Monday, June 25, 2012

IF YOU HATE SNOOKI & KIM KARDASHIAN, MAYBE YOU CAN BE A REALITY STAR TOO!                                             By Barry Dutter

"Do you hate Snooki from Jersey Shore?"
This was the question posed by an ad on Craigs List in the spring of 2011. The ad was for a new show on the CW Network called H8ER. The premise of the show was that a celebrity would spend some time with the person that hated them the most. By the end of the episode, the celeb would try to convince the hater (or “H8ER”) not to despise them any more.
Among the polarizing celebs who had signed up for the initial episodes were Kim Kardashian, Joe Francis (of GIRLS GONE WILD fame), and of course, Snook-ums herself.
I decided to answer the ad. I should note here that I have nothing against Snooki. I actually thought the first couple of seasons of JERSEY SHORE were fairly entertaining. But for the sake of this job, I decided I would pretend to hate her.
The ad asked for any Snooki -haters to make a video of themselves explaining why they loathed the diminutive reality star so much. So I filmed myself ranting for a few minutes about how I was a real Jersey guy and Snooki wasn’t even from Jersey, and for that matter, she wasn’t even Italian! She was just a poser!
I sent the video in to the TV company that had placed the ad. Then I waited to see if I would get picked as the Number One Snooki-Hater.
I didn’t get picked for the Snooki episode. Sadly, I missed out on the Kim K. episode too. (I love Kim, but I would have pretended to hate her just to meet her!)
But I thought it might be fun to be on an episode of H8ER, even if I didn’t actually hate the celebrity who I would be appearing with.
In order to get on the show, I would need a partner. H8ER was a hidden camera show, where you set up your friend to be ambushed by the celeb they despise the most. Your friend is supposed to be surprised to find out that he is on TV and that he or she will be spending the day with their least favorite showbiz personality.
I’ve done enough reality TV to know that some hidden camera shows are fake -- that the person being pranked is often in on the prank, and they are just pretending to be surprised because it makes for good TV.
Why would any network have to fake a prank show? Well, the average man of woman on the street might not want to be on TV and might not be willing to sign a  release form, which means that a whole day of shooting and weeks of planning could be ruined by a person who simply refuses to sign off on their appearance on the show.
That’s why the first thing the casting department does on a show like H8ER is to place ads on Craigs List in the section advertising for actors. They never say they are looking for actors, but I think it’s pretty much implied. They might even say in the ad, “NO actors, we are looking for REAL PEOPLE.”
But I always answer those ads anyway. I figure, if they didn’t want actors, they wouldn’t have placed an ad in the section on Craigs List labeled "Gigs." My feeling is that if you get picked for one of these shows, all you have to do is tell them you’re not an actor.
I knew I wanted to be on H8ER. The only question was, who would I get to be on with me?
I asked my friend, Thomas, a 23-year-old L.A. resident who I had met when we both worked as extras on a movie. Thomas is Asian,m and the only reason I mention that is because it comes up in this story later.
We agreed that I would submit Thomas as the H8ER. The only question was, which celeb would he hate?
That night, I went home and looked at the H8ER ad that ran on Craigs List. There was a small list of celebs they were looking to feature on the show.
I called Thomas and read him the list.
The one name that popped out was mixed martial arts fighter Tito Ortiz. Thomas said the reason he hated Tito was because whenever he played his ultimate fighter video game, he would lose to Tito. I thought that was a funny reason to hate someone.
I sent in our pics to the casting department. We got called to come in for an audition a few days later.
At this point, Thomas was not supposed to know that he was going to be on H8ER. I had been instructed to tell him that we were auditioning for a “pop culture game show.” But I actually told Thomas the real deal. I figure it’s easier to get anyone to do something if you are honest with them.
Thomas had done his homework. He found out on Wikipedia that Tito had been accused of dodging tough fights and only taking easy ones. So he made sure to mention that in the audition. 
I chimed in with, "Thomas thinks he can beat Tito!" which was total B.S. --Thomas had never said that,  and I think the casting agent must have known it. But he really didn’t care.
And I totally understood why.
Imagine your job is to cast a show about people who hate celebrities. Suppose none of the people who try out for the show actually hate any celebrities. They’re just actors who are pretending to hate them so they can be on TV. But you still need people to be on the show.
What do you do? Simple. You cast them, and tell them to keep their mouths shut about not actually hating anyone.
