After months of seeing cameras every time I went to the Hard Rock—filming at Mr. Lucky’s during breakfast; shutting down Rare 120 once for dinner; panning the crowd at The Joint—I finally encountered the Season 25 cast of The Real World: Las Vegas at the Center Bar. The “seven strangers” looked quite friendly with each other, and they were busy doing what most reality stars do: drinking alcohol; canoodling; requesting songs from the DJ; maintaining various poses of youthful abandon. They seemed to be simultaneously oblivious to the cameras and aware that their 15 minutes was about to arrive. It was a heady combination, and I was entranced.
But will the rest of the nation find the OG of reality shows to be just as entertaining? It worked once. A mere nine years ago, MTV’s Real World shacked up in the Palms and turned a fledgling off-Strip casino into celebrity-infested pop-cultural juggernaut. It was a regular marketing miracle. Now, the Hard Rock is hosting Round 2, no doubt hoping that some of MTV’s magic will work there, too.
But the stakes are higher this time around—now there are too many casinos and too many reality shows. And the Hard Rock is in a hard place, dealing with crushing debt. Will The Real World do for the Hard Rock (and by extension, Las Vegas) what Pawn Stars did for pawn shops? Or will it be a mere speck in the eye of the public consciousness? I was determined to find out.
The seven strangers are, of course, blissfully unaware that a large chunk of the Las Vegas economy is riding on the success of their alcohol-fueled hijinks. And upon entering The Real World “house” on media day—a palatial three-bedroom suite in the Casino Tower of the Hard Rock—the mere existence of economic hardship seemed unfathomable. The beauty of the place was overwhelming. There’s a bowling alley, pool table, hot tub, kitchen, bar and panoramic views. And every inch is exquisitely decorated. It’s an 18- to 24-year-old’s dream house. (The only thing the suite lacks is bathroom doors.) On the Jan. 6 media day, filming had been completed for one month (it airs in March). The cast members, who had already been dropped back into their regular lives, looked like deposed royalty.
“We called our room ‘The Princess Pad’ because we were the princesses of the house,” explained a wistful yet outspoken Naomi (22, from the Bronx, N.Y.). “But our room was a sanitation truck. There were clothes everywhere. The bathroom was a hot mess. The toilet area was a hot mess. It was just disgusting.”
The cast had been expertly coached in how not to answer questions. Nany (21, from Jamestown, N.Y.) gave a typical answer to my question about the best part of her time in Las Vegas: “I would tell you, but it would give too much away. You’re gonna have to watch and figure that one out. It’s big, though. Really big.”
However, she was happy to talk about the intense relationships she formed with her castmates. “You live in Vegas, and it’s kind of like a fairytale,” said Nany, who hopes to eventually return to Las Vegas. “Then you leave, and it’s like … Are these people going to involve themselves in my life after this? And everyone has.”
Based on their beauty and willingness to talk about hooking up (“I’m comfortable with casual sex,” Naomi said), the two girls with the similar-sounding names should add punch and sex appeal to the show.
Next, there’s reformed drug dealer and playboy Adam (22, from Portland, Maine), who looked like he escaped the set of The Town. He’s the charismatic “bad boy” with a heart of gold. He told stories of how he cut in line during MTV’s audition, how he wants to get his own TV show, and how his favorite part of being Vegas was going to Vanity and meeting girls. And then, just to prove his mettle, he made up a fake excuse to touch my leg. If nothing else, Adam will keep the show spicy.
Dustin (24, from Rayne, La.) and Heather (21, from Delran, N.J.) were flirting on the couch when I approached, and I made the mistake of asking if they were a couple. (The answer is a resounding no.) The “platonic” duo couldn’t be more different from each other. Dustin seems to be from the genteel days of the Deep South. His soft, slow accent refused most questions, whereas Heather was perky and media savvy. She said she plans to work behind the camera, and her answers could have doubled as a successful job interview. These two will be the wild cards of the cast.
The last two roommates are newfound best friends, and another unlikely duo. Leroy (25, from Detroit) is a sanitation worker who auditioned for the show to enjoy the vacation of his life. The brainiest roommate, Michael (23, from College Park, Md.) aspires to solve world hunger with a strategy that eluded my understanding but had something to do with cultivating heirloom seeds. The two of them shared jokes and laughed a lot. Of the cast, these were the two I’d most want to hang out with in real life. Their interaction should make the show enjoyable. These seven very different personalities stand out as unique in a generation where everybody considers themselves to be a special snowflake. For the sake of Las Vegas, I hope that Nany was right when she made this comparison with the 2002 The Real World: Las Vegas. “I didn’t watch that one, but from what I hear, that season was crazy. I have a good feeling our season is even crazier.”