The Jordan rules

The much-maligned (OK, by us too!) former stripper talks about what went wrong, what she learned and why she never came to love "Big Brother."

By Carina Chocano
September 29, 2000 11:30PM (UTC)
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For the past three months we've lovingly chronicled the daily ups and downs ...

Well, the daily downs, really ...

The ...

Let's start again.

"Big Brother" -- he dead! And no one is more relieved than we are. Three months of CBS reality TV programming will turn even the most cheerful critic into a frothing misanthrope, and we were already a little dyspeptic to begin with.


We have no regrets, but ask us if we'd do it again and we're likely to harm you.

We are pretty sure the greatest artistic flop in American televisual history is about to slink off shamefaced to the trash heap of oblivion.

(We are aware there has been some talk of "Big Brother 2." Whenever it came up we cupped our hands over our ears and made that "wa-wa-wa" sound.)


But before the death of this one, we'd like to trot it out for one last lap around the corral and make absolutely sure we've milked it (to slightly strain the metaphor) for every last drop of usable copy.

Remorse (and fear of rancorous hamsters) was also involved. After supplying you, our readers, with months of ill-begotten laughs at the expense of others, we felt it only fair that a hamster should have the last word.

But it had to be a smart hamster. A fearless hamster. A hamster after our own shriveled hearts.


It had to be Jordan.

Jordan -- real name Jean Jordan -- worked as an exotic dancer at a Minneapolis men's club before her four-week stay in the "Big Brother" house. She's also a triathlete and no one's fool. Inside the house, she was a master provocateur, and scandalized the other hamsters with her alliance with Mega and her rascally involvement in the love triangle with Brittany and Josh.


Since she left the house, she has been doing radio and working on a book about her experiences in the skin trade.

Amazingly, she picked up the phone.

What did you think of the show?

I think it sucks! I think the Weather Channel is more interesting than "Big Brother"!


Are you glad you were part of it, now that's it's over?

I think I'm glad, I think I am -- I don't know.

I gained more insight into the way the media works. I think "Big Brother" is very exploitative. If you're prepared to be exploited, then it's fine. The people on "Big Brother" are much more distorted by the media [than the people on "Survivor"], so in turn they are much more attacked by the public.


Was there any upside to being on "Big Brother"?

I think in the long run it's going to be a good experience. It's exposed me to the media in a way I don't think I would have been exposed on "Survivor."

What do you mean? Those guys are all over the place.

"Survivor" was a physical competition, and the public knew it was all about the game. So there isn't really any confusion -- or not much -- about who these people really were. When people watched "Survivor" they granted [the castaways] the leeway to manipulate each other, because it was a blatant game.


Sure, on "Survivor" there is editing and there is some distortion, but the show is visibly about the game, and the people watching the show know it's a game. They know the players are just trying to win the game.

But on "Big Brother," it's all about who people are. There aren't any real competitions; there isn't a physical aspect to it. People watching think that whatever is presented to them on "Big Brother" is real -- that this is how that person really is. On "Survivor" I think I would have been better off as far as the media-bashing went. And it would have been a lot more fun.

I think "Survivor" was much more protective of its contestants.

Why do you think "Big Brother" turned out the way it did?


I think the problem was that the casting really sucked. They paid more attention to people's résumés and what labels they had to exploit, like "Miss Washington."

I mean, Jamie rocks on paper. She's Miss Washington! And in a one-on-one interview she can be very charming. But to watch her on TV? She's boring as hell!

Why did she last for so long?

She never got nominated! She was never nominated because she is nonoffensive as a person. She's like a chameleon. She does make a really good person to live with. You can't help not feeling any animosity toward her because she's a great listener and she's very objective about what she says -- she thinks before she says something, she's positive. So she's a cool person to be around. If you're looking for a roommate she'd be a great roommate.


But the problem from the TV experience is that she's just not confrontational enough. She's not interesting to watch.

And when she was nominated, there was someone else up against her who was hated more by the public -- whom the public wanted to teach a lesson.

That's what I don't understand about the show. Why did the houseguests think it was always better to keep their mouths shut? Why would anyone want to watch that?

It's a Catch-22. That's not what people want to see. They want to see conflict, they want to see sex, they want to see entertainment. But if they wanted to see that, they wouldn't have banished me or Mega. Or Brittany or Karen. People will watch it, they'll like it, but they won't reward it. As soon as they see confrontational behavior, they think that they know these people, that these are real people, that this is real stuff going on. And they take it really personally and decide they're going to take it upon themselves to punish the people. Especially women. Women are very punishy when watching the show.

