Since I was without cable from Monday till today I had nothing better to do than go through some of my old files on my computer. Here is something I stumbled upon that I thought I would share with the board.
I don't know if I ever mentioned it before, but before LC went on I approached the publicity people at Fox and offered to do a weekly diary for Fox.com in conjunction with the show...the kind of thing that is pretty commonplace nowadays, but back then was actually a very original idea. Well, Fox agreed so I went to work on putting together an initial diary entry which would cover the audtion process and everything else right up to the night of the premiere.
Well, after spending a few days writing it I was informed by the good people at FUX that they changed their mind and decided they didn't want me to write it cause they were worried that teh other castmembers might get jealous. It was my first insight into the idiotic logic that pervades the FUX network. So, I only wrote the one entry and buried it in my computer never to be heard from again...until now.
After reading it last night I thought I would post it since it is somewhat intersting in terms of giving an inside look into what goes into getting chosen for a reality show and all of the pre-production steps along the way. And some of it is kind of funny.
Plus, it was fun for me to see how much I've changed as a person in those few short years. Anyway, its long, so I won't be upset if you skip it.
August 25, 2001:
As you have probably been able to figure out by now, my name is Michael and I am one of the sixteen “sexy” singles chosen to participate in FOX’s Love Cruise: The Maiden Voyage. Besides simply watching the show, the good people at FOX have decided to give you the viewer a chance to experience, at least vicariously, what it is like to be a cast member on a reality show that is currently airing. To further that goal I have been asked to submit a weekly diary entry here at the official Love Cruise website at Fox.com. Basically, the way it works is that after each episode of the show I will write a diary entry detailing my reactions to the show as well as sharing some of the unique encounters I hope to experience as a result of going from a regular guy to a cast member on a hit (hopefully) prime time TV show. But, before we do that I think we should go back, way back to last year when this story really begins, when I was just a run of the mill attorney who had never heard of Love Cruise, yet alone had any actual aspirations of one day being a part of something like this. So, in this initial diary installment, I will be taking you for a ride starting at the time I first heard of Love Cruise to the morning two months later when I stepped foot on the S.V. Mandalay. So without further ado (or should I say delay), what do you say we get this thing rolling....
Before I jump right into how I found out about the show I should tell you a little bit about myself and what brought me to the point of being interested in trying out for Love Cruise. Since this show is about forming and maintaining relationships I guess I should give you a little history as to how I fare in those two categories. Well, there’s really no easy way to say this so I’m just gonna lay it out in the open for you. I am what you would call a non-frequent dater. In fact, to say that I date sporadically would be about as generous as saying that the Chicago Cubs win the World Series “every once in a while.” But, its not like I’m being turned down for dates left and right. I just really don’t like to approach girls and ask them out and apparently that’s a big part of dating. It seems like I have a two girl a year quota and each of those “relationships” lasts right around two months apiece. I’m 30 years old and its been six years since I had a relationship that lasted longer than two months. But, I’m not alone.....my two brothers are just as bad. I’m a middle child and between the three of us, we have had a grand total of two serious relationships in the last five years. For those of you scoring at home that’s an average of 0.66 serious relationships per sibling. As my parent’s rapidly (mom’s gonna kill me for that word) approach their 60's, they are beginning to get desperate. They want grandchildren, and they want them NOW! On a side note, it probably doesn’t help the situation when I tease Mom and Dad occasionally by telling them that by the time one of us brothers actually gets around to settling down and having kids, we’ll be changing their diapers right alongside the baby’s.
So, that is where Love Cruise came into the picture. Now, before everyone goes running off to the message board let me just get one thing straight....I’m not saying that I knocked up a bunch of the girls on Love Cruise in diabolical scheme to once and for all get my parent’s off my back, but on the other hand, I’m not saying I didn’t do that either...you’ll just have to watch the show to find out <insert evil laugh here>. But anyway, back to the story. So, one day last July I am sitting in my office at the family law firm doing what I do best, you know, surfing the net and sending out emails to all my friends when in walks my Mom with a look of desperation in her eyes. As she closed the six foot gap between the door and my desk in under a second, she thrust a crumpled up swatch of newspaper onto the top of my desk. “Here” she screamed, “look at this! It’s an article about a television show that’s gonna have a bunch of singles on a tropical cruise! The producers are having tryouts in Chicago tomorrow!”
