Monday, August 11, 2014

FLASHBACK: The Dorothy Hui Interview

Once upon a time, there was a reality show on ABC known as The Mole. Don't worry if you never heard about it . . . the network made sure that advertising was sparse -- at least compared to the likes of The Bachelor -- and the show wound up dying twice (long story). The legacy of the show lies in its intelligence, how badly ABC wanted to bury it, and being the showcase for Anderson Cooper before he jumped to superstardom on CNN.

The following story is 100 percent true, based upon my first reality show audition, and the experiences of Dorothy Hui, who became the second winner of The Mole in 2002. The article was posted on Reality News Online on August 14, 2002, before I became the official recapper of Dog Days and Real World/Road Rules Challenge. The site went under a while back, but I managed to save it with the help of Let me know how it holds up almost twelve years later.

An Interview with Mole 2's Winner, Dorothy Hui

by Jason Borelli -- 08/14/2002
When Jason Borelli went to try out for Mole 2, he had no idea he was in line with Dorothy Hui, who would eventually become the show's big winner. Jason tracked Dorothy down again and talked to her about the game, her band, and much more!

The date was April 21, 2001. It was a warm day in New York as I waited on a line, leading up to auditions for the second season of The Mole After watching a season of ABC's entry into the reality show genre, I knew this was the show I had to go on. Forget getting stuck on a desolate wasteland or in a house of nutcases. I'd go to Europe, solve puzzles, stay in posh hotels, and have a good time.

I waited on line for my shot. I got hassled by some bum who felt superior to me because he wore a Yankees jacket. I engaged in inane chatter with some of the people on line. One of these people was a young woman. She was a musician, singing a little while we waited. She also had griped about the lack of Asians on reality television shows. After an hours-long wait (interrupted by a quick bite to eat and a jaunt to a nearby arcade), I got interviewed. After ninety seconds, I went home, thus ending my experience.

October. The fourteen contestants for The Mole 2: The Next Betrayal were announced. In the mix was an Asian-American musician from New York named Dorothy. Could it be the same person? Sadly, ABC shelves the series after three episodes, due to poor ratings.

June. ABC decided to start running the new episodes. I find that Dorothy was in a band, Dimestore Scenario, where she played bass guitar and was a backup vocalist. They were playing Le Bar Bat in New York, and I had to find out if she was the one who I saw on line. Not that the question consumed me all this time - I just found it funny that somebody on the same line as me made it to the show. And yes, it was her. I tried to stay out of fanboy mode, not pumping her for inside information on the show. But I did ask if I could interview her, and she was okay with that. That was two days after the fifth episode, the one where Rob Nelson was executed.

August. A Starbucks in Greenwich Village, fifteen months after the audition, roughly 50 blocks from the Hard Rock. It had been two days after the final episode aired, where Dorothy Hui was revealed as the winner of a $636,000 pot. I talked to her about the show, her group, and her future.

RealityNewsOnline: What was the process in getting on the show?

Dorothy: Actually, my roommate was pretty hot on trying out for The Mole, and I decided to tag along with her. When I first went out to audition, I just thought, "Oh, I'll have a good time and it'll be fun." I never thought I'd get on the show. [Laughs]

I was speaking to people on line in front of me about the band, and I mentioned I had a rehearsal later that day. Since things kept running really late and they kept pushing our line farther and farther back, I kept wanting to get out of the line because I felt responsible for my band members to make the rehearsal, and everybody was saying, "Oh, you should stay, you should stay. Just wait five more minutes and you're going to thank us when you get on the show," and I'm like, "Yeah, yeah, whatever, I'm not going to get on the show." When we got into the holding room the get our first round of interviews, I was [saying], "Okay, I'm leaving this room. I need to get to rehearsal. My bandmates are going to be so pissed at me." One of the women in front of me [said], "Oh, ask all these people if you can cut them." So I ended up asking the people in front of me if I could cut and I did, and they were right… now I have a really funny story.

RNO: All I really remember from my experience was getting a ninety-second interview. Not that I'm bitter.

Dorothy: My first round was thirty seconds. (Laughs) It was mostly why would you want to be on The Mole, would you make a good Mole, and why would you make a good Mole. They called me back the next day and recorded the second interview. They basically made an audition tape for us. They asked a bunch of questions about what I do, my band, what it was like growing up in Middletown.

RNO: What came after that?

