Today marks the beginning of the highly coveted trial-internship that is the MTV/Rolling Stone project. What better time than now to hurl myself into a shame-spiral of denial, given that I was one of the 85 other losers that almost made it on the show?
I’m no stranger to living the life of a reality reject. Oh, no. Would you believe it if I told you, dear reader, that I made it to the final round of the Real World Austin? Well you shouldn’t, because I only made it to the second round. But still, I was sort of proud. I figure first cuts devastated around a few dozen thousand, so it was validation that I was semi-interesting at the very least. My stellar video included the sound effects of a faulty shower drain spectacle in my boyfriend’s apartment, sucking the water from the tub with a terrible, ripping noise while I sat Jenny-McCarthy-does-Candy’s-ads-style atop the john, demurely crossing and uncrossing my stilletos, moaning, “Why did I eat the whole burrito. Why?!” and jerking my body each time the tub made another hideous “pffffffftttt.” Then the camera panned away from me, over to the tub and the drain, revealing my little joke, the soundtack punctuated by my uncontrollable giggles. I mean, I really thought it was funny. I guess you had to be there, because as I recall it now, I’m nothing short of horrified.
One gray morning after, I was blessed with the “long application”; a big, fat, textbook of a form which requested that the piles upon miles of blanks be filled out comprehensively, legibly, and within 24 hours. This I got in the third week of a new job. Right when the work starts to get really bad because everyone figures you’ve had enough time to “get up to speed” and commences throwing projects at you, though you still don’t know anyone’s name or what you’re supposed to be doing and are far too embarrassed to venture asking. The short of it is this: I filled it out half-heartedly, over-thinking, tossing off prickled barbs like they were lollies* and faxed it in without the final two pages. Suffice it to say, I was never contacted again and they picked that odd-looking, gossipy virgin to fill the “kooky girl” spot instead of me.
So when I was perusing craigslist a few months ago and stumbled upon the MTV/Rolling Stone Project audition info, I was a bit wary of the process. But still, incredibly bored of winter-thawing-spring, broke-ness, and lack of response to, "so what have you been up to?", I thought it might be fun just to apply. Besides, it was an avenue for breaking into writing. And I need(ed) all the help I could get. The perk of marinating with a bunch of hipster bands was just the delicious cream-cheese frosting.
This time, I filled the application out with a pure heart, devoid of gimmicks. I love music, I adore writing, surely I would excel within the realm of writing about music. I offered some ideas for the magazine. Some tongue-and-cheek thoughts on Brooklyn beards, Seattle then-and-now, a “really big” re-shoot of iconic rock photos utilizing artists and influencers of today as the bands and supermodels as their groupies, stuff like that, knowing full well that I was probably signing away the rights to all these pitches, never again to be credited to me. But hey, I had the chance to actually do something with myself here, prove to me, mom, and anyone else that I was worth something, so off the rights went. And for the video, I did it right this time, abetted by many a friend certain of the perfect equation for reality success.
Clear lighting + low-cut top = callback.
Perhaps that would keep me on the monitor for the first thirty seconds while I shook off jitters and morphed from insecure to immanent intelligence. Besides, friends assured, TV is for looking, and we all know you have to be marketable eye-candy to some degree. Show your “talent” now, show your brain later. Cry in the corner because you sold your soul much, much later.
I said my piece; hopes and dreams, how I grew up with Rolling Stone and Kurt Cobain, whom I admired and why I needed this chance, how I’ve lived thus far below expectations, doggy-paddling in a pool of disappointment and hackneyed quips. I dropped it in the mailbox feeling pretty good. Somehow it felt like an espresso-sized shot of confidence, even without any real affirmation.
A few days later I got a call from MTV(!). They had, in hand, my application, but couldn’t watch my video in its current format. Mind you, this video was on a regular, small DVD/VCR tape that fits into any camcorder made in the last ten years. And was nothing special, and the ONLY thing I could have bought at K-Mart in Astor Place. Apparently, the casting kids at MTV are getting some sort of raw deal where they have equipment that can’t handle that format. So after much confusion, I duplicated it and mailed it back, past the deadline, and hoped for the best.
Lo and behold, the prized email came. I was a semi-finalist (!!) and wanted (!!!) for a two-hour taped interview. All I had to do to get on TV was to bring another idea along with my butt to the hotel on time.
At a quarter past eight, I entered an empty hotel room. The beds were leveled vertically up against the walls, the lights were bright, the blinds drawn. A camcorder blinked red at me from its three-legged perch. A barefoot girl politely asked me to please come in. A guy closed the door behind me. They quickly apologized for the shadiness of it all, and I cracked a joke about how they needn’t worry, I’d been filmed in hotels worse than this (tee hee), and we commenced.
Here’s where I’ll gloss over, not to protect the innocent, but to protect you from getting bored to tears. They were really quite nice, I talked about my life, and I signed something. Somehow I went off into this long diatribe about my family and writing history. I was literally irritating myself, so I can’t understand how they managed to look engaged the whole time. These people are well trained. I left feeling like a total moron, knowing that I had jabbered on, not being terribly interesting, adjusting my top and nervously licking my lips the entire time. It had crawled on, and then it was done.
And a few weeks later, so was I. They had a round of hopefuls fly out to LA to get their final screen test. I was not one of them. I had a nagging suspicion that I was done about five minutes in, but still, reading that final no was a bit of a knee-cutter. Then it was a warm wash, clean and total relief.
It’s still frothing around my mind. The what ifs. The goods. The bads. I would have had to quit my loving job, give up my summer, and become a slave to a horde of cameramen. Throw in the kicker: an evaluation by none-other-than Jann Wenner. Televised. And if I didn’t sustain until the finale, I would have emerged bitten and torn from the experience with no job to speak of, no money, and probably zero credibility if I ever dared to try something else. Then I got depressed at the notion. Do people on reality TV become productive members of society afterwards? Can they shake the crushing shadow that people have seen them at their worst and judged them for it? I’ve got to be honest with myself: I’m not sure if I have the spine for that. In fact, I’m starting to think I don’t have the spine for anything.
Blogging certainly is the reality TV of the internet, but somehow it’s safer, nestled close in a cover of anonymity and space between you and your attackers. True, no one cuts you a break, just the same. They happen upon your life via linkage and then think it normal to call you worthless and talent-less based on a blurb you wrote for a select few. Mud slinging and the like on your home turf, skipping out and leaving you to mop up the mess. It’s a blast of harsh wind, and I’ve seen it get nasty on sites. But I have got to believe that it’s worse for those on TV, because the angry rash spreads so deeply. People seem to genuinely vehemently hate actors, celebutantes, reality pawns. And they are quite vocal about it. At least with blogging, you can maintain a shred of ambiguity...
Then again…part of me thinks that it would have been mighty cool…
Something to write home about…
I guess I’ll just have to watch the show to know for sure. And while I’m at it, try and guess which role I would have fulfilled, if only, like so many times before and so many times after, I had just been more of whatever they were looking for…
*Question paraphrased: MTV has a strict, no-tolerance policy against drugs. If you were picked to be on the show, could you go without using for TK days? To which I answered: Dood, totally. Well, okay, no synthetics.