An extreme opportunity

Megan Angelo

The fall from grace is a display audiences have come to expect of every reality television psuedostar. For some, it’s a catty comment or a fear-inspired balk that seals their fate and sends them packing. For Danny Dias, it was a poorly-timed problem with consumption.

The 21-year-old transfer student choked – literally – during a “Road Rules: X-treme” mission that required Danny and his five castmates to consume 13 plates of cow innards.

“I threw up before the mission even started,” Dias says. “The most trouble I had was with the eyeballs.”

The cast voted off Danny during the sixth episode of the 13th series of “Road Rules,” which is currently airing on MTV.

“I guess I see their train of thought,” he says with a look that suggests otherwise. “But all the physical stuff, I did great in.” Those missions included driving a dune buggy blindfolded, stripping down to be painted and displayed as living art and rappelling down a 210-foot waterfall – no easy leap for the kid who came into the adventure last February with a gripping fear of heights.

Death-defying stunts aside, Danny thinks of his time on “Road Rules” more as a social lesson than anything else. During the audition process, he hoped to be placed on the current season of “The Real World: Philadelphia,” but “Road Rules” proved to be an experience just as saturated with emotion as it was with adrenaline.

Danny’s dramatic storyline centered around his tensions with Derrick, the cast member who, Danny says, acted homophobic and “outed” Danny by means of a getting-to-know-you game.

Derrick suggested that the cast members take turns saying whether they had a boyfriend or a girlfriend, thus uncovering any gay vanmates.

“I was thinking, ‘You can’t be serious. Is this really necessary?'” Danny says. “He’s a good kid when he wants to be, but he can be really ignorant at times.”

Danny was disappointed when he saw the on-air narratives of his altercations with Derrick.

“I felt they portrayed me as weak – you cannot believe the stuff they do with editing,” he says, adding that, for instance, cast member Angela is actually nowhere near as bitchy as she appears on screen.

Other castmates came off better than they do in reality, Danny hints, but that effect had little to do with camera cutting and pasting. Rather, he says, it was the cast members themselves who engaged in industrious self-sugarcoating.

“We had this fear of getting voted off,” Danny says. “I think people acted nicer than they really were to avoid that. Trust me, without that aspect, everything would have been a lot different.”

Danny found genuine friends in the bubbly, maternally-inclined Kina (“We’re on the phone, like, all the time”) and, ironically, in Nick, who filled the spot that Danny’s departure left in the cast. The two hit it off during a week of promotions in Los Angeles after the season had wrapped and hung out all summer. “We became completely buddy-buddy,” says Danny, who seems amused by the suggestion that he would resent his replacement.

Though he was the first to leave, his face apparently still lingers in the memories of “Road Rules” viewers. “Some people come up to me and say, ‘You’re a celebrity,’ and I don’t really know what to say to that,” Danny says.

But he plans to take advantage of his this-minute fame, as many former “Real World” and “Road Rules” subjects do, by participating in bar and club promotions and by touring as a college lecturer. The latter endeavor is close to his heart – he hopes he can draw on his experiences as a gay cast member to educate people.

“It’s a good opportunity to make people who are more closed-minded more open-minded,” he says. “If you can make a person think twice, you’ve done so much.”

He also hopes to participate in one of the MTV challenges that pits Real Worlders and Road Rulers against each other in a series of competitions. And after that? Largely, the usual – graduate with a degree in finance, get a good job and “have fun with my life.”

And “Road Rules,” he admits, definitely taught him a thing or two about how to do that. But he also learned a lesson that every reality television junkie should heed as wisdom from the other side of the glass. “We have many sides to ourselves,” Danny says. “People in general don’t think about that. We’re all a lot more complex than we are on TV.”