Published February 20, 2003
NEW YORK – While reality show contestants love to bare their souls for the cameras, some are getting busted for revealing a lot more than that.
Professional sex resumes have come back to haunt several reality stars when their pre-show employment is a little more "real" than TV execs might have hoped.
"These people are on a career track, which often includes some of the less savory of the cinematic arts," said Robert Thompson, director of the Center for the Study of Popular Television. "They want to be stars and many of them have had to make compromises."
Frenchie Davis, 23, was recently kicked off Fox's American Idol because she once worked for an adult Web site. According to TheSmokingGun.com, Davis posed for "Daddy's Little Girls," which featured photos of underage-looking girls.
Yet Davis claims Fox knew she'd worked for the site, and chose to bring it up once she progressed in the show.
Whether or not her charges have merit, a ratings boost by background info busts leaves some producers "getting one hand slapped while high-fiving with the other," Thompson said.
"It ups the ante, makes the show that much more titillating, no pun intended," said Linda Stasi, entertainment columnist for the New York Post.
Brian Heidik certainly didn't get kicked off the island for his professional sex past. Instead, he ended up the million-dollar winner of Survivor: Thailand.
Heidik identified himself in his official bio as a used car salesman and part-time actor, with appearances on shows such as Doogie Howser, M.D. But it was discovered Heidik appeared in such soft-core adult movies as Virgins of Sherwood Forest (2000) and Sinful Obsession (1999).
CBS said the network was aware of his past and allowed him to decide how to describe himself in his public biography.
"Brian Heidik is certainly not the first actor to omit certain credits from his biography," the network said in a statement. "While this is a part of his past, he is now a successful used car salesman raising a family in the suburbs, and we feel he definitely brings something to the show."
And Sarah Kozer may have seem bound for a life of riches with Evan Marriott on Joe Millionaire, but it turns out her past wasn't exactly golden. Kozer starred in dozens of bondage and fetish films such as Novices in Knots and Hogtied.
Stasi said performing in reality TV naturally attracts some fringe people.
"I think for the most part you'd have to be a crazy exhibitionist to put your life on hold and be picked like some hooker from Heidi Fleiss' Rolodex," she said of being on reality shows. "Who's going to go and give up their lives for a month? People who don't have a serious job."
Fox wouldn't say whether or not producers knew about Kozer's past before casting her.
Other reality contestants have also found themselves in trouble, just not with their pants down.
Bacherlorette contender Greg Todtman was arrested for drug possession after he was booted from the show. Justin Sebik from Big Brother pulled a knife on a fellow contestant, and had been previously arrested on assault charges. And Richard Hatch, the original Survivor winner, was arrested on charges of roughing up his adopted son, and later faced a misdemeanor charge for domestic assault of an ex-boyfriend.
But how a contestant's checkered past affects their reality image depends on what program they're on, Thompson said.
"On shows like Joe Millionaire, they found out that someone has [a] sleazy job in [their] background, but it's kind of a sleazy show so if anything, this might make them more qualified contestants," he said.
So what about Frenchie who got kicked off wholesome American Idol?
"In the case of American Idol, Fox probably looks at all the people who are buying Kelly Clarkson CDs ... and sees it's an enormous income stream from adolescent kids," Thompson said.
However some fans aren't buying the network's excuses: There are almost 40,000 signatures on the online Save Frenchie petition.
"The hypocrisy here is staggering," reads the site. "This is the network that brought us Who Wants to Be a Playboy Playmate."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.