Touch My Backstage Pass: Behind the Scenes at the Rock of Love Reunion

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Hey! I’ll show you things you’ve never seen…but could probably predict. Below is my on-set, behind-the-scenes and backstage account of the taping of the Rock of Love reunion. Over the course of the night I’d be called a “jackass” by one of the girls to my face (dying to know what they had to say about me behind my back!), I’d get to hang out with Bret and I’d achieve my elusive goal of interviewing Tiffany. See kids? Dreams do come true!

To whet your appetite, here’s a picture of Bret with an anecdote:

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Bret art-directed this shot. He he’s the one who suggested he be shot next to the picture of the girl. Once a ladies’ man, always a ladies’ man.

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“I am so over this s***,” Jes said to me about a minute into our brief chat and hours before she’d announce it on stage to Bret. Exclusive info, I’m so hooked-up! Also within seconds, it became clear why Bret picked Jes in the first place: not only is she direct and articulate, but in person she’s every bit as gorgeous as she is on TV. Not that she’d know — she told me that she stopped watching the show a few episodes ago because she just couldn’t take watching herself, especially the edited-and-packaged incarnation of herself. She did admit that she was excited to see the girls before letting me snap the shot above of her. I wanted to catch her through the mirror so as to present a backstage view. Isn’t it so totally behind-the-sceney?

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Speaking of direct, the next dressing room I hit was Brandi M.’s. I was happy to find out that she didn’t have gas. She did, however, have reservations about being on the show — she said that she was nervous, especially that she had to present herself live in front of people, without the help of editing. One girl loves it, one girl hates it — call it Rock of Editing. Brandi’s cure for her nerves? Food and beer, which she was going to leave out of the picture, but I asked her to keep in. I just like to keep things real, you know? Brandi told me that she loves seeing her fans, of which she says she has many. She was also looking forward to the opportunity of clearing up her somewhat confusing exit. When it came to confronting Lacey, she told me, “I’m bitter toward her, but I don’t need to stoop to her f***in’ level.” That’s because she’s f***in’ classy, and don’t you forget it!

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Remember Tawny? I did…kind of. Tawny told me a tale of message-board drama, in which she got into it was a purported friend of Erin’s. Tawny had, apparently, talked smack about Erin on the boards, calling Erin out for going on the show after being engaged. It wasn’t because she thought Erin was still engaged, it’s that Tawny thought that by going on the show, Erin’s presence implied that Bret was a rebound. And Tawny’s here to tell you that Bret Michaels is no rebound! After taking some crap, Tawny learned her lesson and bowed out of the message-board game. Thank god. My only piece of advice to any of these people is: don’t read about yourself. Especially what I write. Please!

I soon found myself locked in Tawny’s dressing room, which was…a little scary. Every once in a while, for a reason that I didn’t quite gather, the dressing rooms had to all be closed momentarily for “lock down.” I think it had something to do with filming or, like, Lacey or something (even though the show wouldn’t start taping for over an hour at this point). Tawny told me that she wasn’t crazy moments before lock down. Once she knew I couldn’t get out, she held up her plastic fork (you can see it in the picture) and told me that she was going to kill me. “You aren’t convincing me that you aren’t crazy,” I told her. “You’re lucky I don’t have any alcohol right now,” she replied. Still. Not. Convinced.

Tawny’s dressing-roommate was Tamara, she of incomplete sentences and spatial disorientation. She announced to us that she didn’t like the way they did her hair (in a shot below, you can see that it’s very big and wavy). “Thank god I brought my mousse!” It probably wasn’t the first or last time that sentence would pass through the lips of someone that day.

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And then, and awesomely, there was Tiffany, the woman responsible for so much joy in my TV-viewing life this year. Tiffany in person is nowhere near like what she is on the show. First of all, her skin is much…brighter. Second of all, she’s relatively reserved. I’d emailed with her back and forth probably a dozen times before the reunion, starting the week the episode aired in which she was booted. I desperately tried to set up an interview with her to no avail — I think her thing is that she’s actually shy when alcohol isn’t playing peek-a-boo with her blood cells. At one point, she told me that I could interview her, but only after she did another interview first so that she could get some practice in. I find that sort of timidity adorable.

