I SET SAIL ON A REAL-LIFE LOVE BOAT -- AND ALMOST BECOME A REALITY SHOW VILLAIN!
Regular readers of this blog are familiar with my lifelong dream to get cast on a reality show where I get paid to hang out for a few days (or weeks) in a huge mansion with lots of hot chicks.
In October, 2011, I had the chance to live out a version of this dream when I was cast on a new series for Lifetime called LOVE FOR SAIL.
The premise of the show was that four girls and six guys go on a cruise together in an attempt to find love.
I first heard about the show the same way I hear about all my gigs: through an ad on Craigs List. The ad mentioned that the show was looking for men and women in their 30s and 40s to go on a TV cruise. This seemed perfect for me. I mean, you don’t generally see 47-year-old guys like me on a TV dating show, so I figured when a chance like this comes along, you jump on it.
I auditioned at a casting agency in a fancy high-rise in L.A. While I was in the reception area, a stunning blonde came in and sat down next to me. Normally in this situation, I try to strike up a conversation with the hottie sitting across from me.
But this girl never stopped texting long enough for me to talk to her.
I was called in to the casting office and asked to talk a little about myself. I mentioned that I had written a book on dating. The casting people loved that. When you are casting a dating show, you are always looking for a hook. Having a so-called dating “expert” on your dating show is usually too good of a lure for most casting agents to resist.
I may not have made a ton of money off my dating book, but I have to say that book has opened more doors for me than just about anything else I’ve ever done in my life.
The casting ladies seemed to like my sense of humor. I was asked if I believed in "love at first sight." I replied, "Well, there is this blonde in the lobby that I think I just fell in love with!"
At the conclusion of the audition, I was asked to take my shirt off. (They don’t let you on a dating cruise show without seeing how you look in a swimsuit.)
At the time, I had been eating a lot of pizza and pasta, so I had a few extra pounds on me.
I apologized for my gut, and promised I would hit the gym before the show started filming.
A few days later I got the call saying that I had been booked on the show. My ship would set sail in about a week.
For the next seven days, I hit the gym extra hard and went on an all-salad diet. One of the producers later noted how much better I looked from the audition till the show, so I felt my efforts had been worth it.
Based on the fact that the guys on the love cruise would outnumber the girls, I knew there was a chance I might not find romance on the ship. But even if I didn’t make a love connection, I would still get a free cruise.I hadn’t had a real vacation in years, so I probably would have done this show for free if they had asked me to. Fortunately, they didn’t ask me to. In fact, they offered to pay me $500 plus a per diem.
My initial impression was that all the contestants on the show would be in the 30 to 50 age group, which I was happy about. I didn’t want to be competing against a bunch of muscle-bound twenty-something dudes who walk around calling everybody “bro.”
The first person I met was a male nurse from New Orleans named Guy.
Next I met Eric, a very tall boxer from L.A. who also an aspiring actor and had a side business working as a male stripper for bachelorette parties.
Guy, Eric and myself were taken by shuttle to a hotel in Miami. It was a rainy Saturday night in South Beach. Guy had never partied in South Beach before, and he was very excited about the prospect of hitting some of those famous South Beach clubs.
I had to break the bad news to him that no one goes out in Miami when it rains.
The next morning, I met up with Guy and Eric in the lobby, along with the other three members of our group: Dave, a bodybuilder and motivational speaker; Seth, an up-and-coming magician from Las Vegas; and Jay, another male nurse and voice actor.
The five guys that I was “competing” against turned out to be a likable bunch. We all had a lot in common. Most of us were in showbiz, in some capacity or another. Only one of the participants, Guy, had never been on TV before.
As we boarded the ship, the filming began. Each of the six male contestants was greeted by the ship's cruise directors, a sexy Carmen Elektra lookalike named Carmen and a buff Australian dude named Bucko. Dave the bodybuilder and Bucko hit it off so well, many jokes were flying about their "bromance" being the most solid relationship to form on the trip.
As the cruise began, the male contestants were kept separate from the females. We were not even allowed to see any of them before we set sail. The males were booked two to a cabin. The girls got to occupy a three-bedroom suite at the top of the ship, with a big sundeck and their own private hot tub.
