INTERVIEW: Joe Baldassare and Bill Bartek talk about 'All-Stars'
By Christopher Rocchio, 04/02/2007
Joe Baldassare and Bill Bartek placed third on the original The Amazing Race in 2001, but couldn't crack the Top 5 on the currently airing All-Stars edition.
On Monday, the 56-year-old mineral trading company owner and 53-year-old realtor, both from Laguna Niguel, CA talked to Reality TV World about how they really feel about some of their competition; which All-Star might be hiding in the closet; what it was like to participate in different versions of The Amazing Race six years apart; and how Sequesterville was non-existent for them.
Reality TV World: How was racing in the All-Stars edition different from competing on The Amazing Race's very first season?
Bill: From the first season, I think the biggest difference was the couple of new facets to the race, which were the Intersection and the Yield. The Intersection not so much a big part, but the Yield really played a lot into our strategy. We were the villians in Season One, and it didn't matter what the heck we did to other teams. But we realized this season we needed to be very careful how we interacted with other teams and keep a lower profile then we did in the first season because we knew we couldn't get away with some of that stuff. That played a lot into seeing the kinder, gentler Guidos... we were trying to be a little more under the radar because we didn't want to people to single us out knowing we were the villains from the first season. And also helping some of the other teams showed we are willing to work with other teams. We didn't want a group of people to say, "The Guidos should go because they're the villains."
Reality TV World: Any behind-the-scenes changes -- more crew, bigger budget?
Joe: Certainly production, the crew, all the staffers that follow us along were a lot bigger than The Amazing Race 1. Another thing that Bill and I in particular had to catch-up fast on was the fact that on The Amazing Race 1, once you buy and pay for your airplane tickets [for] some place, you were done. You couldn't change your tickets or turn them in and take another flight so you really had to do all your homework first and then decide what the best. Somewhere around The Amazing Race 4 or 5, they changed the rules where you could buy tickets -- keep buying fully-refundable tickets -- and you could buy as many tickets as you wanted going from one place to another. So as a result, say when we were in Johannasburg, you're just buying and buying and buying and buying tickets trying to get to Dar Es Salaam... we spent 28 hours in the Johannasburg airport before we finally got out. Believe it or not, I had more than $50,000 worth of airplane tickets in my backpack. We had maxed out two people's Visa cards just buying tickets trying to get out of there. That's really different from the way we had originally played the game way back in 2001. The way we did it before also allowed you to take a break and rest and relax for a little while because you know you've already made a choice and there's nothing else to do except wait for your flight to leave, versus this way, you're constantly working and working and working it.
Reality TV World: What did you think about the fact that, unlike the first season, The Amazing Race's "clues" aren't really "clues" anymore but instead just instructions? Which did you prefer?
Joe: I kind of like the old way a little bit better where you had to figure out what the clue was saying and it was more of a riddle and you really had to think about what it was and what it meant. I think it was much more interesting and harder.
Reality TV World: Did you have any idea what you were getting into during your first season?
Bill: No... when I clicked on the button on the CBS website it wasn't even called The Amazing Race, it was called the CBS Summer Global Adventure series. That was like a clue. This was a brand-new concept, and it really was the first time a television production was going to be on the road going around the world. It was the first thing of its kind. It had never been done before. It was very evident from the very first day. I guess from the very first Pit Stop when they had to send a cameraman home because he got so sick. people were getting hurt, people were breaking cameras... you could tell that production was struggling to find their footing, what they needed to do to make this whole thing work. Joe: Literally, we had a meeting at midnight the night before we left [on The Amazing Race 1]. They pulled everybody down -- some people came in bathrobes and slippers -- and [co-creator and executive producer Bertram van Munster] explained to us the rules and we instantly had to memorize what the difference between a Detour and a Roadblock, this and that, and you just go back and go to sleep and you're leaving in the morning. Here we are flying to South Africa, thinking "Bill, do you remember what a Detour is? What's the difference between that and a Roadblock?" We didn't even know what the words meant. Bill: It really was... I mean you got that feeling we all bonded. We're still friends with everybody from that season that's still in production. They're very, very impartial (laughing)... [but] we're still very close with all those people.
Reality TV World: Your first race was the only one that was ever filmed in a pre-9/11 world. Did you find the travel any different? Did you have any new safety concerns?