After five years of having this woman try everything (unsuccessfully I might add) from trying to convince me to enroll in online dating services to taking out the girl who cleans her and my father’s house once a week and by the way doesn’t speak a word of English, I was understandably skeptical. But, like the good solider she is, Mom pressed on......
“Even if you don’t want to try out you should go anyway....the place is going to be crawling with single people,” said mom. Sensing that Mom wasn’t going to leave my office unless I gave her a written guarantee of breeding I did what any loyal, honorable sibling would do.....I placed the heat squarely on the shoulders of my younger brother. “Why don’t you go bother, errr, I mean ask, Scott? I’m sure he’ll do it,” I said. It must’ve worked because quicker than you can say “Gary Conditt, former Congressman”, she was gone...and that was the last I heard about this so called Love Cruise, at least until the next day.
The next morning I received a call from my brother Scott and apparently the reprogramming session worked quite well for Mom, cause he was rearing to go. The auditions were scheduled to take place between 10:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. at a local bar and Scott was planning on gathering up a few of his friends and heading over to the bar later in the afternoon. He asked me if I wanted to go, but I declined saying that I would rather stay in and watch the White Sox battle the Red Sox since after all, that was the year the White Sox were actually good for a change.
Well, 4:00 rolls around and I get a call from Scott....none of his friends wanted to go and he wasn’t going to go along so he pleaded with me to go with him. A quick glance at the television screen showed me all I needed to know....Red Sox 9, White Sox 1, 3rd inning. There was no way I was gonna sit around and watch the rest of that massacre so I told Scott that I would go, but on the condition that if there were a lot of people in line we would turn around and go home. I just had visions of waiting in line for hours only to be interviewed for three minutes and then being told, “thanks for coming in, don’t call us we’ll call you....NEXT!”
We saw the line for the first time when we were about 200 yards away from the bar.....it really wasn’t that bad as there were only about 50 people waiting. But, even though the line was smaller than I envisioned, the idea of waiting in line for hours with 50 other losers who like myself had no real chance of getting picked for the show was just horrifying to me. I turned to Scott and said, “I’ve seen enough, let’s just get out of here.” Well, Scott was a little more optimistic than I was and pleaded with me to just park the car so we could walk over to the bar and get a closer look. So, after three more hesitant drive-bys I finally relented and agreed to park the car and give it a shot. Besides, if we drove by that bar one more time someone was going to think we were casing the joint and call the cops on us.
Once we finally arrived at Joe’s we sheepishly approached the menacing looking casting coordinator who was stationed at the front entrance. Without so much as even a hello we were each handed a one page questionnaire and told to fill it out and wait at the back of the line. After just a mere 30 minutes waiting in line, Scott suddenly had a complete change of heart. “Michael, let’s just get out of here, this was a stupid idea,” he said, the fear creeping into his eyes like the early morning fog that rolls in from Lake Michigan to greet the rush hour commuters. Now I really can’t put this next part into words, but on the other hand this is a written diary so I probably better try, don’t ya think. Anyway, as I had been waiting in line the strangest feeling came over me....it’s hard to explain, but to put it in its simplest form I started to feel like it was just right for me to be there. I can’t really explain it any better than that, but it was just like out of nowhere I all of the sudden felt really good about being there and that I really did have a good shot of making the show. I don’t know what it was....it might’ve been the fact that not one person waiting in line impressed me, even in the slightest. Sure there were people better looking than me, plenty of them in fact, but that was all they seemed to have. None of them seemed to be even slightly interesting or funny and everyone of them looked boring. So I turned to Scott and told him that I had a good feeling about the situation and that now that we were in line there was no way we were going to leave Scott pressed on and after 15 more minutes of arguing back and forth he finally said, “look, you’re NOT going to get picked. Thousands of people try out for these shows, there’s no way either one of us has a chance.” At that point I remember telling him that I know that there are a lot of better looking people than me trying out, but if the casting people would just sit down and talk to me for a half hour and get to know me a little bit, there’s no way they will be able to turn me down. Scott, looking at me like I was crazy, but more importantly, sensing that there was no way I was going to turn around now, finally relented and accepted the fact that we were staying for the long haul.