It's true.

It's obvious. The women have been the ones voted out. Four of the five women were four of the five first people to go. That's the problem. If people really want this show to be exciting, then they have to stop voting out the people who are confrontational and do talk about sex and do try to stir things up a little bit.

Do you think the producers should have made it so the houseguests -- instead of the public -- voted for one another?

No, I wouldn't say that, because the people in the house are afraid of conflict even more. They want to have this stable, peaceful environment even more than the people voting. So the confrontational people would have been kicked out either way.

I think the problem is that the public doesn't understand what reality television means. They're not really sure if they should look for the entertainment value or if they should take it very personally and make a big social, moral statement by how they vote. People could look at this as "OK, this is entertainment, it's on TV, it's real people, but the show's going to suck if we vote off the people who are most fun to watch, so even if we don't like them, let's keep them in because they're entertaining." But people aren't thinking that way. Since these are real people and there is money on the line, people want to be entertained, but they don't want to reward the people they don't like.

Did you have any clues during the interview process about where the show was headed, or were you really surprised, when you got to the house, to see who was picked?

I thought that they were going to choose really interesting people to be in the house. And I think that they tried to do that. They just paid too much attention to, What is this person's risumi, and what are the titles we can exploit, like exotic dancer, United Nations worker, lawyer? And they didn't ask themselves, How interesting are these people going to be to watch?

After having met other applicants who weren't picked, were you surprised later to meet the people who had been chosen?

Yeah, I was, after a week of being in the house, I was like, "What the fuck were they thinking?" Because when I was at finals, I saw a lot of other people and there were some cool people there -- people who definitely wouldn't have had their guards up and would have wanted to interact. Like, for example, that woman, Beth, whom they wanted to put in the house a few weeks ago? She was awesome! And she and I already had a little alliance going on at finals. [Laughs]

One of the funny things is that I feel the people who are left -- except maybe Eddie -- aren't thinking so much about the prize money as they are thinking of this as their "big break" in show business. What kinds of opportunities have arisen for you after the show, and what kinds of opportunities do you think the remaining houseguests will have when they come out?

Well, I really went in because I wanted the forum, I wanted the voice. I wanted to create some good television, whether it was because I was discussing things candidly that people don't hear on TV or because I was entertaining or whatever.

And I'd heard all this hype about "Big Brother" cast members being major celebrities in other countries and stuff, but I always remained skeptical. It's never been a goal of mine to be a major celebrity. I don't care. I want to do something that matters in life; I don't just want to be in front of a camera.

But it was pretty clear when we got in that most of the people there were thinking they were going to be major celebrities, because they would constantly make references to it. I'd be working out and someone would say, "You're going to have your own exercise show, or you're going to be on the cover of Shape." And then they'd say, "Josh, you're going to be in Teen magazine." They'd just make these references all the time about how we'd all be kicking ass in the media when we got out.

But I was always skeptical of it, being on the inside. I was like, "This is boring as hell, living here." I thought the show sucked.

Did anyone else have any idea how boring they were?

No. Uh-unh. I mean, everybody on the show has a pretty big ego -- otherwise you wouldn't get on the show. And people think they're interesting because they're them. I think it's just human nature. So Curtis sitting around -- all of them sitting around, cooking or playing cards or whatever, they think that that's just riveting TV. Because it is to them! That's their life. So I don't think they're aware of how boring it is. But I think they're starting to catch on that the show's not as big as they thought it was.

Why do you think that is?

Because of my tape. I think they caught on to my sarcasm a little bit. And after Cassandra went on and told them that it wasn't this blowout thing. Eddie asked right away, "Did you go on 'Letterman'?" And she's like, "Noooo."

Funny that she didn't mention that you did get on "Letterman"! Unless she decided not to because it's so unlikely anyone else will.

Yeah, which makes me happy. I'm like, "Yeah, you suckers! That's what you get for being boring!" [Laughs]

What did you think about what she told them?

I just saw the part that they showed on TV, but Cassandra's Cassandra. She's a diplomat. If I would have gone on there, I would have said, "You guys are boring as hell; the show sucks; it's a major disappointment."

