I was as nervous as a condom-buying teen at Thriftys about going to my interview to be on the gameshow, “STUDS.”
I know, a true stud probably wouldn’t have been nervous, but going on a show like that is like telling the world, “I love myself, so does everyone else.”
While this may or may not be true, I’m not especially comfortable telling the world. Its kinda like, I’m happy with my penis, I’ve had no major complaints about it, but I wouldn’t feel comfortable having it televised nationally for all the world to pass judgment on.
And that, basically, is what this show is about: Having you and your penis televised so all the world can snicker and say, “That guy thinks he’s a stud?!”
Sure, there were risks involved. I could come across as an idiot on national television. But I viewed the experience much like bungee jumping — its one of those things that, no matter how insane it may appear, if you get the opportunity, you gotta go for it.
I signed up for the interview with a group of three other friends. By the day of the interview, two had to cancel because they, “had too much to do.” Right. Eighty percent of studliness is commitment.
So my lone compadre and I drove to L.A. psyching ourselves up on the way.
“You’re a stud, man”
“No, you’re a stud.”
“You’re so studly, just being in this car with you makes women want to date me.”
“Are you kidding? You’re so studly, I’m questioning my sexual preference.”
And so on.
But around about Camp Pendelton this game grew tiresome. So when we arrived at Fox studios any confidence we had artificially summoned was long faded.
We pulled up to the guard gate and told him, “We’re studs.”
Seven women and 20 men were collected in a room lavishly furnished with metal folding chairs and a cafeteria-style fold-up table–confirming my theory that Hollywood “glamour” is a facade perpetrated to make people in the Mid-West buy products they don’t need and watch inane shows like STUDS. As I scanned the room I began to feel much better. I was expecting to be in a room full of models in-between shoots. Instead I found an assortment of off-duty pizza delivery guys and unemployed stoners (“You mean you work with stone? Like a mason?” “No, I mean I smoke pot”). Of course, all the guys were acting real cool, like, “This better get over quick ’cause I’ve got a date with some stewardess twins.” Most people just crossed their arms and pondered their rich social lives.
Finally, a big, loud, Oprah-looking woman came into the room to conduct the interviews. Everyone stayed in the room while one person stood in the center and answered the woman’s questions.
“Why do you want to be on STUDS?”
“What do you like in a woman / man?”
“What’s the worst date you’ve ever been on?”
“Who in this room turns you on?”
I was shocked at the lack of wit in this supposedly studly group. The majority of answers were, “to get on T.V.”, “Pretty, with a hot bod'” and “Gee, I don’t know.” Did these people think that these were the kinds of answers the producers were looking for? Did they think that the entertainment value of these responses would somehow be enhanced by a lighting crew and camera? Did these people actually get dates?
After about an hour and a half, a group of four women and six men were asked to stay, fill out some forms, and come back next week for the final interview. My friend and I were both invited back.
Well, two days before our second interview, my brother-in-studliness decided he had too much to do to make another trek to Los Angeles. The fact that his girlfriend found the idea less-than-amusing wasn’t discussed.
If this wasn’t enough to make my confidence fade, my complexion did its part to sabotage my appearance. A fury of blemishes unlike I’d ever faced seemed intent on destroying my studly self-image. I was all but broken when, in a surge of insanity–like the one needed to take the innitial bungee leap off the bridge– I grabbed my tube of Clearasil cover-up and headed to L.A.
After lying about how often I date, “Oh, I don’t know…six or seven times a day, I guess” and making up a story about my worst date, my second interview was over. “We’ll call you in a day or two if we can match you up,” was their subtle way of saying, “if you don’t hear from us, you’re a dork.”
The show called the next day and told me to keep the following week open. They would call on Monday with three names and numbers and I’d have to complete all three dates before Sunday. With a little bit of math I figured out that this would be more dates in one week then I’d had in my entire life previously. The charade had worked. I now had to convince three women not to make fun of me on national television.
For the next week, “Have you gone on your dates yet?” was a major part of my daily interactions. Only occasionally interspersed with, “do you know who the other guy is?” Although they told me nothing, I was convinced that my “opponent” was some CEO of a major corporation taking some time off to pursue modeling and body-building full-time. Either that or he was just like me, except better. Actually, he turned out to be a nice enough guy. He was a 28-year old mortgage broker (Read “he had more money than me”) named Darren. Drove a red Cammaro, wore tight jeans and rayban wayfarers. He looked like a cross between a 90210 character and an otter.
