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'The Real World' in D.C.: When MTV Moves In, So Does Drama
The group hops back in the car and heads to Georgetown, as Ploger holds the camera on herself, monologuing her woe while driving through a haze of brake lights.
"I'm determined now," says Ploger's friend Tonya Peter, 23, from the back seat. "We have to talk to them. We have to get into that house. We have to show them what real life is about in D.C."
At 12:30 a.m., they're inside Third Edition, where cast member Andrew is rubbing up against a young woman to "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough" in the orange glow of an MTV camera light. Ploger and friends get turned around in the sweaty crowd and lose track of him.
Plan C: Rhino Bar on M Street, where cast member Josh is mixing drinks around 1 a.m., just doing his job, with no cameras. The friends sidle up to the bar and chat. He gives Ploger a high-five. He bro-hugs her friend Lance Jackson, 24. Tonya Peter gets his e-mail address. The fourth friend (the embarrassed one) films the encounter by tucking the digital camcorder under her armpit. Four more castmates show up, say hello, see Ploger and cut their visit short. Jackson follows them out and returns with this news:
"The producers say they can't talk to her because she's a blogger," he confides, coming to a sobering conclusion. "So right now, my best shot to getting into the house is not to be associated with her at all."
The quartet finish their drinks and depart. On the way to pick up jumbo-slice pizza, Ploger worries.
"This is more about my adventure than spying, but I still have to get something," she says. "It's turned into something bigger, and I had to find a point, but people want me to be like TMZ, and I don't want to be like that." (Her family, she says, is "very worried" about the attention.)
At 2:30 a.m. they end up outside the mansion at 20th and S. Jackson and Peter venture to the streetside patio, where there are cameras. A cast member is sitting out there, crying. They watch for a bit, then retreat back across the street.
"I feel bad," Peter says. Jackson looks like he wants to leave. Ploger talks to her camera about what a crazy night it's been.
Sometime in July, a sign is posted on the base of the lamppost on the northeast corner of the intersection. In simple black lettering on a plain white background, it reads, one word per line:
Slice of Life
A lone bagpiper walks north on Connecticut Avenue, the pipes droning, a small procession following him, just after midnight on a weekend -- stick around one place long enough and eventually you see everything -- as three young women chat up one of the security guards for half an hour, keeping an eye on the house. They are all 18 or 19 and from Maryland. The significance of "The Real World" is not lost on them. It spills out, breathlessly:
"It's been 23 years. . . . D.C. is a treasure. . . . They've been to New York, like, five times. . . . It's the capital. . . . It'll be a really good representation of the city. . . . I talked to the cast before and they're really down to earth."
It starts to rain, and the trio scampers off to the Metro.
The green dinged-up Toyota shows up around 1 a.m. Daniel Foster and his friend Noelle Owens have arrived with three large pizzas, as promised 24 hours earlier. A production staffer emerges from the alley beside the house. She says Josh is not expecting guests, but she accepts the garlic spinacini, pepperoni and cheese pies.
"We'll make sure he gets it," she says, walking back down the alley. Foster and Owens watch them go, their craving for access and interaction unsated. They stand under the awning on the northwest corner of the intersection, where Harry and J.R. usually sit, across the street from Anti-Real World DC headquarters. They watch the house. It's lit up and quiet and almost solemn.
"Right now it's not that big, but next year it will be," Foster says. "And to be able to say I was sitting on the couch inside, while so-and-so was making out with Julie, or whatever, and then she punched someone else and there was a fight, and whatever, I can say, 'I was there. I was right there. That was so last year.' "
The rain stops.
"The pizzas only cost $12 to make," Foster says. "Twelve dollars for the possibility of being on national television a year from now? Worth it."
"I'm thinking," says Owens, after a reflective moment, "maybe they stole our pizza."