Tuesday, September 21, 2010

To Tell the Truth...Girls are Scary!

My Career as a Professional Game Show Contestant

Part 1: To Tell the Truth...Girls are Scary!

$550,000. That is the total amount of money I could have won on all my various game show appearances if everything had gone perfectly.
$11,450. That is the actual amount of money I walked away with. Clearly I left a lot of money on the table!
Over the years, I have appeared on dozens of game shows, including some of the most popular examples of the genre (Wheel of Fortune, Deal or No Deal) and some that I can guarantee you never heard of (Catch 21, something called Celebrity Says.)
The one question I have been asked the most over the years is, “Why don’t you write a book about all your experiences on TV game shows?”
There is a good reason why I have not. There have been many books written about that very topic, and they all had one thing in common -- the person writing the book won a ton of money on TV game shows! For example, in 2006, Ken Jennings, the winningest game show contestant in history, came out with a book called Brainiac: Adventures in the Curious, Competitive, Compulsive World of Trivia Buffs. His combined winnings for all his appearances on both Jeopardy and Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader total over three million dollars. Now that is a person who people want to read a book by!
I’m really good at getting booked as a contestant on game shows, but I haven‘t had much luck when it comes to winning the big prize.
If I was to write a book like that, it would be called How To Get on TV Game Shows and Walk Away With Almost Nothing!
I was always a fan of game shows as a kid. Some of my earliest childhood memories are of watching shows like Beat the Clock, The Joker’s Wild, and Match Game. But I never actually thought about being a contestant on a TV game show until one day in the year 2000 when I got a call from the casting director of a show called To Tell the Truth.
I had recently had my book published -- The Shy Guy’s Guide to Dating -- and the producers of To Tell the Truth thought it would be fun if I appeared on the show along with two other guys pretending to be me, and had a celebrity panel try to guess which of us was the real relationship “expert.” (The best thing about writing a book about any subject is that for the rest of your life, you will be considered an expert on that subject -- even if you know nothing about it!)
Going on To Tell the Truth seemed like a fun way to make some money and promote my book at the same time. It also meant an all-expenses paid trip to Hollywood, so it was a win-win all around. (I was living in Florida at the time.)
So it came to pass that in November of 2000, I flew to L.A., where a limo picked me up and took me to my hotel. If you ever have the opportunity to be flown across the country and picked up in a limo, you should take it. It really makes you feel like a big shot to be riding in a limo that someone else is paying for.
The next day, another limo took me from the hotel to the studio. It was there that I met the other two “Barry Dutters” -- the guys who would be pretending to be me on the show. They were both actors, although they were not supposed to admit that on the show.
(Most of the people who appear on game shows and reality shows are actors, but the people who produce those shows do not want you to know that.)
The first fake “me” was a musician named Jeff Bek. No, it was not the famous Jeff Beck who is a guitarist. It was another one, one you probably haven’t heard of. He had written the music for a CD about Nosferatu the vampire and he gave me a copy of it. (It sounded pretty good.) The other Barry was an actor named Rob Myers. On the show, Jeff said he was a car salesman and Robsiad he was a “a handyman from Rhode Island."
The three of us met with the producers who took on us a tour of the studio. There were other game shows filmed on the same soundstage, including Family Feud. Me and the other Barrys had fun clowning around on the set of Family Feud. The other Barrys told me they had each been given copies of my book the night before the show, in order to make their impersonations of me as convincing as possible.
If we successfully fooled the four-member celebrity panel, plus the audience, we had the chance to win $5,000 (to be split between the three of us -- cheap show!) My two impostors were taken to a separate area, and I was led to a dressing room where I sat with a contestant who would be taping another episode later that same day. He told me his name was Barry Levinson.
I had heard that name before, of course, and I was surprised to be meeting the Academy-Award-winning director of Rain Man on such a low-budget show. Then he revealed that he was a different Barry Levinson. This one was a guy who dressed in a mustard suit and ran something called the Mustard Museum.
As an aspiring filmmaker, my enthusiasm dimmed considerably at the prospect of hanging in the green room with the guy who ran the Mustard Museum.
Fortunately I didn’t have to wait long. I only had to hear a few mustard stories before it was time to get down to business: convincing everyone that I was not the real Barry Dutter!
Under the rules of the show, I was sworn to answer truthfully to any question I was asked by the panel. My doppelgangers were allowed to say anything they wanted to convince the panel that they were me.