But she of course was like, "Well, you know the ratings are up 24 percent overall, and 130 percent in the 18-to-24 bracket."

Of course it's up 130 percent in the 18-to-24 bracket! CBS had zero following in the 18-to-24 bracket before! They were the worst network! Anything is going to bump it up a little bit.

What about Brittany's signing with a "major talent agency"?

I could sign! Signing means nothing! Anybody can sign with a major talent agency. I mean, [the producers] want so badly to -- they know they screwed up with the casting, they know they screwed up with the show -- they're trying to save themselves and make it sound like they're launching these celebrities into Hollywood! Like saying that I've got my own show?

Yeah, what's that about?

I'm a co-host one day a week at a morning radio show. But instead, they make it to be like I've got my own show! And they don't say "radio show" even! Just "my own show." And that's pretty much the biggest thing that any of us has right now -- one day a week at a radio show!

So what do you think of Julie Chen's encouraging George to move to Los Angeles?

She's just [sighs] -- everybody's trying to save face, everyone's trying to make a buck. That's the whole thing. That's what Hollywood is about.

Of course Julie doesn't give a crap what George does. I mean, she's just trying to save her own ass! What's she going to do after "Big Brother"?

What do you think of Julie?

I don't have a big issue with Julie -- except that I think she's too thin and she doesn't even watch the show. She comes on once a week and she's like [in a deep, robotic Chen voice], "Houseguests. This is Julie Chen."

She tries to poke people and bring out scandals and stuff, but she really doesn't know what's going on inside the house.

I can't believe she really doesn't watch it! How do you know this?

Because I've heard it from the producers on the show. She just kind of breezes in, does the "Big Brother" thing and then goes back to her newscasting. But I don't have an issue with her like I do with the producers.

What issues do you have with them?

When I signed up for this show, I was convinced that it was going to be a revolutionary show about real people and they were going to do justice to real people. And I don't know how I thought that was ever going to happen; I was totally stupid and totally naive. But nonetheless, I went in with these high hopes that I was going to be able to present myself to America through this show, and that it was going to be this revolutionary concept.

Instead, I was just sucked into this huge media machine, and my personal life is scattered all over the nation in little distorted tidbits. So it completely sucked for me, and it sucked more for me than it did for anybody else in the house, because I have a past, obviously, as an exotic dancer.

I was immediately cast as the vixen in the house, the sex object, the woman who's always talking about sex, doing sexy things. You know, that was my character. And they completely exploited that side of me, and the media, in turn, further exploited that.

[We clear our throats uncomfortably. Jordan takes it in stride.]

And yeah, it got me on "Letterman," but from a personal standpoint it was devastating. I wasn't prepared to have my personal life screwed with like it was on this show. I naively thought that I would have more control over what came out about me and how it was presented. But now, looking back on it, I realize it's all about money, it's all about ratings. They don't care at all about us as people. They don't care what happens to us. They don't care if Karen is ostracized from the whole state of Indiana; they don't care if the entire nation hates George and his family, or thinks I'm a stripper. They don't care. They just want ratings.

They didn't even give you guys CBS promos, or "Hollywood Squares" or anything.

[Laughs] Uh-unh.

Was that surprising? Why did CBS just drop you guys, when they're still milking the "Survivor" cast for all it's worth?

I'm not surprised. I mean, when I got out of the house I was just waiting to hear the news that the show sucked. I mean, how could they try to make stars out of people who were on a mediocre show?

Back to your question about opportunities, there have been opportunities. Obviously, I could have posed for Playboy and stuff like that. [Laughs] But most of my opportunities have been sexually related. Obviously.

Do you think that was just because of how you were portrayed? I was thinking Jamie might also get a lot of offers she won't particularly like.

I think it's primarily because I've been a dancer. But the thing is, I've gotten a lot of exposure. So if I wanted to make something out of this, if anyone wants to make something out of this -- if they pursue it, they can get something. I have had articles published, and I'm working with a literary agent right now to publish my book. People can create their own opportunities. They're not going to be hunted down, however, like the "Survivor" people.

Are you in touch with anyone outside the house?

Well, Mega was in touch with me until about a week ago. He and I talked, but he just really wanted to get together and start making money on this speaking tour or something that he had going on. I didn't want to join the Mega bandwagon so he could make a buck.

What's he doing now?

