Pop Culture

How do ‘Amazing Race’ couples fly away?

We get a lot of variations on this week's first question. Viewers, it seems, are incredibly curious about the behind-the-scenes machinations of "The Amazing Race," one of the most elaborate reality shows on TV.

"Amazing Race" fans should note that we've also answered a related question some months back: How do those "Amazing" photographers ?

Q: In ‘Amazing Race,’ does each team have its own cameraman which follows the teams around 24/7? If there is, does that mean that ticket buying at airports are for 3, and does the cameraman know the right way to go?    —Queenie, New York

In ‘Amazing Race,’ how are they able to guarantee that only so many seats are available on certain flights? I think the show is "amazing". The planning must take months. It's one thing to do something like this within the US borders, but to get all of these countries to cooperate is remarkable.     —Kat

A: Part of the wonder of watching "The Amazing Race" is trying to figure out just how the producers pulled off a literal race around the world. A big part of that involves the flights that teams frequently take to get from one location to the next. On most commercial flights, teams must buy their own tickets — and, generally, tickets for their two-person camera crew. Whether or not they get on a flight is determined by whether or not there's space on the plane. (To buy last-minute, full-fare, economy-class tickets, they use a credit card supplied by the producers; it can be used for nothing except plane tickets.)

Occasionally, teams sign up for charter flights that have been pre-booked by the producers, so the producers can arbitrarily decide how many seats are available on each flight. The same often holds true for the first commercial flights on the race's first leg. Producers pre-purchase those tickets, so teams simply claim one of the pre-booked flights once they arrive at the airport.

Wherever teams land, they're part of a truly international effort. According to CBS, "approximately 2,000 people are hired worldwide during the running of the Race. These other people perform jobs as diverse as transportation management, communications, Team tracking, translating, stunt rigging and catering."

Before the race, the show's creators and executive producers — married couple Elise Doganieri and Bertram Van Munster — each plan the route through half of the world. (Interestingly, Elise came up with the idea for the show when challenged by her husband to create a show idea in five minutes.) In most countries "The Amazing Race" stops in, the producers are assisted by local crews who are hired to work with the permanent crew members who travel around the world.

That explains, in part, the disclaimer that ran before last week's episode. It noted that people who'd worked on the race in Sri Lanka had been affected by the tsunami. It said, "The following episode of The Amazing Race was filmed in Sri Lanka several weeks before a deadly tsunami struck the country. We dedicate this episode to the memory of the thousands of people who lost their lives in this terrible tragedy, and to our courageous friends and co-workers in the region who are coping with its aftermath."    —A.D.

Q: Whatever happened to Stephen (the “Real World” Seattle cast member who slapped Irene)?  I heard that he had been arrested for solicitation.  Any truth to that rumor?  —John, Michigan

A: It's true, and it's old news. Stephen from the 1998 Seattle cast of "Real World" was involved in one of the most disturbing incidents on that reality show. Housemate Irene had already decided to leave the show, but she couldn’t resist getting one more dig in against roommate Stephen. Beckoning him to walk her out of the house, Irene told her onetime friend that a relationship between them would never work out, because “you’re a homosexual, Stephen.”

At first, Stephen attempted to laugh it off. But it obviously bothered him. First he ran and found one of Irene’s stuffed animals, dropping it into Seattle’s Elliott Bay. But that wasn’t enough: He ran after the car taking Irene away, motioned for her to wind down the window, and then slapped her in the face, cameras rolling the entire time. The footage was later shown to the other housemates, who decided that if Stephen was to stay in the house, he would need to seek counseling for his anger. Some of that counseling was shown on the program.

That was in 1998. In 2001, Stephen was arrested for . Both counts related to him entering a car with the intent to engage in an act of prostitution. Those charges managed to stay off the media’s radar until 2002, when he was arrested for joyriding, and it was discovered that he’d regarding the misdemeanor counts.

Andy Dehnart, co-writer of this column, has that Stephen’s castmate Irene claims Stephen auditioned for “Real World” as an out gay man, but that once chosen for the show, he hid his sexuality. It should be noted that we don't know if that is true.  After the flurry of attention from the Smoking Gun mention of his arrest, Stephen has been out of the news.      —G.F.C.

Q: Is there really a romance between Flava Flav and Brigitte Nielsen of Strange Love?    —Stacy, St. Louis

A: Apparently so, as strange as it may sound. The two met on VH1’s “The Surreal Life 3,” a show that is fast becoming “The Dating Game” for C-list celebrities. (The current season of “The Surreal Life” has apparently spawned not one but two romances: Original “Top Model” winner Adrianne Curry and Brady kid Christopher Knight are a couple, as are wrestler Chyna Doll and model Marcus Schenkenberg.)

VH1’s description of the series makes their love sound slightly suspect, or at least at the very early stages: “VH1 is reuniting the ghetto-flash and Euro-trash duo to see if their love is the real deal. ... Be there to witness whether or not one of the strangest love stories of all time comes true.” And it wouldn’t be a stretch to think that the two were using the series to extend their 15 minutes; Brigitte Nielsen just recently finished third on the celebrity edition of the UK’s “Big Brother,” so she’s clearly found a niche living her life on camera.

A few weeks ago, the “Strange Love”’s producer Mark Cronin about the skepticism over the couple, and he said, “Well, producers see Flav and Brigitte when the cameras aren’t around, and we can tell you: it is real.” And Flava said, “Whatever y’all saw between me and Brigitte was all real, nothing phony. That’s why they call it reality TV. Well, OK, there’s a lot of people that do act phony on reality TV, but not me and Brigitte.”

Their fellow “Surreal Life 3” cast member Dave Coulier is less confident, though. He said, “They called me from a hotel room the day after the show ended, obviously feeling no pain.”    —A.D.

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