Television: Confession

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Q. How long have you been posing as a woman?

A. Well, I really have been a woman all my life.

Q. You mean that you've felt that you were more of a woman than a man?

A. That's right.

Thus, on Dallas' WFAA last week, began the kind of candid interview that Manhattan might have smothered with a grey-flannel gag. With his lipstick and powder scrubbed away and his long, curled hair combed back, a 22-year-old transvestite named Darrell Wayne Kahler faced the cameras of Confession. He was the latest subject in a line of drug addicts, prostitutes, murderers and alcoholics to answer the unrehearsed questions of Interrogator Jack Wyatt.

Black Sheath. Now in its second year as a local show, plain-speaking Confession not only keeps its viewers goggling at its "crusade against crime" but manages so responsible a grip on its sensational material that it has won the help and plaudits of Dallas churchmen and law-enforcement officials. Questioner Wyatt, 40, who originated and produces the show, is a onetime disk jockey, radio writer and veteran of Madison Avenue ad agencies who fled to Texas 3½ years ago, and spends most of his time running a Dallas ad business. Says he: "This may sound corny, but the authorities tell us we've actually helped criminals change their ways."

Like most of Wyatt's guests, Transvestite Kahler was supplied by the police, who had arrested him as a drunken woman being molested by three men, and did not discover his sex until they got him to the station house. Obligingly, the police let Kahler get into a black sheath cocktail dress for a filmed re-enactment of the sidewalk arrest. Wyatt used the film, along with footage of the begowned Kahler doing a few dance steps. Then for an "insight into this age-old, worldwide psychological problem," the live camera turned to Kahler, seated in a jail uniform before the Crosshatch shadow of prison bars.

"A Very Good Job." Calling shots in the control room, Director Patrick Fay kept stumbling over gender: "Gimme a closeup for her," and a second later, "Tighten up on his face." But with little show of emotion on his delicate features or in his contralto voice, chain-smoking Kahler gave a forthright, fascinating case history: his masquerade had grown so adept that from the age of 18 he had earned his living not as a female impersonator but as a woman and nightclub B girl. Wyatt's questioning brought out that Kahler had never known his father, that he came under the strong influence of his mother, "who had a lot of marriages." Kahler told of the "agony" of taunts by schoolmates, confessed that as a result of his problem, he had been doing "a lot of drinking, an immensely lot of drinking, I mean a lot of drinking."

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