After about 45 minutes in line we had finally made our way to the front, and here is where I received my first experience in art of casting call rejection. The casting coordinator was making his way up and down the line pulling out groups of six at a time to enter the building and after watching him do this a few times without even looking my way I was shocked when I found his cold, judgmental finger pointed squarely at me. “You, in the Curious George t-shirt, come with me, you’re in the next group,” he screamed at me. As I bypassed the 15 people in front of me and made my way to the promised land I could not help but feel a sense of pride rush over me. Gathered at the front of the line with the 5 other “chosen” people I basked in the envious glances I was receiving from the losers in line who I had just leap frogged. I was surely on the fast track now. In fact, after being “discovered” so easily by the nameless casting coordinator I figured that I would probably be a full fledged cast member by the end of the afternoon or the next day, the latest. It was because I was having these daydreams of grandeur that I didn’t even notice the casting coordinator pointing at me again until he started yelling at me. “Hey Curious George! Wake up!” he screamed, “get back in line, I changed my mind!” And apparently, that is how quickly things happen in show biz. One second I’m daydreaming about what I’m gonna wear to the Emmy Awards and two seconds later I’m being escorted to the back of the line, replaced by some muscle bound meat head in a stained tank top.
Of course, when you are a bottom feeding aspiring reality tv cast member, no one takes the time to tell you why you are being rejected, so I was left at the back of the line to ponder my fate. After my near miss things only got worse as I soon became one of those people who was at the front of the line only because everyone in front of and behind him was already sent in to the audition room. Even Scott managed to work his way into the room what seemed like hours ago at this point. Finally, there were only six of us losers left so they had no choice but to let us all in....we made up the very last group to be seen in Chicago.
The first process of the auditions consisted of the six of us sitting around a table with a casting director who would ask each of us questions individually followed up by questions for the whole table. The whole interview lasted about 45 minutes. I was very fortunate in that I ended up at a table with the head honcho himself, Co-Executive Producer Bruce Toms, who came on board (sorry, bad pun) Love Cruise after several years producing Road Rules and Real World for MTV. Bruce and I hit it off right away as I basically held court at my table for the entire 45 minutes....in fact, there are some people who I don’t think even had a chance to say more than one or two things. I was horrible, not only was I answering my questions, but I was also interrupting the other hopefuls and making fun of them for whatever answers they would give. I’m sorry, but I just couldn’t help myself, some of those people were so full of themselves and trying to impress Bruce by telling tall tales of their many conquests over women...it was quite pathetic actually and if you knew me, you would know that there is no way I’m gonna let stuff like that slide by without making a few jokes about it.
The interview was a lot of fun, as Bruce lobbed a whole slew of personal questions at us that were basically designed to see if we would become too embarrassed to talk about that stuff in front of other people. I guess the theory is that self conscious does not a good reality tv cast member make. Some of the queries really tested our intellectual prowess such as the thought provoking “Are you satisfied with your penis?” question (women need not apply).
I knew the interview went well considering I basically had Bruce and the entire table laughing for the entire 45 minutes. Afterwards, we were told to stand by the front door and we would be given further instructions. Before going I sided up to Bruce and with a concerned look on my face I asked him, “Bruce, this cruise we’ll be going on....its gonna have a buffet, right?” Bruce, who had a smile on his face that read “I can’t believe I had to wait all day to meet this idiot” responded, “yes, I’m pretty sure there’s going to be a buffet, okay?” At that point the smart thing to do would’ve probably thanked him and walked over to the waiting area, but doing the smart thing has never really been a life choice of mine, so of course I pressed on. “And this buffet is going to have shrimp, right? Right?!?”“ I pleaded. Bruce, shaking his head, responded, “Yes, just for you I’m going to personally make sure that the buffet has shrimp. Are you satisfied?” “Very!”, I responded, and then brazenly made my way over to the waiting area.
