'Wives' could be dangerous
Ex-polygamist speaks
Polygamy is so hot on TV right now, it threatens to infect people who aren't even blond.

Between "Big Love" and the newest reality-TV hit "Sister Wives," you'd think that sharing a husband is not just fun, but frees up a sexually sated wife to pursue all sorts of glamorous things -- like creating business empires and running casinos.

"Free? Not at all," says Elissa Wall, author of the moving biography "Stolen Innocence: My Story of Growing Up in a Polygamous Sect."

"It's all rather unrealistic."

What about the fact that before they got their own TV show, several of the "Sister Wives" filed for bankruptcy and one was on food stamps? Is it common for these families to expect the government to support their illegal lifestyles?

"When there are three wives and 14 kids to feed, the mothers are forced to turn to the government," Wall says.

"In reality, there is lots of sadness and lots of contention between the wives," says Wall, who was married off at 14. "I will never say it's all wrong -- but, in my experience, polygamy becomes a breeding ground for child abuse."

And there's nowhere for wives or kids to turn. In her sect, for example, the local cops were polygamists, too.

So, the whole happy sister-wife-as-entrepreneur thing is as false as a polygamist's promise to be true?

"No, not always," she said. "There's the Centennial Group. The women are well-educated and many are entrepreneurs married to educated men who are well off. But that's really, really an anomaly."

Sounds like the stuff of TV.

* Big Love & The Big Lug: Speaking of sister wives, if the whole governor gig doesn't work out for Carl Paladino, he's got a huge future in reality TV.

Unlike most TV reality stars, Crazy Carl is blessed to be irrational on several fronts: He's got the plural family thing going on, an explosive temper, a foul mouth, he's Italian-American and desperate for fame. He's got all the basic ingredients, reality TV-wise.

Imagine if you will, "Sister Wives of Buffalo" starring Paladino, his wife Cathy and Suzanne "she-is-not-his-mistress" Brady, the mother of his love child with whom he vacationed in Italy last year.

In politics, you have to hide everything you don't want exposed. On reality TV, the more you expose the better your ratings. Fuggetabout it, Paladino -- the future is calling.
Originally published September 30, 2010