The show began with the three of us standing on the stage and each of us saying the same line that had been given to us by the writers. The line was, “I’m Barry Dutter - and girls are scary!” That was a funny and memorable way to start the show. I particularly liked the way the last guy in our line emphasized the word “scary!”
Host John O’Hurley (so unforgettable as J. Peterman on Seinfeld), then said, Now it’s time to find out who is the real Barry Dutter -- and what his problem is!”
The celebrity judges were Bryan Cranston (the dad from Malcolm in the Middle, now best known as the lead on Breaking Bad); comedienne Paula Poundstone; Meshach Taylor of Designing Women; and an upcoming young comic named Lynne Koplitz, who was surprisingly pretty, for a female comedian.
The premise of my book was that I was a former shy guy who got over his shyness and wrote a sort of "training manual" to help other shy guys get out there and meet girls. So the panel and the audience should really have been looking for the contestant who was the least shy of the trio.
Lucky thing for me, most members of the panel were looking for the guy who seemed the shyest, so that helped steer a few votes to the fake Barrys.
Host John O’Hurley seemed to be having a lot of fun with this segment, at one point referring to me as “the coy Casanova.”
My doppelgangers were very convincing. They both came across as kind of quiet, reserved, but all around nice guys. I came across a little cockier, and anyone paying close attention would have realized that I was the one they should have voted for.
The panelists decided to have a little fun at my expense. When I explained that shyness is just fear of rejection, Paula Poundstone promptly rejected me, and then encouraged Bryan Cranston to do the same.
Lynne Koplitz said that if I had a girlfriend, she was an idiot for falling for the cheesy pick-up lines in my book. She then apologized for being so nasty, and then she did an impression of her mother criticizing her for being so mean and saying that was why she was still single.
After the votes were tabulated, it was time to find out if we had fooled everyone. The first the three panelists guessed incorrectly, which put $3,000 in the hands of myself and my cronies. Lynne Koplitz correctly picked me as the “Shy Guy Guru,” partly because she “felt so bad” for the way the panel had poked fun at me. She did note that I "seemed like the most reformed" of the group, which shows that she is smart as well as pretty!
All that remained was for the audience to guess wrong and that would have added another $1,000 to our total. Much to my astonishment, the audience figured out that I was the real Barry Dutter. I guess they had been paying attention!
John O’Hurley asked for the real Barry Dutter to please stand up. Me and my impostors fidgeted a little bit, playing out the suspense, before I finally stood up and revealed myself as the real me.
Paula Poundstone felt like she had been duped. She blurted out, “He was shy for two weeks when he was twelve!” I think Paula had missed the point about me being a former shy guy, but whatever, she got some big laughs at my expense anyway.
With that, the show was over. I still had a couple of hours to kill before I went to the airport. I thought about sending a signed copy of my book to Lynne Koplitz's dressing room, and seeing how she responded. But I chickened out. To this day, I kind of regret that I did not try to meet up with Ms. Koplitz after the show. She came across as playful, funny and approachable. She’s kind of like a bigger-boned Cindy Crawford. She has a joke in her stand-up where she says, “I’m the Cindy Crawford you could get.”
She seemed like the kind of girl who would have been fun to hang out with. But I ignored all the advice in my own book and didn’t even bother trying. Instead I asked my driver to take me to the movies.
I went and saw the first Charlie’s Angels movie, which was moderately entertaining, but probably not as much fun as hanging out with a pretty stand-up comedienne would have been.
Two hours later, the movie was over and it was time to head back to the airport and catch my plane home. The trip was worthwhile, over all. I made my $1,000 on the game show (after the three-way split), but I think I would have benefited much more from spending time with Lynne Koplitz.
I guess sometimes girls still are scary -- even to a reformed shy guy!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Dustin Hoffman thanks me for getting a girl naked on the Howard Stern Show

By Barry Dutter

In 1989, Dustin Hoffman won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance in the movie RAIN MAN. As he rushed up to the stage to accept the award, the first thing he wanted to do was to show his appreciation the man who had made it all possible: his director, Barry Levinson. In a breathless, raspy voice, Hoffman uttered the words, “Thank you, Barry” and then proceeded with his acceptance speech.
Flash forward to 2003. I’m living in Ft. Lauderdale, and publishing my own humor magazine, called GAG! It’s in the tradition of MAD and CRACKED and those those other humor mags I grew up with.
