One Wild Ride

The cheesy theme music blares from the speakers, all keyboards and horns, as the topic of the day's program scrolls across the screen in bright neon: "I Can't Lose, I Have Two Women, Why Choose? Ricki, I Want Them Both!" It's the Ricki Lake Show, sometime in 1997. The camera pans across the hyped audience before landing on a very pregnant Ricki, who conducts the entire show from a director's chair while two helpers dart around the studio, putting mikes in front of people's faces. An assortment of trash tumbles across the stage, spilling tales of cheating and heartbreak and betrayal, and then Ricki welcomes Michelle Ormond, a 25-year-old from Denver, Colorado.

"My next guest says whoever said 'Two's company, three's a crowd' had no idea what they were talking about, because in her life, two may be company, but three is even better," Ricki announces.

The audience hoots and hollers, and then Michelle calmly explains how she'd been married to her husband, Dennis, for four years when she met Shawna -- through an ad in local sex rag The Oyster -- and how the three of them now live together in the same house and sleep in the same bed. Before long, the whole love triangle is out there -- Michelle in her floral print dress, Dennis in a suit and tie with a Full Metal Jacket buzz-cut, Shawna in a pink blazer -- and as Shawna and Michelle kiss, some visionary in the audience mutters to Dennis, "You must be the Big Poppa, because I see how it be working for you!"

"Everybody's got to be able to get along," Michelle explains. "Everybody's got to be able to communicate. That's the big thing."

The same threesome also appears on The Maury Povich Show, again extolling the healthiness and happiness of the blissful relationship, preaching about the importance of open lines of communication. Then Maury attempts to wade through the bullshit.

"Come on," he says, exasperated. "Is this just not an explosion ready to happen?"

Dennis fields the query. "We don't concentrate on how it's going to break up," he says. "We concentrate on how to keep it going. If it ever dies, we'll deal with it then."

Maury's concerns proved accurate; Shawna moved out the next year. But not even he could have imagined just how big the ultimate explosion would be. If Maury had had any idea about the needs pulsating through Michelle, needs that saw her fuck her way through job after job -- including a supervisory role with the Regional Transportation District -- then go on to become the tattooed Internet phenomenon "The Pass Around Girl," he would have never let her leave the studio.

At least not without filming a few more episodes.

Over the years, Michelle Ormond has played many roles. "I've always taken on somebody else's life and personality to fit in with them," she says. "I would just become whoever I was with."

"She's a chameleon," says Dennis Ormond. "She's like a mirror of whoever she is with at the time or obsessing over. She emulates them. It's spooky."

Truth is, Michelle has no idea who she really is. But for the first time in her 35 years, she's trying to find out.

"My childhood was normal," she says of growing up in Thornton. "My parents are married, they had their first marriage and stayed together, they took me and my sister on vacations, they didn't abuse us, they weren't alcoholics or drug abusers or smokers, but there was a lot of emotional neglect, the idea that our opinion didn't matter at all. At the same time, there was a lot of guilt put on us, too -- to do better in school, to be a better role model."

So early on, Michelle cultivated the need to make people happy. She was the people-pleaser, the class clown.

Her parents both worked, and Michelle would have to wake up on her own and call one of them when she left for school, then call again immediately after coming home. "I was very limited in what I could do," she says. So she would act out in little ways: drinking cherry brandy with a friend in junior high, pocketing money intended for school lunches.

Her parents were Italian Catholics, and not only were they controlling, but they kept the subject of sex taboo. "I was always taught that sex was done in the dark, once you're married, on your back for procreation, and that was it," Michelle says. "Anything else was grounds for going to hell. But when you're young and you have these hormones kicking in, it creates these powerful feelings of guilt."

Like the time Michelle got caught masturbating when she was twelve or thirteen. She'd pilfered her mother's electric scissors, padded the sharp parts with tape and cotton, and was using the makeshift vibrator when her mom walked in on her. As her mother recoiled in shock and anger, Michelle sprinted from the house and hid outside for a few hours. When she finally returned, her mother waited several more hours before talking to her about her sinful behavior, pushing the same Catholic rhetoric on Michelle that she'd been raised with. Michelle swore off masturbating for a while. But the urges returned, and she would satiate herself -- more carefully -- only to be racked by overpowering feelings of guilt.

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Adam Cayton-Holland