Saturday, February 02, 2008

Symbiotic Redemption?

It's the story of redemption from the most unexpected of sources:

A dirty, disheveled Keith Peeler had been living on the streets for nearly a year when a crew of 20-somethings with cameras jumped out of a van and headed straight for him. Some of Peeler's homeless buddies wanted to run.

But the young people had an offer: $10 a day, plus close to minimum wage, to appear on what they were calling "Homeless Real World," an Internet spoof of MTV's reality show.
What was almost certainly conceived to be a vicious, unkind, exploitative piece of trash TV ended up being something quite different:

Four of the six cast members, including Peeler, have gotten off the streets with help from the producers.

After shooting was completed last spring, ManiaTV's filmmakers drove several cast members to detox centers, some more than once, and drove another to job interviews.

"It was time to come in from the cold," Peeler, 53, said recently. He and fellow cast member Johnny "Sgt. Stutters" Kibodeaux, 51, have been sober for almost nine months and are living at rehab centers, where they are working as kitchen managers.

Producer Darwyn Metzger said the filmmakers became attached to the homeless.

"Once you make that personal connection with them, you feel you have to go above and beyond," Metzger said. "I think we were all inspired by the fact they were very honest and had good hearts."
The kicker is in the story's last paragraph:

"I'm not proud of the fact I was drunk on the streets," Peeler said. "It's not who I really think I am, but I don't want to forget that's where I come from. I always have the option of going back there. I have to always be aware of that."
Read it all.

-- Nora

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