So there I was, talking to a friend on Thursday when my cell phone rang. It was the man. Without question, the greatest Survivor player of all-time and one of my best friends Ã¢â‚¬ËœBoston’ Rob Mariano.
First let’s get to the obligatory preamble.
I found out a few weeks ago that Rob was coming to town to speak at the National Women’s Show (November 5 Ã¢â‚¬” 7) at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. I obviously felt that it was my duty to entertain the Robfather while he was here, and so I began making plans immediately.
It’s hard because the one thing Rob and I have never discussed is musical preference and somehow he is a hard guy to read musically. I mean come on, if you had to name three songs that the Robfather has in his MP3 player”¦ could you do it? It’s harder than you think. I mean obviously “Celebration” would be in there after the Red Sox win, but after that? Is he into techno? A rocker? Beach Boys? It was tough to say. So after wrestling with the idea of deciding on a club, I said let’s just go with what he likes.
Anyway, that was where I was before I received his phone call on Thursday. He told me that he would be arriving that night (a day earlier than expected) and that he needed me to bring a tape of that night’s Survivor to his hotel room, so that he could watch it before all of the interviews he was doing the next morning. He said:
“We’d kick back and have a few be-a’s”
It was the Rory boot episode and I knew it was one that he had to see.
I left my place at around 9 PM. I was annoyed that I wasn’t able to catch the Apprentice, but c’est la vie. It’s the friggin’ Robfather!
I arrived downtown about an hour later and made my way over to Rob’s hotel room. While I was merrily skipping down the street, I wondered if the people knew the guy I was about to meet. I mean I was going to be hanging out with the guy that lied to Lex. The man that shook Rob Cesternino’s hand and turned the knife in his back. The man that throttled Big Tom. The man that was marrying Amber friggin’ Brkich! The man!!!
I got to the hotel room and I noticed Rob as soon as I entered. He had just finished checking in, and was waiting for an elevator. I saw him and immediately made my way over. He looked at me and we just both started laughing. Maybe it was the influx of tourists around us or perhaps it was just because we knew the trouble that we were about to cause, but it was painfully apparent that the weekend was starting early.
On the elevator ride up to the room, Rob was immediately recognized. I think it was the hat. Some people from West Virginia started doing that thing where they look at him, then look at each other, then nervously stare at the feet”¦ then rinse and repeat the cycle over and over again until Mariano greeted them with a Ã¢â‚¬Ëœhello.’ All of a sudden, the tourists gained a newfound confidence and began talking to him like they were all related.
It was strange because these tourists and their kids were staying not only in different rooms, but also on different floors. So when these two little kids were about to get off on their floor (they couldn’t have been older than 12), their parents said that they should go straight to bed. Rob looked at them with a mischievous grin and said Ã¢â‚¬Ëœlike that’s going to happen’ and everybody laughed. It’s clear that Rob identified with the little trouble-makers.
We got to his room and he opened it up. It was quite a sight. The National Women’s Show organizers had laid out a nice basket for him with some cheese and caviar among other things. There was a nice “welcome” letter attached to the basket and Rob wasted no time in kicking off his shoes and planning out the rest of the night.
The first step was figuring out where we would get a VCR. I mean I obviously had the tape, but it was of no use without something to play it on. It was cool because when Rob called down to the front desk to try and get a VCR at 11 PM, he was transferred immediately to VIP Guest Services. If there was any doubt that the construction worker from Canton had made it to the bigtime, it was now erased.
Unfortunately, the hotel couldn’t really do anything because the rental service was closed for the day so we weren’t able to watch the episode. Instead I gave Rob a reade’s digest version of what happened.
That’s basically it. Being Survivor Insiders, it’s clear that Rob and I both agreed on Vanuatu. We chatted about how there is really only one player this season and the only reason to watch the show is to see whether anyone can knock Ami off. We did decide that she is getting a lot of face time, but hey”¦ that never stopped Rob from owning All-Stars.
Rob decided to call up some room service and he got a bucket full of Coors Light’s (yes”¦ that is his new brew of choice) and an Alberta Steak. I got a pizza.
While we waited around, we started watching some TV. I wanted to introduce him to the wonders of Canadian cable (which is basically non-existent). He seemed riveted by TLC and admitted that is his favorite channel back in Boston.
We started talking about a variety of topics. Religion, marriage, politics but ultimately rested on the subject that interested us most”¦ Survivor. It was very cool discussing All-Star and I told Rob my theory on the game.
I know the arguments against what Rob did. He did not pander himself to the jury enough. He was too aggressive. He was too controlling. The fact of the matter is that he did not receive a single vote against him until well into the endgame. That is the mark of a champion. As many of you know, I am against the jury system in Survivor precisely because of what happened to Mariano. His perfect game, his no-hitter, his complete-game shutout was ruined only at the end by the one thing that he could not control”¦ the bitterness of the jury. That is why a Survivor win to me consists of getting to the Final 2. If you can do that, you win. You may not get the money, but as an individual you did what you had to and what 15 other people could not.
Anyway, I told Rob that although I felt he dominated the season, he had an easier hand. The Chapera tribe was set-up for him to dominate and I felt that he would not have been able to manipulate the Lex’s, the Colby’s, and the Richard’s of the other tribe. He respectfully disagreed, but it was a fun debate.
I told him that I found it shocking that he would be speaking at a Women’s Show and he said that he didn’t know he was speaking. He thought it was only like a meet & greet sort of deal. I told him that he would definitely be speaking and that he should have something prepped.
