Tuesday, December 28, 2010
I Have Too Much Baggage -- even for Jerry Springer!
You've got baggage. I've got baggage. We've all got baggage.
But would you be willing to go on national television and spill the beans about all your biggest flaws? In 2010, a new game show was launched based on that very premise. The show was called BAGGAGE, and it dared to ask the question: how much baggage are you willing to put up with in a romantic partner?
The show was hosted by that ringmaster of sleaze himself, Jerry Springer, who was the perfect choice for the job. The premise of BAGGAGE was that a single man or woman would have to choose between three people of the opposite sex for a date. In the first round, each of the three possible companions would have to reveal a small bit of “baggage” about themselves -- i.e., something that would send up a red flag and possibly make someone not want to date them.
In the second round, each contestant would have to reveal a slightly bigger piece of baggage. And in the third round, the potential daters would have to reveal their biggest baggage yet.
During the course of the game, contestants would be eliminated until there was only one potential dater left. Then, the tables would turn, and the person who was originally doing the choosing would have to reveal their baggage, and the person they chose would then get to decide if they wanted to keep or dump the chooser. If the chooser and the contestant both liked each other, they would get to go on a date together.
If they didn’t like each other, they would go their separate ways.
It was all in good fun, and I don’t think the contestants ever actually went on a date together. This show was not about the actual date. It was about what you’re willing to put up with in a partner.
Sometimes the show featured one woman choosing between three men. Sometimes it was one man choosing between three women. I think they may have even done a gay episode.
Everyone who appeared on the show got paid $500 just for showing up, which made this one of the highest-paying acting jobs I ever had. That may not sound like a huge sum of money, but it’s not like we were exactly working very hard for it!
The contestants came up with some pretty bizarre baggage -- things like body odor, excessive sweating, and living with their moms -- so Jerry surely felt right at home among all the oddballs and misfits.
Each potential contestant for BAGGAGE was given a lengthy questionnaire that asked you what were the three worst things about you. I decided that my three biggest pieces of baggage were as follows: 1) I am 45 years old and have never been married. 2) I have a collection of over 30,000 comic books. (This used to be true, though I sold them off years ago.) And 3) I have a ghost that follows me around and haunts me. (Not true, but I used to live in an apartment where a girl had died, and I did hear some creaking in the walls once...)
I made up that last one, but I thought it sounded funny and would play well on TV. The questionnaire had dozens more questions, essentially asking the same thing over and over again: What are some more reasons someone would not want to date you? What about you would raise a red flag in a potential dating partner? What are some of your worst habits? Etc.
Essentially, they were repeating the question because they figured some respondents might not give their best answers to the question the first time. They figured that if people have things about themselves that they are embarrassed by, they might be hesitant to disclose that information right off the bat. But with repeated questioning, the thinking seemed to be that the average Joe would crack under pressure and spill his guts about his deepest, personal shame, like picking his nose or bed-wetting or whatever.
I was pretty happy with my three initial answers than I had given, but I tried my best to give them more, in case they wanted to pick something else. I wrote that I lived at my sister’s house, which is another huge red flag for potential daters. Girls are instantly suspicious of any guy who does not have his own place.
I think a lot of guys on the show were saying that they lived with their mom’s, so in retrospect, maybe a guy living with his sister wasn’t so bad.
The questionnaire also asked each contestant to name the three best things about themselves. That is a hard question to answer and be clever at the same time. We all want to say we are smart, funny, witty, charming, good-looking, etc etc, but how to boil it down to the top three?
For my top three I wrote, 1) I’m funny, 2) I’m a very handsome man, and 3) I’m not that good in bed, but I try really hard!
I thought that was a funny line, and it didn’t seem like any of the non-baggage stuff about was ever going to get used on the show. Mostly I wrote it as something to amuse the casting person who was reading my questionnaire.
I guess it must have worked, because a few weeks later, I was picked to be on the show. My episode would involve a pretty girl choosing between me and two other guys.
Problem was, one of the other contestants was also named “Barry.” The producers asked if I would mind using a different name on the show. I had no problem with that. I figured, if I’m going to go on TV and make a fool of myself, at least I could do it under a fake name.
I offered to go by my middle name -- Vinnie -- and the producers were cool with that. Vinnie was actually supposed to have been my birth name until my Italian mom had a last-minute change of heart, so calling myself “Vinnie” really wasn’t that much of a fabrication.
Before the show began, I met the other Barry, and the third contestant, a man named Rick. Most of the contestants on BAGGAGE were over 35, so this was a perfect show for a guy in my age group. The casting dept. tried to steer away from having people under 35 on the show, because the thinking was that guys over 35 have had way more time to accumulate more baggage. (They were right about that!)
Me and the other two contestants were each given three suitcases of different sizes. The bottom suitcase was a large one with wheels and a handle. The other two suitcases -- a medium sized one and a small one -- rested atop the large one. Each suitcase had a card inside revealing a piece of “baggage” about us.
Each of the contestants met with a producer who discussed what their baggage would be on the show. I was told the producers had chosen as my baggage these three things: 1) Collection of 30,000 comic books; 2) 45 and never married; and 3) Haunted by a ghost.
I was really glad they had gone for the ghost one, because I thought it was unique. I mean, one of the other two contestant on the show said his baggage was that he slept with Anna Nicole Smith. I figured my ghost story was way better than that!