Standing near the entrance with a look of defeat etched on his face was Scotty boy. Turns out he was rejected at the first cut as things did not go as well for him as they did for me. You know though, in his defense it really shows what a luck of the draw it can all be because the casting director who was running Scott’s table spent the whole interview trying to hit on the girls and didn’t pay any attention to anything the guys were saying. So who knows, if I got stuck at that table I may very well not be writing this diary right now, you never know. To this day I feel very grateful that I was able to meet Bruce right off the bat....the fact that he really liked me probably carried me a long way into the casting, if not all the way through. Thanks Bruce, owe you one, buddy!
Anyway, after waiting for a few minutes a woman came over and read off three names...mine, a really good looking girl, and some good looking guy who never said one word the whole time. We were taken aside and told that we would be called next week for a phone interview. We were also given a 15 page application to fill out and we were instructed to put together a 13 minute video tape describing who we are, what type of women would like us, and what we bring to a relationship. Oh and one more thing, the video and the application had to be completed in two days.
At first I was hesitant to go through with all the work, but then the next afternoon I received a message on my answering machine from a woman in casting. She said that the casting people wanted to interview me one more time before they left town and that it had to be the next day. Her tone in the message was extremely friendly, almost as if she already knew me, and she ended the message by saying that she hoped I got the message because the casting people really wanted to see me again. Needless to say I was quite excited.
That night I began working on my application. The questions were great, ranging from having to describe my most embarrassing moment to questions about previous relationships, or in my case, the lack thereof. Anyway, I basically had a lot of fun with the app and just ripped on myself and all of the questions. I remember at the end we were instructed to draw a self portrait and I’m not much of a sketch artist so I ended up just cutting a picture of Tom Cruise out of People Magazine and taping it to the page. Well, in case you couldn’t guess by now I tend to be a tad long winded when I write so my 15 page application clocked in at 25 pages typed and single spaced.
The next day I showed up at the Palmer House hotel in downtown Chicago at 4:00 for my interview. I waited in the lobby for about an hour with some of the other hopefuls as well as several of the casting people and basically I just sat there the whole time holding court, making fun of myself and some of the crazy things that would probably happen if I got picked for the show. We had a good time and I really started to connect with some of the casting coordinators.
Finally, it was time for my interview. I was taken up to small, brightly lit hotel room where I met Georgia Archer, a long time casting director for Bunim/Murray Productions. Georgia had me sit in a chair as her camera operator hooked a microphone up to my shirt. Soon after Georgia began the interview I became keenly aware of the fact that the air conditioner in the room was not turned on. After a few rounds of questions I began to sweat profusely, which is always a classy touch when you are being video recorded. All in all the interview lasted about an hour, or in sweating terms, about three and a half pounds. The interview basically covered the same stuff that was in the application, only in much more detail. They wanted to know a lot about my dating history and what type of girls I am attracted to. Once again, I had a great time answering the questions by pointing out how truly unimpressive my dating history was and good laughs were had by all, even the camera guy. And as for the sweating, it was actually good that I got that problem out in the open right away because as you will soon find out when you see the first episode the whole sweating thing is basically a hobby of mine, and I’m damn good at it.
So, after the interview I was told to finish my video in the next couple of days, send it in, and then in two weeks I would be notified if I had advanced to the semi-finals.
Making the video was a lot of fun....the rules were that the video had to be no more than 13 minutes and we had to answer about 4-5 questions about ourselves, stuff like what makes us a good person to date, describe something sexy about you, and talk about some of your previous relationships. I don’t feel real comfortable talking about myself unless I’m saying something self-degrading so I was kind of worried about how I would be able to pull it off. Well, I ended up avoiding the whole “talking about myself” issue by doing my video in a man on the street type of style. First I went to the place where I rent DVD’s (I have a $4.00 a day habit, they know me quite well) and I interviewed the manager and a long time employee, asking then questions about, what else, me. Then I went to the convenient store where I also hang out (insert isn’t he pathetic comment here) and interviewed a couple of the employees about whether or not they found me sexy. Lastly, I had to get proof that I was capable of actually interacting with a person of the opposite sex so I went and interviewed a girl I used to date. Of course, she was asked to rate me in the sack on a scale from 1-10......I scored a SIX!!!!
