Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Imitation of Life At The NY Television Reality School


My apologies, I know that you are all wondering why there has not been a recent report from the Bryant Park tents. “Where are you?” some have emailed. “Fashion Week is simply a waste of time without your periscope to gaze at it through.” Flattery will get you everywhere, as the saying goes.

The title is a reference to a movie that starred my dear, dead friend Lana Turner. I've never had the heart to tell her I think it's a terrible remake of the original Claudette Colbert version made in the 1930s. Lana does not take criticism well.

However, if I had a nickel for every time someone said, “Your life should be on television”…I’d be as rich as I am now, which is fabulously rich. In the same spirit of inquiry that brought my ancestors to this country (from what other country I have no idea, dear darling Mama refused to say), I decided to let a friend lead me to the New York Reality Television School.

Yes, you read that correctly. The New York Reality Television School, where hopefuls go to be taught how to relax in front of a battery of cameras, tell their stories in a concise 30 seconds, and pitch television ideas. Since I am quite used to being in front of batteries of cameras, that part held no terror for me. As for telling my story in thirty seconds…well…

The course is taught by a curly-haired whirling dervish Robert Galinsky, who reminded me of no one so much as the Russian poet Lermontov. (Look it up.) He was helped by a battery of reality television stars, such as Jose Bendersky from Animal Planet, some pert little thing from VH1, and (gasp!) a model from “Project Runway”, season four! I shall devote a later entry to our encounter…suffice to say it was fascinating, and I shall have to stop making sport of the models after this.

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Not to mention several casting directors, including the handsomely chiseled Robert Russell, and a young woman in a brown dress who claimed that working in reality television helped her promote her feminist agenda. Anything you say, dear, anything you say.

The evening was held in Chelsea in a tiny television studio, where the walls were painted an unnervingly bright shade of green (presumably what they call “green-screen green”). I dressed down for the occasion, in a tailored pants outfit and low heels, but I was still by far the tallest woman in the room. Gazing around, I saw any number of petite, pretty, interchangeable young girls with bright eyes and exposed breasts. “Well,” I told myself, “at least they have some flesh on their bones, even if it is all in their push-up bras.” After days of looking at withered runway models, it was a bit of fresh air.

The men, on the other hand, were far more diverse, ranging from the handsome to the smarmy to the terribly shy, of all heights and shapes. But isn’t that how television is?

We started by doing physical warm-up exercises, followed by dancing, which I found quite enjoyable, even if I did perspire in my silk blouse a tad. During the evening there were lectures by the television pros, but it all seemed to boil down to one essential thing: self-confidence. That, and knowing when to powder your forehead to keep it from shining under the lights.

My self-confidence has never been an issue, but I could see for many of the other students it was a major hurdle. One young man, who wants to be on “American Idol, “ sang in a sweet tenor that earned applause, and the beauteous Queen Esther, a well-known jazz singer, also belted out a number. (In the interest of honest disclosure, Queen Esther has been a customer of mine, buying my smaller dresses.) A tall Irishman, Evan, solemnly recounted his desire to be on “Law and Order,” because he had killed seventeen people already. I do hope he was joking. Later he disclosed he had a lifelong medical condition that needs constant attention, and wanted to do a reality show about his life called “When Irish Eyes Aren’t Smiling.”

When it was my turn, I was told my life sounded too much like a soap opera! Well. Opera, perhaps, GRAND opera, but not soap opera. (I should like to be played by Kiri Te Kanawa in her prime.) However, these people were hardly my peers, so I ignored them.

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Robert Galinsky’s brother Philip, an actor with the intensity of Christopher Walken mixed with Robert de Niro, did a section called “On The Grill With Phil,” where luckless contestants had to audition for television programs or be thrown off the stage. One poor woman had a complete meltdown and stormed off the stage. I do hope she gets the professional help she needs. Si vous ne pouvez pas prendre la chaleur, restez hors de la cuisine.

When it was all over, we exhausted students flopped back into our chairs for a Q & A which included several reality show producers, New York Times reporter and author Abby Ellin, author of the book “Teenage Waistland.” Many technical behind-the-scenes secrets about reality television were revealed, all fascinating. To sum up, I had a wonderful time, even if I was largely ignored in favor of the little pretty things. Ah well, as they say, that’s show biz.

However, if you think you have what it takes to star on reality television, be it “Survivor,” “The Apprentice,” or “America’s Top Skittle Player,” do take a look at The New York Reality Television School. It has a proven track record of success, and your faithful correspondent learned a great deal, which I'm not'll have to go to school for it.

As for moi, it’s back to the tents, and REAL reality! Or , what passes for it.


Elisa & Bucky the Wonderdog

P.S. Q: What is the difference between Sarah Palin and a pit bull?
A: Sarah Palin stands on her hind legs.

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