Anyway, we moved on to discussing how much everything had changed in the last year for both of us. Rob was now engaged! I thought he was the symbol for what single men strive to be. I guess there comes a time when everybody grows up and moves on. He was now going around the country, speaking at various events and was having the time of his life.
Things had changed since the last time I had talked to him as well. Although we had last met at Ethan’s Lancaster Event, things had changed dramatically since then. Survivor-Central was now Inside Pulse. I was now hosting events and things had just moved forward at a rapid pace.
Anyway, after talking for awhile and finishing the food, I asked Rob if he would mind doing an interview with me on Z103.5 the next morning. He said that although his schedule was stacked, he would do it as a favor to me. The only catch was that it would have to be at 6:15 AM. Considering it was well past 1, it was clear that I should get out of there so we could salvage as much sleep as possible before the event.
It was already Friday (November 5) morning when my head hit the pillow at my house, and I was up 5 hours later. I called Rob up and he was already awake and we finished the interview with Z103.5.
I asked Rob what his plans were for later on in the day and although he had mentioned that he wanted to go to the Hockey Hall of Fame, he said that he had to finish up his other media stuff and then head over to the National Women’s Show at night. I told him that I would just meet him there.
I went and finished some other business during the day and then an associate and I made our way down to the Convention Centre.
I picked up my media credentials and headed inside. It was quite a scene. My friend Mat and I were literally the only guys at the exhibition. I guess that’s why it was the Ã¢â‚¬ËœNational Women’s Show.’
We walked past various make-up booths and aromatherapy parlors. The fragrance of rose perfume laced the place and it actually started to make me a little nauseous at times.
While there were a lot of women in attendance, they were all married so the possibilities of hooking up with some of the single girls was basically non-existent. As a result, I quickly decided to just catch Rob’s show and head out.
Mat and I sat down in front of the stage where Rob was speaking. By this time we were used to being the only guys there. Rob was introduced and said that he wrote some stuff down. I couldn’t help but laugh as he pulled out a pad from the hotel and read it. It’s a good thing I told him to prep!
Anyway, he answered the same old questions.
“Are you still friends with Lex?”
“Is Rupert really that nice?”
The patience of these Survivors never ceases to amaze me. I actually hoped that people would ask him innovative questions. Stuff like what his plans were with the money, if he regretted anything that he did, how he was able to beat the 17 other Ã¢â‚¬Ëœbest’ Survivor players of all time. Alas, this was not the forum for it. These were all just casual fans. Not the diehards.
Rob finished up and started signing autographs and posing for pictures. As expected, some literally threw themselves at him. I guess when you are attached, it makes you even more attractive to the opposite sex. Weird.
Anyway, I told him that we could hit a club or something that night and he said that he would give me a shout after he finished his dinner plans and that I should meet him back at the hotel.
I called up some friends and asked if they wanted to meet Rob that night and quite a few came down.
I won’t get into the details, but suffice to say that Rob ended up being held up at that dinner until like 4 AM and we ended up not meeting up again until Saturday. One of the highlights was a hilarious message that Rob left on Mat’s cell phone looking for me at 4 AM.
On Saturday, I was determined to ensure that Rob saw the real Toronto before he left. The day started off with yet another trip over to the National Women’s Show.
I headed inside and it was basically the same sort of deal. Rob on stage giving a speech that was similar to the one he gave on Friday. It was quite strange and I felt like I was in the Twilight Zone because it was a carbon copy of what happened the day before. The same questions were being asked and my respect for Mariano only grew because I was frustrated just listening to the questions, let alone answering them all over again.
Rob again started signing autographs and posing with his legions of fans. I walked over and asked him what the plan was after the event, and he said that we would go and “drink some be-ahs” at the hotel. He also mentioned that he would be flying out that evening as he had to attend to something. I was annoyed because I really wanted to hit a club, but that’s the life of the consummate jet-setter.
I headed over to the hotel and Rob arrived a few minutes later. He had met some women in the lobby and invited them to tag along, so that was kind of fun. They were from Kitchener/Waterloo and we went down to the bar in the hotel.
We ordered some drinks and wings. We started talking. Some of the girls worked in finance and they were giving us some financial advice. It’s amazing to see the people that you can meet at these things just by chance. I also think that is why Survivor is such a successful show. It is 16-18 strangers who are forced to meet, co-operate, and ultimately stab each other in the back to win a prize. That’s modern-day society in a nutshell, isn’t it?
Anyway, Rob and I talked to our new friends about Survivor and they invited us to join their “Girls Gone Wild” weekend by accompanying them to a club. Rob said that he had a flight to catch, but the Murtzinator was more than happy to comply.
Rob stepped out for a minute and when he returned, he said that the tab had been Ã¢â‚¬Ëœtaken care of.’ For anyone who has any doubt about the type of guy that Rob is, this is just another example of why he is one of the coolest people I have ever met. He picked up the bill for people that he just met!
We walked out of the bar and said our goodbyes. Although we tried to convince him to stay, he said he had to get out of there. He hadn’t seen Amber in a couple of days and he Ã¢â‚¬Ëœmissed her.’
**Insert obligatory awwwwwwww by all the ladies reading this**
He left and I told the women that I would meet them back at the hotel for 10 PM.
I then headed over to a Tim Horton’s (perhaps the one thing that we have that Americans don’t, other than a governmental leader that knows what he is doing”¦ kidding) and killed some time.
The night ended up in quite an insane fashion. That however, is where I will leave you.