Alright, I should really be picking up the pace here...I’ve written so much already that there is no way any of you are still reading this crap...well, serves me right for assuming that people that watch TV (myself included) actually have the attention span to read anything longer than the on-screen guide. So, in an effort to speed things along what follows is the cliff notes abridged version of the rest of the story. So, without further ado I present to you..........
MICHAEL’S LONG AND EXCRUCIATINGLY BORING STORY: The Highlights & Bloopers!
Okay, this should be easy. After two weeks of waiting I was called and told that I had made it to the semi-finals. The next step was a phone interview at my office where I had to set up a video recorder and film myself during the interview. Things went really well with the interview, except for the fact that I screwed up the camera angle and the only thing you could see on the tape was the very top of my head and the wall behind me....not exactly Hitchcock or Scorcese.
So, after the interview I was told that they would call me in one week with the news on whether or not I was one of the 40 finalists that would be flown out to LA for three days of interviews, Psychological testing and medical exams. This is where you learn your first lesson of the entertainment industry......NOTING HAPPENS ON TIME. A week goes by and no phone call. Two more days and still no phone call. Now, at this point I was starting to give up which kind of sucked because I had sort of been telling friends that I was basically already on the show. That probably was not a good idea...but, I couldn’t help myself, the casting had been going so well and everyone was so nice to me, it was like they really liked me, they really really liked me. I just had a feeling that there was no way that they were being that nice to everyone, something in my gut told me that I was definitely going to be on the show, even when there were still thousands of people trying out. Weird huh, or just stupid?
Damn, I did it again...alright this time I’m really going to speed it up, I promise. So, on the third day I finally got the call...I had made it to the finals! Now that I think about it, you guys probably already figured that out...I guess this story isn’t as “edge of your seat” as I was hoping for.
A week later I was on my way to Los Angeles. While in LA, all of the finalists were put up in different hotels so we couldn’t meet and interact. As soon as I got into town I learned the first thing I would need to know for the next few days.....the personal assistants that were assigned to drive me around had all arrived into town about 4 days before me and therefore had NO idea where they were going, ever. So, that would explain why it took us an hour and a half to get to the hotel which was only a half hour away from the airport. Needless to say, this trend continued throughout my stay.
The first day of finals I went to take my four hour written psychological test. The test was a lot of fun, all multiple choice/true-false with questions like, true or false, I fantasize about violently hurting my family, which of course was false, and true or false, fire fascinates me, which of course was true. Hey so what, fire’s cool to look at, but that doesn’t mean I want to go light em’ so back off.
Later that afternoon I had my final interview at Bunim/Murray Production’s home office in Van Nuys. Being a big fan of Real World and Road Rules (yeah I admit it) it was quite a thrill to walk into BMP and see all the RW and RR cast members’ pictures on the walls. And that’s when it finally hit me...there’s a real good chance that one day soon my picture might be on that wall. Of course not wanting to look like even more of an idiot than I already did throughout casting, I kept my enthusiasm to myself.
The final interview was my favorite part of casting (not to be confused with my least favorite part which will be explained later on....see what I’ve resorted to in order to keep people reading...shameless teasers inserted mid-sentence). It was great to finally meet all these people that I had come to know so well over the last month or so. But, what really stuck out to me when I got there was that as excited as I was to meet them, they seemed even more excited to meet me! As soon as I got out of the car in the parking lot, three casting directors came running out to say hi, it was so cool and it made me feel so good. At that point I thought there was no way even I could screw this up.
Of course, as soon as the interview started I got nervous and had my usual sweating fit, only this time I couldn’t blame it on the air conditioning. The funny thing is that they were ready and waiting for it...turns out they had called some of my references to ask about me and my best friend kept them on the phone for over two hours tearing me apart and telling stories of some of the crazy things that have happened in my life, and of course, warning them about the sweating thing. So, of course my good friends at BMP jumped right on that and began teasing me about it...I think Bruce was just getting back at me for all the crap I gave him at the open casting call.
