Celebrity Zoo: Commentary on
Starring: Brigitte Nielsen; Flavor Flav; Ryan Starr; Dave Coulier; Jordan Knight; and Charo
1: Who in This House Has a Real Name?
I would like to begin with a few quotes, the first being something I sampled from songwriter Danny O'Keefe's "Good Time Charlie's Got the Blues":
Unfortunately, it became apparent late last week that as The Surreal Life season 3 was beginning Labor Day weekend, the majority of the apes on this web site were to be on vacation in other parts of the U.S.A. Therefore, the daunting task of introducing the new roster in this habitat for has-beens fell squarely on my shoulders.
I was sorely reminded of my looming Surreal review assignment while I was watching TV on Saturday morning and came across a movie I hadn't seen in over ten years: the 80s costume classic Dangerous Liaisons. I happened upon the end, where Glenn Close's character the Marquise de Merteuil and John Malkovich's Vicomte de Valmont are having their final blowout. Valmont had just broken off with the only woman he's ever loved (Michelle Pfeiffer's Madame de Tourvel) because he is afraid of being seen as a foolish man. Remember, he has to say very dramatically that it was beyond his control. Marquise de Merteuil (Close) is thrilled about this turn of events because she has been trying to manipulate Valmont and she declares that his predicament confirms what she has always believed, "that vanity and happiness are incompatible."
And in many ways this seems to be an inescapably predictable theme of Surreal Life, not to mention Behind the Music life, E! True Hollywood Story life, and your co-worker-who's-trying-to-be-an-actress' life. Vanity and happiness are incompatible. It's your life's particular choice.
And I guess if you agree to appear on Surreal Life, you've made your choice. Now that VH-1 has taken over the show from the WB, we immediately see more elements of celebrity self-deception with the help of manipulating Marquise-de-Merteuil-type show producers. As each celebrity pulls up in a car representative somehow of their image, thin rows of "fans" are planted by the door to cheer them into the house. And either the celebs gamely play along or they let themselves get caught up in the cheesy half-assed manipulation.
As New Kid on the Block's Jordan Knight is driving in, he makes sure to say, in a statement that sounds all too rehearsed, that he has been talked into this gig and is above such promotional stunts to jump-start his solo singing career. So why are you here, Jordan? Where did such high standards falter?
Charo, who you may remember from 21 Love Boat episodes or, if you are slightly older (like me), from appearances on a smorgasbord of 70s TV variety shows, arrives right before Public Enemy's Flavor Flav. Charo claims to love Flavor Flav but we can clearly see she doesn't have a clue who he is. Flav claims to know nobody. He has arrived from a cultural vortex of old-school bling bling. He was too busy being Flavor Flav in the last two decades to keep track of boy bands and classical flamenco guitarists/cuchi cuchi dancers.
I want to like Charo and Flavor Flav. I really do. But I can already see what we're in for. Attention wars.
Brigitte Nielsen arrives on a horse. You may remember Brigitte as the woman who sent naked pictures of herself to attract the attention of Sylvester Stallone. This will be important later on in the episode. Immediately, Brigitte declares her intent to take control of the house. We see her try to boss around Charo at the bar. Before long, Charo and American Idol contestant Ryan Starr form an alliance and Brigitte feels left out. She says she can't "feel" Ryan.
Dave Coulier arrives in an ice cream truck and you begin to wonder if the Marquise de Merteuil of The Surreal Life is really a sadistic pimp, much like New Kid Jordan feared. Jordan and Dave scuffle because Jordan says something inappropriate about the Olsen twins. Brigitte and Flav also go at it immediately, as Charo adeptly describes, like a two-chicken fight in Mexico.
Wouldn't this be an interesting season if one of these egomaniacs murdered another one? Sigh. No, I guess not. Forgive me. I'm just desperately annoyed.
There are just too many incredulous comments of celebrity self-delusion made in this episode to list here. My favorite head-in-the-hands moment was when Flav declared "my teeth aint tryin to hear Brigitte." Let's just say every one of these people think they are either more talented or more interesting than they in fact are. And maybe somewhere deep down, they know this and see this camp-come-back show as their way to identity redemption. Although this hasn't seemed to have happened for any other celebrity in the history of the show. Show Biz deception springs eternal.
There was only one real moment on the show. It was when Flavor Flav let down his gold-plated armor and spoke a perceptive explanation for Ryan Starr's post-Thunder-from-Down-Under flip-out. Sadly, Ryan is either incapable or unwilling to see beyond the big plastic clock to the softer side of Flav. Dave brings up the racial differences between himself and Flav and then claims it will be "good for him" to bunk with Flav. You wonder if the white-cracker-show-Full-House alum has ever had a friend of color.
This seemed like the longest episode of The Surreal Life I've ever had to sit through. So I will leave you with another quote culled for me weeks ago by the Oracle of Quotations:
As I am alone with these entertainment demons who are trying to either forge connections with each other or look good trying, I contend that the first step toward becoming connected to another human being is to stop being so self-absorbed. Honestly, this is a problem for all of us. And it is just this character flaw that allows the evil Marquise de Marteuils of this world to manipulate everyone like puppets.
Lesson for this episode: it's hard to see any kind of connections forming in this quagmire of unhappy vanity.
Lesson for me: I miss my fellow apes. Because to be no part of any conversation is to be talking to yourself.
Lesson for Vicomte de Valmont: nobody wants to look foolish. That's where we're all coming from. Why do we do such foolish things to look smart?
Yours in Surreal Explications,
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