He's not getting anything. For one thing, he was the first one off. For another thing, the only thing we hear about Mega is that he's this "angry black man" and that he was a member of the Black Panthers. But how could CBS not have known before? They did extensive background checks. I think CBS made him look really bad so that he would get voted out. They didn't want to deal with him, with this Black Panther "evil black man" in the house. That's all we hear whenever Mega's name comes up. He's screwed in the media.

So who do you think is going to win?

I think Josh is going to win because he's very inoffensive. He's just this all-American, good-looking, smiley guy who's book smart, but not superbright.

Really? He's always talking about his genius-level I.Q.

I know. [Laughing] That's so funny! He's just not -- socially, he's not that wise. I think that that makes for a very likable, nonthreatening person, though. And, plus, he's got this teen girl fan base.

It's irritating, but I'm just kind of over it by now. This whole thing is just sad and dumb. You know? It's not even funny. In five years it might be really funny, but right now it's not even funny.

In Josh's first profile on the show, they show him saying, "Yeah, I'm going to bring some condoms, 'cause you never know what'll happen." And then they show him scamming on everyone in the house.

If a woman had done that -- if I had sent in my profile, saying, "Yeah, I'm bringing some condoms because I'm single and you never know," people would have been like, "What a slut! What a whore! I can't believe she'd bring condoms." Whereas with Josh, it's like, "Oh, that's OK, boys will be boys --"

And he'll win!!

You think he'll beat Eddie?

Well, I hope he will. I would actually like to see Curtis win. Curtis has had a difficult social life. He's always had a lot of friends, but he hasn't had a lot of dates. And I think it would be really cool if he won.

If he won the popularity contest for once in his life?

Yeah, I think that would be really cool for him because Curtis is like that nice guy who loses a lot -- and I would like to see him win. Because Josh has got a really big head.

Josh will be the guy who will win without ever having tried or even thought about it for two seconds.

[Laughing] Yeah, he'll be like [in a goofy Josh voice], "Well, I always knew something big was gonna happen!" And then Eddie? I just can't stand Eddie. I just want to see that guy get his butt kicked.


Because, for one thing, if that guy wins it's going to be because he has one fucking leg. I'm so irritated by this whole sympathy vote. Yes, I know that he's disabled and I have no idea what it's like to grow up with one leg -- I fully understand that he has a life experience I could never relate to -- but in the house, he didn't want to talk about it.

He didn't open himself up; all he did was sit around, sleep, eat, fart, belch and swear. I mean, that's all he did. And when you watch it on TV it's kind of funny -- I mean, if I didn't live with the guy, I'd think he kind of rocks. But after living with him for a month? I just hated him! I hated him so bad! And he doesn't have a sense of humor.

A lot of people would say, "You put yourself on the show, you knew you would be scrutinized" -- although I do think the people who went on the show were naive about what was going to be done with the footage, about how much "reality" can be twisted. But still --

Yeah, though I was pretty convinced that they picked me because I was more of a paradox -- I was complex -- not just because they wanted a sex object in the house. Because there were plenty of women at finals -- the typical bimbo girls with implants -- who were doing just everything to get noticed. Girls were making out in front of producers at the finals, just doing outrageous things to get noticed. Two women got in a catfight to display how confrontational they were or whatever.

If they had wanted this to be a prime-time "Ricki Lake," they could have picked one of those people! But they picked me, so I just assumed with that -- and also because I had interviews and one-on-one discussions with the producers -- that they wanted me to be more than that, that they weren't even going to go after that slant, that they were going to focus on, "Well, she's an athlete, she's smart, she has these other goals -- and she used to be a dancer." I didn't think they were just going to be like [in an announcer voice], "Stripper does lap dance!"

I think the most important thing for me is that I've realized I have to let this whole thing roll off my back, because I took this whole thing really personally when I was in the house, and when I first got out. I read so much stuff about myself, and I was masochistically reading all the message boards. I was like, "I'm not like that, am I? I'm not mean!" I was really questioning myself and it was so painful. It was horrible! I felt like a whole nation was against me, and they thought they knew me and they didn't, and it was so unjust. Then I reached a point when I just thought, OK, that was my media persona. People can do whatever they want with it.

I think I've turned a corner. I've regained my sense of humor a little bit.

Carina Chocano

Carina Chocano writes about TV for Salon. She is the author of "Do You Love Me or Am I Just Paranoid?" (Villard).

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