The Night I Spent at the Bachelor Mansion
by Emily L. Foley
Despite my affinity for the Bachelor franchise, my marital status makes it impossible for me to be a part of the show. And now that everyone’s favorite skanky spin-off Bachelor Pad has gotten the ax, it doesn’t even look like a twisted angle where they have an old married woman fan come just to Debbie-Downer everyone’s fun can ever take place, either. Sad face.
Which means I was thrilled when my friend Robert Mills, the VP of Alternative Programming at ABC, invited me out to the mansion to watch the first night of taping for Andi’s season back in March.
I arrived at the mansion as the sun was setting, and the driveway was already hosed down, and things were bustling. I mean. There were people crawling everywhere!
Rob took me for a tour of the house, and it is seriously stunning.
The pool looked so inviting in the lighting that I momentarily forgot about the film of tanning oil and disease that was floating on the surface.
In the kitchen, the guys had an amazing spread of food waiting for them. Seriously, everything you could imagine. And let me tell you: That did not translate into the control room! Sure we had the biggest BBQ chicken legs (breasts? I don’t know. It was dark, and I don’t like food with bones in it.) I’ve ever seen and some really good dried fruit, but the ‘talent’ was definitely getting the love when it came to edibles.
I walked past the staircase that Tierra ‘fell down’ and met the one-and-only Elan Gale whose beard is as lush as it is full of secrets. I’m told we’d be great friends–should that worry me?
Then I got to meet Andi, who looked gorg, had fresh hair color (praise!), and was super sweet. I told her that I was also from Atlanta and had just had lunch with her pals Kelly Travis and Sharleen Joynt the week prior, and she said I reminded her of a blonde Kelly. Probably because we’re both tall, and you know, all tall people look alike.
Then I settled in to the control room (set-up in the garage of the mansion), and I was really struck by how massive the production scale was. I do a lot of set visits as an entertainment writer, and on both films and TV shows, there are typically only a few cameras and therefore monitors. The sheer number of screens at the command station was amazing.
The control room was filled with producers, executives, assistants and of course, Mike Fleiss and Chris Harrison. And one large, weird, dank couch that was the seat to have. At one point, I actually thought the thing had eaten my purse, but it turned out Mike Fleiss was just sitting on it (Yes, I had to physically pull my purse out from under Mike Fleiss. No, some of his millions didn’t magically fall in it.).
And I’m not going to lie: It was kind of like a giant bachelorette viewing party in that room. A dark one with giant chicken breasts/thighs and a weird couch, but a party nonetheless. There was a lot of laughing and cutting up and getting shushed by the director and producer Pete Scalettar (who were actually working), and there was a lot of dishing on previous contestants and bachelor/ettes (Let’s just say I have a few secrets in my hair now, too).
When the limos arrived and Andi started talking to the guys, everyone got really excited about how great she sounded and looked, and I could sense a spirit of ‘high-fiving’ between them (Hey, after last season, they deserve a break when it comes to the star of the show!).
As each guy got out of the limo, the casting director gave us all the rundown on them, and on a sad note, she was really excited about Eric Hill. She told me how dynamic he was, and how cool his career as a pro-adventurer was.
But Andi is a tough nut to crack. She ‘vetoed’ a limo full of guys (or two) immediately. But who knows? Maybe her mind was changed a little? I married a guy five inches shorter than me because after meeting him, I threw out my rule book. But I digress.
The second the guys entered the house, they started getting pulled out to do IRTs (The mini interviews when cast members share their thoughts on things are called IRTs, or, In Real Time), which is part of why filming takes so long–25 guys who all have to have limo intros, get one-on-one time with Andi and give some insight in to their feelings=all. night. long.
Then nature called, and I was ushered to the. bathroom. You know, the one we’ve seen countless breakdowns in (I’m looking at your Jenna Burke), and has seen more ass germs than the one working toilet in a fraternity house. Fortunately, I’m a toilet hovering expert (You don’t get thigh muscles like this sitting to pee), and two months later, I still seem to be disease free. Of course relieving myself in such an epic location required a photo, and yes, I’m wearing glasses. It was like 2am.
Not much later, a random assistant rushed in the control room and announced that Chris Bukowski was outside at craft services. Now I know that Chris told TMZ that the whole thing was planned with producers, and I’m not naive: I don’t doubt that Chris had spoken to someone there, but his presence there that night was a huge shock to the powers-that-be, and it was definitely not staged by ABC as part of the night one drama. Questions ranged from ‘How did he get past security at the front gate?’ (clearly, security at craft services was much tighter than at the front gate) to ‘What the hell is he doing here?’
And that’s when things got really interesting. It was amazing watching the decision-makers decide how to handle his presence. And things were divided. A few thought it would be good to let him on to the show, but others were adamantly against it. On that side of the fence were both Executive Producer Martin Hilton and Chris Harrison.
Ultimately, they decided to have Chris Harrison go talk to him, and then Andi, and have her make the call, without ever having to see Bukowski.
They intentionally chose not to mic Bukowski, because they were trying to make it very clear to the viewers that this was not a set-up, and he was not an official part of the show.
Say what you may about this whole situation, but from my front row seat, it was plain to see that this was no producer set-up. And quite humorously, it took hours to get Bukowski to actually leave the property.
One of the reasons Martin was so against Bukowski being there was that the producers already had a surprise planned for the night. One you might know about if you read Andi’s blog on People.com. They had flown out everyone’s favorite TV dad, Hy Dorfman, to surprise Andi, and I so wish everyone had gotten to see it! Hy looked so cute in his suit, and Andi’s reaction when he walked in the room was priceless.
Unfortunately, there just weren’t enough minutes in the show, and with all the Bukowski stuff, there just wasn’t any time for viewers to get to see the big Hy surprise. Sad face again.
By this time in the night, all non-essential personnel had gone home long ago, Rob’s eyes were rolling back into his head, and I couldn’t feel my arms or legs.
So, this is where I disappoint you: I didn’t see the rose ceremony. It quickly became apparent that I was either going to sleep through it on that scary couch (seriously, you guys–that couch!) or in my bed, so I headed back to my hotel to get a couple hours of sleep.
And thus concludes my night at the Bachelor Mansion. Questions about the whole process? Hit me up, and I’ll try to answer them!
And if you don’t already, follow me on Twitter, and join in on our live-tweeting fun next Monday night! I’m actually considering switching my #bachelorette hashtag to #thebachelorette. We’ll see.
Peace, Love and Behind-the-Scenes at Reality Shows,