The questions at the final interview were not nearly as in depth as I thought they would be. Most of my fellow cast mates have told me about their final interviews and how the producers would try and make them cry by asking really personal stuff about their backgrounds and history. For some, things got so heated that they ended up screaming at whoever was asking the questions. My interview, on the other hand, was nothing like that....there was no crying, no screaming, no throwing things, nothing like that at all. Simply put, I had a great time during the interview and my entire visit to the BMP offices.
The next day, on the other hand, completely sucked. Let me tell you something about getting shots at the doctor. One shot, no problem. Two shots, still no problem. But, try having about eight or nine in one sitting, well except for the one you have to stand for cause its going right in your butt cheek. And by the way, if you’ve never had a shot in your butt, I don’t really recommend it cause it really hurts, no fooling, although it may have something do with the fact that the nurse who gave it to had a longer windup than Fernando Valenzuela.
But, as bad as the needle in the ##### was it could not even begin to prepare me for what lurked just around the corner....the STD testing. Now, I’m not going to go into all the gory details, but let’s just say that I don’t care what theory of physics you apply, there are certain places that Q-tips were never meant to go. Capiche? Good, then let’s just move on cause to even talk about it anymore is going to bring back the nightmares.
Okay, so after I was done in LA I was told that I would be called the following Friday with the news of whether or not I had made the show, or in the alternative, gone all the way out to LA for no damn reason other than to get a Q-tip shoved up my willie. Well, after what seemed like 25 years, Friday finally arrived. Remembering all of the other times they were supposed to call, but didn’t until a day later I jumped the gun and called the casting people that morning. I told them that I didn’t want to know if I made the show, I just wanted to make sure that they were gonna call me one way or the other that night. Oh yeah, I also wanted to know if I was the only freaked out finalist who couldn’t stand the wait anymore and broke down and called them that day. Well, after getting a good chuckle at the expense of my anxiousness, casting director Rob LaPlante assured me that yes, they would call me that night either way and yes, I was not the only person who freaked out and picked up the phone.
That night was pure torture. I told all my friends and family NOT to call me at all and that I would call them once I found out the news. I just didn’t want to be jumping for the phone every two seconds thinking that this was the call only to have it be a friend of mine wanting to know if I heard anything. Well, 10:00 rolled around and still no phone call so finally I decided that I was going to drive myself crazy if I kept staring at the phone so I figured I’d run out and rent a movie. Also, I was banking on the long held principle that the really important phone calls only come when you’re not home, so I was hoping to jump start a little karma by leaving the house.
My little gamble paid off as I returned home at 10:30 to find that Rob had left a message on my machine for me to call him back immediately. So, I called Rob up and he quickly put me on the speaker phone so I could talk to all the other casting directors and they could hear my reaction. Well, of course they wanted to torture me a bit so they asked me what I thought they were going to tell me? Too afraid to sound over confident I responded, “that I owe you guys $38.00 in incidentals at the hotel from my trip to LA?”
Rob responded that I was a little off in my guess and then he asked me, “So Michael, you have any plans for the next month?”
“No, why?” I said trying to play as dumb I could, which incidently, is pretty darn dumb.
“Cause you’re going on the boat!” he screamed as the rest of the room erupted in congratulations. Let me just say that my little story here might very well be the lamest cliffhanger/drama build-up since the movie “Apollo 13" cause when it comes right down to it, you knew going in that they end making it home in the from space, right? Just like I’m sure most of you had it figured out that I was probably gonna end up getting selected cause after all, there are some pretty big clues out there.
After recovering from the excitement of finally making the show I was told that I was leaving for Grenada in five days. Five days! That wasn’t enough time! I had to buy clothes, settle up loose ends at work, find a suitcase! Rob told me not to worry cause they were gonna email me a list of everything I needed to bring. Well, as I found out the next day that list basically looked like this....
