"I'm confused and hurt"

Reality TV's big loser -- Dave -- talks back about being betrayed on "Paradise Hotel."

Published October 3, 2003 2:06PM (EDT)

In a finale as twisted as "Paradise Hotel" itself, Keith and Charla were awarded $500,000 and given the option to share half of it with their partners. Keith did the right thing and shared with Tara, rendering them the best couple to hit the small screen since "Jake and the Fatman." Sadly, That Whore (Charla) was drawn in by the Dark Side, keeping all of the money for herself and leaving Dave, who helped her get that fat check in her hand, twisting in the wind. I talked with Dave on Thursday by phone about his peculiar position as paradise's fall guy.

What the hell was Charla thinking? Has she explained anything since the show was taped?

She has told me that she wanted to give me some money, and that she wants to talk with her family about it.


She said she wished she had more time.

It should've been automatic. I mean, I know not everyone believes that.

Well, the interesting thing is that I would've refused it (the $125,000), unless she really insisted. I mean, she would've had to really insist in order for me to take it. But, instead of insisting, she basically tested me and put me in the unenviable situation of either trying to ask for it, or looking disappointed that I had no chance at it. And, you know, what was I to do? I obviously wasn't gonna try to convince her to give it to me. It was her decision, and she won the prize, fair and square, and I absolutely have no right to ask for it, or demand it, or expect it.

I would've split it with her if I had won it. I would've split it with Toni if I had won it with her. Just for the sake of, if you win something as a couple, you know, you're in it as a team. That being said, I absolutely have no bitterness or animosity towards her.

Are you sure?

I'm sure. She's 21. It was a great learning experience for me, and I hope it was a great learning experience for her, and I hope in her future, she will continue to learn from it.

I didn't win the game, but there are more important things than winning games on TV.

No, there aren't! Were you surprised by what the Originals were saying behind your back?

Yeah, I was surprised. I was surprised by Scott.

Scott was really freaking out.

I think he was the most recently eliminated and therefore was the most bitter. Because we've since been friendly. Yeah, it was tough. You know, I knew how the jury had been towards me and Tara, so I wasn't that surprised to see it on TV. The only place where I wasn't thrilled with editing was with regards to the final decision. I think they edited it in a way to villainize Toni more than maybe was necessary.

She makes a pretty convincing villain.

And also they made my motives look questionable when, in fact, they really weren't.

How did they do that?

It seems that some viewers interpreted that final scene with Charla as me wanting the money, and trying to get the money from her when I didn't deserve it, when really, that couldn't be further from the truth. I was very disappointed that she didn't offer it to me as a friend, but it wasn't about the money, it was about the friendship and partnership. And I mean, I wouldn't in a million years try to persuade her to give me the money if she didn't want to. It was her prize, so...

I think you get into trouble, because when you're thinking, you look like you're really bummed out.

Yeah, you're right.

It's like the camera reads you the wrong way.

Yeah, and I don't know if it's a mixture of people not ... I don't know, and I don't want to throw around a word like "anti-Semitism." I think a lot of viewers don't know my sensibilities or some viewers at least don't get me. Tons of viewers really do get me. But there are viewers out there that, either because I'm Jewish, intelligent or very thoughtful as you suggested, where they didn't necessarily get me and some of my actions. To the extent that I schemed to play the game -- obviously I did. But in terms of actually building relationships with people like Charla, like Keith and Tara, like even Scott and others. I really tried to like them and appreciate them.

I think the combination of you being a nice guy and being slightly political didn't work out that well. You care about whether or not people like you, obviously.

Absolutely, and sometimes that's a weakness. But for the most part, it's been a strength in my life.

Well, of course. It's rare that you're in such an absurd situation. Everyone thought that because you were nice, you would be on their side.

Maybe I should have, like Keith, just gone about playing the game. Or, like Zack and Amy, gone about it having a good time. But, you know, that's not me, so ...

The way the game went, it definitely helped to stay detached, like Keith did.

Absolutely, but part of Keith's strategy and brilliance was relying on me to take care of the relationship building and the dirty work, so to speak, along the way. I'm not bitter towards him, I don't blame him for that, I tip my cap to him. He was brilliant in that regard.

