By Lisa de Moraes
Thursday, June 4, 2009
In one of the most incredible scoops in the history of The Reporters Who Cover Television, while the rest of the world was reporting that C-listers Heidi and Spencer Pratt had escaped NBC's skank-tank show "I'm a Celebrity . . . Get Me Out of Here!" and hopped a plane back to Los Angeles -- where they were photographed conspicuously making their way to a waiting limo while shrouded in black sheets -- The Washington Post's intrepid journalist Steven Goff tracked down Speidi in hiding at a hotel in Costa Rica, and was an eyewitness to "The Hills' " couple confessing they were just tossing back a few glasses of red wine and using a few rolls of toilet paper before heading back to the show site.
Okay, Goff actually was on assignment in Costa Rica, covering a World Cup qualifying match, and just happened to be staying at the hotel where Speidi turned up to have a few drinks, eat some dinner, use some toilet paper and plot their return to the celebrity-survival series. Goff's wife, who is a reality-TV fan, approached the couple, and the rest is history.
"We were having dinner last night and we saw all these guys with cameras and kinda had a hunch they were with that show," Goff told The TV Column yesterday.
"We had talked about the fact the show was being produced in Costa Rica while we were here, so we kind of had our antennae up," Goff explained.
"At the end of dinner, we were walking away and we spotted [Speidi] on the patio."
According to Goff, Speidi were drinking red wine and generally enjoying themselves at the patio restaurant.
Heidi, looking relaxed in sweat pants and a hoodie, and Spencer, in Tommy Bahama-esque casual resort wear, told Goff's family they were trying to get back on the show.
They were in touch with their agents and publicists and the general consensus was that the reigning couple of the Hollywood Hills had made a mistake bailing on the show, in which C-listers endure rubbing shoulders with other C-listers to whom they feel superior -- and endure the absence of things like toilet paper -- to raise money for charity, we're supposed to believe. But of course you and I know it's really to try to pump some life back into their dead-ish careers.
This franchise, which debuted on NBC this past Monday, had a short one-season run on ABC back in '03. Speidi are competing with former supermodel Janice Dickinson, former Idolette Sanjaya Malakar, former actor Stephen Baldwin, former NBA star John Salley, comedy duo Frangela (Angela Shelton and Frances Callier), former pro wrestler Torrie Wilson and Mrs. former governor Rod Blagojevich.
Anyway, back to the Marriott hotel in San Jose, Costa Rica, when Spencer and Heidi -- the scenery-chewingest thespian couple since Olivier and Leigh -- were prattling on to the Goff clan about how terrible they felt leaving the show.
(This, of course, was in marked contrast to how Speidi felt as early as Monday -- the show's debut, when Spencer was seen chatting on the phone with NBC Entertainment co-chairman Ben Silverman, who'd called the camp after learning that Speidi had been threatening to quit the show almost since the moment Speidi arrived on the show.
("Spencer, tell me what's bothering you right now -- just tell me what's driving you nuts," Silverman said sympathetically.
("I'm too rich and too famous to be sitting with these people and cleaning up their [WaPo forbidden word] in the jungle, my man," Spencer complained to Silverman. "This cast is devaluing our fame!")
While this interesting conversation was going on at the Marriott hotel, Speidi were not swamped by fans, Goff told The TV Column. "It's the off-season here, the rainy season, so the hotel is maybe half full," Goff explained. "It's mostly Americans and some Europeans, but I didn't notice anyone recognizing them other than us. No one was bothering them."
You can imagine what a trial this must have been for Spencer, what with his having said live on the show just a short while earlier: "I'm a super-celebrity. My wife is a super-celebrity. Super-celebrities don't belong in the jungle -- they belong in Hollywood with The Paparazzi."
Now ensconced at the Marriott five minutes from the airport in Costa Rica, Spencer said they felt they had made a mistake and they were trying to go back and wanted to stay on the show after all, toilet paper or no.
Heidi, meanwhile, told a story of having to eat scorpion and "there wasn't any toilet paper!"
Spencer, talking to Goff's young son as if he had just returned from two years of fighting in Vietnam rather than 48 hours on "I'm a Celebrity . . . Get Me Out of Here!," advised the young Goff to be grateful for everything he has and everything his parents give him, because he, Spencer Pratt, just emerged from hell.
On Wednesday night's show, while Speidi were scheduled to show up back at "I'm a Celeb" camp and beg to be let back in, a spare Baldwin brother, Daniel, was scheduled to be brought into the camp to replace Speidi, and the rest of the C-listers would learn that Speidi's fate was in their hands.