Beyond Peanuts and Popcorn: An Interview with Paradise Hotel's Dave Kerpenby Peggy Keller -- 10/01/2003
Once upon a time in Boston, a struggling college kid, who was overweight and needed to make money to put himself through school, became bigger than himself by being the biggest selling vendor at Celtic basketball games. Some people thought he was obnoxious, some thought he was entertaining, but one thing was clear: everyone noticed him.
And then Dave Kerpen got fired because the coach of the Celtics thought he was distracting people from watching the ball game. So he moved on, went to work honing his marketing skills at Disney, and eventually was able to strike out on his own as a marketing consultant. You know the best salespeople have thick skin. They can take the slammed doors, the hang-ups, the "absolutely not – now get out of here before I call the police" rejections. Dave was like that before he even tried to sell beer and popcorn at sporting venues. He admits to having the kind of personality that you either get or you don't. Love him or hate him, he is memorable.
All this practice getting rejected must helped him when he made it onto Fox's summer reality show, Paradise Hotel. Dave was not the best looking candidate, at least not compared to the bicep-flexing, model type men who were on already on the show to begin with. But he is definitely the only guest on the show who has come through looking like they have a personality and knowing that Paradise Hotel was not just a television show but a game.
He told me today that he went into Paradise prepared for the public backlash of being a reality television show contestant. He understood the public's desire to knock the hell out of anyone on TV. He did not, however, expect to be the brunt of frequent humiliation and harassment from the guests themselves.
I asked Dave about his experience in Paradise.
RealityNewsOnline: Did your background as the love him or hate him vendor help you when the originals came back and decided to attack you?
Dave: I have always had a strong personality – even before the experience as the vendor, that was just a way to make money to put myself through college and I am trying to put it behind me. I know that going on reality TV you have to expect that kind of demeaning behavior from the general public and although I did not expect it from the guests, you could have predicted they would act that way when the originals were brought back after seeing everything they saw on television.
RNO: Rumor has it that the producers encouraged them to act up. Is this true?
Dave: No, the producers did not encourage it at all. They did not expect it to get that out of hand.
RNO: Are some of the originals on testosterone or steroids? Amy? Toni?
Dave: I have no comment with regard to what drugs they may or may not have been on.
RNO: What made them behave the way they did? They were ruthless.
Dave: I think it was a case of mob mentality. None of them are mean-spirited in general, they just got caught up with the whole thing.
RNO: What did Scott do while the originals were there? We don't see much of him. He did not defend you like guest Amanda did, nor did he seem to join in the bashing.
Dave: Scott played it cool – had Scott been there when Andon confronted him, I know for a fact that Scott would have had my back and defended me. He would have stood up for me.
RNO: Do you think the fact that he is older had anything to do with why he stayed out of the fight?
Dave: His age yes, and he is more mature than some of the others.
RNO: Alex seemed to be fairly docile yet we see him getting involved in the situation by messing with your ears. Was Alex that angry at you?
Dave: I think Alex got caught up in the mob mentality thing and he wanted to humiliate me.
RNO: Was the behavior of the original guests fairly portrayed? How much of it was editing?
Dave: There were moments that were more civil than they showed and there were moments that were much, much worse that were edited to look not so bad. The Andon situation was much worse than what they actually showed. There was a definite threat there.
RNO: A physical threat?
Dave: Yes, a physical threat. But it was not edited to look that way.
RNO: Amy threatened people with death many times, but when Zack did it they told him he could not come back on the show. Why didn't they boot Amy as per their own rules?
Dave: You'll have to ask the producers that.
RNO: Are you in love with Charla?
Dave: I am not nor ever have been in love with Charla, although I will admit that I had a crush on her.
RNO: Do you continue to talk to anyone on the show?
Dave: I cannot say yet who I am in touch with still until after the finale airs.
RNO: So what is the grand prize? Is it the hotel?
Dave: No, the Hotel is worth forty-million dollars. It is not the hotel
RNO: A time share in the hotel?
Dave: No, I cannot say what the prize is. I can't tell anyone what they gave away, not even my family.
RNO: Can you confirm that it is a jury vote?
Dave: Yes, it is a jury vote. I wish I would have thought that it could have possibly been a jury vote. I thought that Big Brother and Survivor have jury votes and this probably wouldn't have one.
RNO: Why did Keith think you betrayed him? Why could he not see that this was part of the game?
Dave: He did see it as part of the game. Keith never thought I would betray him, he knew I wanted Charla to get the power. I did not want to power because at that point I had already voted so many people off. But I wanted Charla to have the power and Keith outsmarted me. He managed to be the one to get that power. He played the game well. But he never once thought I would really betray him. I did not have to say anything to Holly and Scott. They probably would have voted for me had I kept my mouth shut, so that was part was my fault. But Keith knew I would never have betrayed him.
RNO: So it sounds like Keith chose you to go with him to the final four.
Dave: No, I cannot say that. I can't tell you who is in the final four.
RNO: Are you aware that because Fox edited you the way they did, that it actually helped the way the public sees you?
Dave: Yes I am very aware that I was edited poorly in the beginning and then when the originals came back I was edited better and then last week I was edited poorly again, so go figure.
RNO: By bearing the brunt of the originals’ wrath, you have become the underdog.
Dave: Yes and it was the hardest thing to live through at the time but it actually turned out OK because of the outpouring of support I have been receiving since the show aired.
RNO: How has Paradise changed you?
Dave: I have a lot more confidence now. The feedback I have gotten is incredible. One of my friends the other day said I even look taller now. That is what it did to me. I have always had confidence in some things, but never in anything that involved the opposite sex, but now that has changed.
RNO: You know, you were characterized as the guy who "did not look like a model," to put it nicely. A lot of people just thought you were this goofy guy, but it's different now. You have a beautiful personality and I hope a lot of people come away with the lasting impression that they should not judge someone based solely on looks.
Dave: Thanks for saying that.
RNO: How did you lose the 69 pounds?
Dave: Exercise and portion control.
RNO: How do you feel about the show in general? About what the show was meant to be and the way some groups have protested and gotten sponsors to pull their advertising for it?
Dave: I wish Fox would have marketed it differently and the producers would have focused on other things. I wish Fox had not promoted it as a sex fest because it turned out not to be a sex fest. And I wish the groups that boycotted it would have looked closer at it and taken a second look. Fox and the producers promoted it as a sex fest, the protesters boycotted it as a sex fest, but it was not a sex fest. I think it was a fascinating study into human behavior and what happens and what choices one makes when you are isolated
RNO: Like Amy making the choice that Zack is a suitable mate. Amy is really not that stupid is she?
Dave: I think Amy and Zack are a perfect match
RNO: I hope they don't have any kids.
Dave will speak with us again after the show's finale to tell us what he cannot tell us now, and we can find out more about his new book and fan club!
Peggy Keller is Mother and Behavior Therapist to her two autistic sons and teenage daughter. Click here to e-mail her.
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