TV Psychic Miss Cleo Dies After Battle With Cancer
On Tuesday morning, TMZ announced that the beloved Miss Cleo died after battling cancer. Miss Cleo, for the uninformed, was a television psychic, who asked in late night infomercials for the lost and heartbroken to “call me now!” in a strong Jamaican accent, even though she was born in Los Angeles. Miss Cleo could solve any problem, and flipping through the channels while trying to fall asleep, she was a fucking saint and a half. The iconic psychic, whose real name was Youree Harri, had been battling cancer that spread to her liver and lungs. According to sources, she died surrounded by friends in Palm Beach County, Florida in a hospice facility.
The best thing about Miss Cleo was not her silly accent or the novelty of watching something totally ridiculous on TV late at night — it was that Miss Cleo was the real deal. She wasn’t what you would call nice. She was nice, of course, and engaged with her callers. But she engaged in the way that Dan Savage engages with his call-in advice seekers — she called people on their bullshit. Sure, she was asking for more money, but the vibe is the same.
Take this one video, where a woman is asking about the paternity of a child. Miss Cleo tells the woman that she doesn’t get why the woman was confused. “I wasn’t sure,” the caller said. “I don’t know how — the baby looked just like him!”
With her chin in her hand and her fake patois, Miss Cleo knew what was up. All the time.
According to Vice, the Miss Cleo party ended in February of 2002 when the Federal Trade Commission filed a complaint against Cleo and the Psychic Readers Network, alleging that they made over $1 billion by tricking customers into “fake readings,” not reporting when a caller refused to pay, and not making required disclosures when it came to advertisers. Since she was the most recognizable face, Miss Cleo got a lot of heat for the complaint, but Miss Cleo was sort of just a pawn in the system, too.
Since the fallout, Miss Cleo had pretty much disappeared from public life. She makes a great appearance in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City and came out in The Advocate in 2006. Miss Cleo spoke about her “psychic powers” then, saying, “I’m more a shaman, an elder in a community who has visions and gives direction to people in their village. My clients and my students are my village.” She added in the Advocate interview, “If you sit down at my table, you have to take away a lesson and not just learn what is going to happen tomorrow. I also perform weddings — both gay and straight marriages — and house cleansings and blessings.”
Miss Cleo was pretty misunderstood for most of her public life. But her presence will be missed as a caring, giving, takes-no-bullshit role model for everyone, whether they remember her calming presence from back in the day or find her on YouTube.