I’m having a little trouble getting the funding to put the second issue out. An idea occurs to me: how about going on the Howard Stern Radio Show and challenging the producer of the show, Gary “Baba Booey” Dell’Abate to an 80s music trivia game for the chance to win $5,000? That would give me more than enough money to publish the second issue of my mag.
The game was called “Stump The Booey,” and it was a semi-regular feature on the Stern Show. I had heard the game played many times on the radio, and every time I played along at home, I either tied Gary or beat him, so I was pretty confident I could win. There was only one catch: I had to bring a girl with me who would get naked if I lost.
I didn’t know any girls who were willing to get naked in a national forum like that. (Even though it was on radio, any girl who appeared on Howard’s radio show would also be seen on his web site.) I asked every girl I knew, and they all turned me down.
So I figured I would start going to strip clubs and find me a dancer who was willing to fly to New York with me if I was willing to give her a share of the prize money. I offered $1,000 if I won, plus the all-expenses paid trip to New York. I probably approached few hundred girls, and all of them turned me down. I like to joke that I probably spent $1,000 on strippers trying to find one who would help me win $5,000!
Most of the strippers I asked turned me down, and they gave variations of the same two reasons: 1) "I don’t want my parents to find out what I do for a living," and 2) "Howard is too mean."
I thought both excuses were pretty weak. I mean, Howard is usually very nice to the girls who come into his studio. The only time he was ever mean (or more accurately, “brutally honest,”) was when girls came in and said they were hot enough to be in Playboy and Howard and his crew would sometimes let them know why they were not Playboy material.
As for the parents thing, well, I really doubted most strippers’ parents listened to the Stern Show. (Howard didn’t even have a TV show at the time, as his E! Show had just ended and his Howard TV channel hadn’t started up yet.) But I suppose there was always a chance that a friend of the parents could hear the show on the radio and tell them about it…
I finally found a stripper who was willing to come with me in the Fall of 2003. She was a nice red-head named Angie from Pennsylvania. She described herself as a huge Stern fan. She even invited me over for Thanksgiving dinner.
Angie and I were booked for the show in 2004, but at the last minute, she backed out, saying she just wasn’t “ready” to get naked on a national radio show. (This was a girl whose job it was to get naked on stage on a nightly basis in front of hundreds of men!)
I made one of the hardest phone calls I ever had to make when I called the Stern show and told them we were backing out of the appearance. But I wasn’t defeated yet. I mean, I lived in Florida, a state with some of the most beautiful women in the world.
Surely I could find one girl willing to fly to New York and get naked on the Howard Stern Show for $1,000!
A few months later, I wound up finding my girl on, of all places, a casino boat. I had had a bad night of blackjack. I probably lost about $300. But I hit the jackpot in a different way when I met Jaimie, a busty blonde (and massage therapist) who agreed to make that trip to New York with me.
But first I had to convince the Stern people that I would be able to deliver this time. The Stern staff does not look kindly on people who bail out on an appearance. I decided to make it my mission to get back on the Stern Show.
First I began sending in emails to the Stern Show, where I challenged Gary Dell-Abate. I called Gary a coward, and said he wasn’t man enough to beat me at his own game. I came on pretty strong, telling Gary there was no way I could lose. One of the producers of the Stern show contacted me and told me to keep the insults coming. He said they were working!
Next I commissioned artist Steve Campbell to do a series of posters depicting me vs. Baba Booey, and I sent the posters to Gary over at the Stern Show.
In the first poster, Gary and I were shown as a pair of boxers about to face off, with me looking like a mighty champion and Gary looking like a Neanderthal. In the second poster, I was an organ grinder and he was my clueless monkey. (GAG art Director Dave Berns did an awesome job coloring the second poster.) I was going to commission a third poster, showing Gary as an ugly woman in a dress, but it turned out the third poster wasn’t necessary.
In July, 2005, I took some short videos of Jaimie at the beach in a wet bikini, saying she was ready to come to New York and get naked. I sent the videos in to a producer from the Stern Show. A few days later, he called me and said all my posters and videos and insults had worked. Jaimie and I had been booked on the show. The only condition was that I had to guarantee that Jaimie would be perform as promised. I assured them they she would.
I made the reservations for Jaimie and myself to fly to New York. Then I began brushing up on my 80s music. I have a pretty good memory for 80s tunes -- after all, this is the stuff I grew up with. Still, I started listening every 80s CD I had. It never hurts to refresh your memory on stuff that is 20 to 25 years old.
And so it came to pass that on August 3, 2005, Jaimie and I flew to New York. It was Jaimie’s first time in the Big Apple, so she wanted to do some sight-seeing. We ended up going to Scores, a strip club that was, at that time, a favorite of the Stern crew.