That’s essentially what the casting agent for H8ER did for us. Basically he told us, “I don’t care if you guys are really friends or not. I don’t care if you’re actors. I don’t care if you really hate the celebrities or not. All I ask is that you can fake it all for the show.”
The bottom line is that 99% of the people who try out for TV shows are actors. So if you put an ad on Craigs List looking for people to be on your show, you’re going to get a  bunch of actors showing up whether they are willing to admit it or not.
It’s the unspoken secret of reality TV casting. It’s the showbiz equivalent of “Don’t ask, don’t tell.”
The casting agent liked Thomas and I and said he would like to put us on the show. As always, the final decision rested with the producers. If they gave the thumbs up, we were in.
About a week later, I got the call. We had been picked. I wasn’t supposed to tell Thomas that we were going to be on TV. Instead, I was supposed to invite to hang out for the day in Santa Monica. We were to go to a coffee shop, where I would give Thomas the good news that I had won a spa package for two. I was to announce that I was treating the two of us to free massages.
That’s when the trap was to be sprung. When Thomas lied down on the table at the spa, little would he suspect that the person coming out to rub his shoulders would be his arch-nemesis, Tito Ortiz!
Naturally I tipped Thomas off about the whole deal.
The day started off exactly as planned -- Thomas and I met up at the coffee shop in Santa Monica. But then  it all began to unravel.
Unbeknownst to us, the producers would sometimes film two different haters of the same celebrity. This gave them the freedom to be able to pick the best hater if one of the segments turned out to be a dud.
As Thomas and I were chilling at the coffee shop, the crew was busy shooting Tito at the spa with another unsuspecting dupe.
The spa shoot wound up going long. The production company only had access to the spa location for a limited amount of time, and it was running out fast.
We sat around for about two hours waiting for the signal to head over to the spa. All along, the production coordinator kept texting me saying to be patient and that it would happen soon.
At one point, Thomas got up and went inside the coffee shop to use the restroom. As soon as he was gone, the production coordinator ran over to me and said they had to abort our segment. She told me not to tell Thomas anything. Then she ran off and disappeared before Thomas got back.
When Thomas returned from the bathroom, he could tell something was amiss. I explained to him that the massages would not be happening, and that it was time for us to leave.
We were both pretty bummed about the whole thing. We had wasted a whole day in Santa Monica for nothing. Worst of all, they had sent us home at the peak of rush hour. This meant I would have a two-hour drive home.
Needless to say, that was not a fun ride.
As you might imagine, I was not in a good mood when I got home that night.
You can imagine my surprise when, later that night, I got a call from my contact on the show. She had some great news for: first of all, Thomas and I were both going to be paid for the Tito episode, even though we weren’t even going to be on it!
Secondly, we could both appear on a different episode of the show, and get paid for that, too. All we had to do was find another celebrity for Thomas to hate!
I was given a list of another half a dozen celebs that had agreed to appear on the show. Among the celebs on the new list were Real Housewife of DC Michelle Zalahi and Tila Teqila.
Thomas told me he really did hate Tila Tequila, and would love to have the chance to tell her so to her face. He and I were asked to come in for another audition. Basically, they needed to get Thomas on tape saying he hated this new batch of celebs. These tapes would then be used to convince the producers to put us on the show.
The second audition went just as well as the first. Thomas and I pretty much figured we would get picked for the Tila Tequila episode -- the idea of having an Asian guy hating on an Asian girl seemed too good to resist.
Sure enough, a few days later, we did get picked. Thomas was especially thrilled to be doing an episode with a so-called celeb who he actually despised, as opposed to Tito Ortiz, who he really didn’t have much of a beef with.
Once again, I was instructed to trick Thomas into another set-up, where he wasn’t supposed to know he was going on a show.
This time, I was told to inform Thomas that he had been picked to go on a TV talk show and offer his opinions about relationships.
On  the day of the shoot, we showed up at the studio to find that the producers had put a lot of work into pulling off this ruse. They had built a set for a cheesy TV dating show, complete with curtains, a logo, and a fake host.
The show within a show began with the host asking Thomas to join him on stage along with a female contestant (actually an actress who had been planted) for a lively discussion about dating in L.A.
I stood off to the sidelines and watched. The producers took me aside and said, “We find the show works best when it is just the hater and the celeb. If the hater knows his friend is standing nearby, it might change the way he acts.”