The guys on the show had a very different experience than the girls. When we weren’t being filmed for the show (which was most of the time,) we were free to roam around, swim in the pool, eat as much as we wanted, hit the casino, and mingle with some of the 2,000 other passengers onboard.
The girls were sequestered for the majority of the trip. They were basically on lock-down the whole time. The producers were very protective of them. It was almost as if they were prisoners in their suite, in a way.
Even though I don’t enjoy sleeping in cramped little ship cabins, I have to say the guys probably had a better time overall than the girls, because we had so much freedom. We were essentially taking a free cruise, while the girls were basically prisoners on a TV show.
The premise of the show was that each girl would pick one guy per day to go on a date with over the three days. This meant that each day, four of the guys would get picked and two would not. The two guys who didn’t get picked on any given day were basically free to do whatever they wanted that day.
I wound up being a lot older than most of the girls on the show, and I didn’t get picked for a lot of dates. This meant that I really didn’t have to work very much.
That was fine with me. I’ve been on a lot of TV shows where I actually had to work the whole time. Here was a chance to be on a show where I could do nothing but play!
Guy turned out to be something of a rebel. Whenever the producers would tell us, “You guys have to sit in the lounge and wait there till you’re needed,“ Guy would always want to go off and explore the ship. One time when we were supposed to be on standby, Guy suggested that we run off to the casino.
Usually when I work on a show, I like to make myself as available as possible to the producers. But this show was a 24-hour a day commitment, and we had a lot of down-time -- much more than the producers thought we would have. Oftentimes they would ask us to stay put for hours on end when it turned out they didn’t really need us.
So I was willing to tag along with Guy and hit the casino. The producers started to get a little mad at the male contestants for constantly wandering off, mostly because it was a big ship and they had no way of tracking us down.
As the cruise went on, they gradually gave us more freedom and tried to be a little more accurate about when they would actually need us for the show.
Shortly after boarding the ship, we found out that LOVE FOR SAIL would be airing on the Lifetime Network.Since we were going to be on “the network for women,” I decided I would present myself as a sincere guy who was genuinely looking to find love. I wanted the women who watched the show at home to think of me as a "good catch."
I didn't really expect to find love on a three-day cruise, but I figured I could play “sensitive” for the cameras and come out looking like a hero to the legions of Lifetime viewers.
On the first night of the cruise, there was a “mixer” where we got to meet the girls. There were two cute blondes, an older brunette from the East Coast, and a half-black, half-white girl with a big bushy head of curly hair.
Our initial encounter with the girls lasted only about twenty minutes. The four girls were waiting in a bar, where the guys entered one by one, and tried to engage them all in conversations. Because the girls outnumbered the guys, I would occasionally find myself in a situation where I wasn’t talking to anyone. I quickly forced my way into other people’s conversations. I couldn’t stand the thought of being on national TV, with my friends and family watching me, and them saying, “You’re on a dating show and you’re not talking to any girls!”
That pretty much told me all I needed to know -- I would not be getting any dates from Danielle. (In fact, only two of the guys in our group were taller than Danielle.)
The other blonde girl on the show, Jen, was pint-sized, and I prefer not to date girls that are short, so even though she was cute, she was not a girl I would typically go for.
I hit it off best with was Rachel, the dark-haired girl from the East Coast. I think Rachel was Jewish, which as significant because I have always gotten along well with East Coast Jewish girls.
The way the show was set up, the girls would be doing all the choosing; the guys had no say about who they would be going out with. I figured Rachel would choose me, just because we had that East Coast connection. That seemed like a no-brainer. But she was not my preferred choice, because I’ve dated plenty of dark-haired Jewish girls from the East Coast, but I haven’t dated a lot of tall, athletic blondes like Danielle.
After the mixer, the girls left the bar, and the guys were asked what we thought about them. This was the funniest part of the whole cruise, because in a group of six guys, not one of us could remember the names of any of the girls we had just spent the past 20 minutes talking to!
I’m really bad with names, but I didn’t think the other five guys would be, too. The producers were trying to get us to talk about the girls, but all we could do was refer to them as “the tall blonde,” “the short blonde,” etc.
Finally someone from the production crew came in and gave us their names, which made it a lot easier!