Me and my two competitors were given instructions on how to wheel out suitcases into the stage, and how to open our bags. (Of course, I was an old hand at opening suitcases on TV, what with all my experience on DEAL OR NO DEAL) Then we were briefed as to what our final baggage would be on the show. In my case, I was told they were doing a last-minute substitution. They had eliminated the one about me being haunted by a ghost -- and replaced it with one about me being really bad in bed.
Whaaaaaaaat?!! I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I had never listed that as part of my baggage. I had only written that as a joke when describing my positive traits! I never in a million years would have agreed to be on a show saying I was bad in bed!
But there was no turning back now. All of our personal information had already been written down on cards and inserted into our suitcases. Like it or not, I was going on TV and saying I was a lame lover.
The only consolation for me was that I had already agreed to use a fake name. I could justify my appearance on the show by telling myself, "I’m not saying that Barry is bad in bad. I’m saying that my character, 'Vinnie' is bad in bad."
Yes, I was being sandbagged once again on national television, but this time, at least, I was being better-paid for it. I felt that for $500, I felt it was worth the humiliation.
Finally it was time for the show to start. Me and the other two guys took our places backstage. Jerry Springer came out and introduced the girl who would be doing the choosing: a pretty 35-year-old redhead named Jennifer.
In the first round, me and the other two contestants opened our small suitcases. My small baggage was the huge comic book collection. The second guy said he once slept with Anna Nicole Smith. And the third guy said he didn't own a car.
Jennifer gave her initial impression about each guy, based on their small baggage. In my case, she said,” He might have a case of Peter Pan Syndrome.” (Considering she had never met me before, I thought she was pretty accurate!) For the guy with bad breath, she said he could just take some breath mints. The one she said she was most worried about was the guy who slept with Anna Nicole Smith.
I thought it was kind of funny that something so frivolous as sleeping with a celebrity would be considered baggage. I mean, it’s not like Anna Nicole Smith was known as the biggest slut who ever lived. I guess it threw up a red flag because of the fact that she died of a drug overdose.
Jerry Springer did a brief chat with me and the other two guys where we got to introduce ourselves.
Then it came time for round two. The show stopped taping as the producers filled us in on what would happen next. I was told that my “medium baggage” would be the one about me being “Bad in Bed.“ I couldn’t believe they were going with that as my medium. I mean, what woman in the world is going to pick a guy who says he’s terrible in the sack? Couldn’t they at least have saved that one for my “Large” baggage in round three? Ah well. I was getting paid the same whether I won or lost the game, so all that was left to do was to keep on playing .
At the start of round two, me and the other two contestants all walked away from our cases and sat down on a couch. This time, Jennifer was told what each man’s “Medium” baggage was, but, in a twist, she wasn’t told which baggage went with which contestant.
As soon as she heard the three pieces of Medium Baggage, Jennifer’s mind was made up. She knew she could never be with a guy who is bad in bed. Whoever that person was, he had to go.
She told Jerry, “Sex is very important to me, and I don’t want to have to teach anyone how to do it.”
Jerry Springer instructed each of the three contestants to walk to the “Medium” suitcase that belonged to them. Me and the other two guys walked over, each of us pretending to go for different cases, in the tradition of the old “To Tell The Truth” technique of faking out the audience.
Finally we each ended up standing behind our proper suitcase. Jennifer apologized and sent me packing. I took my suitcase and headed backstage to watch the rest of the show.
In the final round, Jennifer was asked to choose between the remaining two contestants, each of whom had a ridiculous amount of baggage. One of them had no job, and the other had no car. In L.A.!
She chose Rick, the guy with no car. At that point, the tables were turned, and Rick got to hear what Jennifer’s baggage was. She said, “I love my cats more than any guy I will ever go out with.”
At that point, Rick was given a chance to choose to go on a date with Jennifer or to reject her, based on her baggage. Rick chose to reject her, saying, “She sounds crazy to me!”
I thought it was hilarious that Jennifer was getting rejected by a guy with no car and bad breath.
The funny thing about this show was that the couples on BAGGAGE didn’t actually have to go on any real dates, they just had to agree to go. So there was no real reason for Rick to reject Jennifer. He had nothing to gain by doing so.
But it made for great TV!
After the show was over, I got to talk to Jerry Springer for a few minutes. He seemed like a nice guy and he genuinely felt bad about the way I got booted off the show. I was about to get my picture taken with Jerry when a production assistant suddenly ran over to me and said, "We need you backstage for your Exit Interview now!"
I was brought backstage where a cameraman filmed my parting comments while the P.A. asked me questions. I was asked to say a few words about how Jennifer really blew it by not picking me. The PA suggested I say something like, "I may not be any good in bed, but practice makes perfect!"
I refused to say "practice makes perfect" because to me, that sounded too much like I would be masturbating. I mean, what other way is there to practice sex?
Instead, I said, "I may not be great in bed, but I can always get better."
It wasn't exactly what the PA was looking for, but it was the best I was willing to give her.
After my Exit Interview was over, I had the chance to talk to Jennifer for a few minutes, and we had a big laugh about the whole thing. She said she felt bad for rejecting me because I was bad in bed. I told not to worry about it, it was all a show for TV.
I like to think if Jennifer and I had met in real life, she would have had a chance to see that I’m really not that horrible in bed. If she really took the time to know me, she would have had a chance to find out about my REAL baggage.
Like my obsession with appearing on TV game shows…!