Dorothy: During the audition, they asked us to lie. Before we went in for our interviews, they said, "Work in a lie, but don't tell us when or where until afterwards." I told them about the band I was really in, a pop-rock band, and then I said, "Oh, yeah, I also sing for a heavy-metal band." I don't look like a heavy-metal chick.

RNO: When did you find out that you were going to be on the show?

Dorothy: They called us back for a final round in Los Angeles. It was two weeks after Hard Rock that we had the semis. Literally, it was a week before we actually left for the game.

RNO: Was it tough leaving friends and family behind?

Dorothy: I was in a unique situation. I was freelancing at the time. I had been laid off from my dot-com job, so I didn't feel strongly tied to an office job. As far as being separated from friends and family, I knew this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and that definitely made it a lot easier.

RNO: How did you like Europe?

Dorothy: Europe was amazing. My favorite part was Italy. I had never been to Italy before. I always wanted to go. They took us to some incredible cities that were so beautiful. It was something I'll remember for the rest of my life.

RNO: What were your favorite games?

Dorothy: My favorite game was Evader. It was quintessential Mole, with the stealth and sneaking around. I definitely would have loved to be the tracker or the evader, skulking around the city. The Gladiator game also sticks out in my mind, just because it was such a spectacle. You should have seen the looks on the faces of the locals as we were walking through the street, gawking, pointing and laughing, taking photos. They didn't know what was going on. It was definitely a production in the truest sense of the word, with the arena those constructed for us and the costumes. It was pretty cool.

RNO: What were your favorite games where you took an active part? Like the Dumb vs. Smart game, where you pulled two answers out of thin air.

Dorothy: Those were really fun. I had been hoping for more of those mind puzzles that we saw in the first season. Lucky for me, I was on the right side when the teams got spilt up. I got an exemption, and I used that to my advantage as far as looking suspicious.

RNO: And what were your least favorite games?

Dorothy: It would probably be the Relative games, just because I managed to mess them up completely and not get to spend time with my mom. I knew she would be so happy and she'd appreciate the experience so much if we had actually hung out together as part of the game. Plus, I knew she would feel bad for not predicting the right bungee response. Emotionally, that was my least favorite and most different moment.

RNO: There were also games where you were physically overwhelmed…

Dorothy: (Laughs) The running [in Think or Sink] was really horrible. What they didn't show was that it was extremely hot that day, probably 95 degrees. They didn't have any water and I was ill-prepared for such a long run. I ran so far that later on, when we drove to dinner, I said, "Hey, guys, this is where I ran to in relation to the starting point." They said, "No way." I said, "Look, ask that camera guy." It was as difficult a run as we all saw.

RNO: And there was Anderson's Fun House, where you were trapped in a small box. Were you expecting something to happen while you were in there?

Dorothy: I thought something was going to happen because I was looking out from behind the screen and it looked like the wire mesh you'd see on a window screen. But I didn't know what was going to come down on me. I look up and, "Okay, a rain of cockroaches. Great." (Laughs) There's a reason why I'm not on Fear Factor.

RNO: The alternatives were being trapped in a room with a giant python, or being trapped in a room for six hours while "Tiny Bubbles" played. Would you have traded for one of those games?

Dorothy: Actually, no. I think the "Tiny Bubbles" game would have been a test of my sanity and patience. I don't know if I could have hacked it hearing Don Ho forwards, backwards, slowed down, sped up, and all that other stuff. The python room, I wouldn't have lasted. I would've made the same decision Heather did, especially with no clear end in sight. They didn't give her a time limit on how long she had in the room. I definitely think that while the half-hour was unpleasant, it was probably the easiest to handle. I just tried to keep my head clear and not think about how small the box actually was. I was able to move about and avoid the falling cockroaches so that helped. (Laughs)

RNO: Who were your favorite people on the show?

Dorothy: I had a lot of fun hanging out with Elavia. We got along really well and she was somebody I thought I would hang out with after the game. I had a good time with everyone. The cast got along so well, I think the producers thought, "Whoa, we didn't anticipate everyone getting along this well."
Heather was great. When [me, Heather, and Elavia] roomed together, we had a great time doing silly stuff in our room, dancing around and joking. It was a lot of fun

RNO: What was Anderson Cooper like?