From there, we were led into a private dining room in a restaurant where the ten of us would share our first meal. The tall blonde, Danielle, was on my left, and the East Coast brunette, Rachel, was on my right.
I figured I would try to talk to both of them equally. It seemed like Rachel and I were destined to be dating on the show, but I still wasn’t giving up on the California blonde just yet.
During the course of the meal, Danielle told me she loved playing outdoor sports like tennis and golf. She asked if I played anything like that, and I had to truthfully answer “no.”
I love biking and hiking, but I don’t participate in any competitive outdoor sports.
Over on my right, Rachel seemed to be really hitting it off with Seth, the Vegas magician. This left me out in the cold. Danielle and I didn’t seem to have much in common, and Rachel was locked into a conversation with Seth, so I was kind of floundering.
At this point, the producers started to get bored with everyone in our group. They tried to direct us to have more fun, to be more spontaneous, to act like we’re trying to actually hook up, instead of just having boring conversations.
My cabin-mate, Eric, suggested that we go around the room, with each one of us saying a few words about themselves.
Jen revealed that she had gotten out of a long-term relationship a year ago, and hadn’t been on a date in six months.
This had me and the other guys at the table scratching our heads. Why would a girl who hasn’t dated in six months go on a reality dating show?
She clearly wasn’t looking to date anyone.
We later found out that Amy, the mixed race girl had been a victim of rape, and had issues with trusting men. Again, we had to wonder why she had been cast on this show.
Had none of this come up during her audition? I had to wonder if all the girls came across as fun-loving floozies during their auditions, because all of them seemed like they really weren’t open to finding a partner. Did the girls bluff their way through their auditions just to get a free cruise?
All four girls seemed very sincere, maybe a little cautious, a little mellow -- in short, the exact opposite of what you want on a reality TV show.
When you cast a reality dating show, you want drama queens. You want horny girls who want to fool around with different guys. You want girls who are willing to sleep with a lot of guys and get in cat-fights with lots of girls.
The girls on this show were nothing like that. They were nice, sweet, normal girls. These girls were not looking to “hook up” with any guys. They weren’t looking to get in cat fights with each other. They weren’t even looking to make out with any guys (or girls, for that matter).
Usually on a reality show, you expect to see at least one raging drunk -- male or female -- who gets out of control, but there was nothing like that here.
Because of the lack of trouble-makers that had been cast, the producers started thinking of ways they could create some drama for the show. The easiest way for them to do this was to try to get the members of the cast to turn against each other.
They figured out an easy angle -- take the guys who didn’t get picked for dates on any given day and ask them to trash-talk the girls. The guys were more than willing to do so.
On the first day, I was picked for a date with Amy. The guys who didn’t get picked that day were Eric the Boxer, and the bodybuilding motivational speaker, Dave. Eric had lots of issues with L.A. girls being so shallow and money-hungry. He kept going on about L.A. girls so much that the producers had to keep reminding him that this show would be airing across the whole country, and that people in Des Moines didn’t want to keep hearing about how shallow L.A. girls were.
Dave the bodybuilder figured that the girls were just judging him based on his muscles, and weren’t taking the time to really get to know him as a person.
I think it’s safe to say that everybody on the show, myself included, came with their own particular set of baggage. (In my case, I have always had bad luck with blondes, and that streak would certainly continue on this show!)
One contestant, Jay, said he was looking forward to the competition, but he felt he had no chance of winning. I asked him why. He said it was because he was Latino, and minorities traditionally do not fare well on TV dating shows. (All the winners on all editions of THE BACHELOR and THE BACHELORETTE have been white.) I thought Jay was wrong about this show. I figured a minority had just as good a chance of winning as anybody else.
For our first full day of the cruise, my fellow contestants and myself were scheduled to go ashore for dates on a private island owned by the cruise company. But the weather was bad, so our excursion was canceled. Instead, all the dates were held aboard the ship. (The contestants on the show were forbidden from referring to the vessel as a “boat.”)
So I tried having fun with it -- bowling backwards, with my eyes closed, etc. Bowling on a cruise ship is actually much harder than bowling on dry land, as the ship is constantly rocking back and forth. I did manage to nail one strike, though. Boo-ya!
