A Penny For Their Thoughts: Behind The Scenes Of The I Love Money Reunion

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If money is the root of all evil, reality TV is its fertilizer. I Love Money was a showcase for the depravity to which people will resort to stay in the game (and doing so, let’s not forget, is inextricably bound to staying on TV): the back-stabbing, the lying, the degradation, the cake-throwing, the eating-disorder baiting, the soft-drink pouring, the strategic flirtation, the old throw-up tongue, etc. (Oh, and there were some challenges and athleticism, too!) It was a show whose central character, Megan, claimed upon exiting that she didn’t come to win, but to have fun, turning a reality TV cliche on its bikini-clad ass. This is a new frontier in already rapid Celebreality evolution, the player-for-sport who exists only to amuse herself. (Megan swears that she’s not at all interested in making good TV.) The resulting embarrassment of riches for the audience at home was an afterthought, a mere surplus of enjoyment that had already been had by those involved.

Indeed, with the exception of Mr. Boston, Nibblz and Destiney (all of whom left relatively early in the season), everyone on the show talks about what a great time they had shooting it. And yet, the pervading negativity lingers to the point that my experience on the set of the I Love Money Reunion taping found me shaking my head and saying to myself countless times, “These people really hate each other.” The s***-talk is pure professional-wrestling bravado, but it comes with such frequency and urgency that it feels unavoidably real.

The only thing that was warm and cuddly about I Love Money weighs two pounds and is retarded (see above). Some believe that children are our future, but in this environment a Chihuahua named Lily was the main source of humanity. Take comfort in that little dog because in our backstage recap of the I Love Money Reunion below, the fertilizer sinks in, the evil tree blooms and things get ugly.

But first, a neutralizer to the foreshadowed negativity:

That’s the never-less-than-all-smiles Celebreality mastermind Mark Cronin (his partner in creative sadism, Cris Abrego, wasn’t able to attend the Money reunion) posing with Whiteboy, told me, “I don’t have a problem with anybody,” he told me while I interviewed him. “I heard the Entertainer had a problem with me calling him my bitch, but we’ll deal with that when the time comes. I don’t premeditate any stuff like that.” A beef-less disposition without any agenda? Just what company does this guy think he’s working for?

Now that the palate is cleansed, we move on to…

Megan and her bare feet. As with Whiteboy, it was here that I conducted the bulk of my Celebreality Interview with Megan. Not that I expect anything less than brutal negativity from the readers of this blog, but I thought it was bizarre that some people were so miffed at my “biased” treatment of Megan in that interview, as though for the past 10 months on VH1, she hasn’t given every indication that she’s ruthless and unflappable. If I thought for a second that Megan couldn’t handle direct questions about her motives and character, I wouldn’t have gone there. The worst method of getting people to speak is to make them uncomfortable. (And just to put this in perspective regarding hard questions, it’s not like I grilled her on her plan for foreign aid or what magazines she reads or whatever, you know? The very nature of these interviews is softball.)

For the record, I like Megan. As I noted in many a recap, I appreciate what she brought to I Love Money (I don’t even want to think about what the show would have been like without her). Our back-and-forth was good-natured. I wouldn’t turn to her if I needed help with community outreach or a hand for heavy lifting or if I were dying on the side of the road, but I do think that she’s a sharp girl who has a good sense of humor about herself (“I just think it’s funny” she says of her status as a future trophy wife) and an even better sense of how to maintain it (she avoids message boards at all costs, for example).

Another major discovery?

Lily, who’s probably my favorite dog in the world, has a soft spot. Like, literally, there’s a portion of her half-dollar-sized cranium that is unprotected by skull — it’s just skin over brain. It’s freaky and it kind of makes me scared for her, but Megan doesn’t seem too bothered. I asked if it’s a result of, you know, Megan dropping Lily when she was a puppy, but apparently, it runs in Chihuahuas. Once again, reality TV taught me something I never would have even thought to wonder about.

Maybe it’s the need to reserve drama for when the cameras are on, maybe it’s the layout of this sound stage (rooms are all along one side of a big hallway as opposed to lining both sides of shorter hallways, which is not nearly as conducive to cast mingling as the Rock of Love 1 and 2 reunion set-ups were), but everyone was kind of sequestered backstage of this reunion. Not that everyone would have embraced a pro-social set-up with open arms…

…or, I don’t know, whatever Rodeo embraces things with…an open lasso?