Needless to say, I had so many questions for her. I asked her about how she came up with, or at least where she stole, “Don’t threaten me with a good time” from. “Uh, it’s just something I started…saying…?” was her response. Suddenly, I wasn’t so letdown about never getting that interview. I asked her about the hat she told Big John she had made. (“I had a hat made!” has become my favorite method of convincing people…anything. Someone won’t cut you a deal? “I had a hat made!” A friend won’t hang out? “I had a hat made!” Boyfriend won’t put out? “I had a hat made!” Try it. It works.) Tiff told me that it was a white hat with a black band that said “Bret Michaels” in Old English. Did she know that was his favorite font? No! She is so prescient. Also, can I just take a minute to say that I know that Rock of Love has enriched my life because I know what Bret Michaels’ favorite font is? If the show gave me nothing else, it was worth it just for that.

Tiffany also told me about a recent incident at work: you may or may not know that she’s a nurse in Chicago (she signs her emails “Nurse Tiff,” I threat you not), but what you most likely don’t know is that she was suspended from work for her participation on Rock of Love. This happened a week or two before the reunion shot in mid-September, so obviously, the show had been on for a few months and Tiffany’s time on the show had long passed. Someone came into the hospital, recognized her and said that she didn’t want Tiffany assisting her. As a result, Tiffany was suspended “upon further investigation.” She was brought back the very next day, as her supervisors realized “there’s nothing to investigate.” A little ironic that she was threatened with a very bad time, no?

Here are a few more pre-show pictures that I don’t really have anecdotes about:

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Dallas is extremely hard to read — the best I can come up with is that I think she enjoys looking indifferent on camera. She is not unpleasant. Erin, on the other hand, is just straight awesome. She’s a lot brighter than I think we were allowed to see on the show (but I knew that from my interview with Erin, which she thanked me for, as she felt that it presented her accurately). Also, I think she had on less makeup at the reunion, so you could actually make out her features. Good move. She seems to have a great sense of humor about herself (at one point, she referred to herself as “Clown T**s”) and she said she had no animosity, despite the beating she took on the show. “Been there, done that. I just don’t care anymore.” That’s the spirit!

And then, and maybe most awesomely of all, there is Rodeo:

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That’s her showing off the Redline ad she shot. I told her people loved the interview she gave me, especially the part about her sausage. “That’s just me,” she said. That’s just her sausage. Talking about the taping she said, “I’m not giving up.” Not giving up what? Not giving up Bret? “Correct.” She said. Succinct determination! Love it. She talked about her fans and how the crowd outside was thrilled to see her (at the time, I thought maybe she was making this up, but she’s right — during the introductions, the announcement of Rodeo elicited a bigger response from the studio audience than any of the other girls). She sort of played coy about her following: “I’m just a regular girl. Southern belle.” I think everyone on earth can agree that if there’s one thing Rodeo isn’t, it’s regular. For example, she mostly just hung out backstage without her hat, but every time I pointed the camera at her she would start and abruptly say, “My hat!” and scramble to put it on. You can take the hat off Rodeo, but she can’t take a picture without it. Makes sense, as it’s her lifeforce and why kids love her and all.

One such instance occurred when I wanted a picture with the two of us in it but no one was around at that second to take it, so I had us pose together and I turned the camera toward us and shot it. Rodeo’s response after previewing it?

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“Doggone.”

Not even, “Doggone it.” Just, “Doggone.” I have no idea what that means, but I think it’s good. I mean, it must be, right?

I should mention that the layout of this backstage area was a series of short, narrow hallways of dressing rooms, so that as long as the girls weren’t actually getting dressed, many of them had their rooms open and were milling about (Lacey, unsurprisingly, was sequestered in her own hallway). The result of this was gentle girl-on-girl madness like this:

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You know, at least once a reunion, I find myself having the job of Photoshopping out any signs of nipple. This time was no different.