Jaimie was so kindhearted, she actually bought me a lap dance. Then she got one for herself, and hers was even better than mine! Nothing like a little girl-on-girl action to start the trip off right. Following that, we went to Hogs N Heffers, the bar which as the inspiration for the movie Coyote Ugly. Jaimie danced on the bar while I shot pool, and everyone had a good time.
We got to bed around 2:30 a.m. that night. (Separate beds, in case you were wondering!) We had to be up in three hours to get ready for the Stern Show. I figured we would never make it to the studio on time. But Jaimie was a true pro-- she got dolled up in her sexiest outfit, did her hair and make-up, and was camera-ready by 6:30 a.m.! And not once did she complain about being tired.
I think we both had too much nervous energy to be tired. I called a cab to bring us to Howard‘s studio, and we were on our way.
We arrived at the K-ROCK building at 7:00 a.m. We waited in the Green Room, where we met Will, the producer who had been my contact on the show. Will explained the rules of the game to us. He handed Jaimie a towel and instructed her to get naked. If I lost the game, Jaimie was to whip off the towel and show off her bodacious bod.
We were scheduled to go on at 7:30 a.m. but wound up getting bumped back to 9:00. We had arrived at the studio at 7:00 a.m., so it was a full two hours before we got to go on. It’s like a kind of torture, waiting in that green room. Jaimie and I took turns pacing. She was wearing only her towel, at this point.
At least we got to listen to the show while we were waiting. After what seemed like an eternity, Howard finally started talking up our segment. He said he was excited to meet Jaimie because based on the photos he had seen, he thought she looked like actress Kate Hudson (which is true, if Kate Hudson added on some massive double-D’s!)
Gary said he was going to try extra hard to beat me, because he said I had been “particularly cruel” to him in my taunts. That is true, I had been razzing him pretty hard, but it all was all in the spirit of the show.
Finally, around 9:00 a.m., Will came in and got us. It’s a very surreal experience walking on to the set of the Howard Stern Show. You walk through that door, and you see the King of All Media behind his console… Robin Quivers in her booth… Artie Lange off to the side.. and sound effects guy Fred Norris doing his thing... it's like you walked inside your TV and ended up on the set of one of your favorite shows!
Howard introduced me as a “very arrogant guy” who had been “sending in FAXes and emails every other day.” Truth is, I never sent in any FAXes, but I did send in a couple of dozen emails over a three-year period.
As for the arrogance, hey, I’ll cop to that, but it was the only way I could get on the show. I mean, what was I gonna do -- write in and say I’m “pretty good at trivia” and have a “fair” chance of winning?
Hell no! My attitude was to go in there and be the cockiest guy who ever played Stump the Booey. As far as I was concerned, the money was already mine. Playing the game was a mere formality!
Howard had a ton of questions for Jaimie, including how old she was, how much she weighed, and how big her boobs were. He asked if she had ever done any stripping, and she said she had been in a few amateur contests. He asked what she did for a living, and she lied and said she was a secretary.
Howard asked what was the largest amount of money she had ever been offered for sex. She said it was $10,000 but she had turned it down. Artie Lange shouted, “I’ll double it!” Jaimie said she would never accept money for sex, but added, “If I like you, I’ll do it for free!!”
(She later admitted to me she had made up the $10,000 figure. She’s not a huge Stern fan, but she clearly gets the show!)
Howard was very intrigued by the fantasy of this buxom blonde leaning over her boss’ desk in a short skirt. “Do you ever tease your boss with your ass?’ he asked. Jaimie giggled and admitted that she had.
Howard then spent the next few minutes making disgusting noises with his mouth, as if to simulate the boss having sex with Jaimie. Fred Norris threw in a squirting sound effect when Howard was done, and then Howard announced he was “ready to work.”
Howard instructed Gary, “Booey, you gotta win this one.” Gary assured his boss that he was up to the task.
He asked if I thought I could beat Gary. I assured him that I could. I added, “I’d like to thank Gary in advance for the $5,000.” I really didn’t see any way I could lose.
Gary started ripping into me, as expected, referring to my magazine as FAG instead of GAG! That gave me license to razz him back. I promised he would go down like a ma-ma-monkey.
Artie Lange said that with all our trash-talking, this was taking on the aura of an Ali-Frazier fight. The game began. The first song had started with a generic electronic beat that almost sounded like Depeche Mode. But the instant I heard the vocals, I knew it was Tiffany, singing her hit, “I Think We’re Alone Now.”
