Your Cheatin' Art

Page 3 of 3

Grand and Gomez say some people might be using the show as a vehicle to get on television, but Grand doesn't believe Gomez would ever stoop to staging scenes, and Gomez insists that the $400 payments are solely for the right to air the person's image.

If Cheaters has a conscience, Habeeb is it. His signature black outfits belie what seems to be genuine compassion for the show's clients, many of whom are undoubtedly real and in real pain. "Everyone's had that empty feeling in their stomach, not knowing what their mate is doing," Grand says.

Cheaters, originally a Goldstein/Habeeb production, is now all Bobby Goldstein. Habeeb is strictly the host.

Goldstein was convicted in 1989 and given two years probation for securing and executing a document by deception.

When asked about claims the show uses ringers, Goldstein said, "That's interesting. I don't know. Dan Rather reporting that Gore won Florida comes to mind. No matter how many quality controls you put into place, I guess there's always some hanky-panky that could arise." He says his detectives have to sign an affidavit attesting to the validity of their investigation.

Goldstein said he would conduct an investigation into the allegations. Goldstein later said, "I mentioned it to Danny. He said he had a conversation with you about it. Not knowing anything else, I didn't really bother to spend any time screwing with it."

According to a Federal Communications Commission spokesman, there's no law or regulation against presenting acted-out scenarios as reality on television.

Independent stations that run Cheaters don't seem to much care if the show is authentic. Lee Aguiluv, program assistant for Houston's KNWS (Channel 51), says, "It really doesn't matter as long as people tune in to watch the show. That's all that counts." Aguiluv says the show brings the station "really good ratings."

Goldstein claims the show is now on in more than 90 percent of U.S. markets and is one of the top 20 syndicated television programs in the nation, a claim that proved impossible to verify.

Tommy Habeeb says his formerly stalled acting career has taken off, thanks to the show.

Michelle is not so lucky. Her segment has been rebroadcast several times. "I relive it every time they air that damn show. At work, people come up and say 'I saw you on Cheaters.' I make sure to tell them it's fake. I got paid to do it."

KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Scott Nowell