie because of their emotional investment.


TVP: Right. And that's completely understandable to feel that way, it makes sense. But at the same time, there's no affidavit saying “this is the truth.” So it's kind of shady, that's the best word I can use, but there's nothing against what they're doing, and you can't sue somebody for putting a show on TV and then lying to you in it, unless they're trying to demonstrate this as the truth.


WG: But don't you think that part of the appeal of it is that they call it “reality TV.” I mean, why not then instead have a sit-com about this Asian-looking dad and Pennsylvania Dutch looking mom, and then have the mom have all kinds of gizmos done to herself to become a barbie, and then take the kids to the farmer’s house and get chickens, or whatever. Why not just have a sit-com like that? But we call it realty TV and the implication is “this is real.”


TVP: It's based in reality. You could do a sit-com like that and nobody would watch it. To a lot of people, reality TV is escapism, it gives you the ability to be a voyeur, to see how other people live, that's why these shows with the “real housewives” and the celebrities are so enticing. Because they're showing you another side of society, the “what-if.” You're fantasizing about a life that you don't have. If you put them into a sit-com you'd know right away, here are the lines, this is an actor who's playing a character. The lines are a little bit more gray for a reality show. You've probably heard of the show The Hills. It's constantly being put down for being scripted and heavily produced, and there's no apologies for that because there's no guarantee or promise about what happens.

I think the best thing viewers can do is educate themselves about reality TV, what is and isn't real life vs. reality television. To know that reality TV is a snapshot of somebody at their very worst or very best. In essence, they're playing an archetype of who they really are.


WG: When someone comes across as a villain, like Spencer Pratt or Danielle Staub, do they allow themselves to be portrayed that way just for the money? Because in essence what you're saying is that the Spencer Pratt we all know and hate isn't really Spencer Pratt.


TVP: I'm saying that what you see on the show is a heightened version of who this person really is. Now you're talking about individual choice. Some people can decide they're going to play a full-blown character for a show, and you have others who are just going with the flow. You just don't know, it's very individual, so you can't make one judgment about them all.


WG: But why would someone continue on a show when they're portrayed poorly? Why do a Spencer Pratt or a Danielle continue on for further seasons when they appear so unattractive and unlikeable?


TVP: Because a key part of infamy is fame. I think that to be a household name and be hated is almost as good as to be a household name and be loved.


WG: If you want fame that badly. So basically you're saying they’re' fame whores. [WG and TVP both laugh.] I said that, you didn't.


TVP: And you can't make a statement like that about someone specifically, because you don't know. I don't know these people, I can't say this is why they do it, but there was a recent study done of high school students and what they wanted to do later in life and what was most important to them after they graduate, and overwhelmingly the answer was to be famous. That tells you a lot about the society we live in right now, and it's as important to be noticed and validated as it is to be successful and autonomous. So in some ways reality shows are a reflection of who we are as a society as much as the reverse.


WG: I personally think it would be wonderful to be incredibly rich and have nobody know who I am, because then you could really enjoy it. But fame changes your life.


TVP: It doesn't have to. If you look at Los Angeles as a city, there are places there where people go where they know they'll be photographed and they know there’s going to be paparazzi there, and they know that if they frequent this club, they're going to be in the magazines. That will keep them relevant, their names will be in the tabloids. And then you have the others, who are successful actors and musicians and entertainers who decide they're going to live outside of that area. They still go about their regular lives. We go to the grocery store here and there [around L.A.] and we see celebrities on a regular basis. Why? Because they're not [promoting anything and they're just living their normal lives.]


WG: Yeah, but we're talking reality TV. You can't be a Housewife of Atlanta and not have people know who you are. It's the nature of reality TV that causes people to associate you with your character. You can't get away from it.


TVP: And that's where reality TV is a very different medium from traditional scripted television, or films for that matter. Because that line isn't drawn in the sand, you don't have that privacy, because I'm inviting you into my house every week, to see my bedroom, to see my husband, to see my family, to see us in our intimate moments, in our emotional strife. You're giving that up by letting the cameras in? Why do people do it? They want to get a point across, or they want to sell a product, or they want to get money, who knows what the reasons are and they vary from one side to the other. But that's one of the issues of reality TV in general: You're inviting speculation about your life, and inviting infamy, by doing it.



p.s.  don't forget to submit your questions for Al.


Notes to Jon ~ September 2010

Finally had a moment to respond to the notes Jon's former girlfriend (aka Hailey Grasping-At-Her-Fleeting Fifteen-Minutes Glassman) apparently sold to Radar (damn those watermarks.)   I am technologically challenged and don't know how to type on a PDF doc so you'll have to put up with my scrawl in this post.  On the first page I share my thoughts on the document in general.   The last four pages contain notes to Jon.