Bill: We had to definitely not bring anything that was sharp, we couldn't bring any liquids. Liquids are probably one of the nice things you can do for yourself on the road. Something that simple, you couldn't bring it from one country to another. When you have very little resources to begin with and you have to buy a bottle of water... you just had to be very careful what you did and how you spent your money and how you packed your bags. Joe: There was one place where we basically had to unpack the backpacks completely and then repack it on fold-out counters. That was tough... and you're anxious to get there and you're stressed out and you really don't want to have to go through stuff like that. It just stresses you out even more.
Reality TV World: You addressed this a little before, but what happened to the first season's "Evil Guidos?" Was your behavior part of a change in strategy? If so, what was the new strategy?
Joe (laughing): Who were the "Evil Guidos?" We definitely wanted to project a kindler and gentler Guido here.
Reality TV World: Do you think you achieved that?
Joe: Actually I think we did. We were probably somewhat anonymous for the most part... Bill (laughing): Maybe a little too kindler and gentler. Joe: For one thing, it's a thrill to do this and be on TV. But it's kind of like a kick in the teeth when you see yourself and everybody hates you. It's a big downer sometime. So we didn't really want to go through that again, and also the first The Amazing Race we were no worse than anybody else, we just got edited that way. I'm not saying we didn't do the things that we did [but] other people did things too, which you never saw. Bill: The camera never lies... it just tells its own story. Joe: On this one also, because of things like the Yield and the Intersection and stuff like that, we knew in advance that we couldn't play the game that hard with so little thought of what people thought of us along the way because we might actually need these people sometimes. It would be really tough if we had to stand at an Intersection and keep waiting for a team because nobody wants to work with us. Or we get yielded at every oportunity because everybody hates us. So we really tried to keep a low-profile for the first half of the Race -- which is basically where we were [when we got eliminated] -- and then kick it up a notch for the second half, which we didn't quite get to.
Reality TV World: After being stuck in an airport with Teri and Ian Pollack for a good part of the sixth leg, what was your initial reaction when you learned you were stuck with the same fate in Kilamanjaro?
Joe: That was pratically the nail in the coffin (Bill groans). That really... we had just gone through 28 hours in Johannasburg's airport and now we haven't caught up with the rest of the teams, but at least we were equal with [Eric Sanchez and Danielle Turner], so at least there were two of us at the back [of the pack.] You feel some kind of cold comfort with that. And then to have this Kilamanjaro airport fiasco happen to you -- knowing full well it only puts you another eight hours behind everybody else -- it really was a huge, huge downer. That was really, really hard. And then to compound it, when we finally do get to Warsaw, we're trying to fight our way back into the middle and we get the world's dumbest cab driver... he doesn't even know where the biggest park in his own hometown is! Bill: The biggest problem with the cab drivers is they're not always from where you think they are. They may not even live in the city you're getting a ride in. So if you ask for something as obscure as a little monument, they probably know where all the major streets are, but they don't know monuments and parks... you have to give them a little credit. Joe: And the language barrier was horrendous. Nobody spoke English. I'm half Polish, but I didn't really learn any as a kid. I was kicking myself in the teeth for that.
Reality TV World: Did you get nightmare flashbacks to what happened in Alaska during your first The Amazing Race season?
Bill (laughing): We just had flashback after flashback... don't remind us.
Reality TV World: How long do you think it took you to find the clue inside the mannequin at the seventh leg's "Perfect Angle" Detour?
Bill: That was awful. Joe: You are the first person to ask that. Bill: Do you have telepathy or something? There was this one point where they were recording the woman saying, "No. No." And we thought, "I know what they [the editors] are going to do. They're going to string all those no's together." Joe: We must have spent at least 45 minutes to an hour at the x-ray place. And everytime you take an x-ray everybody has to leave the room, then you have to come back in, we had these led aprons on top [our] jackets, so we're getting hot flipping this guy [the mannequin] over.
Reality TV World: Do you think if you had chosen "Perfect Pitch" you could have finished before Danielle and Eric, or do you not know much about the piano?
Bill: It wasn't that, it was just that we were so deep into this thing. It was one of those things where we should have just said, "Okay. We're over this and we're going to leave." But we had already spent so much time just looking for the place. Joe: It actually all started looking for the Escada boutique to find the mannequin. Bill: There are three Escada boutiques... go figure.
Reality TV World: When you found you were "marked for elimination," Joe you didn't sound to optimistic. Did you really think there was a chance you'd be able to overcome the deficit and win?
