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A peek inside the 'Real World' house in Washington, D.C.

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The cast of MTV's reality show gives The Washington Post's Anna Uhls and Dan Zak a tour of the house in Dupont Circle where taping for the 2010 season took place.

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Emily Schromm from Columbia, Mo., who interned for Africa Action, thinks the do-gooder route will take her to the continent next. After all, she scuttled a sojourn to Uganda to do "The Real World." (No one should be faced with that choice, we think.)

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There's a rumor that Ty Ruff from Baltimore, who worked in marketing for the Capitals, tossed Andrew Woods from Denver off the balcony of the house. True?

They say "You'll have to watch the show" instead of "Yes."

Then a tour of the mansion, which over the years has housed a Blockbuster video, an Ethiopian restaurant, a lesbian bar and a church. Now it's an exhibit of shoddy-sexy cable-station decadence.

The foyer looks like a biopsy of a Brookstone. Two vibrating leather chairs flank a faux fireplace, which contains a faux fire. Look to the left, past the ginormous fish tank (which the crew cleans, not the cast). In a corner alcove is lumpy furniture suited for lounging and/or heavy petting, an arrangement Hugh Hefner might've conceived if his decorators shopped exclusively at Target. The kitchen features a knife block sponsored by Subway.

Commercialism romances hedonism, but there is a stab at stateliness, too. Yes, the line of shiny Roman columns on the main floor calls to mind Caligula more than Camelot, but let's not dwell. Another alcove resembles the Oval Office, with a broad wooden desk cluttered with West-Wingy ephemera, like a toy presidential limousine. Bald eagles are everywhere. Eagle statues prop up a glass coffee table with their white, feathery crowns. Bronze and ceramic eagles swoop out from the wall, mid-attack. It's Norman Bates, with a dash of John Ashcroft.

The house would be livable if not for the industrial fluorescent lights embedded in the ceiling. There can be no shadows in the "Real World" house, no hiding. Cameras peek from every corner of every room. The blue-curtained confessional -- where cast mates reveal their rawest emotions to a stationary camera -- appears to be modeled after the White House briefing room. The satire (the accidental irony?) is breathtaking.

In the Lincoln bedroom, a cocktail-of-the-month calendar hangs near a clipping of Robert Frost's "The Road Not Taken." Framed photos of Ben's Chili Bowl hang near framed photos of monuments. Metro's rainbow spider web of subway lines is painted along one wall of the billiard room, and the Jacuzzi patio is decorated with bunting.

The cast mates seem as real as they can be while shackled to an MTV contract. But the house, with its mix of tourist kitsch and federalismo, feels like a landmark to what the rest of America sees when they visit the District, which, of course, is the farthest thing from real.


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