5. Cara Makes Out With Toad The Wet Sprocket – When not faking 9/11 shock, Real World Chicago was cultivating future Cinemax late night vixens and introducing cast members to lead singers of seminal ’90s alt bands. Boston denizen Cara not only looked like a young Sarah Jessica Parker but she was frequently looking for sex in the city. In what would make a pretty interesting Jezebel article in 2011, Cara’s numerous trysts were quite the focal point of the season and I always imagined some double standard editing did most the judging for us. But even being aware of the producer’s evil intentions, I did feel justified looking down on one of Cara’s numerous sexual encounters, not because of perceived “slutiness” but because she basically admitted to liking crappy music.
When the roommates went to an outdoor concert, the lead singer of a band that remained anonymous on the show took a liking to Cara. His face was blurred out (not sure if that was for his or her sake) but I KNEW who it was. I don’t even remember how I knew but it was almost like my ears were tingling from the possibility of it maybe being someone as horrific as Toad The Wet Sprocket’s lead singer Glen Phillips. And it was! We didn’t see much of this rendezvous – and in truth it only took up about 5 minutes of airtime – but we did hear Cara gloating later in the episode, “I made out with a rock star!” over and over. For the record, I argue with both the words “rock” and “star”, Cara.
4. Ruthie – Not so much a moment, but a human, Ruthie was the first Real World train wreck. From the moment we saw her skinny-dipping in the Hawaii house’s pool with Tek (you know, from Friends?) before they even entered the house, it was obvious she’d broke new ground for MTV. A bisexual, adopted Filipina, Ruthie was the first real alcoholic depicted on reality TV. In just the FIRST episode, Ruthie passes out from drinking, forcing her roommates to call the paramedics. In an episode soon thereafter, Ruthie attempts to drink & drive and succeeds for a few minutes before producers have to step in (ANOTHER FIRST). The roommates give Ruthie an ultimatum: go to rehab or get evicted. Good news is… she goes to rehab and returns to the house sober! And after the show aired, Ruthie went one to tour high schools and spread the message of responsible drinking and sobriety. You can actually personally book her to come speak at any event, so I might just spend the cash to have her party at my cousin’s Bat Mitzvah next month.
3. It Wasn’t Not Funny – Real World Season 2 took place in Los Angeles and might be my favorite season of all-time. Not just because it took place in my own city but also because it employed the formula first written by luminaries like Heather B, Eric Neis and Julie the girl who thought a black person was a drug dealer because he had a pager and perfected it. I found myself quickly addicted to Jon the country singer, Irene the Sheriff and Aaron the Republican surfer, helping the network create the archetypes that would later plague the show by making its casting too predictable. But the real takeaway from this season was the confrontation (or non-confrontation) between David, the stand-up comedian, and Tami, the AIDS care specialist, who was also in an R&B group that seemed to sing only one line in every song they recorded: “I’m a slave to your loving.”
When David finds it funny to try and pull the bed covers off a resting Tami’s bed, ignoring her assertions that she wasn’t fully dressed, all hell breaks loose. Tami is left running to the bathroom in her underwear and is irate enough to respond to David’s claim that the whole exchange was humorous by saying the now infamous retort, implanted into in the Double Negative Hall of Fame, “It wasn’t not funny.” In the end, Tami, Irene and another roommate, most likely the most annoying cast member of all time, Beth, revealed they no longer felt safe with David in the house and formed quite the vocal group. The term “rapist” is whispered throughout the house like they’re auditioning for roles in a stage adaptation of Little Children and with that, David was the first roommate ever evicted. That, my friends, truly was not not funny.
2. Come On Be My Baby Tonight – The owner of the food chain Margaritaville, Jimmy Buffett, once said, “Songwriters write songs but they really belong to the listener.” And he was right. Because I OWN Real World New Orleans David’s keyboard opus,’Come On Be My Baby Tonight’, so hard. I’ve actually converted the YouTube video into an mp3 so I can listen to it my car. I can recite the lyrics but I still have a small issue remembering all the words to ‘Thriller’. It goes without saying or irony – this is my JAM.
When aspiring songwriter David decided he wanted the Real World New Orleans cameras to hear a song he was working on, David busted out his keyboard and sang a love song that’s half Usher and half movie theater usher. It’s TERRIBLY beautiful and includes “I’ve seen the way you’ve treated other thugs you’ve been with, come on by me baby tonight” as lyrics and incoherent baby-talk skatting in the introduction that would make Mel Torme want to die again. What easily could’ve been a Rebecca Black-type phenomenon had it been the Internet age still became fodder for RW aficionados everywhere and did lead to an appearance for David on Chappelle’s Show. But to this day, when I see Alicia Keys sit down at a piano on an awards show, there’s a part of me that knows she could never start a song by belting out “Weedabu deabadubeeeeee…” and that’s problematic.
1. The Slap Heard Around The World – Die-hard Real World fans have analyzed and dissected the footage like it’s the Zapruder film and most remember exactly where they were when they saw it for the first time. Like our parents described learning that JFK had been assassinated, it’s hard to forget. It was the first time in Real World history that a roommate physically attacked another roommate and, no matter what’s happened since, the serious mark left on the face of the show has never healed and stands alone at #1.
When housemate Irene decided she would leave the house for good, fed up with the filming process and dealing with complications from Lymes Disease, she had one final good-bye for Stephen, a roommate she had been clashing with incessantly. On her way out, Irene, with dialogue possibly written by Roastmaster Jeffrey Ross, outs Stephen as a homosexual, infuriating him and leaving him somewhat stunned (it would later be reported that off-camera Stephen had shown confusion about his sexuality). His reaction is what legends are made of, running back into the house and emerging with Irene’s stuffed dog, which he had hidden days before out of spite (cause that’s normal), and throws it into the ocean. As if the drowning of a stuffed animal wasn’t enough, Stephen ran at Irene’s exiting car and in 1 motion, opened the car door, slapped her on the face and ran away. Irene, stunned, laughed as she pulled away, like the Joker being tortured by a disguised Bruce Wayne.
The ante was upped. Stakes were raised. Irene’s curls were abused. I sat stunned, not knowing what to do next as producers showed the cast footage of what just happened and then decided to keep Stephen in the house, which is CRAZY. I can’t condone what Irene did, as outing someone on national TV is far from behavior that will get you an award with Harvey Milk’s name on it (Stephen came out of the closet years later), but slapping a woman, when compared to David’s bed sheet thievery and Puck’s overall dirtiness, seems like the most condemnable offense for eviction. But the jury had spoken and all in one episode, as we still needed to leave time for David’s eventual freak out in a car with a Real World producer he got caught dating and Janet’s Nepal pass-out. This season was a mess, but a mainstay in my heart and always #1.
RIP Irene’s stuffed dog.