In the 1990s a television psychic named Miss Cleo was so popular she even had celebrities imitating her. Miss Cleo would appear on late TV promos where she promised to predict the futures of viewers. She’s made her case for her extraordinary supernatural talents in her phony Jamaican accent. Thousands called in to get her “predictions.”
Now HBO has done a documentary about the life of the infamous psychic, who turned out to be a scam artist. The docuseries is “Call Me Miss Cleo” and started airing on the cable network on Dec. 15.
Here are seven things to know about the woman who called herself Miss Cleo and the new documentary.
Miss Cleo would end her pitch with the phrase “call me now.” And call is what thousands of hopeful believers did.
The first three minutes of the call were free, after that, it was $4.99 a minute to continue the call, The Los Angeles Times reported.
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The documentary “Call Me Miss Cleo,” which began streaming on HBO Max, attempts the woman known as Miss Cleo was the gifted “voodoo priestess” she claimed to be or was a knowing scam artist or merely a hired player who got caught up in the madness. Several people, including her friends as well as former clients, were interviewed for the series. The filmmakers spoke with several people to try to unravel the mystery of Miss Cleo.
Miss Cleo was a spokeswoman for the Psychic Readers Network, which seems to be back up and running. It is a psychic pay-per-call service. Miss Cleo appeared in several television commercials for the network that aired between 1997 and 2003, Newsweek reported.
Today, on its website, the PRN boasts, “NEW MANAGEMENT AND BETTER THAN EVER!
The same great psychics…Several of our psychics are new to the Psychic Readers Network family,
while many of the original PRN psychics have returned as well.”
The so-called Miss Cleo was born Youree Dell Harris in Los Angeles. She appropriated a Jamaican accent. Harris went on to become a gay rights activist in Florida. She came out as a lesbian in a 2006 Advocate article. Two of her former partners are also interviewed in the documentary.
Harris died in 2016 after battling colon cancer.
Former colleagues at the Langston Hughes Theatre in Seattle told documentary filmmakers that Harris was a playwright and performer who went by the name Ree Perris in the late 1990s. According to them, Miss Cleo was a character inspired by a play called “For Women Only” that Harris was working on at the time for the troupe. Harris was set to play the character, The Los Angeles Times reported.
But Harris herself had a different take. During an interview with “Hotline,” she said she was a true psychic. “I absolutely commune and chat with those on the other side — some call them dead, some call them spirits — but absolutely with the energy and vibrations with those that crossed over. … more broader than a medium, for me, it’s a broader belief system,” she said.
There were lawsuits filed against her and the Psychic Readers Network. At the time, it was revealed that Harris used a number of aliases, including Miss Cleo, Cleomili Harris and Youree Perris.
The network was shut down in the early 2000s after a Federal Trade Commission investigation.
In 2002, the FTC filed fraud and unfair telemarketing charges against Psychic Readers Network Inc. and its subsidiary Access Resource Services Inc.
“The companies were accused of defrauding customers after thousands of complaints were made by callers, former employees, parents of underage kids and people who didn’t call the hotline but received collection letters anyway,” The Los Angeles Times reported.
Miss Cleo as a named party in one investigation. “Her persona as Miss Cleo became an asset of the company. They basically owned her image and her persona,” said Gerald Wald, an FTC receiver who brought the enforcement action against PRN.
Harris was later dropped from the lawsuit while the FTC went after PRN’s wealthy co-owners, Steven L. Feder and Peter Stolz. Feder and Stolz agreed to pay $5 million in 2002 to settle charges that they had misled customers, The Washington Post reported.
Harris said her sister suggested she work for the Psychic Readers Network.
The documentary reveals that after she read her tarot cards on camera, the network reportedly got the greatest number of calls it had in its history.
“When they approached me about first being a spokesperson, my first initial response was, ‘I have a reputation to maintain,’” Harris said in the 2012 “Hotline” interview.
Miss Cleo, YouTube (From https://www.nbcnews.com/news/nbcblk/youree-del-cleomill-harris-famed-tv-psychic-miss-cleo-dies-n617306)