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The Real World’s Norm strikes back at MTV’s prying eyes

By Jack Shamama Network

When MTV originally picked “seven strangers to live in a loft” in 1990, Norm Korpi made an impact by being openly and unapologetically gay, not to mention empathetic and levelheaded (an anomaly on the show).

Norm paved the way for gays on television, especially on MTV, which featured at least one gay or lesbian character de rigueur in each subsequent season of the Real World. Although he’s been keeping a low profile since then, Norm has now decided to air some of his frustrations from the experience with his new movie, The Wedding Video. In it, he gets together with a bunch of ex-0Real World cast members and creates a faux-wedding video, which challenges people’s perception of what’s real and what can be created through careful editing.
How did you first heat about the Real World, and what motivated you to apply to be on the show?

The producers scouted my loft in Brooklyn for the show. Several weeks later they asked if I would be interested in applying for the show. I sent an application, which was quickly rejected. More weeks passed when I got a call from a producer who asked me to come in for a taped audition. They handed me a contract on the spot.
Did you have any idea that ten years they’d still be repeating the show ad nauseum on MTV? I was in London a couple of years ago and was surprised to see the show running on channel Four...

They keep the cast very much in the dark about the intentions of the show. The saturation of the show into global pop culture gives me the benz.

Do you still get recognized a lot on the street?

On the streets, in the airports, bathrooms, cars, malls, restaurants, foreign countries-- all this and more-- 8 seasons after I was even on the show. I must say though, that I have met some of the greatest people in my life as a result, and wouldn’t change it for anything.

One event that you were most remembered for was your accidental “outing” of a short-lived TV talk show host, Charles Perez. Was there anything “behind the scenes” action going on there?

Nipple rings.

You’ve decided to channel some of your frustrations and issues into your new film project, “The Wedding Video”. How did this come about?

I like to think of myself as a barometer of what’s happening around me. My educational and creative background is in the arts. As I watched my life on television I could see how people were perceiving me-- and it was not my life that everyone was reacting to. I began to feel the pressure of this person who was not really me. With the Real World playing around the clock, “The Norman robot” became more famous, and more trapped in a world I knew very little about. I felt the need to express myself in a way that would make people understand my complexity as a human being.

I started developing this project over 3 years ago with my collaborator Clint Cowen. We played around with several different ideas before settling on the Wedding Video. At one point we were going to make a film called Snuff, killing off real worlders in a glorious blood-bath of terror—but the financing fell through at the last minute. We then decided we couldn’t wait any longer, so we chose a format that was smart, timely, and affordable: A wedding video-- where someone’s reality and unreality could be created in-and-out of context from the same materials (just like the Real World). “The Wedding Video” was the greatest solution to many of the hurdles had to make this film work.

The cast: Heather B, Rachel, Julie, Sean, Syrus, Lars, Cory, Lindsay, and many others were in their element and gave the most realistic, unreal performances ever.
I owed to this fine people with helping set me sprit free with taking the risk of parodying their likenesses. This was the hardest and most rewarding project of my life. I just got a tear.

The format of the film is a mockumentary ( a la “Blair Witch Project.”) How did this format address your experiences being on TV?

In my mind the format is a critical piece of this artistic project. Subject matter, and the characters who illustrate that subject matter, must relate--in film and video-- just as they do in painting, or any other creative media. In this case, the real world cast help shape the story of a wedding video into a comedic commentary on reality vs. perception. Generally in Mockumentaries, people are poking fun at someone else. In this case of the Wedding Video, however, the actual cast are making fun of themselves which, I hope will give viewers a smarter perspective on what they consider real.

How far is this film from being released? When can we look for it in theatres?

Hopefully not too far. We’ve submitted to several film festivals—so probably within a year.

It seems that gays and lesbians have had prominent roles on very “reality based” TV show, from Lance Loud to Richard Hatch. Why do you think this is?

They are many reasons. When you have a person who is gay or lesbian, who is
equal to all other persons on a reality based show it is hard to stop them from acting out. However in scripted shows, there are many more people involved in the decision making. The roles are more predictable and forced, but they are becoming more visible like Ellen, and Will & Grace. Hollywood is a creative community, and many people who are gay or lesbian have found homes in the business. They also have say in what happens behind the scenes of a television show. “The Real World’s” co-creator John Murray is openly gay and has promoted and brought to light many gays and lesbians on, and off-camera. I think this process has been moving forward and the level of awareness and toleration has risen as a result.
As one of the first real openly gay people on TV, do you feel like you’ve made a difference? Although I might not have know I was gay when I first saw the Real World, NY I was captivated by your character, nonetheless.

I think you just answered that question, and that has been my biggest impact.

One last question...what ever happened to that wonderful painting of the Cul De Sac that hung over the NYC loft?

We are going to need the History Channel’s Lost and Found show to find that one: MTV bought the painting a year after the show, but someone in the building didn’t like it, so it was sent back to my former gallery in Soho where is was put into storage. My gallery dealer died of a heart attack a few months later, while I was living in California. I haven’t been able to contact the estate, and don’t even know the name of the trust. It’s a mystery.

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Fruit Films and this site have no affiliation with The Real World, Bunim-Murray Productions, or MTV.