I had an idea and I knew some people were going to be hurt by it. But first I called my friend, Amy, to see if she liked the idea and wanted to participate. She was in. Then I called Michel, for video, and Adrian, for audio, and we needed Francois. For security. Just in case things got a little crazy.
The idea was this. Amy would put an ad in the Village Voice. “girl seeking date”, etc. Then guys would respond to the ad and she’d pick the most interesting ones and she’d also pick the restaurant they would meet at. Michel would wire up video all over the restaurant and Adrian would do the audio. We’d then videotape the date without the date knowing.
First, some notes. Amy is: “Girl whose name was a curse”. I had a crush on her. She was also extraordinarily funny. A standup comedian at heart. She knew the date was going to be recorded and she knew how to get people talking.
Michel was my brother in law. We started our first business, Reset, together. We must’ve made a million websites together back when making websites was a bit harder than it is now. Or maybe it was easier then. Less technology. Either way, we started with Americanexpress.com and HBO.com and worked our way up from there.
Adrian was the son of the former Minister of Health under Ceausescu in Romania. He was literally from Transylvania and, if you met him, you would know that instantly. He defected from Romania when he was a famous photographer there photographing underage girls doing things. Ceausescu swore to Adrian’s mother that he would find Adrian and bring him back. But he was never found again.
Francois was formerly in the French Foreign Legion and was now about 90 years old but didn’t look a day over fifty. No matter how many vasectomies he had he kept having more children. It was a problem. But he was a big guy.
We had two dates with all of us spread over two tables. Amy and her date at one table. Francois, Michel, Adrian, and I at the next table. Doing what we usually did. Listening in on the people around us. The only one who had no clue was Amy’s date.
On date number one the guy confessed he was torn between feelings of being gay and being straight. He was unsure if he could be both at the same time. Amy touched his hand once and he lit up like a struck match. At the end she asked him to sign a release form and, surprised, he did. The next day he called her up and left a voicemail where he was yelling, “life is to be lived. Not televised!”
The next date the guy received a telephone call in the middle of the date. It was from his wife. Afterwards, Amy asked him to sign a release form but he said he would only sign it if she would sleep with him. So we didn’t get his release form signed.
Michel edited all the videos together. I pitched the idea to HBO Independent Productions. “We love it!” a guy named Dave said to me. I don’t remember his last name. He never called me back. I called him every day, thinking “this is the day that Dave changes my life.” I was sitting in a cubicle at HBO in the IT Department. My life is going to change today. “One second,” Dave’s secretary would say to me. I was calling HBO even though I worked at HBO. But Dave was in LA. “I love it,” Dave said to me the first time we spoke. I held onto that. Love is an important emotion. “Dave said he is going to call you right back,” the secretary would say to me. And I would feel relieved. Because he was going to call me RIGHT BACK. Only he never did.
Finally I called Dave and said, “This is Randy, I need to talk to Dave.” Randy was “Randy” in “How I hacked MTV.com”. They both went to Harvard together.
Dave got on the phone, “Raaandddyyy!” he said. “Actually, Dave, its James”.
So Dave had to explain to me what happened. “Politics,” he said. “You’re already pitching one show to another part of HBO. So they want first look on this show.” Not only was I sitting in a little cubicle in HBO’s IT department, I was running an entire company on the side and pitching two TV shows to two different parts of HBO. I was on the phone all day long trying to juggle things. The guy in the cubicle next to me once came over to me, “Whatever you are doing, I don’t want to know about it.”
So I went to Sheila Nevins, who, as I mentioned before, was in charge of all of HBO’s shows on prostitution PLUS she was head of HBO Family Programming (for the kids). I was already pitching a show to her but she was upset I went to HBO Independent Productions. “I love the idea of this show,” she said to me over lunch in HBO’s Executive Dining Room, “but we can’t do this. It’s too mean.”
So that was my idea. And some people got hurt.
[Postscript: There was a show about a year or two later on NBC called “Blind Date”. It was a reality show where both people on the date knew they were being videotaped. I knew that “Dave” had ended up at NBC but I have no idea if they ripped off my idea. But thats life. Ideas get recycled repeatedly and you move on to the next one.]