When my daughter was a teenager, she was fixated on a ridiculous TV show that featured a bunch of young strangers who moved into a house together and proceeded to drink, argue, cry, make out, show a lot of skin, drink, argue, cry, make out, and, well, you get the idea. It was called “The Real World,” and I told Megan I didn’t want her watching it.
She’s still watching. “I love that show, mostly because it’s super trashy and dramatic,” she told me recently.
MTV’s “The Real World” is the longest-running reality series on television, and is said to have launched the reality-TV show genre. The 27th season will kick off on June 27, with four men and three women sharing a house on a small island off St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands.
One of the seven is a Quincy native, Brandon Kane. The news release about Kane contained this sentence: “Brandon sees The Real World as his opportunity to get out of his town and have a shot at a normal life.”
If “The Real World” is a shot of a “normal life,” I knew I had to talk to this guy. It turns out that Kane, 24, is currently homeless, sleeping on a friend’s couch. Things have been rocky with his parents, who are long divorced, and he could not live with either.
For a while, he was working two jobs, managing a skate shop, and working nights at a restaurant. But he lost one job and had his hours cut at the other. “I was broke, and I wasn’t about to sleep on the streets,” says Kane.
As “The Real World” press release states: “He has had to steal and hustle to survive.” Kane concedes he started selling drugs and robbing people. “I knew I wouldn’t need to do this for long,” he explains, sort of.
He got an apartment in Braintree and more hours at the restaurant. But his personal life was in shambles. “I was dating this girl and I linked up with a kid doing tattoos, so we hosted tattoo parties,” whatever they are. “I got introduced to drugs more.”
Kane started partying heavily, going to clubs, “doing tons and tons of coke.” He began trying to get sober, and took a job in construction. He moved back in with his mother. One day, he saw on television a casting call for “The Real World” in Boston.
“It’s always been one of my favorite shows,” he says. So last October, he answered the call. By the time he got there, he says, 4,000 people had already been seen. But after going to the semifinals in New York and the finals in Los Angeles, he was offered the gig.
“Why was I chosen? I honestly have no idea,” says Kane.
That same press release may offer a clue: diversity. “With his tattoos and gauged ears, Brandon does not look like your typical Real Worlder.”
Gauged ears? I had to look it up. That’s when people gradually stretch their ear piercings, which in turn stretches their ear lobes, the better to wear even larger pieces of jewelry. It sounds, and looks, revolting. No offense, Brandon.
In February, he left for St. Thomas, where he lived in “this really amazing house” for more than two months. It wasn’t exactly paradise — that’s part of the deal with “The Real World,” as it is with any reality TV show: People curse, throw things, make up, make out, and more. Bimbos and himbos. It gets the ratings.
Kane says the experience was difficult: “These weren’t people I’d ever hang out with. I was 110 percent outside my element.”
MTV offers some brief bios of the seven. There’s Marie, 22, of Staten Island, who “loves to drink and party a lot. There’s the time that Marie lost a tooth and just went on partying for two weeks . . . toothless and carefree. Marie is always looking for ‘Mr. Right’ or ‘Mr. Right Now.’”
There’s Robb, 21, of Pennsylvania, who apparently has trouble “balancing schoolwork and partying. Robb strangely enjoys shocking his mom with explicit details about his sex life, and like fellow roommate Trey is developing a reputation as a “man-whore.”
There’s Laura, 23, of Omaha. “As a former cheerleader, she now does a standing backflip while drinking to test how drunk she is.”
There’s man-whore Trey, 23, of Baltimore, who got caught selling prescription drugs to his football teammates.
Clearly, the last thing these people need is a party house. How about some long-term therapy and AA sessions?
As for Kane, his bio says: “Brandon, who was a virgin until he was 19, has since slept with over 100 women and deflowered a nearby high school’s cheerleading captains.” Gooo, Brandon!
“I have no idea why they added that part,” he sniffs. He adds: “I can’t put an exact number on it, but it’s in the triple digits, it’s got to be over 100 girls. To be honest, I have no interest in relationships. I prefer just to sleep around. I’m not lying to them, I’m not a player, but I have no desire to be in a relationship.”
Kane says that living with six people who confronted one another daily helped him. “I couldn’t ignore my problems anymore.”
The show is not scripted, he says, and he is not allowed to talk about what he was paid. He calls it all “a very bittersweet experience.”
The bitter: “You’re doing a lot of learning and a lot of growing up, and it’s on camera, all recorded.” The sweet: “I didn’t realize I cared about any of them until it was time to go.”
In May, Kane returned to Quincy and was going to live with his mother, helping her get a place. But it didn’t work out. “She tossed me to the curb,” he says.
He has been working as an apprentice electrician, saving money for a room or apartment. He worries about his future. “At the end of the day, it’s a reality show. No one’s going to take you seriously, with the drug and alcohol issues and just partying and having fun.”
But Kane hopes viewers will see beyond the partying. “There were so many other beautiful things happening in that house — growing, learning to coexist with people not in your world.”
Meanwhile, he won’t be planning any parties for the premiere. “I don’t have a support system,” he says. “I have too many other things to worry about.”
Like housing, work, keeping up with the beloved little sister he worries about, and helping her however he can. This is Kane’s real Real World.