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Black Lamb

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Reality and me

March 1st, 2006

BY DAN PETERSON

This is the TV issue? Well, folks, I am a walking, talking head on TV in Italy. So big-headed have I become that I now have a “manager” for my TV work, the legendary Tony Toscano, with whom I have a hate-hate relationship. As a matter of fact, I am going to fire that SOB the very next time I speak with him. Why not? He is down for at least two attempts on my sanity and safety. Let me explain.

Here is the basic problem: Tony never tells it like it is. He… exaggerates, with me and with the TV people. Sometimes he resorts to outright lies. For example, I once told him, “Tony, I’m up for anything, but one thing I will never do, at my age, is a reality show. Are we understood on that?” Tony: “Coach, you can trust me.” I complimented myself for having dealt with Tony with the utmost clarity.

In June of 2004, Tony calls me and says, “Coach, I have a program for you.” He quotes how much they will pay me, which is acceptable, and I then ask him, “What kind of show is this?” He says, “A reality show.”

I go ballistic: “Damn it, Tony, I told you I would not do a reality show. Tell them no.”

Tony, visions of twenty percent dancing in his head, resorts to stretching the truth: “It’s not a reality show.”

Like a total nitwit, I accept, even believing that it’s not a reality show. I go to the Channel 5 studios in Cologno Monzese and they herd twelve of us onto a bus headed for Bardi Castle, near Parma, famous for having the “ghost” of one of its previous owners appear out of nowhere in the middle of the night. I sort of wonder about this but I’m distracted by making the acquaintance of the other eleven.

That is a lie. I was busy trying to make the acquaintance of two former Miss Italy winners who are among the eleven: Nadia Bengala, who won in 1988, and Eleonora Benfatto, who won in 1989. I am way too distracted to see that there are several reality show veterans there: DJ Ringo from Island of the Famous and Cristina Plevani, winner of the first Big Brother.

We arrive in Parma and are shuttled into separate rooms, where they take all of our clothes, personal belongings, watches, cell phones, even Dopp Kits, which means no tooth brushes, razors, and what have you. This should have aroused my ESP even further, especially when we began signing waivers that said we would not bitch if serious bodily harm were to come to us.

Tony was technically right: it was not a reality show but a spoof of a reality show. They gave us fifteenth-century clothes to wear, with boots with pointed toes and all. It was cold in the castle, even in June, and they gave the guys coats of mail to keep warm. It dawns on me: “Coach, you total idiot! This is a reality show! Try to get yourself kicked off as soon as possible.”

We were supposedly “guests” of the “Prince” of this castle, a fabulous Shakespearean actor, who looked and dressed exactly like Henry VIII.

Exactly! He had us live in the castle’s prison. No joke. Names were scratched on the wall, like “Giovanni, 1621.” We slept on straw mats. We ate fifteenth-century food. I will not discuss basic matters like going to the bathroom and all that.

As hard as I tried to mess up, I kept doing things right. They had a lady guest with a veil over her face. We twelve dopes had to guess who she was. The Prince gave clues. He said she was from eastern Europe. I had seen the name of a drop-dead beautiful Ukranian girl in an ad for a Triumph bra. I thought, “I’ll give her name, make a fool of myself, get them mad, and get sent home.”

The Prince asked the other eleven people and no one had the foggiest notion of who she was. Me, the local smart-ass, would now get himself fired on the spot.

I said, “Alena Seradova.” It was her!

The Prince was ecstatic: “Knight Peterson, congratulations! You will have extra portions at the evening meal. A wonderful response!”

I was now in Panic City. How was I going to get myself fired from The Castle? They interviewed me. I said, “I have obligations in Milan. You have to let me go.”

No deal. I asked DJ Ringo, “How long will we be here?” He says, “Forty-five days.”

“What? Forty-five days? I have an engagement in Milan on Wednesday!” They sent about five home in five days but I was still there.

Someone tells me, “Coach, you have the best answers. The Prince will never let you go.” I wanted to cry.

Finally, after nine days, they said it was all a spoof and that we’d each get another bundle of money when our individual segments ran on the air. OK.

I now wanted Tony to pick me up. I was going to assault him. He sent his assistant. My segment has yet to run. Wild. •

Posted by: The Editors
Category: All Television Issue, Peterson | Link to this Entry

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