Baltimore has been ambushed.
Today, we'll get to witness how it happened.
The half-hour reality show Ambush Makeover, featuring a local artist and a Hampden beauty salon, airs this morning on UPN.
But the real "reality" took place on a never-ending day in June, over nearly 12 hours of taping and re-taping, styling and staging, waxing and preening, hair-snipping and cigarette-smoking.
In the end, a man's look was transformed. His friends were transfixed. The salon's staff was exhausted.
And the Ambush Makeover crew, satisfied with another day's work, packed up and moved out, on their way to another city to descend on another unsuspecting victim and another salon staff willing to aid the ambush.
Good luck, unknown city.
You'll never know what hit you.
We've all seen the ubiquitous makeover show.
Some sad sack, usually a woman, asks or is forced by so-called friends and or family members to undergo a style transformation. Television viewers cringe at her "before" shots, grow to learn something about the victim in between haircuts, shopping sprees and makeup lessons, and then marvel at her "after" shots.
The syndicated Ambush Makeover is all that -- with a twist.
The people being made over have no idea that their appearance has been deemed unacceptable. Nor do their friends or family.
The crew of the show pulls people off the street and convinces them that their old look MUST GO!
Ambush Makeover travels the country looking for such fashion don'ts. This summer, it landed in Hampden.
There were many in need on Hampden's streets that day, the show's producers said, but none so much as Giovanni Gonzalez Catalani, a 32-year-old glassblower and entrepreneur, ambling out of Cafe Hon, where he had eaten breakfast.
"I saw her eyes light up when she saw him," said Catalani's friend Bennie Castillo, referring to Gigi Berry, the show's petite and energetic host.
And no wonder.
A bearded and pony-tailed Catalani was wearing grungy ultra-baggy jeans that were cut off at the bottom, and sneakers so worn they were leaning to one side. His nails were dirty.
Then there was the ponytail -- in and of itself, a fashion faux pas. Each curled tress was a different shade -- purple, orange, red, blue. The purple was for the Ravens, Catalani said. The orange was for the Orioles.
However, the sports tribute reminded Gigi (who goes by her first name) more of the kids' cereal Lucky Charms.
"There's purple stars, rainbows, hearts and moons in here," she said, giddy at her luck at finding such a badly dressed man.
And with that, it was time to get to work.
The crew hustled Catalani to Kumbyah Inc., a funky, chic beauty salon noted for sculpting the best beehive hairstyles during HonFest every year.
The staffers at the salon -- which opened early and on a Sunday just for the show -- had been prepped a bit. They knew they were getting a surprise customer who would be in need of a quick new hairstyle and makeup lesson. They didn't know, until moments before Catalani walked in, that their customer was a man. And they didn't know how long the "quick" new hairstyle would really take.
But they were eager and game.
"Bring him on!" said Sue Ebert, the salon's owner, a beautiful blonde with Marilyn Monroe hair.
First she colored Catalani's hair with a mixture of two shades -- chestnut and a bit of fire red.
She mixed and whisked and brushed the color into his hair. She did it a lot slower than she normally would, for the sake of the cameras. She narrated what she was doing -- once, twice, three times -- for the producers, fidgety 20-somethings with headsets and cell phones growing out of their ears.
"He came in with a rainbow of colors in his hair. It was very dark and crispy around the edges," Ebert said to a cameraman. "We're making it a rich, deep, cappuccino color, so that it is very vibrant and colorful."
At the color bowl, and throughout the day, Catalani was a good sport. But as a low-maintenance man, he was a tad worried, oddly, about the hair-dyeing.
"I'm a little nervous about too much color in my hair," he said. "Once, I dyed my hair all blond and a lot of it fell out."
After the dye rinsed through Catalani's former rainbow locks, stylist Anthony Shropshire began to cut.
This was also a slight concern to Catalani, a man who doesn't own a brush and hadn't cut his hair in five years.
"Long hair is cool. Everybody's got short hair," he said. Plus, he said, his girlfriend liked his hair long. What would she think?
This absent-minded comment would serve as the show's drama -- a key element in any reality show. The producers would make Catalani say this repeatedly to no one in particular, while the camera zoomed in and out on his anxious face.
Shropshire cut six inches off Catalani's hair. Cameramen zoomed in on the falling strands. Shropshire whipped out a flat iron and began to press his curls into shiny locks.
He finished the look with thickening spray gel and something called shine drops.
Shropshire called the look "kinda pimped out."