Just hanging out, I heard a bunch of awesome stuff. Magdalena has received emails that basically boil down to, “You are a man and I hope you die.” Tolerant! Mia, one of the few unaugmented girls called herself “Flatty McFlatterson” and said she was excited to see what everyone had in for Lacey. “She’s gonna get ripped and I’m OK with that.” Best of all, when I was talking to Mia, Tiffany walked by and Mia told her that she looked good. Tiffany explained that she’d been working out and proceeded to show us the extent of that by using her breast muscles to move her boobs in alternating up-and-down directions. It was very similar to Wendy Williams’ boob trick, but mostly, it was just breathtaking.

I talked to Heather in her dressing room, but she wouldn’t let me photograph her because her makeup wasn’t done (more on that in a sec). I told her I was a little let down that her hair wasn’t so big, but she told me that it was part of her image makeover. The big hair I came to love her for was also a result of the filming schedule: “You have so much time on your hands that you just end up teasing and teasing,” she said. She’s so resourceful. That’s why I love her. Well that and, still on the topic of big hair, she said that, “Someone had to rock it, and I’m the one with the biggest balls.” True and truer. We talked about her character progression, if you will, how she became more likable as the show went on. She said that she was happy the way it turned out, since early on she read stuff about herself on the Internet that she said was just “cruel.” She stopped reading after the first episode, and to that I say: bravo. Seriously, the wisest thing any of these girls can do is ignore the press. I did reassure her that she has her share of fans. “Dlisted named you the Hot Slut of the Day!” It was only in the middle of that sentence that I realized it could be taken as an insult. But not by Heather! “What, did I win that, like, 10 times?” she asked. Almost, Heather. Almost!

I found Lacey in the hair room shortly before Rock of Love producer Chris Abrego walked in and greeted her by calling her the “greatest villain on television.” Lacey, who I said before is totally pleasant, was clearly there to have fun. “Bring it on,” she said in response to my suggestion that virtually none of the girls would be happy to see her. “The more they bring my way, the more I can bring to them. I enjoy the challenge in some twisted way.” Twisted’s the word! Lacey and I also talked a little bit about her music and the fact that she’s played and recorded with Pigface. Say whatever you will about her personality or her music, even, but you cannot deny that Pigface is the real deal. Seriously!

Here are some more anecdote-free shots:

And then it was time for the girls to hit the stage. They did so cloaked in the most minimal of light.

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If you ask me, Rodeo has never looked classier.

After mic-ing up the girls, they finally turned the lights on:

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I took a few shots of the girls…

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I was really hoping that the fact Magdalena was holding a guitar meant that she’d be going into a rendition of “Brettay’s Theme” (“Once I received a phone call from L.A…”). However, she didn’t, and I am emptier for it.

I zeroed in on Heather for a close-up and, when I shot it, I realized that she’s giving me the nastiest look through my lens. “I don’t have my makeup on yet, jackass!” she told me. Some would be offended by this. I swooned. It is an honored to be cursed by a woman of Heather’s stature. I promised that I wouldn’t publish the non-made-up shot, though you best believe I will cherish it forever. I eventually did get a full-on of Heather and…

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Y’know, it’s cute, but I was hoping she’d do the sign-language “I love you”s over her boobs a la the picture she took for Bret, but then again, I’m no Bret Michaels. I’m special enough to be called a jackass, but not special enough to get my own exposed-boob cover-up shot. Story of my life.

At this point, there was a lot of waiting, as various tests were performed and mics were checked (when someone asked Brandi C., to count to 10, she sort of hesitated/tripped over the number “seven” — whatever, at least she made it that far!). Big John’s wise cracks helped pass the time: when Tiffany was announced for the introduction, he could be heard chanting, “Say it, Tiffany! Say it!” When someone couldn’t find Erin, he asked incredulously, “How could you miss her?” It helped to have fellow wise-ass Brandi M. sitting next to him. At one point, Rodeo started making that pre-laugh sound that’s sort of like that which emanates from a pinched balloon allowed to let a small stream of air out. “She’s gonna blow!” said Brandi M. And so she did.

I wasted some time by contemplating Brandi C.’s legs.

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I think it’s a weird way to sit, but then, I know nothing of having to deal with panties in dresses.

Who has to go to the bathroom?

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Brandi C. does!

Also, Tawny and Tamara do.

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I really hope that the blurring of this photo adequately conveys their frenetic scramble to the can.