Joe: Well absolutely. You never know... you never know what's going to happen further down the road. People could make mistakes as big as ours... obviously with [Rob and Amber Marinao], you've seen how easy it is to go from first to last place in one episode. Also with [Mirna Hindoyan and Charla Baklayan Faddoul], having to go from last to first. So we didn't have to be first place the next leg, we just needed to be 30 minutes ahead of somebody else. And that was entirely possible. It actually would have happened had we not made a couple of time-wasting mistakes driving to [Pieskowa Skala Castle]. We probably would have been 30 minutes ahead of Eric and Danielle. That would have saved our necks.
Reality TV World: During "Eat It Up," did it ever cross your mind that Eric and Danielle -- who certainly didn't seem to be big fans of yours and vice versa throughout the rest of the race -- might intentionally go slow knowing that you were "marked for elimination?"
Joe: 100%. Bill: You know that probably did happen. Joe: Eric spent a lot of time with make-believe throw-up and dry heaves... nothing was coming out because you couldn't hear it. He was intentionally turning his back to us so we couldn't see he wasn't really throwing up. So it was all very much intentional I'm sure, but there was nothing we could do about it either. We were stuck with them. Bill: The beauty queens [Dustin Seltzer and Kandice Pelletier] had wanted us to be with them, we just didn't get there before Charla and Mirna unfortunately.
Reality TV World: When you arrived at the eighth leg's Roadblock how close were you to Charla and Mirna? Bill: We were probably... not as close as they made it look. Joe: We were close to them but we probably couldn't have passed them. The one clincher for me there was when we pulled into that road and we could see [Charla and Mirna's] car -- Eric and Danielle were behind us -- we didn't see the beauty queens' car. It raised a possibility in my mind, which was wrong, that maybe the beauty queens got lost and we'd be 30 minutes ahead of them. I wasn't really concentrating on Eric and Danielle that much, I was concentrating on "where are the beauty queens?" I said that to Bill a couple times, "Don't give up. The beauty queens aren't here." Turned out they already checked in. I think they moved their car so we wouldn't see it.
Reality TV World: How far were Eric and Danielle behind you when you reached the Pit Stop?
Bill: When we went to start dressing [in the armor], they actually started dressing ahead of me just by a minute. By the time we were walking -- I got dressed a little faster -- grabbed my horse and started walking. Then I got pretty significantly ahead of him... he was having trouble walking the horse, but significantly at that point was only five minutes.
Reality TV World: How far behind Uchenna and Joyce Agu and Ozwald Mendez and Danilo Jimenez were you?
Joe: At that time no, but we knew they did the Fastforward. We knew that we were the first people doing the eating challenge, so we could only guess they were many hours ahead of us. They had already successfully completed the Fast Forward... I think the beauty queens [were the ones who] told us that.
Reality TV World: At the beginning of the sixth leg, why did you decide to wait at the airport for the ticket counter to open instead of going back to the hotel to rest?
Bill: Maputo was kind of a dangerous city. There really wasn't much to be done late at night because everything was closed. We probably could have gone to an Internet cafe or something but even that would have been a stretch for that small of a town. We just thought it would be taking a chance whereas if we stayed at the airport we'd be first in line. Not everybody was going to be able to have good luck and find an Internet cafe -- I mean they might have -- but we just felt our chances were better staying at the airport. Joe: It was really a confusing situation because we slept on the floor with Teri and Ian and then the beauty queens joined us so we're one, two and three. But in that particular airport you don't go buy your tickets first and then go to some other counter and get a seat assignment, you have to walk over to another counter where seats are assigned, find out if there are seats available on the plane, get a seat assignment first and then walk and buy your ticket. It was completely backwards. And that was the beginning of everything getting all discombobulated. You're number one at one ticket counter, by the time you go over to where the seats are... somebody else is already there so now you're number three. And then you find out you get your seat and you've got to go back over there and now you're in fifth place trying to buy a ticket and it just went on and on and on.
Reality TV World: How excited were you two when you saw Eric and Danielle got booted off the flight from Johannesburg to Dar Es Salaam?