THINGS TO BRING
1. Summer/swim clothes
2. Night time clothes
3. Dinner attire is smart/casual
And that was the extent of the list. So, that was a lot of help. The main problem I had with the list is that I had no friggen idea what smart/casual meant and everyone I asked seemed to have a different opinion. Also, no one was able to tell me whether or not we would be able to do laundry during the month away. So, because I had no idea what to bring, how to pack, or if I would be able to wash any of my clothes I just said the hell with it and basically brought everything I own. In fact, I hold the distinction of being the cast member with far and away the most luggage....two large suitcases, one large garment hanger, and a shoulder bag. Not even any of the girls could match the sheer volume of my wardrobe. It was ridiculous the amount of useless crap I brought.....approximately 20 t-shirts, three pairs of gym shoes (don’t ask why cause to this day I have no idea what I was thinking), even my blow-up doll. At one point I even called one of the producers and asked if I could bring my rollerblades. After a long and awkward silence she responded, “Uhm Michael, you do realize that you’re going to be on a BOAT, don’t you?”
So, eventually I got everything in order and after five hectic days I was on my way to Grenada. Getting there involved a plane trip from Chicago to San Juan, Puerto Rico where I boarded what basically looked like a very big paper airplane and after four hours of somehow miraculously staying in the air, I landed in Grenada.
Once in Grenada I was greeted by one of the show’s directors, long time Real World veteran Michelle Millard. Michelle and I hopped into a waiting taxi where she gave me an overview of what was going to happen over the next four to five days. Michelle told me that I was being taken to a hotel where I would be the only person staying there who was related to the show. No one from production and more importantly, no one from the cast, would be staying there. I was told that I would have to stay on the hotel’s property at all times since they didn’t want me to accidentally run into one of my fellow cast members, all 15 of whom were scattered along the island at various beachfront hotels and resorts. Further, every day there would be something I would have to do to prepare for the show ranging from shooting promos for FOX to doing final pre-boarding interviews with the producers and directors.
Ten minutes later we pulled up in front of the beautiful Coyaba Inn with its private beach on the crystal clear Carribean Sea. Needless to say, if you are going to be stuck in a hotel for a few days there are much worse places to do it. The hotel was great...the room was big and had a private balcony overlooking the ocean, the pool had a swim-up bar, the sand on the beach was white as snow, smooth like marble and soft like a puppy, the restaurant was open-aired and dinner was often accompanied by a steel drum band (although I must say that the food was nothing special.....sorry, but I had to bring it up because it’s a known physiological fact that no Jew can talk about their vacation without spending the majority of the time either raving or lamenting about the food.)
Another plus about the hotel is that the beach was right next to the public beach where all the locals hung out so I was able to spend a lot of my time in Grenada observing and getting to know the people who lived there which is my favorite thing to do whenever I am in a place I have never been before. Of course, while hanging out with some of the locals I also did my part to even further lower the worldwide opinion of the intelligence level of the average American. It’s actually a pretty funny story so I guess I’ll tell it......I was hanging out on the beach and one of the guys out there was selling these hollowed out coconut shells that had been carved into candle shades. Well, I didn’t really have any souvenirs to take home from Grenada so I decided to buy one. But, wanting to prove my savvy to my new “friends” there was no way that I was going to buy without a little haggling first. Before I continue I should point out that the currency in Grenada is called EC and an EC dollar is worth about a quarter of what a US dollar is. Got it? Okay, so when I asked the guy how much he wanted he said $20. Now, of course he meant $20 EC, but me being the typical ignorant Amercian tourist and assuming that the whole world revolves around us, I thought he was talking about US currency. So, being the shrewd negotiator that I am I told that guy that there was no way I was going to pay $20, and that I would give him $10 and not a penny more. Considering the candle shade was worth about $1.73 in either currency, the local readily agreed to my stern counter offer. Then I proceeded to reach into my pocket and pull out a crisp US $10 bill (approximately $30 EC) and hand it over to the surprised local who to this day is probably still laughing at me. Oh well, just doing what I can to help our nations world wide reputation.
