When applying for a reality show, never send anything that’s requested, without making sure it is, indeed, what you think it is. Case in point: Kristen and Patrick. They were one of many young couples who applied to the reality wedding show I was casting. Kristrick (as I liked to call the duo) were perfect on the phone and in pictures. Although I requested three or four, they sent me dozens of photos, all variations on the same theme. Pat was always wearing muscle tees and had bubbly Popeye arms. He sneered at the camera, but with a smile, as if he was happily up to no good. Kristin looked like she was on vacation, in every picture. Even when she was just in her backyard, she was never without a can of Bud Light or a cup of something red or pink. Her sun-streaked hair was windblown and her skin, the color of cappuccino. They were on my A list.
All I needed was to fly out to Virginia, where they lived, to get some vérité footage of the two of them together to put on the casting reel. But as with many of the submissions I received from young engaged couples, the groom was in the military. Pat was stationed somewhere in Hawaii and wasn’t arriving for their wedding until a few days prior. I called Kristin to let her know of a way I could still submit them.
“Do you have any recent home movies of you two together?” I asked.
“I have one right here of Patrick body surfing at a concert. You can kind of see it’s him. Want me to send it?”
“That’s not gonna to do it, I love you guys and think you would be great. Such an adorable couple, but we need footage of you two together.”
“Let me look around. I’ll call you back,” she said.
“We have other couples that I rate an eight or nine compared to the ten you and Pat rate, but I have video of them together, not just still photos. See what you can do.”
“Will do,” she promised.
“You guys are sooo cute.”
Kristin let out a shy giggle. I knew she wasn’t shy. She sent us still photos of her in a string bikini, pumping her fist, her mouth open, as if to say, Oh, yeah, baby, look at me!
“Call me back within the next couple hours if you can,” I said
“I will, I will. Don’t give up on us.”
“I won’t. We love you two! Bye-bye. Talk soon.”
I find myself always telling an ideal candidate “I love you.” I profess my love for them faster than I have for anybody in my life and definitely more often. I might love her, if I got to know her, I tell myself, making it temporarily all right to be such a phony baloney.
A couple hours later Kristin called back. “I found something!” she said.
“I knew you could do it!” the cheerleader I never was, nor wanted to be, emerged. “Whatcha got?”
“I’m not sure because the video camera isn’t working or maybe the battery is just dead, but my friend and maid of honor, Ashley, showed me how to pop out the memory card.”
“Is there cute footage of the two of you together?” I asked.
“I’m sure there is. I don’t remember exactly what, but we are always doing nutty stuff.” Bingo!
“Nutty stuff is good. Nutty stuff is great! Super! I’ll make it work. Fed Ex it to me overnight,” I instructed, giving her our account number and directions on how to Fed Ex something.
“I can view the footage by transferring it. No problem. So exciting!” Then one more, “Love you guys!” and I hung up the phone.
The memory card arrived the next day. I brought it to Darren, an editor who worked around the corner from my cube. He resided in a line of empty cubicles that he’d taken over with several monitors, his skateboard, boxes of cereal and a Pez dispenser collection. Editors spend a lot of time by themselves, going over footage. After they are done, they pass the footage back to the casting director or producer, to look over and give more notes for a second edit, and then a third edit, and it goes on and on.
Darren had a bowl haircut, like Pete Rose’s or Dorothy Hamill’s in the '80s, thick with a solid blunt bang. It was an odd style choice, but with the thickness of his hair I’m not sure what else he could have done with it. It might have been deliberate, since he also wore T-shirts that made you go hmm, like Judah Friedlander’s baseball caps. My favorite was his plain white T that simply said "T-shirt" in small capital Arial font.
I walked over to Darren, in his mashup of monitors, and found him with an open box of Lucky Charms, some poured into a bowl. No milk. He was wearing a thin yellow vintage T-shirt with a rainbow transfer decal that asked, "Have You Thanked Your Secretary Today?"
He looked up at me and dipped his chin down to view what he was wearing. “What can I do for you?” he asked.
“I need to see what’s on this memory card.”
“No problem,” he said, taking the card from my fingers and sliding it into the card reader on his computer. I stood next to his swivel chair as he copied the video file. It took about ten minutes. I stayed and made a grocery list on the yellow-lined tablet I brought over to make edit notes.
Finally, it began to play back. There was Kristin, modeling Patrick’s army fatigues.
“Awww, cute,” I said to Darren who was busy with simultaneous projects on dueling computers. He was used to desperate production people coming to him for instant tech support, since the IT guys usually take forever.
The camera panned down. Kristen wasn’t wearing pants.
She turned her back to the camera and flipped up the army jacket to reveal her naked (and firmly toned, I might add) butt cheeks.
“Yikes,” I yelped, which got Darren’s attention.
“What the hell?” Darren said softly and slowly, letting go of his other project. All eyes were on Kristin now. “What is this?” he whispered, not taking his eyes off the screen.
“I don’t think she knew what she was sending me,” I whispered.
“It’s home porn,” Darren whispered back. We each darted our eyes around the room to make sure no one was about to pass by. The area was empty. The next filled cubicle was a shout away, but we continued in whispers, and turned the monitor volume down low.
“Well, it does look scandalous, but not exactly pornographic. Definitely PG, though,” I noted.
Patrick’s voice could be heard on the video. “Let me see your cock holster, baby.”
“PG-13,” I corrected, eyes transfixed.
Kristen unbuttoned the jacket and turned around. Patrick zoomed in for a close-up.
