The first rule about being on a reality show is not "Don’t slug your date" or "Attach prosthetics firmly and ahead of time" or any other of the seemingly likely candidates. No, the first rule about being on a reality show is “Don’t drive to the wrong set." This happened to me on the morning I was supposed to meet "the girls." My friend Mark and I drove into Studio City and found, as we pulled up to the address, an impressive array of film-set gear: The table with the sandwiches. The policeman that had been brought in for traffic management. Racks of lighting equipment and special cameras hovered over by their priests and acolytes. Everyone with that studious disinterest that we all affect when we’re being gawked at by tourists. I had clearly come to the right place, ground zero for Millionaire Matchmaker. A set in keeping with Millionaire Matchmaker’s stature.
We pulled up to a special cordoned-off parking zone, and a zippy security guard was on us instantly. Mark pointed at me and said, "he’s 'the talent.'" That standard industry phrase for actors has always struck me as at best presumptuous and at worst completely ironic. Calling actors “the talent” seems a little like calling judges “the wisdom” or lawyers “the evil." Most of them have plenty of it, sure, but can you generalize?
The security guard was shortly replaced with a woman with a clipboard. I began to suspect I might not be “the talent” they were looking for. Sure enough, she confirmed that the elegant set we were parked at was for a full-budget motion picture. My driver (we “talent” always have a driver, even if it’s just our buddy Mark, hired for the day) and I had stopped one block too soon.
We drove another block and found our building, desolate in the way all bars are at 10:30 in the morning. We quickly confirmed that we were at the right place. However, I was told, “the girls” were already inside, and because any premature sighting of me would apparently devastate the emotional integrity of our show, if not cause an actual spontaneous polygamy, I was told to stand outside on the side of the building on the sidewalk.
Not long afterwards, I had a chance to hang out with the other Millionaire on the episode. This was, of course, Paul the NBA Player, an extremely nice guy. We had a lot of time to kill, so Paul and I began talking. I confided to Paul that I was concerned that the girls wouldn’t know, at first, which one of us was the 39 year old out-of-shape businessman, and which one of us was the 23 year-old professional basketball player. After all, I pointed out, we’re both about the same height, (give or take a couple of feet), with the same chiseled good looks (give or take a chisel) and massive upper body strength (well, we both have mass). I did not want, I told him, to steal his thunder and run off with all of the girls’ attention. I expressed concern that it might be somewhat embarrassing if Paul was caught on camera without any girls to talk to, tentatively poking the shoulders of those girls in the outer rings surrounding me and attempting to peel them off for a conversation.
After some sober consideration of the problem, Paul responded that he felt capable of handling any dejection that might accompany such a situation, but that he was appreciative of my concern.
Having established good buddy chemistry, I used the next ten minutes to give Paul some pointers on his basketball game. I told him that I felt he should be driving more aggressively for the basket and taking fewer baseline jump shots, and that furthermore he was setting his picks too early. He asked which games I had seen him play. I told him that I hadn’t actually seen him in action, but was such a good coach of basketball that I was able to diagnose his play faults simply by examining his bone structure. I began to explain how the ten years I spent in a kung fu basketball temple deep in China had honed my coaching skills, but I began to sense his attention wandering. Before I could chastise him, however, our production work began.
Now, I know that the first question most of you are going to have is “Alex, how did you do that flying stunt?” And unfortunately, my written agreement with Bravo forbids me to divulge that kind of production secret. I CAN tell you about the penguins, but not until their non-disclosure agreement runs out next month. And for those of you who want to know if that was free-range okra I was harvesting, the answer is yes, as I refuse to work with caged okra, no matter how good the part.
But most of you figured all of that out just by watching the episode.
Let’s talk about Krista. Krista is a cool woman and I’m glad I selected her. Given the limited time available, I was forced to be more aggressive in my courting. I don’t know if the French spelling bee will make the final cut, or the part where we inspected each other’s teeth and withers. I am sure that Bravo will include at least one of the wind sprints, certainly the final if not the preliminary heats.