Anyway, let me get back to the story here......that first night in the hotel I received a call from someone in production telling me to be in the lobby of the hotel promptly at 10:30 the next morning to meet one of the directors who would take me to shoot a promo for FOX. That next morning I woke up early to make sure that I would not be late for the meeting. It almost felt like I was going to the first day on a new job and I was trying to make a favorable impression. So, I went to the lobby 20 minutes early where I waited, and waited, and waited....and waited some more. Finally, at 12:30 a taxi pulled up and out hopped casting director/chief music editor and all around great guy Brent Kidwell. I learned a valuable lesson about television production that day, that being that nothing, and I mean nothing, happens on time. So, after getting burned by this principle on a couple of occasions I decided to start figuring the “nothing ever happens on time” variable into all my planning, meaning that if I had to be somewhere at 10:00, I’d start getting ready at 11:00. Of course, this eventually came back to bite me in the #####, but more on that later.
Shooting the promos consisted of me standing on the deck of a ship in the harbor with the SV Mandalay over my shoulder in the background. I would have to do silly, cheesy stuff like introducing myself and pointing at the boat while giving a look of amazement, or winking at the camera along with a thumbs up. The promo shoot took about a half hour and then Brent told me that I done for the day and took me back to my hotel where I spent the rest of the day at the swim-up pool bar drinking Pina Coladas. I tell you, being a big time television personality sure is tough work.
That night I started what became my nightly routine in Grenada.....around midnight I would grab a towel and head out to the beach where I would spend a couple of hours just laying under the stars, listening to the ocean and thinking alternately about what the next month had in store for me and just how lucky I was to be there. It was quite peaceful out there and some of my favorite time spent in Grenada.
Now I should say that although I was told that I had to stay at the hotel I still managed to sneak off and do a little exploring. You see, its just that I’ve never been very good at following rules so there was no way I was going to just sit there at the hotel all week. One night I went to a local bar and had a few drinks and at least a couple of times a day I would jog up and down the entire beach just to see a little more of the island. I really wanted to do some touring inland since there are some amazing water falls and National Parks in Grenada, but because I always had to be somewhere right in the middle of the day I was never able to fit it into my schedule.
On my third day there I was told that I had to be at the hotel pool at 11:30 to meet the head honcho himself, John Murray. Now, I figured that since even the lowest of Bunim/Murray employees is typically running an hour or two late, there was no way the big boss himself was going to be on time. So, using my new timing strategy I hung out at the beach until about 11:15 and then I went up to my room to shower and get dressed for the meeting. I figured that would give me plenty of time to get to the pool well before John would be showing up. Well, I figured wrong because as I strolled towards the pool at about 11:45 I noticed a frantic John Murray hurrying up the stairs to my room. Oops. Turns out he had been waiting for me at the pool for about 10 minutes. So there I go again, always making a great first impression. But, it was no big deal because John, as I soon found out, is one of the nicest and laid back guys you’ll ever meet so he really didn’t seem to care about me making him wait. So, we got down to talking and he basically explained to me the rules of the game and what to expect as soon as I board the ship. It was quite exciting considering that after two months of auditions and three days in Grenada this was the first time someone actually explained the rules of the game to me. Finally, I had something to think about beyond what clothes I was going to wear. After meeting with John for about an hour we wrapped things up and he told me to be ready to leave the next morning, bright and early.
So, that night I packed up my bags and paced the room I was so nervous until the phone rang at about midnight. The boat wasn’t quite ready yet, so we were being delayed another day. I couldn’t believe it, although I should have expected it considering that everything else up to this point was delayed. All that stressing out for nothing, only to do it again the next night.
24 hours later I was in my room repeating the same scene. At 1:00 a.m. the phone finally rang and this time I was told that we were ready to go and to be in the hotel lobby at 5:00 a.m. Excuse me???? If I may quote Bart Simpson, I didn’t even know there was a 5:00 in the morning. So, of course I didn’t get any sleep at all that night.
The next morning I was in the lobby at 5:00 sharp, not because I didn’t want to be late, but because I was up anyway and had nothing else to do. At about 5:15 my ride arrived to pick me up.........and that is where this initial diary ends and the September 11th premiere episode of Love Cruise begins.
I’ll leave you now so as not to take any of the surprise away from Tuesday night’s show, but check in after the premiere for my next batch of diary entries which will include my reaction to the first episode as well as highlights and comments from the September 10th Premiere Party in Chicago where the cast will be reunited for the first time since leaving Aruba...it should be very very interesting to say the least. Until then, hope you enjoy the show!