As usual, Rodeo, a self-identified “Stallionairette,” wasted no time laying into Megan: “I’ve got a message from the troops for her and I’m gonna let her know it. She’s a waste of human air that people breathe, and she has no respect for people at all. Very disrespectful. Not a lady. She’s gonna wish at my age that she has a little bit of the respect that I get…I think it’ll be fun to see what kind of jabs people will give Megan [during the reunion]. I don’t think she gives a damn, but you know, that’s her. She was the only one that was on the show the whole damn time, holdin’ that f***in’ dog the whole…damn…show. Rarely showed anybody else.” And while I’m sympathetic to Rodeo and more than happy to listen to whatever comes out of her mouth, on screen and off, I do find it hard to believe that troops would complain so much about a blonde whose nipples are never too far from a TV-MA rating. With Heather, Rodeo and Destiney decidedly toned down, if anyone kept the softcore spirit of Rock of Love alive, it was her. Just saying.

Rodeo is never short on things to say about her visit to the Walter Reed Army Medical Center for wounded soldiers, and her stories were decidedly more graphic than the first time we talked about them: “You have no idea what I saw. When those guys with no limbs, some of them tried to stand. Some of them had no arms and they saluted me and said they were so happy that I came because I was the one person who could take away their pain and give them inspiration. That’s why they asked me to come. So thank God for VH1, thank God for Cris and Mark because if it weren’t for them, the troops wouldn’t have been able to see me.” Take that as you will, but you can’t deny the boldness of her imagery (I mean, an armless salute?).

Next stop:

The Entertainer told me that he’d written “The New Party Boys” under Whiteboy’s and Heat‘s names on the door of the dressing room they shared and that when Heat saw it, he tore it up in a huff. Way to let him know all about his ex-best friend, Frank! That aside, 12 Pack and the Entertainer probably provided the most light-hearted material of the day, between 12 Pack asking me to get him hooked up as a contestant on Daisy of Love, and the Entertainer’s admission that he and Celebrity Rehab‘s Mary Carey are an item…or something. Now that is a spin-off idea. It started when I asked him about his brief affair with Pumkin. “I’m not a drinker, and I drank and made a poor decision,” he explained. “She never saw nothing on me, I never saw nothing on her. Mary Carey did, but not her.” Record scratch! Whaa? Accepting what he’d just told me, I asked him if sleeping with someone who’s partially famous for sleeping with people was intimidating. “No, she was more intimidated than me. I’m a f***ing freak. She’s got a great heart, she just got into the wrong s***. We talked literally 45 hours before we even kissed. We stayed in the same bed, we were naked.” This lovely sonnet-in-the-making was punctuated from a text from Mary herself. And just in case you think he’s lying, he had proof in the form of Mary herself when he showed up with her at the afterparty later that night:

Don’t let the Brandi in the middle fool you. They’re totally doing it.

The Entertainer ended our discussion with a promise regarding Destiney: “I can’t wait to go out there an explode on that bitch.” The love, clearly, was lost.

And Destiney knew it.

I caught up with her outside and while tranquil, it was clear that she wasn’t particularly jazzed to be there. “I feel like there are some people who don’t care for me too much,” she explained. “I just don’t want to feel uncomfortable, but it’s inevitable in this type of situation.” Destiney never returned my call for a post-show interview, because she avoided the show entirely: the clips she was to see that day on stage would be the first footage of the show she’d ever see. She didn’t go too much into detail, but I got the feeling that she was worried she’d come off, uh, loose after the Heat-Entertainer flip-flop. Regardless, if Destiney’s story is true (and I think it is), it’s amazing that someone who appeared on one of these shows had the disciple to avoid watching herself. For restraint of this sort, Destiney’s practically a Celebreality unicorn.

In the makeup room, I caught up with Toasteee (rocking her natural hair color) and Heather (rocking her usual extensions).

The biggest change for Heather is that today, she came in peace. Or so she said: “I’m nice and relaxed and I like everybody. I have no beef. Usually at the reunions, I’m like, ‘I hate so and so!’ Last time you saw me, I was sick and evil and Teen Wolf. Not today.” (Clearly, this was before someone put the alleged Megan-12 Pack hook-up in her head.) The biggest change for Toasteee, on the other hand, was that she did not come in peace. “I’m gonna kick some ass,” she told me, referring to Brandi C., and Megan. “If they let me.” As I talked to Toasteee, Heather cheered her on (“You should!” “Don’t ask, just snap!”). Just because you come in peace doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a little rumble, apparently. I’ve known Toasteee longer than the rest of these people (I started doing this during Flavor of Love 2), so I felt like it was my responsibility to urge her not to do anything that was going to get her in trouble. “Why would I get in trouble? Heather didn’t get in trouble for hitting Daisy. I’m not gonna get in trouble. I’m a classy girl.”

