Judge DiMango recalls her unlikely journey to ‘Hot Bench’
Hon. Patricia DiMango always wanted to be an administrative judge in Brooklyn, so she saw an assignment to the Bronx as an unexpected disruption of her goal. Just a few years later, Judge DiMango views that assignment as the one that led to her role on the CBS court show “Hot Bench.”
“Life can change in an instant,” DiMango said, recalling her journey to Hollywood.
DiMango remembers sitting at home watching television on a Tuesday night when she got a call asking if she had time to speak with Judge Judith Sheindlin, better known as Judge Judy. Initially, she thought it was a joke, but a few minutes later she heard that unmistakable voice.
“The female caller said, ‘This is Judy Sheindlin,’ and I froze because it was her,” DiMango said. “It was really her. She told me about this new venture and twist on the court TV genre, a three-judge bench. She had already selected two lawyers from LA and was looking for an East Coast judge.”
Judge Judy was looking for someone like herself, but younger, and she found her match. The two had more in common than simply hailing from Brooklyn. They both grew up with fathers who were dentists, their mothers had the same birthday (same day, not year), and Judge Judy’s husband was similarly given an assignment in the Bronx.
Judge Judy said she was impressed by the work DiMango had done in the Bronx and had liked a clip of her on YouTube. Judge DiMango didn’t even know what YouTube was at the time, but Judge Judy said she watched her speech at Brooklyn College and thought she was perfect for her show. She asked her to fly to Los Angeles that Thursday for an audition.
“Then I began to back pedal, and then I heard myself saying, ‘Judge Judy, I can’t possibly make it on Thursday. I have a very busy calendar,’” DiMango recalled. “What was I thinking? She was asking me to come to LA. How could I say that? But then in typical Judy fashion she said, ‘Then Friday it is.’”
Now that she’s on television, Judge DiMango’s life has significantly changed. She described it as “frightening” to give up her career in New York for one in Hollywood, but so far it has gone well. “Hot Bench” was just picked up for a second season this past December, and she’s started to be recognized at home. Sort of.
“One day I was in New York shopping at Saks and the sales woman was looking at me — I knew it. I was being recognized,” DiMango said. “Maybe it took Judy a while, but not me. It was only two weeks. I kept watching her, and she was watching me. And as I approached her, I became more certain.
“When I got to the register, she said, ‘I recognize you.’ I was puffing up a bit and said, ‘Really? Where from?’ She said, ‘You used to shop in Bloomingdales, and I helped you. Do you remember me?’”
Judge DiMango does not regret her decision at all, but her new job doesn’t have the job security the old one did. During a recent National Association of Women Judges event, she made a plea for her former colleagues from New York to watch her show.
“‘Hot Bench’ doesn’t have a lot of job security,” she joked. “I’m on at 9 and 9:30 in the morning on Ch. 2 CBS, every day Monday through Friday. Put your TVs on when you go to work, because I need the ratings.”
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