Does he acknowledge that you helped to get him that far?

Keith, absolutely. Tara absolutely acknowledged it. Charla did as well -- she acknowledged it on the show last night. She said, "I never would've gotten here without Dave." That was a direct quote.

But it was almost like she started out listing reasons to share the money because she didn't want to share it at all.

Yeah, my feelings about Charla have wavered a lot, both on the show and since. She did a TV Guide interview in which she kind of poked fun at me, and I was shocked. I was like, you know, the money thing is over with, and I'm trying not to be down about it or talk about it, and knowing how unbelievably sensitive I am about your feelings towards me and your comments about me ... She was just kind of joking, but still. What I mean to say is, I'm trying so hard to believe in the authenticity of the friendship that I had with her. I mean, I spent countless hours with this person. I spent more time with her than people spend in a year-long relationship.

That's true, but you have to be realistic about the fact that maybe she just needed you in that situation.

Look, I'm no fool. I don't want to continue playing the fool, I really don't. It's just hard for me to rationalize that, having had the deep feelings that I had for her. You know, to now look back on it and to feel that used? I guess it's embarrassing if that really is the case.

It's not embarrassing. She's young and used to being around a certain type of person. You may have made her uncomfortable. Plus, she seemed concerned that she was aligning herself with someone whom other people had a problem with, even thought those other people were demented.

Well, let's face it. More than anyone, she walked into this $250,000. I mean, she did spend much of the summer in her room.

Everyone hated her!

Well, as a strategist, I have to hand her as much credit if not more than I hand to Keith, in knowing the right people to take her along and being able to take advantage of that.

It's strange, because it seemed like winning wasn't important to her.

I don't know. It's terribly confusing to me. I'm confused and hurt, but I'm not bitter. What can I do? She did what she did. It really is only money.

Well, that's exactly why she should've given you the money!

I can appreciate that, but the bottom line is, it was a game. She won.

Well, at least now you can stop swooning over her.

It was an expensive lesson, but I've certainly gotten over her. And besides, after last night's episode, I've had an unbelievable outpouring of support from fans who literally want to give me money. Two choices would be either A) do not accept any money, or B) accept the money for myself, but I think preferable to either of those is to accept all of the money in support of my fans, but give it all to charity. So that's what I'm gonna do! And I hope to raise at least $125,000, which is of course the amount that, you know, a lot of fans think I should've had, and give it to some really worthy causes.

Who are you still in touch with?

I'm still in touch with Keith, I'm still in touch with Tara.

Did everyone end up going to Vegas?

No. Not yet.

Is that still in the cards?

You'd have to ask Keith.

Are Keith and Tara still together?

Yes. (pause) You'll have to ask Keith and Tara.

Was any part of you frustrated at how well Keith came across? Because, unlike you, he never really showed anyone a peek behind the curtain. He didn't second-guess himself, but that was probably easier because he didn't really open himself up.

I tip my cap to him. Game very well played. I don't know if he could've done it without me, but he played a brilliant game, and he found a great person in Tara, so ... I wish nothing but success for Keith. I mean, I wish nothing but success for all of them, but in particular Keith. With the exception of ...

The bluff?

The Scott-Holly situation, and perhaps his using my feelings for Charla for his own gain in the game, I have no issues with him. And even his doing those things, there again, that was for the sake of winning the game, so I can't really take it personally.

It would be one thing if he kept the money. But his behavior, in the end, was a pretty admirable combination of effective strategizing and generosity. Anyway, how do you think the producers of the show are gonna make next season work, without the same cast of mutants from this season?

That's a great question. I'm looking forward to seeing it or being a part of it ... Who knows? I'm looking forward to it.

Do you think they'll invite people back?

I have no doubt that they will.

I think they should just invite the exact same people back again.

I don't think they could pay me enough to come back!

By Heather Havrilesky

Heather Havrilesky is a regular contributor to the New York Times Magazine, The Awl and Bookforum, and is the author of the memoir "Disaster Preparedness." You can also follow her on Twitter at @hhavrilesky.

MORE FROM Heather Havrilesky

Related Topics ------------------------------------------