Gary and I both got that one right. But the next song had both of us baffled. It had a long intro that sounded like any one of a million 80s metal songs. I had a vague clue of what the song might be, but I had to hear the lyrics to be sure.
The lyrics began, “One foot on the gas, one foot on the brake, hey!” It was clearly a driving song, so I just named the only 80s metal driving song I could think of: “I Can’t Drive 55” by Sammy Hagar.
Turns out I was right. Gary came up blank, admitting that 80s metal tunes were his weak spot.
I was now one ahead of Gary. In order for Gary to win, I would have to get two wrong.
The next three songs were:
“Doctor, Doctor” by the Thompson Twins
“Talking in Your Sleep” by the Romantics
“Your Love” by the Outfield
I knew all the songs, but I pretended to stumble on one of them just to make it interesting. I performed so well, Robin joked that they should change the name of the game to “Stump the Barry.”
After the fifth song, Howard announced that the game was over and I had won. Gary noted that he had lost because of a “gay Sammy Hagar song that wasn’t even a hit.” (For the record, the song was a Top 40 hit, reaching #26 on the Billboard Charts back in 1984.)
But we weren’t finished yet. Howard still wanted to see Jaimie nude. “I know you’re just burning to take off that towel,” he said.
He offered Jaimie $500 cash plus a free trip for two to Washington, DC to see a WWE wrestling match, and a chance to give a group hug to Howard, Artie and Fred if she would drop the towel.
“I guess it could be fun,” Jaimie said. She dropped the towel and stood there completely nude. As soon as the towel hit the floor, Fred Norris played a drop that he had prepared earlier: it was the voice of Dustin Hoffman saying, “Thank you, Barry!”
I instantly recognized the sound bite from Hoffman’s Academy Awards acceptance speech from 1989! I shot a look over to Fred, and gave him a nod, as if to say, “I know whose voice that is and where the clip is from, and it’s perfect!” Fred gave me a smile, happy to see that his hard work was appreciated.
“Look at those boobs!” Howard exclaimed. Gary chimed in, “I was wondering where the 135 pounds were on that frame, but now I see it. Those things weigh 20 pounds each!”
Jaimie did a trick where she made her boobs bounce up and down. “You really want men’s attention, don’t you?” Howard asked. “Yeah, I like men,” came the reply.
Artie Lange chimed in with a funny voice saying, “Look at those baby gorillas!”
Howard asked, “Do you want your group hug?” Jaimie politely declined. Howard said, “That’s okay, I understand. We are pretty gross.”
Howard asked if I was banging Jaimie, and I invoked Bill Clinton’s classic line, “I have not had sexual relations with that woman.” I added, “I would like to, but she has a boyfriend.”
And then, just like that, it was over. Jaimie put her towel back on. A photographer from the Stern staff took some pictures for their web site. Gary and I shook hands. Gary told me he had enjoyed busting my balls, and I agreed it was all in good fun.
I told Gary that if he wanted a rematch when the Stern show moved to satellite, I would be up for it.
After the show was over, Jaimie and I headed back to Florida. Our three-year odyssey had finally come to an end. Jaimie was positively giddy to have made her national radio debut. We were both happy to have won some money. Jaimie got the $500 from Howard, the $1,000 from me, and she even negotiated an extra $500 from me. Not bad for dropping a towel!
Jaimie never did get to take that free trip to D.C., because she had a family reunion that same weekend. Her whole family was happy for her that she got to be on the Stern show. But her mother did comment, “It would be nice if you got famous for doing something else!”
My experience with the Stern show demonstrates that if you work hard at something, and you truly believe in yourself, and you have enough of a stalker mentality, all your dreams will come true.
And you may even find Dustin Hoffman thanking you for getting a girl naked on the radio!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Me on Telemundo? Ay caramba!

Me on Telemundo? Ay Caramba!

By Barry Dutter

I’m not the first person you would expect to get picked to appear on a Spanish TV show, what with me being a gringo and all. I like to say that I speak Spanish about as well as a mildly retarded Spanish child.
I had two years of high school Spanish, and all I can remember how to say is “ticket window.” (It’s “la ventanilla,” in case you were wondering!)
But when I saw an ad on Craigs List looking for guys to be on a dating show on Telemundo, I figured I would apply for the job. Usually ads for Spanish TV specify that applicants must be fluent in Spanish. But this particular ad did not mention any specific language requirements.