And so, it is true: violence begets violence…until someone steps in. I really think that this pre-show smack talk could have put the kibosh on Toasteee being called up on stage. As much as violence makes arguably good TV, I’ve seen it repeatedly and emphatically discouraged behind the scenes at every one of these reunions (this time around, metal detectors lined the entrance…not for the guests but for the cast). There are producers and handlers and people involved with the show all over before these things start — who knows who heard Toasteee’s threats and decided she’d be best kept in her seat?

Moving on, this should buy back any respect Real lost as a result of that…confusing proposal to Hoopz:

He let me take a picture of him in a hair cap. Twice!

I found that lack of ego to be shocking. I grilled him a little bit about that proposal, as he and Hoopz hung out in her deluxe winner’s suite (adorned with a sectional couch, flat-screen and kitchenette – class). Here’s an excerpt:

Me: What was going through your head when you proposed to Hoopz?
Real: The normal thing that goes through a man’s head when he’s in love someone and wants to be with her.
Me: It’s kind of a drastic measure since you’ve only kissed her though, right?
Real: I guess you could say that. But we got really close in the house.

At this point, Hoopz jumped in to defend Real (“You don’t have to have sex to know you have a connection!”), as she did repeatedly throughout our conversation about the proposal. (Much of what she said, I pieced together for her Celebreality Interview). After talking about it with them, I still can’t say that Real’s impulse makes very much sense to me (though something I did take away from watching them interact is that they indeed to have a bond and that Hoopz is as fiercely loyal as she was on camera). To put it in perspective, Real told me, “They got married in the Biblical days without kissing. So I have the ancient days to back me up. ” And, uh, yeah…still don’t get it.

But whatever! Hoopz is sweet and cute.

And that’s what really matters.

And then, I met an adversary:

Chance has been anti-blog since early into the run of I Love New York, when accusations of homo-thuggery circulated around the Internet (at least, that’s what he told me at the I Love New York reunion). So when I told him I wanted to talk to him for the blog, he did his little jibber-jabbery, yip-yappy Chance routine and told me he wouldn’t talk to me. I said, “Why?” and that’s pretty much all it took to get him to spill. Let it be known that Chance is not a hard nut to crack.

My favorite thing Chance told me had to do with his image: “I like to keep people on the edge of figuring me out. They always think I’m some type of crazy guy, they think I’m a nice guy and they think I’m a guy.” This cleared a lot up for me, since we’ve seen him go from rocking a mohawk and rock T-shirt in his I Love New York audition video to the official-label/Air Force Ones-rocking hood fab during the actual season all the way to something like…uh, this recent promo shot:

“Stallionaires, we’re all about high fashion,” he explained. “Cutting edge, new. Everyone’s going around wearing T-shirts and are scared to be themselves, or they don’t know who they are. They’re scared to go to the future with it. We’re all about the future, the uniqueness and the youth. The people who are hating right now are going to end up loving it, once they understand.”

I asked him if the shot above was in anyway influenced by Blade. “Hell no, just because we have dark clothes and funky hairdos. A lot of people thought I was a street guy just because I had to kick off some street talk to those I Love New York people, man, because I didn’t know what type of situation I was in so I had to let them know what time it was. What they’re seeing is who we are. Which is some cool guys. No vampire Blade, no Vampire in Brooklyn, no vampire, period. But it’s dangerous out here. We like to wear black, keep the mystique and get in and get out if we can. I have people trying to rob me. You do a little TV, they think you’re rich overnight.”

So there you have it: Chance does not want to suck your blood. Even if some of his words came out of frustration at the scoffing he and his brothers received when those shots circulated last month, I think that Chance, too, doesn’t take himself too seriously for two reasons. One is this quote he gave me:

“As long as people are laughing and having a good time, we’re good. The Stallionaires are all about entertainment. That’s what makes us happy. What’s going to make us unhappy is if people walk up to us on the street and say, ‘Your show sucked’ and when we read about how Real Chance of Love was a flop and they’re not funny no more. That’s when we start worrying.” And the second piece of evidence is this:

He’s just having fun, playing with scarves and stuff, you know?

