UNDERCOVER AT THE MTV BEACH HOUSE
BY COREY LEVITAN
Are all those beautiful sunbathers really having all that fun at the Motel California?
I posed as an extra last week at the MTV beach house in Rancho Palos Verdes, where this summer the music channel tapes most of its programming, to bring you this exclusive investigation...
9:07 a.m. I arrive at the former Marineland site and after some paperwork am escorted to the pool deck, where every lounge chair is occupied. I snag a bench in the shade, waiting for my my Hollywood career to begin.
9:32 a.m. Awkwardness coats the deck thicker than the gel on VJ Carson Daly's cowlick as 40 or so strangers size one another up like the first day of camp. One attractive girl singles out another and says, "I don't know who that bitch is but if she keeps staring at me like she's all that, I'm gonna f--- her up!" (I've always been attracted to classy women like this, even though they didn't even look at me in high school. Come to think of it, they're not looking at me now.)
11:10 a.m. The deck springs to life as Hoyt -- one of several MTV officials with a weird name but cool, highlighted hair -- announces a whiffleball game on the tennis court. "You, you, you and you!" Hoyt says, emptying the deck of bodacious babes and buff dudes. In the name of all those eighth-grade gym classes when no one picked me either, I summon the gall to go to the tennis court uninvited.
It's not to be a real whiffleball game, we learn, only a scene in which Carson Daly announces an upcoming video then bats. "You, you, you and you!" Hoyt assembles a team to field Daly's wallop. My inner torment increases as I realize I can't even get picked to play PRETEND whiffleball. Rather, Hoyt sees me as a walker, explaining that walkers add a special measure of excitement by providing motion behind the scene being shot.
11:14 a.m. I proudly embark upon my assignment to make MTV more exciting. (At least someone is trying.) After receiving my motivation from Hoyt ("You're going somewhere"), I wait for my cue then begin my stroll along the fence behind the batter's box. Imagining the millions that will watch, I'm glad I use teeth-whitening toothpaste.
11:22 a.m. Daly's ability to slug a ball with a stick lies closer to Brett Butler the comedienne than Brett Butler the L.A. Dodger. Connecting takes him seven takes. "Burn!" the cameraman yells each time (grown-up for "do over!"). Utilizing the principles of method acting, I recreate the spontaneity of my original walk over and over again. Yet some of my fellow extras don't share my professionalism; with each take their attempts to get noticed escalate. By the fifth run-through, Brandon -- a young African American portraying the umpire -- has begun belting out Stevie Wonder's "Overjoyed" with impressive dexterity. (I wish the singing umpire luck on his music career.)
11:37 a.m. I run to a porto-potty (extras can't use real bathrooms) to secretly scribble in my notepad. I am undercover to avoid the taint of special treatment by MTV, and of beautiful women talking to me simply because they want to see their names in print. My plan works astonishingly, as no one talks to me at all, even when I talk to them first.
12:07 p.m. "Okay, I want pool action!" Hoyt demands, setting the scene for Daly's next intro. "You're having a RIPPING good time!" adds the sergeant of fun, subsequently instructing every male to lose his shirt. (Excuse me, but my agent promised no nudity.)
12:15 p.m. Snooping around the beach house, I uncover a scoop so unthinkable my life may be in danger... The Motel California is fake! Despite VJ boasting about celebs such as Ice Cube staying overnight to party, there are no functioning rooms. Of seven doors, only one opens up into a room, and that room is a set featuring a bathroom with no water, a phone with no dial tone, a Trinitron TV with no electrical cord (and the Sony name blacked out) and -- perhaps most detrimental to a good night's sleep -- no ceiling.
12:19 p.m. I'm running to the porto-potty to scribble so often people must suspect I either have a kidney infection or a cocaine problem.
1:04 p.m. I score my second walking gig, this time behind Daly as he descends a staircase. This one's for an Emmy, I tell myself, rehearsing my acceptance speech. Suddenly I realize I have a can of Pepsi in my hand. I toss it, refusing to give a million dollars of free advertising to a company that's never given me anything more than nighttime gas.
Unlike my first scene, this one wraps in one take. "This is Carson Daly," the VJ says, his five minutes of intense memorization paying off. "Now a world premiere video from Blues Traveler."
2:10 p.m. The salary for a hard day of acting arrives: 18 Domino's pizzas. Am I the only one thinking about the fact that the porto-potties had no sinks to wash up in?
2:15 p.m. Cracking under the strain of loneliness, I admit to the very attractive Jolene from Mission Viejo that I am a reporter.
2:16 p.m. She still won't talk to me.
3:30: Today's guest celebs, the R&B group 112, arrive. Hoyt admonishes all extras, "Remember, everybody at home wants to be you but nobody wants to see you look directly into the camera!" This is a moot direction for me, since I'm out of camera range.
3:35: Unable to rate even another walking role, I check out of the Motel California.
Hollywood will have to wait.