Pop Culture

‘Dancing’ costumes cha-cha for charity

Q: I am a huge fan of "Dancing With the Stars." I was wondering what they do with all the costumes once the show is over. Do they keep them, donate them, or do the stars/professionals keep them? — Rhonda, Grand Rapids, Mich.

A: The costume designer, Randall Christensen, sells the garments on his Web site. In other words, you can own the dresses you've seen on the show, even if they're over-the-top or the subject of criticism from the judges or the dancers themselves.

Christensen, the show's Emmy-winning costume designer, issued a press release before this season began, and it said dresses from "Dancing With the Stars" "have become available online for purchase to dancing enthusiasts at his Web site, a trend he intends to continue once the upcoming season draws to a close. ... By auctioning off dresses worn by the stars during previous seasons, Randall is able to donate proceeds from those auctions to various charities, such as organizations supporting the fight against AIDS."

Right now, only dresses for seasons two through five are available, although many have been sold. Those from season five are priced between about $2,000 and $5,000 each. If that seems high, a lot of work goes into each dress. Last spring, The Insider visited Christensen in the costume room and reported that "it's not unusual to spend 12 hours stitching beads on a single gown."

By the way, the celebrities and dancers don't dance in their costumes until the day of the live show. That's because they all have to be made from scratch in less than a week. The dancing couples meet with Christensen to brainstorm ideas, and then while they're rehearsing their performances, the costume designers are working.

Q: (On "Survivor,") when someone is eliminated, where do they go? Do they stay in the area until all are done (i.e., if they returned home, it would be known that they were eliminated), and if it's in a hotel, is their stay paid for? — Kathy W., Brooklyn Park, Minn.

A: This question comes up a lot, and we've answered a few times before (a reminder to check our archive for more than three years worth of answers!). But the question is worth re-answering because we now know more than ever about "Survivor" jury members' lives once they're voted off the island.

First, non-jury members who are voted off are sent away together on vacation so they don't return home until everyone else does, and the jury members stay close by so they can return every third night for Tribal Council. The jury house on "Survivor" is called Ponderosa, and interest in what happens there has led CBS to produce a Web-only series that documents the jury members' lives.

The episodes that are online so far answer questions such as whether or not the jury members are allowed to talk about the game (they do, and frequently). Each jury member is followed by cameras for the new show immediately after they're kicked off; after a boat ride, they board a vehicle to their new home, eating along the way.

Once there, they bond with the other jury members, although Eliza, this season's first jury member, had the space to herself for a few days. The jury members even receive a version of tree mail and take side trips to occupy their days. They also play video games and watch DVDs.

It's not all luxury, though. "Survivor: Micronesia's" Ponderosa is a beach-side camp, so the jury members sleep in tents on cots.

Still, they have access to a nearby house — one with showers, bathrooms and a supply of food. But I'd bet every one of those jury members would give up those luxuries to be back in the game.

Q: How does Chef Ramsey of "Hell's Kitchen" get away with treating the contestants like poop? This has harassment written all over it. No one would work with this type of behaviour without filing a lawsuit. — Brenda H., Arroyo Grande, Calif.

A: "Hell's Kitchen" is now in its fourth season, so I'd say that any contestant who does not know Gordon Ramsay's shtick — screaming obscenities, hurling insults, throwing food and demanding perfection in his kitchen — deserves to be yelled at even more.

Seriously, how can you even apply for a pre-existing reality show and not at least look at some clips online?

Your question is interesting, though, primarily because the answer seems so obvious: It's a reality show. That's what happens. Perhaps Ramsay's behavior is unacceptable, but it is true that abusive behavior is fast becoming the norm on unscripted television, and it leads to higher ratings.

More significantly, cast members on all reality shows sign thick contracts that insulate the shows' producers and talent from legal action. While that wouldn't prevent them from suing, it makes the chances of success less likely, especially for something like harassment, which is largely the whole point of the show.

I'm not a lawyer, but I'd guess that anyone who filed such a lawsuit would be laughed out of court because they voluntarily placed themselves in that situation knowing what was coming. In addition, the chefs on the show can leave any time, but you'll notice that most stick around, perhaps for the prize, perhaps for the fame or perhaps just because they like being yelled at.

is a writer who publishes reality blurred, a daily digest of reality TV news and analysis.