I submitted my picture, along with a note saying I did not speak the language. Much to my surprise, I received a phone call from a casting director named Sergio.
I informed Sergio that my Spanish-speaking skills were pretty much non-existent. He asked if I would be able to memorize a couple of lines to say in Spanish and say them on-camera. I assured him that I could. I figured, how hard could it be? I assumed they would be fairly easy expressions like “Let’s go to the beach,” or “Where is the supermarket?” -- stuff that they teach you in first-year Spanish class.
Sergio asked me if I had any special talents I could perform for the girl on stage. I lied and told him I could dance. That was total B.S., I am the worst dancer ever, but it was the first thing that popped into my head.
Sergio assured me that the show would be rigged so that I would be voted off in the first round, so that I wouldn't have to do any actual dancing stage. It sounded like easy money -- show up for the first round, get voted off, and collect a quick 100 bucks.
The day of the shoot came and I was waiting for my call. Time was ticking away, so I assumed they had decided to go with an actual Spanish-speaking guy instead of me. I mean, L.A. is so close to Mexico, how hard can it be to find a guy who speaks Spanish?
Apparently it is harder than you might think. At 1:00 in the afternoon, I received a text from Sergio asking if I could be there at three. Fortunately I was free that day so I said yes. He sent another text asking if I knew any hot Latinas who spoke Spanish. I texted back that I did not. (Back in my old Florida days, I knew quite a few, but I hadn’t been in Cali long enough to make meet too many senoritas.)
Two hours later I showed up at the studio, where I found that most of the crew there spoke both English and Spanish (which makes sense, considering the studio was in L.A.)
The show was called 12 Corazones, which means “12 Hearts” in English. The premise was that a young couple that is having relationship problems must face temptation from ten singles (five girls and five guys) that try to break up the couple.
I was to be one of the five guys trying to tempt some lovely Latina from away from her boyfriend, or “noveo.” We had some time to kill before they started shooting, so I sat in the green room with the other four “temptation” guys. Every now and then we would see one of the girls walk by on the way to the girls dressing room and they all looked sexy, for the most part.
Each of us was given a few corny lines of dialogue to say. We were supposed to memorize the lines and speak them to the object of our desire onstage. Sergio handed me a slip of paper with my lines on it.
He told me these were the easiest lines they could give me. Once again, I assured him this was no problem, I could easily memorize them.
Then I looked at the piece of paper. It was a bunch of words I had never seen before. The speech went like this:
"Quisiera ser un rayo de luz y entrar en tu mirada. Llegar a tu bella corazon y dejarte enamorada." Translated into English, it means,
"I want to be a light ray and to enter your glance. To arrive at your beautiful heart and leave your love." (It doesn't make sense in any language!)
I was told to deliver the lines as if I really meant them. (The other four guys in the room were given equally corny lines and instructed to deliver them in an equally corny manner.)
I figured I would do it in a cheesy, Ricardo Montalban-type of delivery. The question was, would I be able to remember all those strange words? It really looked like gibberish to me. It was as if my lines were written in Klingon!
I started trying to memorize my lines, and I could tell this was going to be a tough one. I wished I had a few more hours to work on my four stupid lines. But I didn't have any more time. It was showtime!
All of the contestants were led from our dressing rooms into a studio where there awaited a small audience of about 50 people. The five male contestants were told to stand on one side of the stage, the five girls, on the other.
We met the young “couple” that was having “problems” with their “relationship.” In reality, they were actors who had just met that day. I’ll call them “Carlos” and “Carmen.”
Me and the other “temptations” -- male and female -- were led backstage. It was time to start the show and make our big entrance. For the most part, we were given instructions in English, so I was able to follow everything that was going on. Since the actual show would be taped in Spanish, I was told by the director to laugh when everybody else laughed and to clap when everybody else clapped.
The show began. The host was a busty brunette named Penelope. I’m told she is quite popular in the world of Spanish TV. Penelope explained that Carlos & Carmen were about to come face-to-face with temptation.
Me and the other four guys were brought out first. We were told to strut out onto the stage with lots of attitude. We walked to the center of the stage and formed a circle. We stood on a disc which spun us around so Carmen could get a better look. The disc stopped spinning and we walked to our assigned chairs at the side of the stage.
Next came the girls, strutting on stage in high-heeled shoes, and posing seductively on the spinning disc. The five girls were then seated in a row of chairs alongside the five guys.
