This is a continuation of “The Bachelor” story published on July 14, 2016. If you haven't read part one, click here first!
After 60 lucky Mexicans – make that 59 lucky Mexicans and me – arrived at our destination, the hotel staff directed us into a large reception area. Situated in the middle of the pack, I first heard excited “Oooh’s!” “Ahhh’s!” and “Mira’s!” (Look!) before seeing their impetus: tables full of Cokes, waters, chips, chocolates, and other snacks lined the perimeter of the room. As I grabbed some free goodies and wandered around the five-star facility, I tried to suppress the diva feeling that plagues most Hollywood actors (What do you mean there’s no honey roasted peanuts?! Don’t you know who I am?!).
At this point, however, we still hadn’t seen any of the production crew, so I didn’t yet know if this was the American version of “The Bachelor” series or not.
After polishing off a Coke, I took a lap around the room, saying hi to a couple people I recognized from town (all of whom seem surprised, but pleased, to see me there). I soon found Andrea, who works at San Pancho’s Entre Amigos community center where I volunteer. Born, raised, and schooled in Mexico City, she speaks English quite well, so our conversation transcended the simplistic Q&A my basic Spanish usually relegates me to. Even better, she had the inside scoop on whether this was the real Bachelor!
Ok, no more suspense. It WAS the American “Bachelor,” albeit the offshoot “Bachelor in Paradise,” where unsuccessful ex-Bachelor and ex-Bachelorette contestants try to find love a second time around in exotic locations. Show host Chris Harrison and the producers chose Mexico as the upcoming season’s “paradise” and Vidanta, one of the most lavish resorts in the country, as the filming location. Almost on cue, two white (non-Mexican) male producers walked in, decked out in designer jeans, Nike sneakers, dark t-shirts, beards, and backwards baseball hats. Their appearance erased any remaining doubts about the show being the American version.
That's the World Record?
Together with a Mexican producer, who had ridden with us from San Pancho and served as a translator now, the two Americans outlined the logistics of the night ahead. The atmosphere in the room, though, was far from serious. Mexicans are known for their jovial, fun, and lighthearted nature, but put 59 of them in a five-star resort with free goodies and 15 minutes of fame on deck, and it’s a party. (I should add that Mexican politeness remained in full effect; for example, nobody in the audience made a peep as we were given instructions.)
When the producers explained that our scene would be a “one-on-one date” where the Bachelor and the chosen woman would try for a Guiness World Record longest kiss, the crowd asked how long the kiss would last. “Noventa segundos [90 seconds],” answered the Mexican producer. “That’s nothing!” called a female from the audience (in Spanish), “Bring the cameras down here and him and I will break that right now!" pointing to one of the American producers. The room erupted in hoots, hollers, and catcalls. The American producer, after getting the translation from his Mexican counterpart, played along, wiping his lips and jokingly starting towards the woman.
When the laughter died down, the Mexican producer announced (in quick Spanish he knew his friend wouldn't understand) that the impromptu kiss could be arranged, but only if they first cleared it with the American producer’s boyfriend (the American was a straight male). The crowd loved it, and when the Mexican producer whispered the translation into his American buddy’s ear, so did he. (I only learned what the joke was 10 minutes later when I asked Andrea what had been said, since the exchange had been in rapid Spanish.)
Quick sidenote: I’ve found myself in similar positions many times, where someone makes a joke in Spanish, all the Mexicans laugh, and I’m left staring blankly at the speaker. One time I complimented a friend on her dress...
Me: "Glenda, tu vestida esta bonnita!"
Glenda: Gracias! [Rapid Spanish I didn't understand, followed by laughter from her and those around us.]
Me: “Wait, umm, mande?”
Glenda: [Rapid Spanish, rapid Spanish.]
Me: “Errr, lo siento, repitelo por favor, mas despacio?” (I'm sorry, please repeat it slower.)
Glenda: [Slightly slower Spanish.]
Me: “Wait, are you using the verb “poner”, as in “to put”?”
Glenda (in English now - she knows a little bit): “Arghhh I’m done. I said a funny joke, trust me. Bye.”
