The connection between longtime “Entertainment Tonight” host Mary Hart, seizures and an episode of “Seinfeld”
One woman is going to be very glad to see Mary Hart leave "Entertainment Tonight" — because the sound of Hart's voice gave her epileptic seizures.
The woman's Hart-induced epilepsy was identified in 1991 and served as the inspiration for an episode of "Seinfeld."
Hart joined "ET" in 1982, and announced Thursday that the current season will be her last. TheWrap exclusively reported that "The Insider" host Lara Spencer will be her replacement.
Venkat Ramani, a doctor affiliated with Albany Medical College in upstate New York, first brought the connection between Hart and the epilepsy case to the attention of the medical community with a letter to the editor that was published in the July 11, 1991 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.
Ramani's letter described his experiences with a 45-year-old woman who had "a four-year history of recurrent episodes of a feeling of pressure in the head, epigastric distress and mental confusion" and seizures that were "triggered by the voice of a female cohost on a popular television entertainment program."
"Systematic testing revealed that the seizures were precipitated only by the voice of the female cohost and not by visual stimulation, emotional anticipation or background music; by other programs with a similar; or by other female voices," Ramani wrote.
Ramani never identified his patient, but later confirmed that the TV host behind her seizures was Hart. He treated the woman for two years.
"During a two-year follow-up the patient remained relatively seizure-free by assiduously avoiding the specific program and taking a combination of carbamazepine and divalproex sodium," Ramani wrote.
The case inspired "The Good Samaritan," a 1992 "Seinfeld" episode in which Kramer has seizures whenever he hears Hart's voice. Peter Mehlman, who wrote "The Good Samaritan," discussed the genesis of the episode with TheWrap.
"It was in the papers that it was Mary Hart … and it just seemed funny and, you know, I was probably stuck for a Kramer idea, which I always was," Mehlman said.
Mehlman, who eventually became a co-executive producer on "Seinfeld," never spoke with Dr. Ramani or learned the identity of the woman who suffered from the seizures.
"Just the mere fact that somebody was convulsing to Mary Hart was enough for me, I didn't need to do any research," Mehlman said.
Mary Hart and "Entertainment Tonight" didn't co-operate with the "Seinfeld" seizure episode when it first aired, but they changed their tune later on.
"When it originally aired 'Entertainment Tonight' would not let us use the voice of Mary Hart, because the show wasn't that big. But then years later when the show was really big, we kind of asked them again for syndication … and they were only too happy to do it," Mehlman said.
As of this writing, Dr. Ramani hasn't responded to requests for comment on this story, so it's impossible to know what became of the woman. If she's alive today, she's about 64 years old — and probably ecstatic that Mary Hart is finally going off the air.
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