“Holy shit,” Darren said.
“Oh my god, oh my god oh my god …” I whispered, not taking my eyes of the screen.
Patrick applauded. “That’s what I’m talkin’ about, baby.”
“Is cock holster slang for vagina?” I asked. Up until then, my main questions for Darren were, “How do I get this to work?” and “Do you want to order Thai for lunch?”
"Shhhh,” he hushed me. “Oh, sorry,” he quickly added. “Um, I guess. Never heard it myself. Yes, I assume,” he added, not veering from the screen. I think he was nervous that I’d stop the video.
Although I was excited to see someone’s sex video, I realized there might not be anything I could use on the tape, and I had a deadline. This was the last couple I needed to cast before I could start collecting backups and potentials for Season two.
The tape cut off and came back on. This time the camera was obviously on a tripod or a dresser, a steady surface of some sort. Off camera I could hear Kristin. “Let me see inside,” she said.
“You don’t trust me, baby?” Patrick asked, singsong.
They both crawled onto the bed, naked. Kristin was golden brown with bikini tan lines. Patrick’s body was pale, except for his hands and face, which were a red brown, like a beaver’s fur. He had something in his hand. I couldn’t make it out but Kristin was fixated on it.
“Open it, baby,” she said, eyes wide, forehead wrinkled, like she was on the top of a roller-coaster hill, not sure if her belt was securely fastened.
As the footage continued, I could make out what it was. He was holding a gun.
“Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god,” I repeated, finally finding peace in the fact that I just spoke to a very alive Kristin on the phone.
“Oh, please, baby, let me see. Open it up. I’m just nervous, baby,” Kristen gently pleaded, ending in a guttural moan.
“I’ll open it if you pinch your nipples,” Patrick bargained. He turned to the camera lens and smiled with his tongue out.
Kristin licked her lips. She then slowly began pinching her pink nipples.
“Nice. Nice, baby,” said Patrick, opening up the gun’s chamber to show it was empty.
“All right, baby,” Kristin said, nodding her head in approval, still at work on her nipples. I’d never heard the term "baby" used so many times. Kristin leaned back. Patrick gently rubbed the barrel of the gun up and down her body.
I could feel my body getting tingly. Think about death, I told myself. Darren kept quiet. We kept watching. I didn’t think about death. I couldn’t. I tried, but I couldn’t.
Patrick took the camera off the surface it had been resting on to get a close-up shot of Kristin’s crotch. The footage that directly followed was close-up. It was shot hand-held. He put the barrel of the gun between Kristin's legs. She repeated, “baby, baby, baby,” over and over.
“OK, OK, there’s nothing I can use on this tape,” I said, as if finally coming up for air. “Can you fast-forward and see if there’s anything of them together that I can salvage for the casting meeting?”
“You want me to fast-forward?” asked Darren.
“Why? Do you want to watch the rest?”
“Well, that way, you would be sure not to miss …”
“The money shot?” I interjected.
“Well, or anything you might be able to use.”
“I can’t believe he’s going to fuck her with a gun," I said.
“Right?!” Darren said.
I paused the video. We sat in silence.
“How do you feel about watching the rest and letting me know if there’s anything salvageable? Just anything that’s G or PG. I can’t pitch a couple with footage from their home porn.”
“So, you want me to watch the rest?” Darren asked.
“Yeah,” I said. “But you’re watching for usable stuff.”
“I’ll let you know what I find.”
I went back to my desk and noticed the “message received” button was blinking. I pressed it and heard, “It’s Kristin. Listen. The memory card I sent you? It’s, well … nothing’s on it you need. It’s just nothing. It has private stuff on it. I told Patrick I sent the memory card and he was super-pissed. Please, don’t look at it. There’s nothing on it that has the two of us together, I promise you.” She went on for a while longer and ended with a desperate plea. “Send it back ASAP. Patrick’s going to fuckin’ kill me if we don’t get that back.”
I called her immediately. “I’ve been waiting for your call,” Kristen said quickly. “So did you get it yet?”
“Yes, and I got your message. No worries,” I assured her. “We have people send in the wrong stuff all the time.”
“So you didn’t watch it?” Kristen asked. The panic in her voice was as real as her ass.
“No, no. I was in a meeting and the guy who has the card reader is backed up with work right now, so I wasn’t going to be able to watch it for hours.”
“So, you’ll send it back without watching it?”
“Yep, no worries. I don’t have time to bother with videos that don’t have what I need on ‘em. Thanks for letting me know. Did you find another one to send?”
“I will. My mom thinks she has some great footage of Patrick and I together the day he left for basic training. A family party.” During the conversation, images of Kristin’s naked body kept popping into my head, naked from the waist down in Army gear, naked and wriggling around, and naked with a pistol up her cock holster.
About thirty minutes later, Darren appeared at my desk. He came by way of the men’s room.
“Nothing usable,” he said slipping the memory card onto my desk.
“Thanks,” I replied, both of us shaking our heads up and down simultaneously. “Crazy, huh?”
“Um, oh, you mean the footage?” Darren asked
“No, I mean the weather,” I said.
“Ha! Oh, yeah, that was crazy.”
“Magically delicious, huh?”
“Um, If you say so,” he said.
“Thanks for going through that for me. Weeding through the footage.”
“No, problem. Any time.” As Darren headed back to his workstation I knew that he did indeed mean "any time." And I’m sure he made a copy of that footage.
Felicia Scarangello is a reality TV casting director and producer.