Each of the five guys was supposed to deliver his lines about how he is so enamored with Carmen that he wants to take her away from her man.
The first two guys went, speaking their lines in fluent Spanish. Then it was my turn.
I stood up and approached Carmen. I handed her the pink rose that I had been given. I kissed her hand, and then, in the spirit of Gomez Adams, I continued kissing all the way up her arm until I reached her shoulder.
Then it was time for me to speak my lines. I spoke very slowly, as if I was trying to be romantic, but really I was struggling to remember every word.
I got off the first 2 lines okay -- the part about me wanting to be a ray of light and enter her glance. Then it came to time to say the third line, and… I blanked. I totally, completely, 100% forgot the next line.
I have a bad enough memory when it comes to memorizing English. But Spanish? Forget about it.
Now I was in a pickle. I didn’t want them to have to stop the tape and reshoot anything. I really think they gave me too many lines anyway. I thought two lines was plenty. I didn’t need four.
But I had to say something. So I dropped to one knee, looked up at Carmen and said, “Que bonita muchacha!”
That was all I could think of. And it was enough. The hostess as amused by my “passion.” The audience ate it up. They all thought I was so smitten with this girl, I couldn’t even speak. No one suspected that I had flunked out of Spanish class twice.
The director did not yell cut and they did not ask for a reshoot, so I guess I had covered up for my flub okay.
I heard the hostess say a bunch of words in Spanish, and the only one I understood was “bailar,” which I remember from my high school Spanish class means “dance.” I realized what was happening -- the hostess was asking me to dance for Carmen! Ut oh! I forgot that I had told Sergio that my talent was dancing! I didn’t think they would call my bluff!
As uncomfortable as I am dancing in public, I actually didn’t mind doing it on that stage that day, because at least it meant that I didn’t have to talk any more.
I have my own version of the salsa that I do. It involves putting one hand on my stomach, as if I have a tummy ache, and waving the other hand in the air in a circular motion, as if I’m washing windows. I call this dance, “I have a stomach ache and I’m washing windows.”
This is as close as I will ever come to doing a real Spanish dance.
The music began and I started my so-called salsa. I quickly decided I needed to involve Carmen more. I needed to make it more about her than about me.
So I shimmied over to her, spun around, and started shaking my ass in her face. Then I danced around to her left side and started dry-humping the arm of her chair. Since this was a raunchy dating show, this seemed appropriate.
The audience was laughing, and I had the hostess cracking up, too, as she gave a play-by-play commentary in Spanish. I don’t know what she said, but I imagine it was something along the lines of, “Look at that horny gringo with the spastic dance moves!”
My dance was done so I returned to my seat. After all five guys made their pitch to Carmen, then it was time for the five girls to have their chance to tempt Carlos.
For the first part of the show, all the girls were wearing pretty party dresses. But when it came time for them to try to seduce Carlos, it was time to kick it up a notch. The show took a fifteen minute break as the girls headed back to their dressing room, where they were told to put on super-slutty stripper-type outfits.
One girl was dressed as nurse, in a skin-tight outfit about three sizes too small. Another was a jungle girl. Another wore a khaki bikini top and mini-skirt. None of the girls were happy about the costume change.
Apparently there is a stereotype on Spanish TV that pretty girls do nothing more than jump around in bikinis and shake their booties.
These girls were determined not to conform to that stereotype. The producers claimed that all the girls had been told up front that they would be required to wear bikinis during the show, but all five girls denied that they had ever been told this.
The girls fumed and protested, but I guess they all needed the $100 pretty bad, because every one of them put on the slutty outfits, and the show went on as scheduled.
The girls had all been coached to shout out how much they loved sex in different positions, but they all refused to do that. They were willing to wear the slutty outfits, but hey had to draw the line somewhere.
It is interesting to note how badly women are treated on Spanish TV, even on channels that are based in America. As far as Telemundo is concerned, women are nothing but sex objects. Me and the other male contestants were treated much better, overall.
We didn’t have to dress like whores, we were not encouraged to shout out our favorite sex positions, and not one of us had to ride a stripper pole.
Act Two began with each girl wearing a leather trench coat over her costume. One by one, the girls strutted before Carlos, and stripped off their trench coats. One of the girls told me later she was stressing because she had a tattoo that her parents had never seen, which was why she was so adamant about not wearing a bikini on TV. Her solution was to take off the leather jacket, and then drape it over her shoulder, so that her tattoo would never be seen.