Dorothy: He seemed a lot more professional on the show than he actually was. There were so many moments that didn't make it in. For example, right before the rappelling game, he was motioning the players who were going to rappel to come and he said (funny voice), "Come with me!" with his arms swinging from side to side [comically mimicking the motion]. I'm glad they put in the "Happy Mole Dance" at the end of [the seventh episode]. It definitely captured some of who he was.

RNO: In your opinion, did the show treat you fairly?

Dorothy: I think so. I was definitely pretty quiet and I like to think I'm not as physically inept as they actually showed me. (Laughs) What can you do?

RNO: When was the reunion filmed?

Dorothy: It was filmed in October, after the show got pulled.

RNO: When did you get the money?

Dorothy: I haven't received it yet.

RNO: (Voice trailing off in disbelief) You haven't received it?

Dorothy: The schedule is based on the airing of the last episode.

RNO: How frustrating is that for you?

Dorothy: It hasn't been that hard from a personal point of view. I never wanted to reveal the outcome, and a lot of people kept asking me about that just because it just made it so much more fun for my friends and people who were watching not to know. I kept a secret, but I had fun doing it.

RNO: Other than the money, was it frustrating that ABC didn't air the episodes until June?

Dorothy: It wasn't even a performance aspect. There were definitely hilarious stories and funny moments. You want to share the experience. My friends had a lot of questions and it was frustrating no to be able to relate those experiences. The people I met were really awesome, and I wanted to share what they were like to my friends, but would be so paranoid about revealing something that I just never answered any kind of question regarding the show, and every answer I gave was, "Sorry, not at liberty to say."

RNO: So there was a penalty for early disclosure?

Dorothy: Yes, they managed to work that into our contracts. Our prize money was dire incentive to keep our mouths shut. (laughs)

RNO: During the reunion, there were a lot of revelations about the show. Which one shocked you the most?

Dorothy: I felt so relieved about Elavia's bribe, and my [aborted] execution. Talk about the ultimate coalition partner to save my ass. (Laughs) It was coincidence and luck.

RNO: And I remember the end of that episode, where you said that you and Elavia could have taken everybody else out had she stayed.

Dorothy: If I hadn't been around, she would have taken everybody else out.

RNO: What about Heather handing you Bill on a platter?

Dorothy: I felt really bad, actually, because she played the game extremely well.

RNO: Getting off the show… how long have you been interested in music?

Dorothy: I've been into pop music since I bought the Bangles on cassette. I've been playing piano since first grade. The bass guitar is pretty recent for me. I learned that as I formed the band.

RNO: How did Dimestore Scenario form?

Dorothy: Rachel [Federman, lead singer and guitarist] and I was in a band in college called You With The Face. We were a really horrible screaming girl band. Basically, we really wanted to be serious while we were with that band and it wasn't until we moved to New York that we were able to have the opportunity and the resources. New York is such a hotbed for music.

RNO: What genre does the group fit into?

Dorothy: I would say indie pop rock, which is not really that accurate a classification. I usually tell people we mix influences, like Belly meets Heavenly meets the Pixies meets Mazzy Star.

RNO: When you were on line during the auditions, you were talking about the lack of Asians on reality television shows. Do you feel this is still the case?

Dorothy: That was a comment I made of what I was thinking at the time. I still do feel that way. A lot of Asian fans have been writing to me, and they're happy that an Asian girl made it to the finals and actually won, so it seems pretty cool.

RNO: Do you see yourself as a standard bearer for Asians?

Dorothy: I've been thinking about this. A lot of what happens is just because you're part of a minority group, you end up representing your race, even though that definitely was not what got most people's attention. As far as being a standard bearer, I don't know. We'll have to see.

RNO: What are you planning to do with the money?

Dorothy: I would love to take Dimestore Scenario into a studio and record a demo. It's something I've always wanted to do, and Rachel and I were talking about it for so long. To actually have the resources to do it, I'm thinking "go for it." It's a dream come true.

RNO: How much does a studio demo cost?

Dorothy: It can be very expensive, but I hope to use the resources wisely and hopefully find a good place to do it for not too much. (laughs)

RNO: How do you compare yourself to other people from reality shows that try and get into the music business?

Dorothy: I look at The Mole and Dimestore Scenario as two different experiences. I know it probably ends up looking like maybe something I'd try to use as a springboard, but it's not how I view the experience.

RNO: Finally, do you think people know the real you after watching the show?

Dorothy: I spent so much time making myself look shadier that I normally am in real life (laughs). I don't think the audience is ever going to know the real me.

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