That's the highlight behind the scenes - no Dave Letterman wandering around, no banter with Biff - just a bandleader from Thunder Bay, and a sex educator from Kenora, getting geographical. Onstage, though, Johanson kills. Letterman and his first guest, actress Kate Beckinsale, have no chemistry and almost nothing to talk about, which leads to a too-long discussion about appendectomies. While Beckinsale waits for questions and then answers politely, Johanson controls her interview.
She pounces on Letterman the minute she sits down, asking about his sex life now that he's the father of a six-month-old boy.
Letterman takes the bait and makes a self-deprecating remark, and they're off and running. But Letterman is the main event - it's her third visit to his show, and their comedic chemistry is undeniable. He seems truly smitten, grasping her hand during commercial breaks and keeping her on for two segments, cutting time away from the more famous and, let's face it, pretty people.
You believe the producers when they tell this grandmother of two, "You're one of the best guests. By now, Canadians take Johanson for granted. Yeah, she's that septuagenarian sex lady who speaks at our colleges, or whom we secretly watch on late-night TV. It's that wacky show where she slings around sex toys and, with a straight face, gives tips on oral sex or finding the G-spot. She doesn't shock us anymore, and we don't even think about how much she's helped this country open up and talk about sex.
But she has - and she's got the Order of Canada to prove it. It's a whole different story in the U. There, she's new, she's outrageous and she's providing a service they are absolutely desperate for. It was extremely popular - but the U.
So the network asked Johanson to tape a second show each week, Talk Sex with Sue Johanson, for American callers only - the first ever U. Just last month Talk Sex, one of the network's highest rated programs, pulled in 2. Sue Johanson has become a household name, although down there they shorten it to Sue Jo. In New York City, waiters, doormen, limo drivers, restaurant patrons, security workers and nearly everyone else she comes into contact with profess their fandom.
For a while her face was plastered on the sides of city buses. They've all experienced the three stages of Sue: Of course, everyone wants her back. But the true measure of Johanson's celebrity status came last January. Johanson, played by Rachel Dratch with the requisite grey curly hair and low-budget, boxy wardrobe, is the guest. While the host slobbers all over her dogs and whines about Ozzy, Dratch blurts out sexual non-sequiturs - "I have my nipples pierced" and "I'm experiencing engorgement, it's very healthy and natural.
As much as she's a ham who loves the comedic banter, Johanson's not out to cultivate her own celebrity. Her mission is to make people comfortable and happy with their sex lives and aware of sexually transmitted infections.
Wayne Brady understood this, and he let her talk at length on his show about the epidemic of genital herpes in the U. According to the American Social Health Association, one out of every five adults has it. Based on the calls she's getting on her U.
But that doesn't seem to make them comfortable with themselves as sexual human beings. Bush's new policy to increase funding for sexual abstinence programs in schools, Johanson feels she's needed now more than ever.
That said, she worries about being too much in the limelight. Ruth was overexposed," she states, matter-of-factly comparing herself to that other sex-talking granny, who once appeared in a shampoo commercial doing commentary while an actress faked an orgasm. You lose a lot of credibility when you do stuff like that.
She's big on demonstration, and can be up to her elbows in lubrication within seconds. She'll strap on a chin dildo to show paraplegics how to have sex, or sew up some homemade lingerie and have her crew model it on camera. And she's always arranging those genderless artist-supply dolls in the most unappealing of sexual positions. Her favourite gag, though, is just to turn on a vibrator and let it spin around on her desk.
I had the pleasure of assisting Johanson on the Sunday Night Sex Show for three years, and one of my duties was making sure the batteries in those toys were fully juiced.
I know first-hand that Johanson treats her callers with respect, whether she's sharing a laugh with a guy who wants to masturbate with raw chicken but is worried about salmonella or advising a different young man, newly infected with HIV, how to tell his past partners. Johanson is always focused more on the caller than on hosting a TV show - and it makes for a refreshingly honest hour of viewing.
There's nothing slick about the production or Johanson, who sews most of her own wardrobe and refuses to have her hair properly coiffed. Gulliver, director of both the U. She bakes sourdough biscuits for the crew every week, spends a bit of quality time with everyone before the show, and invites the entire crew up to her cottage during the summer for a weekend of eating, croquet, and a sex toy giveaway.
After high school in Kenora, Ont. Condoms were for protection against disease, and you had to punch holes in them to give sperm a fighting chance. She had a reputation as someone teens could talk to. And after helping a neighbourhood girl cope with an unwanted pregnancy, Johanson found her path. Recognizing how many uninformed kids were having unprotected sex, in she set up the first North American sexual-health clinic located in a high school Toronto's Don Mills Collegiate.
When irate parents called the principal after finding their daughters' birth control pills, he gave them Johanson's home phone number. She planned ahead, knew what she was doing and was mature enough not to take any chances. You did a great job, you raised a daughter who has a sense of herself. But teaching remains her first love, and every fall and winter she crosses the country, often driving by herself through snowstorms, to lecture at universities and colleges.
It's not uncommon for her to be cornered in the frozen food aisle of a grocery store and asked, "There's a problem with my husband's erection; what should I do?
So it's difficult for him - I can't go anywhere without people staring, stopping or getting an autograph. It isn't easy asking Johanson about her sex life. In person, she's more grandmother than dirty old bird. And while she told Carson Daly she still enjoys "fun and games," when I broach the topic over lunch she gives a flat-out "We're not going there.
Marquesas and Brandon from Survivor: She recognizes no one. In the studio at The Early Show, the Survivor segment is being recorded live and only the people directly involved are paying attention.
Sue and her interviewer, the distinguished and funny Harry Smith, are in the corner quietly chatting while everyone else goes about their jobs with heads down. But when Johanson and Smith start rolling, the whole vibe of the room changes. As they discuss Sue's three Fs of sex - fun, flirting and fantasy - more and more people gather around.
Hosts of other segments, the entire crew and the Survivors are enthralled. And when Johanson shoots Smith her signature "copulatory gaze," the room breaks into hysterics and you can hear the commotion on live TV. When they cut, everyone applauds. Even as a stranger to the environment, you can tell this is rare. In fact, the woman who booked Johanson says she's never seen it happen. On the way out, executive producer Victor Neufeld, wearing sunglasses indoors, personally asks Johanson to visit regularly.
She stops short of telling him she's got a college audience to attend to. But it's pretty obvious he's not the first TV bigwig she's charmed. And he certainly won't be the last. Ten of the most common sexual myths she encounters: Nocturnal Admissions a book about Johanson's Canadian show by R.
The very next day, sex shops across North America sold out of the model. To this day, in fact, the Rabbit family of products yes, they've multiplied remains among the best-sellers. In New York, a trendy company called Safina is offering "shtupperware" parties for women at-home gatherings where vibrators, instead of plastic containers, are the merchandise on offer.
And it's growing fast thanks to a new generation of savvy, confident consumers who unapologetically watch shows like Sue Johanson's Sunday Night Sex Show.
Instead, the latest designs are subtle, playful and, in some cases, even stylish. Perhaps most remarkable is the explosion of choices to have emerged in the past decade. They sell vibrators that light up or have 10 speeds, are triple-pronged or hypoallergenic, and shaped like everything from a rubber duck to a tube of lipstick.
Some will do everything but light your post-coital cigarette. Sex toys may not be on department-store shelves yet, but the idea seems less outlandish now than it did a decade ago. Get ready for a different kind of Toyland. Maclean's May 17,