D.C.'s World Is About to Start Getting Real
"The Real World" begins filming in Washington this week, which means the new cast of twenty-somethings will soon be invading our streets and nightspots with their drama and camera crews. For plenty of people hoping to make a token appearance on the show, this means a shot at 15 seconds of fame. But not everyone -- say, the next generation of politicos -- is going to want the spectacle that comes with this particular show. If you're captured drinking and partying in the background of a shoot, you know that footage could show up again someday when you least want it.
Any place MTV is filming will have to post a sign outside, so you'll always know before you enter a club what to expect. But I wanted to know: would there be any place that would outright ban cameras from coming in? I checked with some people who run bars and clubs near the "Real World" house to find out how they'll be handling the MTV blitz.
Currently in the Keep-Out Camp (At Least When the Bar Is Open)
"It's not really our thing, so no," says owner Dante Ferrando. "We're not really an MTV-style club. We don't even let people take pictures of people they don't know inside the club. I'm not crazy about a lot of release forms, and it doesn't fit with what we do. It could be good PR and draw people to certain types of places. But whenever film crews come in, it's a pain. People come here to hang out and have a drink or see a concert, not be bothered by film crews."
Owner Matt McGovern was on the fence when I called him. "Honestly, I watch almost no TV at all," he admitted. "I don't know if I'd let them film here." So he put my question to a vote of the patrons present, shouting "Should we let 'The Real World' film in here?" Audible groans and murmurs of dissent could be heard on my end. "I guess the answer's no," he said. "We almost run the bar like a democracy, and certain things have to be put to a vote." He paused for a minute. "If they want to come when we're closed, like a film shoot, then I wouldn't object. It's probably all staged anyway."
The D.C. Bar Scene Will Be Televised
"We're in no way going to promote invading anyone's privacy, especially in this scene," says general manager Mark Rutstein. When there are photographers in the predominantly gay bar, whether they're working for Cobalt or shooting for the Scene page of Metro Weekly, they are required to approach everyone and get permission before taking a snapshot. Rutstein, who has experience working on reality series like "Get It Sold," doesn't think his customers would stay away if MTV posted notices at the door. "Maybe 10 percent wouldn't want" to come in if there were cameras, he speculates.
Cafe Saint-Ex and Bar Pilar
Owner Mike Benson says he understands there are people who won't want to be filmed, "but there are people who are, 'Oh, look, a camera. Let's go see what it is." Saint-Ex is already packed on weekends, with lines out the door, and if MTV showed up, they'd be welcomed in as long as there was room, he says. It's not just the cast members who come in, Benson points out -- it's the lighting and the camera crews and the handlers who try to keep the public from interfering with the production. "That's the concern -- people feeling like they're being hassled at the bar." At the same time, he adds, "for posterity, it would be cool to TiVo an episode and say, 'Hey, look, that's our bar!'"
The "Real World" house sits at 20th and S streets NW, so this is one of the closest places to get a drink. The richly appointed four-level bar and restaurant is known for having the largest selection of vodkas in the city and for attracting regulars like Washington Capitals stars Alex Ovechkin, Alexander Semin and Sergei Fedorov. Owner Aaron McGovern said that he'd "absolutely" welcome the cast to come in.
Gazuza and Chi-Cha
If the cast decided to swing by these popular lounges, "of course" they'd be welcome, says Jessica Gibson, communications director for the bars' parent company, Latin Concepts. Does she think that customers would mind the commotion? "I think that 100 people would tweet that 'The Real World' is shooting at Chi-Cha and 500 people would show up in five minutes." Fair enough.
Management at the city's largest and best gay dance club "used to be really concerned about filming and privacy," says owner Ed Bailey, "but now everyone who walks through the door has a camera in their pocket." He thinks his crowds will see both sides: there are "people who would be turned off by it, but it's a situation that I think a lot of people would like to be a part of," he says.
"I'd definitely allow it," says Swaptak Das, who owns this upscale Foggy Bottom lounge where you can order drinks from your iPhone. "In my industry, it's all about vanity." People want to be on TV, he explains, and besides, "I think my business could be helped" by the exposure.
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