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Trash TV Is in the House

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Laura Bozzo’s TV talk show is pure circus. On a January episode a clown, complete with red nose, professes his undying love for Eva. Eva—and viewers—have just seen candid video exposing husband Fernando’s affair with a much younger woman. Wife and angry mistress slap and scratch Fernando, who is forced offstage by bouncers. As Eva hugs the clown, the mistress is turned over to a group that helps downtrodden women. Says Bozzo: “Everyone leaves with their problems solved.”

Everyone, that is, except Bozzo. Peru’s freewheeling answer to Jerry Springer, she hosts a show that’s seen by viewers in 22 countries, including 1 million in the U.S. But since last July, in a scandal that has kept her fans rapt, Bozzo, 53, has been under house arrest, confined to her Lima TV studio, where she continues to broadcast. Prosecutors charge that Bozzo received $3 million from the regime of former Peruvian president Alberto Fujimori in exchange for support. (Fujimori won, then fled Peru with his own corruption scandal.) “She has the swagger and arrogance of Geraldo Rivera,” says Miami Herald TV critic Glenn Garvin. “She’s weirdly compelling.”

Prosecutors also suggest that Bozzo had an affair with Fujimori’s spymaster Vladimiro Montesinos and that he bought her jewelry with about $20,000 in government funds. Bozzo, who denies all charges and says the jewelry was from her father, divorced her husband of 21 years in 2002 and is holed up in the studio with her 27-year-old boyfriend, an aspiring singer. Though two police officers prevent her from leaving, a makeup crew arrives for each taping, as does a studio audience. At her trial, likely to be in July, she faces eight years in prison. “I’d like to be remembered as a woman who showed the true reality that had never been seen on TV before,” says Bozzo. And a few catfights for good measure.