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I hope this picture adequately conveys RAWK.

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And I hope this picture adequately conveys the fact that Bonnie is a Bonstar. Whatever that is.

Riki Rachtman, the show’s host soon took the stage:

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I didn’t get a chance to talk to him, I just admired him from afar. I know that some people have grumbled about him, but I thought he was just great: quick on his feet, knowledgeable, authentically ’80s. The editing of the show didn’t do his humor justice. For example, after Lacey performed, he said, “But what the world really wants to know is what Tamara thought of Lacey’s performance!” Cut to a visibly perplexed Tamara doing her best…Tamara. Riki brings the best out of people! He’s also a perfectionist, and as he cut his various throws before the show, he kept stopping to redo them until they were perfect. Only the best for Bret!

I didn’t get much of a chance to talk to Brandi C., in her dressing room (she wasn’t ready until just before the girls were called out on stage), but I did stop by during some downtime:

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She and Kristia told me that they made their dresses themselves out of old wedding gowns. Wearing their own designs to a reunion? That’s so Romy and Michelle of them. I’d have to say that they’re really…not bad! Kristia described them as “Alice in Wonderland meets Juicy Couture,” while Brandi C., said they were more reminiscent of Strawberry Shortcake. We’re all right!

Here are some more shots of the pre-show downtime:

Soon, Bret took the stage and filming began:

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Pretty awesomely, Bret’s entrance to thunderous applause had to be shot over. I’m not sure why, I think it was a sound issue. “That was awesome, though, thanks,” Bret told the audience. “Now do it again, but bigger.” Such a charmer! A few more mishaps gave the first few minutes of shooting the feel of L.A. traffic: stop, go, stop, go. This show is soooo Hollywood! Bret complained that the interruptions were killing his “mojo,” and off camera told the audience about feeding of their energy. Or was it insulin? Hard to call.

The first person called up was Tiffany, whose spot was completely cut. Shame, but I think it’s possible that unless Tiffany’s liver is sending out distress signals, she’s really not in top form. Something funny did happen when Riki was drilling her about her drinking. It went down like this:

Tiffany: I really don’t think I was drinking as much as the other girls…
The other girls: Liar!
Tiffany: …They were basically pros. They were strippers, waitresses, bartenders. And I’m a nurse. I don’t drink everyday.
Riki: All I saw was somebody on a pole and somebody giving Bret the most dangerous lap dance I ever saw.
Bret: My penis is still recovering, but I knew you were a nurse so we could handle any problem that may have come after. But go on, tell us about not drinking!

Kristia and Brandi C., the “Barbie Twins,” were next up. Highlights included their description of almost burning down the apartment they just moved into together (damn irons and their heat!), documenting their cross-country road trip only to figure out that they didn’t know how to use their video camera and their outrage over the real Barbi Twins‘ outrage that they’d adopted their moniker (albeit with a Mattel-baiting “E” at the end). “They’re old. What are they even doing now?” wondered Brandi C. Writing cease-and-desist letters, no doubt.

When Rodeo took the stage, fully aware of how the audience was 100 percent behind her, she announced to the crowd, “You know the saying, ‘Let’s get ready to rumble?’ Let’s get ready to Rodeo, baby!” I’m not sure how you do that, but I bet it involves a hat and hyperventilation.

I watched most of the taping in a small section backstage set up for friends and VH1 employees, just a set of chairs in front of a TV. When they played Rodeo’s footage including her amazing and tearful speech that went, “Kids love music and I’m trying to bring them into good music. And I love rock and I love country. That’s why I wear my hat. That’s why kids love me,” I totally cracked up. Someone shot me a dirty look, but I was like, whatever: if you can’t see the inherent comedic genius in Rodeo, you’re the one with the problem.

And speaking of that, I’m so so sad that the absolute highlight of the reunion didn’t make it to air or VSPOT. It was a video that Rodeo had produced featuring her son asking Bret to give his mom a second chance, while a song sung by Rodeo and very similar to her “Rainbow of Never-Ending Love” practice song during the song-writing challenge episode played. It was amazing. The end featured still shots of Rodeo posing (to emphasize her muscles, of course) in nature. As the camera panned across them, digital sparkles appeared, like stars in the heavens that Rodeo loves so much. I cannot even convey to you how gorgeous was. I’m so sad that I’ll never get to see it again, although I suppose having seen it once was enough of an honor.