At one point, the producers suggested we make a friendly wager over who would bowl the best frame. Amy asked, “But what are we betting?” I replied, “The loser has to give the winner a kiss.” I figured that was exactly what the producers were looking for -- not necessarily a big sex scene, but at the very least, a small smooch.
But Amy was not about to kiss a guy on the first date on national TV. So we wagered a drink instead. (Not a real wager, by the way -- the show picked up our drink tab.)
After our three-frame game was over, Amy and I were told to walk along the deck off the ship, with cameras following our every move.
The whole date lasted about an hour. Over all, we both had a good time, and I was pretty sure Amy would pick me for another date, though I still had my sights set on Danielle.
The next day was another day at sea. I didn’t get picked for any dates on day two. I had to talk to the cameras for about five minutes about how I felt being left out. (This was where I got my first real taste of the producers trying to coax me to saying bad things about the girls, but I was not looking to play their game. Not yet anyway!)
Other than that few minutes of camera time, I basically had the whole day free.
I went and hit the casino for a while, but I kept winning and losing the same money. I was never really ahead or behind. After a while, it seemed kind of pointless so I moved on.
The producers began to feel sorry for the guys who were not scheduled for any dates, so they scheduled a massage for me and the other dateless guy, Jay the male nurse. Getting a free massage while everybody else was working was awesome. I have to say, that on this show, the people who didn’t get picked for dates often had more fun than the people who did!
That night, all of the guys were invited up to a party in the girls’ suite. It was here that I became aware of just how hard the producers work to try to manipulate the people on the show, to try to create interesting situations, and above all, create good TV.
At one point, the six guys and the four girls were all sitting around in the suite’s living room. We were going around the room, with each one of us taking a turn to show off our unique talent. One of the girls could make her eyes go all googly. One of the guys did a duck call. I can make a noise like a train whistle with my hands.
The producers were watching all of this on their monitors and getting bored out of their minds.
One of the producers came out and yelled at us. “Come on, you guys,” he railed. “This is like a fourth grade milk and cookie party. You should, be talking about sex. You should be discussing your favorite positions, and the craziest places you’ve ever had sex. This is supposed to be a dating cruise. You should be getting wild. Try to have fun.”
We didn’t think we were being boring. We thought we were just having normal conversation, considering that none of the girls were interested in hooking up with any of the guys. The producers started suggesting that we spread out, break up into smaller groups. They were clinging to the idea that if our interactions were more intimate, there would be the greater possibility of some romance happening, or at the very least, a random hook-up.
The two blonde girls mostly ignored me all night. They really had nothing to say to me. Any attempts on my part to initiate conversation with them went nowhere.
They seemed to have picked the two guys they liked, and they hung with them all night. Danielle and Jay the male nurse were sitting on the edge of the hot tub, dangling their feet in the water. Jen was chatting with Guy. The East Coast girl, Rachel, was spending lot of time with the magician, Seth. Eric the boxer, who is black, was told by the producers to engage the mixed-race girl, Amy, in the living room.
I noticed that the bodybuilder guy, Dave, was also sitting alone out on the deck. He had no one to talk to either. I knew that the producers were desperate for someone, anyone, to strip down and jump into the hot tub. I was determined that it not be me.
I tried to convince Dave to be the one to get the ball rolling. I figured as a bodybuilder, he would be the most comfortable jumping into the hot tub in his underwear. Dave was resistant to the idea. He figured it was too predictable for the bodybuilder to be the first one in.
But he and I both realized this party (and thus, this show) was pretty boring, and somebody had to do something to liven it up.
Dave finally decided to take one for the team. He stripped down to his boxers and jumped in the hot tub. The couple sitting on the edge of the hot tub was startled by this, but they did not follow him in.
A few minutes later, Eric the boxer, seeing a chance to get some screen time, stripped down to his thong, and he jumped in, too. Both Eric and Dave then tried to convince some of the girls to jump in. But all the girls said no.
We reminded the girls that they could change into bikinis -- they didn’t have to be in their underwear or get naked. Still no takers.
All the girls said things like, “My mother is going to watch this show. My grandmother is going to watch this show. And I have my (non-showbiz) career to think about.”
(I later found out that one of the girls, Jen, had previously been a contestant on Big Brother, and had been fired from her job as a result of whatever she did on that show. So she had a good excuse, at least. But the other three girls, not so much!)
