In this, the third and final part of his series about being a TMZ Tour guide in New York, Ricky Dunlop finds himself on the receiving end of fandom.
When you are a tour guide for TMZ, certain people automatically gravitate toward you. Just being attached to the celebrity news heavy-hitter, you yourself seem to gain a sort of celebrity status.
Before I even get to work, amateur rappers who spot my TMZ garb hone in and try to hand me one of their CDs on the street. People from all over the world find their way onto to my bus. While the majority of our passengers hail from the States, a good chunk of our fan base is now found in Canada and Australia. We have also had people from many other countries that you might not think TMZ would reach. Just the other day, a man told me how he illegally watches the TV show online back in Iran.
I’ve taken hundreds of photos with people on and around the bus. Countless numbers of candid photos have been snapped of me. Some of the super fans have gone out of their way to make shirts just to wear while taking the tour. People have bought me coffee, hot chocolate, snacks, a Christmas ornament and even a singing sock monkey. I kid you not.
While some people are absolutely lovely, I have had my fair share of difficult people, too. It’s not uncommon for large groups of bored housewives from Long Island to train into the city so they can hit brunch before stumbling drunkenly onto the bus. Feeling the need to constantly talk and interrupt me while in mid-sentence, their situation seems to be the ultimate cry for help. I have had fans with mental disorders as repeat customers. Although they can be a little disruptive, it makes me happy that these people have something that they can get excited about.
When you mix entertainment and tourism, you take the good with the bad. Usually, at the end of the day, I am left flattered by the kind words of my passengers. Sometimes, though, the fine line between flattery and abnormal is breached.
Earlier this month, while I was searching through breakdowns of acting roles, much like the way I found the TMZ job to begin with, I came across a new web series based in New York. I quickly scanned the list of characters that fit my general physical description. My eyes landed on a character named Ricky. Now, I do have a name that has become quite popular in independent web projects for whatever reason. However, as I read the character description, I could not believe my eyes.
Did someone actually write a character based on ME?!? Maybe this was just an odd coincidence?!? And yes, I’ll take 25. I submitted for the role and then began doing research on the production company. I found out that the man who is the producer/director/writer of this project is an Academy Award-nominee who has worked with the likes of Robert De Niro and Martin Scorsese. Holy shit.
A few days later, I received an audition and sides (lines to read). As I took a first look at the audition material, it seemed all too familiar. In the script, the tour guide named Ricky spots George Takei. In real life, the tour guide named Ricky spotted George Takei. “Well, this should be easy,” I thought. I recently had that audition, and I literally played myself in front of a camera. I suppose it went rather well.
Will this TMZ gig open up big doors or will I have to get a restraining order? Only time will tell …
Ricky Dunlop is a contributing journalist for TheBlot Magazine and a writer, actor and comedian residing in New York City. Read “My Life as a TMZ Tour Guide” Part One and Part Two.