Given that MTV's "The Real World," which begins its seventh season tonight, is advertised as the "true story" of its seven strangers, a memoir of the experience may seem redundant.
But in "Livin' In Joe's World," the first memoir written by a former cast member, Joe Patane has taken a shot at it.
Patane, a member of "The Real World's" Miami cast two years ago, has crafted an unlikely amalgam, a kind of "1984" meets "The Road Less Traveled." In the end, his book reveals more about the short, business-minded mensch with the Amazon girlfriend than it does about the show.
"It is not an expose. It's actually in some bookstores under self-help and actualization," says Patane, who clawed his way through MTV red tape for eight months before getting clearance to write it. (For the record, MTV in no way endorses the book.)
MTV viewers have become addicted to "The Real World," and many long to be a part of its seemingly exciting and glamorous world. More than 10,000 young adults a year try out to fill the Gen-X soap opera's seven slots.
But for those who hang on "The Real World's" every plot and personality twist, Patane's effort may be disappointing. It's not the juicy tell-all tome they might hope for.
"Most publishers would want that MTV book, that expose," says Patane, 28. "Let's get a little deeper."
Deep? MTV? Those two concepts don't often coalesce at the cable music channel, no matter how stern MTV Newschick Serena Altschul attempts to look as she reports on Madonna's newest fashion statement.
And they don't mix well in Patane's book either.
Patane says he wrote his book for "closure." He attempts to use his own traumatic "Real World" experience to enlighten and motivate his peers with his own Stuart Smalley-esque affirmations and inspirational quotes from sources such as Brad Pitt in "Sleepers" and episodes of "Beverly Hills 90210."
But before he digs deep into his soul, Patane does dig up some "Real World" dirt. And with the show condensing nearly six months of videotape into about 10 hours of the juiciest footage, it turns out there is plenty of cutting-room floor fodder left for a book.
And while Patane's "Real World" revelations are brief and scattershot, his story, populated with spiteful cast members, even more spiteful crew members and scheming directors, reads like an Orwellian nightmare.
Bedrooms had no doors. Microphones were permanently fixed to waistbands. "Real World" crew members jumped in front of cars when cast members attempted to escape to a payphone for a treasured private conversation or to simply get some air that wouldn't end up being aired.
And that's just the beginning.
" 'The Truman Show' gives you a general idea of what was going on," Patane says, referring to the current movie where every moment of the protagonist's life is taped and televised. "Everything that dude went through is what we went through."
According to Patane, the cameras, microphones and people that probed seven days a week, 24 hours a day, into the lives of the seven strangers, drove the Miami cast collectively insane within the first month.
It's not surprising to read that fellow cast members such as Flora, the volatile survivalist Russian immigrant, and Melissa, the deceptive Cuban former phone-sex operator, were less than stable to begin with.
"My favorite cast member was Leroy the dog," says Patane, who now runs a computer consulting firm in New York City.
But even though he was less than enthralled with his housemates -- he hasn't had any voluntary contact with them since the show -- he's mostly kind in his recollections.
He focuses, for instance, on a night when Flora treated him and his friends to endless free drinks, and notes that the handsome, opinionated Dan shared the night- life perks of his Miami modeling career with his housemates.
Given his motivational speaker personality, it makes sense that Patane didn't choose to do an all-out slam. Instead, his book focuses on the intense period of self-discovery and reconstruction he went through after "The Real World."
"Nothing was going right," he says. "I didn't know what to do next. I was 'Real World' Joe."
His father cut him off after the show began airing, embarrassed and offended by Joe's behavior and the way he talked about his family (they've since reconciled). The show also sealed the fate of an already crumbling relationship with his girlfriend, Nic (they have not reconciled).
Ironically, perhaps, Patane reveals much more about himself in the book than he did on "The Real World." He gets deep into his credit card addiction, issues with pornography and women, and other defining moments of his past, such as multiple car crashes.
But at least this time around, he got to make the choices about what to tell and how to tell it, rather than the engineers of his oppressive (though nicely furnished) MTV hell.
And though his own experience on "The Real World" was devastating, the goal-oriented author says that if your life's dream happens to be voluntarily sacrificing yourself to televised totalitarianism, then go for it.
"Anybody could be on that show. Anybody could be president of the United States. That's the way the system is set up," he says. "Anyone could write a book."
'The Real World'
When: 10 tonight
Pub Date: 6/16/98