By Joel Warner
By Michael Roberts
By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
I stayed within earshot of the cast and warned them about their "contractual obligation to not reveal anything about the show" and made all the random floozies jockeying for couch space sign waivers. One of the girls, I later discovered, signed her name as Paris Hilton. "Ohmygawd," I imagine her saying to her friends the next day. "I totally pulled one over on The Real World!" Uh, yeah.
A tray of beers and shots appeared. And then another.
"Cynical rocker" Geoff and "semi-closeted Latino" Chris were filmed having an engrossing conversation about appropriate use of the word "gay." "Party girl" Alexis went to the bathroom and returned with two spiky-haired pretty boys, which angered "sensitive meathead" Dean. He then loudly expressed his frustration to Molly, who empathized, and "intelligent inner-city girl" LaShawnda, who rolled her eyes. Meanwhile, T.J. was inviting some tail back to his crib.
"Y'all should just roll by the house at around noon or somethin'," he said. "Just knock on the front door."
I asked a group of waitresses to turn down the music because it was affecting our sound. "Oh, sure, we'll do anything for The Real World," she said sarcastically. "Why don't we just shut down the whole bar for you?"
I waved her off. Doesn't she know I'm an important producer with the fake Real World? Later, I was standing behind the cameras, keeping a close eye on the unfolding scene, when someone tapped me on the shoulder. She introduced herself as "Holly from Road Rules." It took me a few seconds before I realized that, yes, it was the actual Holly Shand from Road Rules: Latin America. She said she happened to be in the bar and wanted to come over and say hello to the crew. Cayton-Holland and I just stared. There, within touching distance, was a bona fide reality-TV star breaching the fourth wall of our reality-TV parody. I half expected a hole in the fabric of the universe to rip open and suck all of us away to some parallel dimension.
"It's funny," she said. "I don't recognize any of the staff."
"Uh, yeah, they got a whole new crew for this season."
She turned to Cayton-Holland. "How's the house?"
"It's great," he said. "You should see it."
"Do you know Mike, the line producer?"
"Yeah!" he replied, maybe a little too eagerly. "He's not working tonight, but he's a great guy."
"This is only my second season filming," Cayton-Holland admitted. "Key West, now here."
"I think I'll stop by."
"Drop by anytime."
Thin and pretty, Holly had an aura that seemed to glow with the stuff reality TV is made of. It was an authenticity that, I realized, our fake Real World could never really attain. I asked her to sign a waiver; she said, "No way." Then I noticed that someone had bought our cast another tray of shots.
"I just don't know why you think to have to slut around and show off your ass to guys all the time," yelled Geoff. "It's pathetic."
"Whatever!" Alexis screamed back. "What the fuck do you care, anyway?"
It was 11:30 p.m., and we were on the back patio of Hemingway's Key West Grille. The hundred or so people crowded into the outdoor drinking area thought they were witnessing a full-on Real World meltdown. Geoff stormed off, Alexis ran to the bathroom, and the audience returned to their drinks.
T.J. practically had a whole harem at his disposal, delighting them with his plans to use his future Real World fame to score a big-time record deal. LaShawnda was going off on some political diatribe while Chris smoked sullenly, wishing he were at a gay bar instead of hetero central.
Before setting out for the night, our mission had been to have the antics of our make-believe cast reported as solid fact on some of the Real World gossip sites. Our dream of faux fame came true on the Denver Post's www.getrealdenver. com, where four of the named cast members are our phonies. But there was already one rumor about the real Real World that affected Team Sham: Four girls from the genuine cast had gone to Brix and left a $3 tip for a $100 bar tab. Within 24 hours, word had circulated through the restaurant industry that The Real World was stiffing local bars, and we were getting the blowback. At Mezcal, the bartender tried to put us on auto-tip. At Hemingway's, some dreadlocked guy chewed me out for stepping all over the local hospitality. I explained that I hadn't been at Brix the night before, that it was another producer, but he was having none of it.
"Wow," he postured. "Wow. That's really messed up."
I left a good tip.
The night ended as many nights on The Real World close: with a boozed-up brawl in the middle of the street. The cast members were walking down South Broadway when they got in an argument about where to go next. Geoff wanted to go to the hi-dive; Dean wanted to go to 3 Kings Tavern. There was pushing. And yelling. A cigarette was thrown. Fists were raised. Molly began sobbing on a parking meter. For some reason, T.J. started climbing a tree. Then these two strange gutter-punk kids came up behind us wielding large walking sticks.
"What's going on!" one yelled.
Everyone stopped. Morehouse looked out from the side of his camera.
"Fake Real World," I said.
"Oh, okay," they replied, and walked away, satisfied.