After the physical trials, we moved onto some improvisational drama. Krista did an excellent bit of early Benny Hill. The Russian brunette nearly brought down the house with a Nina monologue from The Seagull, but she lost points for implying some fantastical sort of comparison between myself and the self-absorbed artist Trigorin, who ruins Nina. Me? Self-absorbed? I mean, c'mon. I asked the three finalists to each do the Alec Baldwin speech from Glengarry Glen Ross, but as if it was being delivered by Mr. Snuffleupagus from Sesame Street, and I think that, of all the finalists, it was Krista who really found the heart, the center of Mr. Snuffleupagus. Krista probably would have been my selection even had she not broke off in the middle of a doily-tatting evaluation to chase down a purse-snatcher and talk him into a rehabilitation program. She’s witty and fun. So I picked her.
I flew her to Las Vegas for our date and picked her up in Betty, my 66 Eldorado. Like many old-timers, Betty has some memory issues. She sometimes forgets what gear she’s in, or which side of the road she’s supposed to be on, or that when I push down on the brake, she’s supposed to stop. You don’t drive Betty like a car so much as you steer her like a ship. It’s all about momentum and inertia. Pushing down on the gas pedal produces a 19th century sort of delay as if you’re waiting for someone to yell down a pipe to get an undereducated Yorkshireman to shovel more coal into a boiler. But her heart is in the right place, and Vegas is a perfect place for her to be. There’s no point in going fast in Las Vegas, anyways. All the interesting driving is done near the Strip in heavy traffic at night. It’s basically a cruiser paradise. (For daily driving, I use a teutonically efficient Mercedes named Inga.)
After dinner, I took Krista to a Strip cantina called Diablos, where I happened to get called up on stage by the singer, Jeremy Cornwell, who happens to be a friend of mine and who happened to have my acoustic guitar up on stage with him. I was shocked (shocked!) when he asked me to jam with him, but I did my best and then decided to serenade Krista with one of my favorite Jonathan Coulton songs, “Soft Rocked." For those who can’t make out the lyrics, suffice to say that there’s more to that song than meets the eye. Check it out online.
Why didn’t I click better with Krista, ultimately? Maybe it’s the left brain/right brain thing. Krista’s an artist, and the women that tend to dazzle me have tended to be really bookish, the kind that know that Pynchon is not a new sexual technique. I loved the way she kept me a little off-balance. She’s happily dating another artist right now, and that’s probably a better fit for her.
I’m glad that all Patti wanted to change about me was my clothing and hair. I was worried she was going to call for a full lobotomy. Patti’s prescription was to turn me into an LA industry droid. She wanted to put me in black denim. Apparently, the way to stand out to women in LA is to look like a wannabe producer. (Which stands to reason, if you’re targeting actresses, I suppose.) I am a big believer that you have to stand out. That’s why most of the time I wear 3-foot long clown shoes. (It’s a shame that they were in the shop for servicing when we shot my episode.) Blending in with the LA industry crowd is not really my agenda.
What comes next? Krista is happily dating a drummer in Boston. I’m mostly in San Francisco right now. I just spent a month traveling in Asia holding strategic meetings with Kiva partners (Kiva.org is an amazing microfinance non-profit I’m on the board of.) I toured the south and east coasts of Australia. I spent a week in a treehouse deep in the Golden Triangle of Laos, connected by ziplines to nearby mountains. I went to the Temple of the Golden Pavilion in Kyoto and meditated at the Ryoanji rock garden. I did a soba noodle crawl in Tokyo with Kiva supporters, and ate roasted tarantula in Phnom Penh. But I did too much of this alone. I’m still single, and I still want to get married.
Hopefully you have enjoyed my episode. Krista is doing great; make sure to check out her My Space page at http://www.myspace.com/kristameadows. I hope Paul is out there doing well too. And best wishes to Patti and her team.