I told them I totally understood, as they ushered me backstage to a control room where the crew was watching the fake dating show on their monitors. While I was back there, I met the producer of the show, Mario Lopez, who gave me a very serious look and asked., “You didn’t tip him off, did you?“
I lied and told Mario I would never rat him out like that. Hey, what was I going to do, tell Mario the truth at that point?
Then I met the “star” of this episode, Miss Tila herself. (Actually, I should say I met her again, since I had already worked with the tiny Korean starlet a few months prior, when she was promoting her fake lesbian sex tape.)
Of course she didn’t remember me, which I guess was a good thing.
I filmed a quick segment with Mario and Tila where they asked me to predict how Thomas was going to react when Tila walked out on stage. I said, “This is gonna blow his mind. He is totally gonna freak out.” Then, with a nod to Miss Tila, I added, “He’s not a fan.”
At that point, Mario, Tila and I turned our attention back to the monitors, where things were getting very interesting on the fake dating show,
The conversation onstage was unscripted and very lively. Thomas may not have had any experience being on TV, but he carried himself very well. He wasn’t nervous at all; he was outspoken, and above all, honest.
The host steered the conversation toward various celebrities. He asked the “panel” what they thought about reality TV stars like Tila Tequila. Thomas was shot out of a cannon. He said he hated Tila Tequila, adding, “I don’t even like Oriental girls. I only date white girls. I’m not attracted to Oriental girls at all.”
Everyone backstage was shocked by this comment. First of all, we didn’t know anyone still used the word “Oriental.“ Weren’t we supposed to be calling them Asians now?
For another thing, to hear an “Oriental” guy saying he hated Oriental girls was so outrageous, it would definitely make for great TV.
No one was more stunned than Mario Lopez. He turned to the production crew and said, “What the fuck? He hates Oriental  girls? Does that mean he hates his mother?”
It was funny hearing squeaky-clean Mario Lopez curse. You definitely don’t expect that from the former star of SAVED BY THE BELL!
Back on stage, Thomas finished his rant against Miss Tila. It was time to spring the trap on him. That’s when Tila Tequila walked on stage and met her "hater" face to face.
Thomas was not surprised to see her, of course, but he played it off pretty well. He may not have had any acting experience, but he really didn’t need any to express his lack of fondness for the pint-sized sex goddess.
That’s when Mario Lopez popped out and revealed that this was actually an episode of H8ER. Mario asked if Thomas was willing to spend some time with Tila and see if she could get him to change his mind about her. Thomas said he was willing to give it a try.
And that is how young Thomas found himself on a TV date with the “Oriental” girl he hated the most in the world!
At this point, I was told that my part in the show was done and I was free to leave. I had planned on hanging around and watching the fireworks, but again, it was explained to me the show works better when the friend leaves and the hater is alone with the celeb. I totally understood, and besides, I was getting paid the same whether I stayed or left. I wished Thomas good luck and headed for home.
Thomas then went on his "dream" date with his least favorite celeb. Usually on H8ER, they would try to put the hater in a situation where they really get to see a different side of the celebrity -- observe their charity work, see them do some good deeds, even spend some time in the celeb’s actual  home.
But with Tila, it seems the only thing the writers could think of for her to do was to strip down to a bikini and act sexy.
I know she is famous for being a sex symbol, but you would think they could have used a  little more imagination! It’s like, “She’s hot -- let’s stick her in a hot tub!”
The date ended with Thomas and Tila in a swimming pool, kissing. Thomas told me later that Tila was the one slipping him the tongue.
He noted that Tila was the first “Oriental” girl that he ever kissed!
When the date was over, Thomas was asked if he still hated Tila. His feelings toward her hadn’t changed at all, despite the smooching session.
But the producers told him to say that he liked her now. It was a lie, but Thomas knew he was being paid well for this gig, so he played along.
This whole episode had started when Thomas and I lied about being friends, so it was somehow fitting that it end with a lie, too. I guess the lesson here is you can’t believe everything you see on reality TV.
And the lesson I learned for myself was this: when you are working  with Tila Tequila for the second time in a year, you are definitely doing way too much reality TV!

ADDENDUM: The TV series H8ER was one of the first casualties of the 2011 season. It was canceled after only three weeks, before our episode ever aired. Happily, we still got paid for both the Tito and the Tila episodes! You gotta  love show business!

ADDENDUM PART 2: Thomas still hates Tila Tequila. 

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