Midget Mac and Mr. Boston were placed in the same room:

I didn’t ask about Boston’s shirt being off because it was just clear to me that it was because he didn’t want to get food on it. I’m pretty sure it was that, and not just opening the door for seducing whomever happened to walk into his dressing room, although you never know. We just spoke briefly, but Boston gave me a preview of what was to come during his time on stage: “Megan, the f***ing c***, is going to get a taste of her own medicine today. I’m gonna call her out for banging 12 Pack in Vegas about a month ago at an appearance. I’ve heard that from numerous sources. 12 Pack, for whatever reason, tells me. Maybe he wants me to talk about it to give him credit. Regardless, I’ll be embarrassing Megan.” I’m not sure how numerous sources would be relevant after supposedly receiving word from one half of the two first-hand sources, but maybe that’s because I’m not in possession of the Boston Logic.

The s***-talking was back on the upswing when I stopped by to talk to Brandi (she was getting makeup done when I’d stopped by her room earlier to talk to Megan):

She told me: “If me and Megan are on a show, no one else exists on that show. Anytime we’re on TV, it’s The Megan and Brandi Show. I don’t know why other people even sign up.” Perhaps so that she can talk about them? Here’s a consolidated run-down of the smack Brandi unleashed:

On Destiney: “She’s a bump on a log. She doesn’t talk or do anything except have sex with two different guys in the house in one week? Go. Have fun. She’s disgusting.”

On Rodeo: “She’s a nutcase. Stay far away from that one.”

On Heather: “You can’t even fight with her because then she gets insecure and sad and you feel bad. She’s like a beat dog.”

On Whiteboy: “He’s not that nice of a person.”

On Pumkin: “You’re welcome. I obviously motivated you to lose weight. I deserve a thank you. I gave her the power to lose weight. It’s like I’m God.”

On Toasteee: “She’s a retard. First of all, Toasteee claims to be thin. I’m mean, come on. Toasteee looks like a troll.”

On the allegations that she’d had liposuction, Brandi said, “I get bruises because I get drunk at night and I run into things. I was just drunk and falling.” Most interesting, I thought, were her comments on her own weight, which has fluctuated since she started appearing on VH1: “TV makes you look heavier. I saw Rock of Love and I said, ‘Oh my god, I’m fat.’ But you know, not like Pumkin-fat. After that, I was dieting and exercising a lot and I went down to 110 lbs, and I thought I didn’t look good like that either. Now I’m normal.” I have to say that I think Brandi looks better than ever. And, I don’t know, she’s sort of just naturally funny. “Klonopin, whatever!” she said in reference to Heather’s charge at her final elimination. Like, oh benzos, you cute little trifling things! She also called the makeup that was frequently smeared on her face (and will be again, according to the Charm School supertrailer) a “running theme.” That’s too clever to be accidental.

She and Megan posed for more faux-lezzie imagery…

And then they showed me something they had prepared for the show (but that they didn’t get to bring out because of the chaos that Megan’s segment devolved into):

It’s a collection tub for those who are “less fortunate” than they are. Or, perhaps the term should be “bitch basket.”

I’m not sure if the humor of anything I say could compete with the very idea of “cum wipes,” so I present this without commentary.

And speaking of falling down while being drunk…

…that’s what Heat attributed the cuts on his face to. At least there was no internal damage — not even on his heart after Destiney “left” him for the Entertainer on TV for everyone to see. “I like girls with big asses,” is how he summed up their relationship. Really, what more needs to be said?

And my final dressing-room stop held the entire lineup of the first Power Outing, Paymaster and all…

Nibblz was “so over” the show (“I wouldn’t have done I Love Money if I knew that it didn’t have anything to do with brains or brawn”). Though jaded, she was still plenty sweet. It’s a shame we didn’t get to see more of her. Pumkin took time to gloat about her weight loss and Brandi’s weight gain. “That’s karma right there.” Indeed. The forces of the universe have clearly come together to punish Brandi for what she did on VH1. Finally someone gets their comeuppance!

And that was it. The cast soon hit the stage…

…and I watched most of the show in a separate room with some execs and guests and, bizarrely enough, Flavor of Love 3‘s Prancer…

Complete upgrade, y/y?

You can read my thoughts on the taping versus what made it to air here. And check the gallery below for some more shots, including after-party pictures. Usually at this point in the reunion recap, I’ll have something to hinge a conclusion on: an interview with Bret or Flav, a shot with Sister Patterson, whatever. This time, though, there was none of that. It ended like just another day at the office (or mental institution, if you like). Which isn’t to say that attending the reunion was anything less than a riot of extreme human behavior, it’s just that there was no real climax. And since just about everyone on this show (save maybe Pumkin, Toasteee, and Nibblz) has told me at some point about their desire for their own show, keeping things open-ended seems appropriate. I think the Money grubbers would want it that way.

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