After Sam’s segment, it was time for a shooting break, which meant more pictures:

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Heather talked to some admirers. Again, she didn’t have her full face on. The eyes, damn it. Where are her eyes?

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Rodeo also took time to grace the fans with her presence. She left a lasting impression: she laughed right into their ears.

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Erin has Faith. Lots of her.

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Barack vs. Hillary? Lacey vs. Heather? Itchy vs. Scratchy. They seriously could have been talking about anything.

If you saw the show, you know that Bret was told to go off stage for Lacey’s segment, so that a select number of girls could have an uninterrupted go at her. This gave me the opportunity to hang out in Bret’s dressing room and watch the show with him.

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That was hanging on his door. Old. English. Someone’s got great taste!

When I walked in, Bret was hysterical over what was happening on screen, the Lacey-vs-everyone antics. He was seriously delighted and called her “the best bet.” “See, what’s so great about her is that she doesn’t back down,” he said like a real reality TV junkie. I get the feeling that Bret absolutely adored the show, and not only because he was on it. We watched for a few more minutes and before I left, I asked him for a picture with me. Before we took it, I was like, “OK, you glue gray fuzz to your face and I’ll look sexy with a wrench.”

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But he wasn’t having it. Check the dudeish distance between us. All I wanted was to sweep him up in my arms, but I don’t think he was having that either.

The rest of the show played out more or less how you saw it on TV, just longer. I thought Lacey’s performance with her band had shades of Krazy all over it, as even if it were material that a VH1 audience would appreciate (it wasn’t), they still would have been resistant to it simply because it was from Lacey. To call the live response “tepid,” would be an overstatement. As stated above, when Riki threw to Tamara after Lacey’s performance, Tamara looked extremely confused and caught off guard for a second before reporting that she didn’t like it. Lacey said that Tamara didn’t know up from down and Tamra’s response was about as brilliant of a retort that she could be counted on to invent: “Lick my face.” Kids, don’t try that at home: licking Tamara’s face would probably have the effect of aluminum foil and kill brain cells. But really, what an insult!

I loved that when Heather was brought up, she ended her apology to Lacey with, “And I don’t think you’re a whore.” Awwww! Tender moments. Heather’s segment, by the way, took maybe 45 minutes to shoot, what with her pre-Bret therapy and then her endless hashing out with Bret once he was back on stage. During the break before her segment, Heather worried aloud about losing it on stage, I didn’t know what she meant (as an aside, she also asked me for gum to cure her “halitosis,” which I felt was oddly formal of her). But yeah, Heather really had stuff to work out. It was clear on the show that she was head-over-heels for Bret, but that she seemed so damaged at the reunion made it even more clear.

And then came Hurricane Jes and her air of indifference. She first apologized to all the girls: “If I talked s*** about you, I apologize. If you talked s*** about me, I don’t care.” Ha! Jes’ segment was about a quarter of the length of Heather’s (also telling). She was there to say what she had to and leave. That was all the closure she needed.

Even with the bickering at Lacey, this reunion was the most civil I’ve witnessed. That’s insane when you think about how wild Rock of Love and the potential for more screen-time-grabbing antics. It’s so weird, but so many of these girls have let go of whatever negative feelings they had about they show and/or Bret and have just focused on the positive: the friendships they made. Almost all of the Chicago girls (12 of them, I think) are tight, and we know that Heather, Brandi C., and Kristia all plan to move in together (Lacey’s also firmly in their clique). If the show wasn’t called Rock of Love, it could have been accurately called Rock of Friendship, as these post-show shots attest:

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The taping finished and Rodeo’s still talking. Go figure!

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…and waiting to talk, as Jes makes nice with Lacey.

Some shots of Bret and the girls:

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And some shots of Bret with the audience:

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As if the show didn’t bring the point home enough, the man is a crowd-pleaser. If you take away nothing else from this, know that and try, just try not to be turned on by it!

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