Was it live ... or was it just a stunt for YouTube?
A one-time college couple say their melodramatic Valentine's Day breakup — complete with singers, hundreds of spectators and a profanity-laced tirade — was real. Those who were there say it all seemed a little too staged.
Still, there's no question it's an Internet hit.
"It really wasn't supposed to be like this," said Mindy Moorman, the girlfriend who got dumped. "The fact that it's gotten so big is quite comical to us."
The various videos of Moorman's hostile breakup with University of North Carolina senior Ryan Burke have been watched more than 300,000 times as of Wednesday — making it one of the most popular clips on YouTube.com in recent weeks.
Burke said Wednesday he invited Moorman, a sophomore at nearby North Carolina State University and his girlfriend of four months, to join him at a popular gathering spot on the UNC Chapel Hill campus for a "surprise."
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It was not only Valentine's Day, but Moorman's birthday. The couple had plans for a dinner date that night.
Hundreds of students and several photographers were waiting for the couple on campus after Burke promised "a bad public breakup" on the Web site Facebook.com: "You don't want to watch, but you can't look away."
Burke greeted Moorman with a hug. Then she appeared surprised when an a cappella group of singers started belting out the Dixie Chicks hit "I'm Not Ready to Make Nice" instead of Moorman's favorite tune, Van Morrison's "Brown Eyed Girl."
Burke confronted her about her alleged infidelity and dumped her in front of the raucous crowd. Moorman responded with an angry rant filled with unprintable words.
Those watching surrounded the couple, their cheers and chants keeping the argument going for several minutes.
"To be honest, it wasn't really about her," Burke said. "I thought the relationship was headed that way anyway, so I just wanted to see people's reactions to the breakup."
Burke, a history major, said the breakup was something of an experiment in human behavior. But he also said it was genuine — he was furious about Moorman's alleged cheating.
"It was like they were reading from a script," said James Mundia, a manager at UNC Chapel Hill's student TV station, who helped edit the online footage. "There wasn't a lot of passion for a breakup where there's a lot of raw emotion.
"But I guess that's YouTube. It didn't matter if it was real or if it was fake, everyone wanted it to be real. People wanted that entertainment."
Despite the very public breakup, Moorman and Burke said they are still on speaking terms. The Charlotte natives have known each other for years, and Moorman said they have since shared laughs remembering the incident.
Burke said he has received thousands of comments and e-mails — some vulgar, some encouraging.
Moorman, a political science major who is thinking of going into politics, said she does have one regret: With her public breakup forever memorialized — and easy for friends, family and potential employers to find on the Internet — she admits, "I probably did say the f-word a little much."
"As my mother said, 'Mindy, how do you expect to be elected now?'" she said.