I can’t imagine how disappointed the producers were when they realized they were shooting a reality dating show where not only were the girls not looking to smooch with anyone, they wouldn’t even get in a hot tub!
You have to wonder what kind of girl goes on a reality show on a cruise show and is not willing to be seen in a bikini. Hadn’t these girls ever watched -- well, every reality show ever? Clearly they needed to cast much sluttier girls on future episodes. (My cabin-mate, Eric, kept insisting that someone from the casting department was going to get fired for the piss-poor job they did in picking the girls on this show.)
Finally, Amy relented, getting in the hot tub -- with her clothes on.
It was not what anyone was looking for, but she was the only girl even willing to come near the hot tub.
At this point, I decided to strip down to my boxers and jump in. I wasn’t going in if there were just guys in the tub, but having one girl in there made it okay for me.
Eric the boxer had some real issues with Amy, and he was calling her out, saying she was a typical L.A. girl, no fun at all. Dave was doing a hilarious commentary.
He pointed at Eric and said, “And that is why this man is still single!”
I’ve seen enough episodes of THE REAL WORLD to know what was supposed to happen -- a hot smooching session with one guy and one girl. But it just wasn’t happening for me or anyone else.
It soon became apparent to the producers that they had a reality show with no drama and no hook-ups.
One by one, everybody started getting out of the hot tub. They all headed back to the main room in the suite. Within a minutes, I was left alone in the tub. I slowly got out, not even sure if a camera was even on me at that point. (I think all the cameras had moved inside to where all the party people were!)
It was a surreal moment for me, standing alone on the deck of a cruise ship, putting my clothes back on, with no cameras anywhere, and seriously questioning why I was even there!
Ultimately I decided that no matter what happened, I was getting a free cruise out of it, so I might as well try to make the best of it.
At the end of the night, all the girls were told to pick a guy for their third and final date. I figured I would get picked by either Amy, who I had gone bowling with, or Rachel, the East Coast Jewish girl. (I thought I had a pretty solid connection with Rachel. I later spoke to several of the other guys who also told me they also thought they had a strong connection with Rachel, too. I think I may have found Rachel’s super-power -- the ability to make every guy think he had a shot with her.)
There was also the long-shot chance that one of the two blondes might throw me a bone and decide to invite me out on a date on the last full day of the cruise.
One by one, the girls made their choices. Rachel picked the bodybuilder who she had gone out with the day before. Amy picked Jay the male nurse.
Danielle, my personal favorite, picked Guy, the only tall guy that she liked in our group, who she had dated earlier that day.
Finally it was Jen’s turn. Jen had three guys to choose from, and she seemingly wasn't interested in any of them. Jen decided to make a game out of it. She asked all three guys to answer the same three questions about her: questions like how many tattoos did she have, how old she was, etc. All three guys got all her questions wrong.
Finally the producers told Jen to skip the games and just pick a guy.
She never even looked in my direction. She said she thought it would be fun to date the magician, Seth. She noted, “He could do magic tricks for me all day.”
I have to admit, I was kind of pissed. It seemed to me that neither Jen nor Danielle had ever considered dating me for a second. I’ve always had bad luck with blondes, but this was ridiculous. I mean, these weren’t even “real” dates, these were just TV dates. It wasn’t like they actually had to kiss me or even hold my hand.
I will admit, I was feeling pretty steamed. Couldn’t they at least have pretended to be thinking about picking me -- just for a minute? Out of the three days of filming, I only got picked for one date by one of the four girls.
I was almost completely shut out of the dating pool on the show. But there were still 2,000 other passengers I could choose from.
That night, I went out to the night club on the ship and met a cute brunette, Nicole, 25, who was on vacation with her family. We seemed to hit it off pretty well. She had her own cabin, so out of all the people on the ship, it seemed like Nicole was the girl I had the best chance of hooking up with.
The next day was one of the strangest and most surreal days of my life. It was so bizarre that it will require a separate entry to describe it in full. Stay tuned for the thrilling conclusion of Romance Cruise -- and find out if I find true love -- or if I cave in to my darker instincts and become a nasty reality show villain!
COMING SOON: THE THRILLING CONCLUSION of LOVE FOR SAIL!