Amidst more jokes and laughter, the trio of producers detailed the night’s shoot, where we’d be positioned, and what we’d have to do. Of course, when they finished the spiel, I knew basically as much as when they’d started, so I quickly found Andrea again for translation. In just a couple minutes, I learned, more crew members would come down to the reception room with waivers and cash. Then, we’d be escorted to the main floor of the Vidanta building for filming, with the scene taking place on a floating platform over a pool. Extras would be on each side of the platform serving as cheering spectators for the world-record kissing attempt occurring in the middle.
Who is This Guy?
Soon, three more Americans entered the reception area, waivers and pesos in hand. I got quizzical glances from them as I signed the form (no use trying to read the lengthly Spanish legalese...hope I don't get sued for this article!), posed for the obligatory picture holding it, and collected 300 pesos (about $15, and my first paycheck in Mexico!). When everyone completed the process, we made our way upstairs to the main stage. Lights, camera . . . and lots of waiting.
Filming a scene of a reality TV show, I quickly learned, is a long, painstakingly detailed process that takes hours of setup and reshoots to perfect. Cameras were set up, spotlights adjusted, candles lit – and relit once the slight breeze blew them out – extras repositioned, and lots of Secret Service-type microphones/earpieces chatted into. In the commotion, as one American producer walked by the throng of extras, I called out, “Hey, where you guys from?” He stopped, paused, and did a double take at the English-speaking taller white guy in the crowd of Mexicans. "Uh, we’re all from LA,” he finally responded, and continued walking swiftly along, now muttering into his earpiece (perhaps, “Hey, who messed up and got an American extra?”).
Chris & Raul
After about an hour of setup, during which the crowd of polite extras stayed quiet, a familiar-looking white guy sauntered out. He casually sipped a bottle of water and talked with one of the producers, though he didn’t have an earpiece. I recognized him immediately: Chris Harrison, the famous Bachelor host! His calm, relaxed demeanor stood in stark contrast to everyone else hurrying around shuffling papers and chirping at others in physical and remote proximity. Even though he’d be doing most of the talking in the scene, this wasn’t Chris’s first rodeo – he’d done this a thousand times. When he took the mic along with a Mexican co-host and addressed the extras, that became clear.
Chris: “So, how are we all doing tonight? You guys getting bored yet?”
“Haha” (from the one person in the audience [me] who understood his English, silence from the rest).
Chris: “Oh yeah, you have no idea what I just said. For that, I give you the MEXICAN CHRIS HARRISON! Take it away Raul [Chris's Mexican counterpart, who primarily served as a translator for the extras]!”
(Again, laughter from one audience member.)
Raul: “Hola, el mundo! [Rapid Spanish.] Raul drew a bunch of laughs from the crowd, save for one member.
Chris: “What he said.”
When in Mexico...
After some introductory banter, Chris and Raul directed us on our roles in the context of the scene. What had been billed as The Guiness Book of World Record “longest kiss” actually would be the longest hottest kiss, due to the habanero pepper the lovebirds would have to eat immediately before locking lips. Pursuant to Guiness regulations, each habanero was measured and weighed to ensure it met the specifications. When Chris and Raul told the crowd about the peppers, simultaneously revealing the pile of neon-orange habaneros under a sliver platter onstage, the crowd gasped. Apparently, habanero peppers are 100 times hotter than jalapeno peppers, so eating one and kissing for 90+ seconds – without drinking any milk – is no joke.
Before the world record attempt, though, the directors wanted reaction shots from the crowd. Chris and Raul guided us through, giving us the context for each reaction, encouraging us along, and engaging in hilarious banter. At one point, after just completing a string of various reaction shots, Chris informed us that we’d have to redo them all. “Sorry guys, it turns out we had a sign of the ‘Longest Hottest Kiss’ up in the background, even though we hadn’t announced that to the viewers yet. Great directing there Scott, keep it up,” he deadpanned, drawing laughs from the crew and me.
Another time, after multiple attempts at a particularly difficult “excited to see the couple enter” reaction shot, Chris joked, “Okay, everyone, seriously, don’t screw this up for me,” in mock seriousness he knew most of the audience wouldn’t understand. “I need this job.”