Yes, I do believe that Jon wrote the last four pages of notes because I have heard that he writes things down and organizes his thoughts on paper, and the last four pages are consistent with what I've heard about him.  I believe the first page, which is written in a different handwriting, was written by Hailey, and the reference to "extortion" is her biased spin on what Jon was trying to do in recouping his money from Kate.  We all know that Kate controlled Jon with money and it's no surprise he had difficulty getting her to cough up his share, but asking for one's fair share of the family earnings is not extortion.

Lastly, when reading the Radar docs and my notes on them please keep in mind that Hailey was with Jon from July 2009 to December 2009, so Jon's notes were written back then, while mine were written today.

As always, I look forward to your comments...

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Book Review - The Secret World of Jon & Kate by Al Walentis

The Secret World of Jon and Kate:  The Stupidest Story in the History of the World and the People Who Covered It is now available in soft cover.  It is 251 pages in length and dense with information.  The first time I read it, as an early version, I found I had to take a break in the middle because the contents were so overwhelming.  Don’t be fooled by the flippant gossippy tone of Walentis’s writing:  This book contains some painful stories about two very dysfunctional people and the eight children dependent on them for not only food and clothing but mental health and emotional nourishment as well.

The book will be appreciated on different levels by different audiences.  The blogging community is exceptionally well-educated about the saga of Jon & Kate so for them this book will serve as a recap of Gosselin history with a few new tidbits thrown in for good measure.  Those who think the television shows accurately portray this family will have their naiveté blasted away by many juicy morsels that have been unknown to the general public until now.  Readers hoping for a good Kate-bashing will be disappointed.  (Of course Kate is bashed:  All one has to do to bash her is recount her behavior, since she displays her self-centeredness all over the place.)  But this book is not about bashing Kate, or even Jon.  It is more about the ridiculousness of the entire scene and everyone involved, including those of us who are so fascinated with it.  And no matter where you stand on this issue, all audiences will find that this book doesn’t hesitate to point out many hypocrisies, lapses of good judgment and examples of bad behaviors displayed by the all-American couple turned twisted train wreck known as Jon and Kate.

Janet Palazzotto of A Minor Consideration had this to say about the book:  “I am coming into this trying to catch up on 4 or 5 years or more history of this family. I had NO idea of the outpouring of help from the community without prompting.  What I clearly do not understand is the disconnect from the grandparents.  There is no sad story here of a family who couldn't cope on their own with 8 children:  Family and community were there to help.  Look at what reality TV editing has shown people like me and others completely unaware of what happened in the beginning - believing that they were alone, no help, no support, and the only family they had was the camera crew!  Surely families have their issues but to deny 8 children to know their grandparents & family ties and replace this with a camera crew is beyond comprehension.”   Janet said a mouthful and I think many readers who are new to this story will feel the same way.

Some readers have been less than thrilled with the voice with which Al Walentis wrote this book.  In describing the writing style in his blog comments Al said, “The style matches the tone of the story and Jon’s attitudes toward relationships.  I can vary my writing class but it appears for some candor is offensive.  Others close to Jon said this is how his mind works.”  I’ve had many conversations with Al in the past five years and I can assure you the tone of the book is not at all indicative of how he speaks in real life.  That voice is a writing tool with which Al reveals Jon’s attitudes toward women, and I think he did a good job showing just how crass, misogynist and superficial Jon can be.

My blog reader Irene expressed concerns about how this book may impact the Gosselin children in later years.  While I agree that this book may be added to the pile of negative press about Jon and Kate, it should be clear to all readers that Walentis is concerned for the children and outraged at their parents’ self-absorption.  It is my belief that as the children mature and begin to experience more serious consequences of Jon and Kate’s foibles, resources such as this book will provide validation that they are not crazy, they are not alone, and that there were many adults around them who cared and were concerned about them in their younger years.  Including Al Walentis.

Does this book say everything that needs to be said about the Gosselins?  No.  We need another book that tells the entire story with a comprehensive history including more Beth Carson information, all the Jodie and Kevin information, the blog "wars," and of course the Murt hearings.  Because of this family filming a “reality” show here, child labor laws are being forever changed in Pennsylvania.  This is a part of our history.  It is important.  But for now, considering this is the first book written about the Gosselins that wasn’t written (or pretend-written) by Kate, The Secret World of Jon and Kate is a good start.