Culture Club is Torontoist’s Canadian pop culture column. We’ll be waxing philosophical about the trivial, the titillating, and the mundane on a semi-regular basis.
Manuel Deon tells us about his YouTube semi-stardom.
It’s a hot, humid day in clubland. The mid-afternoon sun is unrelenting, and the hum of air conditioners working double-time muffles the sounds (singing, shoe-shuffling, timorous chattering) of Lake Shore hopefuls lining up outside Frequency Nightclub on Richmond. Short-shorts, high heels, loose-fitting basketball jerseys, skinny jeans, baggy jeans, oil-slick applications of lip gloss, spray-tans, and fresh-looking tattoos cover the bodies of these reality-TV-wannabes. Some “wannabe” television stars. Others have more immediate (that is, social) gratification in mind.
“I’m here to make some friends, maybe add a few more people to Facebook,” says contestant Sabrina Wall, perched on a faux leather couch outside the audition room. Wall, just weeks away from her thirtieth birthday, is managing her expectations. “I don’t really expect to get chosen for this, either,” she confesses about the show—Canada’s Jersey Shore, more or less—after telling us about an unsuccessful Canadian Idol audition. “It’s all just fun, really.”
For Manuel Deon, though, fun is only part of the auditions’ appeal. In Deon’s own words, Lake Shore auditions are all about “sex, fun, party,” specifically. The holy trinity of reality TV. Unlike Wall, and despite this initial proclamation, Deon is convinced he’ll catch the attention of the Toronto-based reality show’s judges. “I really think I’m a star,” he says, somewhat struggling to state his case in a language that isn’t his first. Deon, who splits his time between Paris (France—not Ontario) and Montreal, has already spent several months constructing his reality persona. Using his YouTube handle, dmxtharealdog, Deon has been creating and uploading digital videos—of himself, of course—for almost two years. His earlier clips showcase his physical and athletic prowess (weightlifting, mainly, with the odd sprinting video thrown in), yet his more recent uploads seem to be audition-oriented. Correction: reality TV audition–oriented. It seems as though Deon has channeled his slight self-obsession (and penchant for self-documentation) into something he thinks he can take to the bank.
Aside from their guaranteed “fifteen minutes,” what do these reality TV hopefuls actually have to gain once they’re plucked from the tanned-and-toned masses? Maryam Rahimi, executive producer of Lake Shore, spoke at length about the intangible rewards of joining the show’s cast—but couldn’t quite convince us that the “tangible” nuts-and-bolts of the operation had been determined. Take, for instance, the topic of compensation. Would each cast member be compensated for appearing on the show, we asked? And, if so, what would this compensation amount to? Rahimi assured us that the cast would, in fact, be paid, but didn’t quite know what these figures would ultimately look like. How would the cast be filmed, we inquired? Will you be using surveillance equipment as well as your camera crew? Again, we were confronted with a “We don’t know… yet.” Where will the cast live, we wonder aloud? “Maybe a cottage,” Rahimi replies, “I guess a house or something somewhere along the lakeshore.” But when it comes to casting, Rahimi seems a little more certain: “We want to focus on very specific looks, very different backgrounds [and] different sexual orientations. And what we’re gonna do is put all these kids from all different walks of life into the same house, and let them go at it. Destroy it. Rip it apart.”
Liquid courage for two Lake Shore hopefuls. In vino veritas?
Ah, yes. That old experimentation-as-entertainment technique. Find a bunch of decent-looking twenty-somethings with opposing world views, bung them in a camera-rigged house together, add red plastic cups filled with boozy concoctions, throw in a bubbling hot tub—and faster than you can say “GTL” (that’s Gym, Tan, Laundry for all ye Jersey Shore fans), you’ve got yourself a reality program. But Rahimi describes her reality concept as “unique.” And we don’t doubt that she believes this. Yet the producers of MTV’s The Real World devised the blueprint for this “experimental” reality format—and they did so several decades ago. Creators of The Lofters tweaked this concept, and let the world see what a handful of Canadians (strangers to one another) would do when they were cooped up in a downtown Toronto loft, and subjected to pervasive surveillance. In short, it seems as though we’ve already seen Lake Shore, albeit ten, twenty, years ago.
Relinquishing our prime people-watching post, we make our way to the entrance of the nightclub. Squinting, again in the summer sun, we see another group of Lake Shore hopefuls approaching the building. They seem genuinely excited—and, in our heads, at least, we wish them well. But we can only hope that they know what they’re getting themselves into: a reality show we’ve already seen, and a production concept that appears to (still) be in its nascent stage.
Photos by Trevor Haldenby/Torontoist.