Around midnight, it was time to bring the Bachelor Evan and his date Carly out for the money shots. “Okay, everyone, they have no idea what this date is. They’re in for a complete surprise,” Chris told us, followed quickly with his own personal idea: “Oh! Okay, we’re going to really surprise them. Everyone hide. [Looks around, realizes we’re on a floating platform over the pool with nowhere to hide.] Everyone jump in the water, on three. Ready? One, two, THREE!” His playful joke, however, was met with crickets, save for me laughing hysterically, and a couple inquisitive Mexicans quietly asking me what he said (Raul was too busy laughing to translate).
When they brought out the handsome Bachelor and his beautiful blonde date, the crowd needed no instructions to react with amazement and wonder. Both fully made-up, tall, fit, and very American looking, the Mexicans and I all cooed over the quasi-celebrities now a couple feet away. As crew members scurried around talking into their earpieces (“They’re walking, they’re walking!”), Evan and Carly met Chris at center stage.
“Carly, Evan, welcome!” The crowd went wild. Carly and Evan turned to wave and smile at all of us. “You’re here tonight to experience the very best of Mexico, and we’ve brought some friends along too!” More cheers. Chris then relayed the decidedly bad news to the couple: their “date” actually was a Guiness World Record attempt. “You’re going for the world’s longest kiss,” Chris said to the eager, but confused, couple. “But there’s a twist: since we’re in Mexico, we wanted to add something Mexican to the attempt. In fact, you’ll be going for the world’s longest, HOTTEST, kiss,” he finished, revealing a pile of 40 habaneros under a silver dome. It was a daunting task that completely shocked the couple. We feigned utter surprise and angst as directed, while the Bachelor’s date looked like she'd just seen a ghost.
With the suspense building – Evan was definitely up to the task – all eyes turned to Carly, who seemed to be holding back tears while trying to psyche herself up. Chris suddenly interjected: “Okay, everyone, now it’s time for...more waiting! We need to take Evan and Carly offstage for some one-on-one interviews, and then we’ll bring them back to see if they’ll go for it. Sorry! Raul, go ahead and tell them what they’ve won! [As in, “please translate”].”
Tears and Leche
After the individual reaction interviews, Evan and Carly returned, and finally it was time for the main event. Though Chris reiterated the “decline” option available to Carly – and he seemed genuine, not pressuring her at all – she said she’d go for it, eliciting the loudest cheers of the night. With grimaces from the audience, both guy and girl warily popped a pepper, swallowed it down, showed empty mouths to the Guiness representative standing with Chris, and went in for the kiss. “Wahoo!” we cheered, watching both the couple and a huge timer on a projector behind them. “Fifteen seconds down, you’re doing great!” Chris encouraged. “Now 20 sec – oh, no!"
The crowd gasped. “You can’t remove your lips from each other!" Chris continued. "I’m so sorry, but you’ll have to try again, and, I really hate to say this, eat another habanero pepper.” Turns out the couple had broken a Guiness-stipulated rule of a continuous lip-lock when they’d repositioned their mouths mid-kiss. Now, they'd have to redo the attempt, starting over with new peppers. Carly was despondent.
Attempts two and three didn’t even waste any habaneros; Carly could only make it to the split second before taking a bite and then she'd burst into tears. To her credit, she stayed strong and wiped away her tears each time (and guzzled almond leche from a nearby pitcher...not bothering with cups).
The Climatic Ending
On attempt number four, Carly downed the pepper and started the kiss. Having learned their lesson, the couple grabbed onto each for dear life. No way was any slip or mouth disengagement going to happen this time; this was business, not pleasure. Sure enough, the couple got to 90 seconds and kept going for another 20 as the crowd roared in approval. Confetti blasted everywhere, Mexican gymnasts came out of nowhere and started doing backflips all over the stage, and the formal Guiness plaque was bequeathed onto the new record holders.
When it was all said and done, Evan and Carly looked relieved, and the extras looked exhausted. It was 1:45 a.m., and we’d been standing in place for over four hours.
My fellow extras were pretty energetic thanks to more free soda, snacks, and Red Bull for the ride home. I, on the other hand, immediately fell asleep, waking up only when Paula nudged me with a “Keit . . . Vamonos,” when we arrived back in San Pancho. Paula and I returned to our casa a little after 3 a.m. I thanked Paula for inviting me, entered my apartment, and promptly collapsed on my bed, where I remained until 11 a.m. the next day. Being a Hollywood star is tiring.