Heir Time

Debra Duncan pays her dues, hits her cues and hopes to be the next Oprah

Her viewing audience doubled last year when Channel 13 started rerunning the morning show after Politically Incorrect at 11:35 p.m.; they also show her Sunday morning at 11. Having 11 hours of airtime a week upped her recognition factor, and she's become a star in her own hunk of the world. She goes to Target, and people are wearing her T-shirts.

Her phone rings nonstop throughout the interview. First it's the realtor because her house is on the market. (She doesn't need that much space, she says. She likes the idea of a loft.) Then it's her executive producer asking if she wants to have her makeup done in her office from now on. Debra says no, she likes the one-on-one time she gets with guests before the show. It's usually her only chance to calm them down and make them relax -- it was just too much that morning when her makeup had to be done in a crowded conference room. "Makeup is where I separate myself," Debra says into the phone. When she hangs up, she won't explain that comment.

Her cell phone rings. It's her boyfriend. She asks him if he wants to have dinner. He says he wants to cook her a duck. She tells him he's tired and he doesn't have to cook for her tonight -- he can fix it this weekend.

Debra never stops smiling.
Debra never stops smiling.

She giggles on the phone, and I play with her dog. I tell her I'll give her some privacy and she walks me to the door. She says there are some pictures she wants to show me at her office and makes sure I have her home number. She acts like we're new best friends and says she'll call me tomorrow with her mom's number.

I drive away excited at no longer needing to go through Alicia (who has become increasingly hostile) and happy that I've begun to break through Debra's plastic facade. I can't wait to know the real Debra. I leave a message the next day, and another the day after that.

She never returns my calls.

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