One by one, the girls had to dance for Carlos. A stripper pole was lowered down from the ceiling. A pretty brunette did her best stripper dance. Another girl told me she had negotiated an extra $50.00 for herself if she would kiss Carlos. She went out on stage, danced with Carlos, but the kiss never came, so I’m not sure if she ever got her extra $50.00.
After all the girls had finished dancing, it was time for the first round of eliminations for both girls and guys. I was sure I would be one of the first to go. Carmen was instructed to eliminate two of the guys. Much to my surprise, she did not kick me to the curb. She explained to the host that she wanted to keep me around because of the way I danced. Seeing as how I danced like a one-legged monkey, I don’t know why she chose to keep me around, other than as comic relief.
Now I was in a bit of a pickle. If Carmen called on me to answer any questions, I would not understand a single word she said. I had to wonder what the producers were thinking. If worst came to worst, I figured I could just shout out, “No habla espanol!” and run off the stage. Fortunately it did not come to that.
But my elimination would have to wait. Now it was Carlos’ turn to eliminate two girls. The girl who performed the pole dance told me she had secretly asked Carlos to eliminate her first, since at that point, she just wanted to get paid and go home. Carlos apologized, telling her it was not his choice to make. The producers had already picked the pole dancer as one of the finalists. It should come as no surprise to anyone who has ever watched a reality dating show that the two girls who were eliminated were the least attractive ones in the group.
The show took another break and an A.D. came over and gave me some instructions. She told me that after the break, Carmen was going to ask me three questions. I was to answer “yes” to each one (in Spanish, of course.) After the third question, I was going to be eliminated.
I had no idea what the questions were. I wondered if they were going to play me for a fool. They could have asked me anything: “Do you like to dress in woman’s clothes? Do you eat your own boogers? Do you like boys?” And I would have cluelessly answered “si” to each one.
At that point, there was nothing I could do but play along and hope for the best. After the break, Carlos had some interaction with the other two male contestants. They shouted taunts at Carlos, and he fired back. I was completely left out of the taunting section of the show. With my “Year One” Spanish skills, there wasn’t much I could taunt Carlos with, other than to say he looked like a supermarket or a kitchen.
I considered going off-script and saying something in English, but that would have shattered the illusion the producers had worked so hard to create. Not wanting to cause any trouble, I decided to follow the instructions I had been given.
After briefly quizzing my competitors, Carmen came to me. She asked me three questions and I answered “si” to each one. Carmen turned to the hostess and said she was eliminating me from the competition. The hostess bade me farewell. As I exited the stage, I blew a kiss to Carmen and said, “Ciao, bella” -- which I know is Italian, but whatever.
As soon as I moved offstage, I ran over to the first Latina I saw and asked her what were those three questions I had just answered. I was told the questions were: 1) Do you drink? 2) Do you smoke? And 3) Do you have kids?
Carmen had explained that she didn’t want to date a guy who had children, and that was her reason why I was let go (combined with me apparently being a chain-smoking alcoholic!) I thought the writers of the show had handled my exit very well. They had been faced with an awkward situation and dealt with it in a manner that allowed me to walk away with my dignity intact. (Or what little dignity I had left after giving a girl a public lap dance!)
I saw a table in the back area where a nice lady was dispensing cash to the departing contestants. I walked over, signed a release form, and she handled me ten ten dollar bills that had been stapled together. I had never been paid in tens before.
At this point, the show was almost over. I decided to stick around and see how it all turned out. Even though I couldn’t understand a word that was being spoken, I had seen enough reality TV to be able to follow along. Carmen and Carlos narrowed down their choices to one final girl and guy. Carmen was asked if she wanted to ditch her guy and go for a new man instead. She thought about and decided she would stick with her fake TV boyfriend.
Then it was Carlos’ turn. He was asked if he wanted to say goodbye to Carmen and hello to the sexy senorita standing before him. He pondered it for a moment, then decided he would stick with Carmen.
A happy ending! Carmen and Carlos gave each other a big kiss for the cameras. I wondered if Carmen was getting an extra $50.00 for kissing Carlos. In all likelihood, they would never see each other again after this day.
The crew took a dinner break. As I was leaving, I walked past the green room and saw another group of five girls and five guys that was being prepped for another episode that was shooting later that night.
My experience on Telemundo was a bizarre one that I would not want to repeat. It is an odd feeling, being a participant in a show where you don’t understand a single word that is being said.
A few days later, I saw another ad on Craigs List for contestants for 12 Corazones. This time, the ad was specific.
It said, “Must speak Spanish.”