Send in the Clowns

Published: May 6, 2013

By Jim Lichtman
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“Hey you!

“That’s right, you on the couch with the bag of potato chips. Wanna be an actor? Want to star in a hit TV series, but don’t want all the fuss and expense of enrolling in The Actor’s Studio, then spend years studying “the method” honing your craft? Well, you’ve come to the right place, because Bravo-TV has a “method” that Lee Strasberg would kill for.

That’s right! I’m talkin’ about the same NBC-owned cable channel that used to host all that boring, upscale stuff like independent classic films, the Olympics as well as James Lipton’s Inside the Actor’s Studio. I’m talkin’ about theenhanced Bravo which switched to a much more “thought-provoking” line-up with Project RunwayTop Chef and Real Housewives of… (you fill in the blank).

If you are of legal age, live in New York (or can move there), have a real estate license and are willing to “act” in front of a camera, we just might want to interview YOU for a future season of Bravo’s new hit “reality” show, Million Dollar Listing New York.

Now, before you get too excited there are a few requirements. First, you have to look good in a suit, (you’re also required to own or have access to a high-end wardrobe), vamp for the camera; oh, and make sure, make absolutely, positively sure you react to the slightest bad news with an over-the-top expression that would make Meryl Streep green with envy.

“When last we checked in with the aggressive trio of brokers onMillion Dollar Listing New York,” The New York Times writes (May2), “the former hand model and soap actor Ryan Serhant was working the deal of his career at a SoHo loft, while the former Swedish porn actor Fredrik Eklund had opened himself up to love.”

However, behind the curtain lurks more than a few ethical issues. “… just as buyers of million-dollar apartments should beware of the not-so-pleasant details of any listing, so too should viewers understand that M.D.L.N.Y. sometimes offers an alternate form of reality.

“Michael Lorber … decided to quit the show after the first season because it did little for his business. It is filled with scenes recreated for the cameras, he said. Scenes of the brokers waking up in the morning, for instance, were often filmed in the afternoon. One time the producers asked him to dress in winter clothing in the summer to walk into a building, for a shot that would be added to a show that had been taped long before. ‘It was so stupid,’ he said.”

Okay, listen-up would-be Bravo actors: Prima donnas notwanted.

However, there are just a few real ethically questionable issues that M.D.L.N.Y. steps into.

“In the Season 2 premiere, [broker Fredrik] Eklund asks Stuart Parr… if he is the owner of the Marble House, a town house in TriBeCa. Mr. Parr replies that he is the ‘owner, designer and actual contractor.’ He gives Mr. Eklund 30 days to sell the residence for $17.5 million. What is not revealed is that Mr. Parr was not the actual owner, but an old equity partner in the company that previously owned the building; he was trying to flip the apartment before he was contractually obligated to acquire it, said Justin Ehrlich, a partner at VE Equities, which owns the building.”

Then there is this little piece of delicious deceit.

“Last year Holly Parker, an Elliman broker, said the show had staged a broker party at a penthouse at 100 11th Avenue that she had sold for $19.4 million. So brokers were ostensibly being introduced to the listing after Ms. Parker already had a signed contract. She referred to the show as ‘all make-believe.’

However, “these sorts of issues don’t really bother Dottie Herman, the chief executive of Elliman,” The Times writes. “She says the bottom line is what matters to her, not the messy details.

“They might throw an extra party or two,” Herman says, “but there would be nothing that would be false false.”

Oh well, that’s a relief. For a minute there, I thought we were in ethical trouble. I have no doubt that Dottie has that “false, false” clause in her client’s contract, so there’s no misunderstanding.

Then there’s the newest agent of the bunch, Luis Ortiz, “the Keller Williams broker who replaced Mr. Lorber…” In one episode Ortiz “…enlists the help of a doorman at 15 Broad Street to divert people from Mr. Serhant’s open house to his own listing in the building, where he offers salsa lessons. And in a later episode Mr. Ortiz, 26, enlists his twin brother, Daniel, to alter photos of an apartment in bad need of a kitchen remodel.

“After an open house at which potential buyers question Mr. Ortiz’s honesty, his bosses at Keller Williams put him on probation. ‘I don’t regret it,’ he said last week. ‘It was part of a learning process.’

Yes indeed, part of the learning process of “how-not-to-get-caught” no doubt.

Then there are the stunts. And yes, all you would-be Bravo actors, pay attention, you will not only be required to performyour own wacky stunts but improvise on-the-spot, as well.

“In the Season 2 premiere, Mr. Serhant shows up at Mr. Eklund’s open house for the Marble House. After Mr. Eklund ribs him about his collapsed deal in SoHo, Mr. Serhant strips off his shirt and dives into the pool.

” ‘I think I got a little too cavalier’ and jumped in to irritate him, Mr. Serhant said.”

Frankly, I was a little surprised at Eklund’s reaction considering his postion as Bravo’s in-house, Jedi Master of stunts, who is willing to please any potential client at the drop of a Cinco de Mayo hat.

So, all you couch potatoes yearning for stardom as part of a “reality” show, be sure to send in your demo videos addressed to Shari Levine, senior vice president of Bravo who insists, “The level of reality is very high.”

Okay Shari, send in the clowns.

Wait, don’t bother, they’re here!


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