A strange and cruel trick was played on me in the matching of me to the three women I was to date. In my interviews, I stressed that I was looking for a fun, funky woman who didn’t play the bullshit L.A. status games. Maybe I used words with too many syllables because they set me up with three models who thrive on being treated like the pretty things they are. The show I was to be on was a part of “Fantasy Week” and my fantasy, apparently, was to date three models. Huh? I felt about as comfortable around the Beautiful People as they probably would in my Physiological Psych class.
O.K. Here’s the run-down on my dates, in reverse order (both chronological and enjoyment-wise):
I took date number three on a hike/picnic and then to the beach for drinks. She was queen of the L.A. club scene. She goes to exclusive clubs six nights a week and has rich, shallow men throw money at her and her breasts. She flashed her “Roxbury”, “Bar One”, and “Tripps” V.I.P. cards at me as evidence of her membership in the “beautiful people” elite (I’m not attractive or famous enough to wait tables at those places, let alone get past the door man). She was going to go to a celebrity after-Oscars party but didn’t want to take her male friend from “Beverly Hills 90210” because she’s tired of being harassed by the press. “We’re just friends.” she assured me. She also let me know that she was currently Miss Teen Georgia and was looking to settle down in the next few years and let some rich man take care of her. Well, I’m a student, I have no job, and when the 50 bucks “STUDS” gave me is gone, I’m taking you home.
My second date consisted of thrift-store shopping, going to a coffee shop in Venice and then to a romantic restaurant ( sort of a “rags to riches” theme). Although a really nice person, date two was in the pathetic state of aspiring to be date number three. She came to L.A. two weeks previous to pursue modeling and the shallow lifestyle outlined above. I found out at the taping that #2 and #3 were actually friends and that, after I took date number two home, she went out to an exclusive club and met #3. I felt like the butt of some insane, nationally televised inside joke.
On the phone, date number one seemed horrible. So when she rejected my pool hall/ dinner/ dance idea and suggested going to Universal Studios, I said “fine”. If we didn’t have fun, that was one less thing she could blame on me.
When she opened the door, I was blown away. If the second two were attractive, this woman was divine. If this whole “STUDS” experience was comparable to Bungee Jumping, this was the moment when your feet lose contact with the bridge. When you realize that you may be doing something terribly wrong and against the laws of physics. I had no business going out with a woman that attractive.
At Universal Studios, we were a walking example of “Billy Joel Syndrome.” Everybody who saw us together must have thought, “God, how did that guy get that girl? He must be a rock star or something.” Eventually, as I realized there was no way to get back to the safety of the bridge, I decided to enjoy the fall. As I relaxed and let myself have fun, an amazing thing happened — we hit it off. She began to strip away her model facade and we had amazing talks about the pressures of being attractive in our society and the increased focus on the exterior. By the end of the night, after a bit of kissing (which we agreed not to tell the leaches at STUDS) I was confident who I was going to pick on STUDS and couldn’t wait to go out with her again. And more importantly, my ego was inflated enough to handle the status mongers of my next two dates.
I felt pretty good about the whole experience. In a week I’d go to L.A. and tape the show. Date number one and I would pick each other and we’d wave to the audience, starting our life together as the credits roll.
The taping experience was filled with harsh realizations about glamorous T.V. and Hollywood women. The producers tell you what questions the host is going to ask you. They write all the responses for the women. They coach the women to synchronize their responses. They tell you to lie about your dates if they were boring. And the “Dream Date” is actually two $250 checks sent seperately to each of the winning couple. “We could care less if you ever see each other again, ” they said. But the most painful slap was when #1 picked Darren. Sometimes the bungee pulls taught a little harsher than you expected. And not to give away the show, but it ends something like this, “DARREN”, “NEITHER”, “DARREN.” I can’t decide if being rejected by three models qualifies as being saved by a merciful bungee cord, or splattering on the floor of the ravine.
Originally published on Prehensile.com, July 14th, 1998