Bill: We were in Joannesburg airport and Joe and I just sat down to eat because we figured this is it, we're stuck here for a while. We actually met some fans and they bought us a beer and some hot dogs because we couldn't afford to buy much. That was really nice... we talked to them. I think we just finished talking to them and we went up to our old table, I was looking over the railing to the floor below, and I saw a glimpse of a green shirt, which is what [Eric] was wearing that day. And I went, "Oh my God! I think I just saw Eric!" And I got up to look over the balcony and sure enough it was them. Joe: We were thrilled. Bill: I jumped up and down, then they cut to Eric saying, "The Guidos just saw us." Joe: Couldn't happen to a nicer couple (laughing).
Reality TV World: Were you confident you'd be able to complete the sixth leg's "Solve It" Detour before Teri and Ian?
Bill: Yeah. I think what happened was we noticed -- even before we got to Dar Es Salaam at the airport in Maputo -- Teri was already freaking out saying, "Okay I want to go home to Miami... just buy me tickets to Miami. I'm out of here." She was just giving up basically. And I told Joe, "All we really need to do is stay calm, think about what we're doing next and I think we've got a good chance because they're stressed out." Teri wanted to leave... it was sort of like Teri just lost it and didn't want to play the game anymore because she was so stressed out. When we got to that Detour, Joe got a really good handle on the board real quick. Those puzzles were painted on both sides. When he said that, I said, "Well I need to seperate them by color." We got organized real quick and stacked everything and Joe took one color and I took another color and we just kept putting pieces in pretty quickly. Joe: You also had to figure out which side of the fish the dorsal fin was on because both fish were swimming upside down. There were three little clues there... Bill: It made it easier if you knew that. Joe: [Teri and Ian] only got two of the clues. They said they didn't realize the fish were painted on both sides. As we were leaving I called out and told them to pay attention to where the dorsal fins are... so Bill was right. I think Teri was kind of ready to go home, ready to call it quits. And when you try to get your second wind after that kind of frame of mind it's real hard to pull it together again.
Reality TV World: Were you guys noticed at all during filming for All-Stars?
Bill: Oh yeah. We were the first team actually -- we can talk about it now -- we were photographed in Ushuaia at a ticket office... We were using a phone, and [someone] saw us and photographed us with their camera phone and they had it posted [on the Internet] within 10 minutes of seeing us. Because everyone knew who the teams might be for All-Stars, but that was the first confirmation that All-Stars was running and we were one of the teams on it. That happened within a couple days of the start.
Reality TV World: When you finished the fifth leg a step ahead of them, Eric told Danielle they were beat by "a bunch of queens," and he referred to you as "old women who are passed their prime." How did hearing that make you feel?
Bill: We don't really understand it completely. I think [Eric] just liked pushing buttons and in his own delusional mind that's how he thinks of us. Joe: At the time we didn't hear any of that... he didn't say any of that to our faces. He said it behind our backs. I have feeling that people who say things like that and people who try to come off as "butch" and "macho" more than anybody else are probably the ones that really have their own issues and they probably have more to hide about their own sexuality than meets the eye. I think there's probably a lot going on there that he [Eric] hasn't come to terms with or hasn't come to grips with so he has to kind of run down other people.
Reality TV World: Are you guys friendly with Eric and Danielle now?
Bill: We talk to them on the phone... it really is not a huge thing to us. We know what can happen during a race like this, you say and do things that maybe you regret later. But whatever. It's not going to keep us from being who we are. Joe: We're fifty-somethings and we came out in the 1970s... some 28-year-old calling us a bunch of queens passed their prime... Bill: Duh! Joe: It's like not worth the breath it makes. And we have just made it easier for all those people -- including [Eric] maybe someday -- to come out [of the closet] (laughing with Bill).
Reality TV World: You arrived in Punta Arenas at the beginning of the fourth leg as one of the two last place teams. How surprised were you when you chose the "Navigate It" Detour and saw Rob and Amber and Dustin and Kandice were still at the same point in the challenge as you?
Joe: That was fun... oh my God, that gave us so much energy. And the funny part about it is Rob really went out of his way a lot so we couldn't look over his shoulder to see what he was doing... like we really needed him to figure out which way was south? When we left that little park, we weren't even using the compass. We just did it from the map, got a good sense of direction, and when we exited that park looking for that nautilus building, I specificaly told Bill, "Look down this street to the left, and if you see water we're going south." And we looked down there, we coould see the bay, we knew exactly where we were.
Reality TV World: What was the mood like when the teams realized Rob and Amber had been eliminated?
Bill: It was wonderful. All the teams were in a dining room waiting for everyone to come in team by team, and we just stood up and applauded when Charla and Mirna came in because we knew at that point they were history. Joe: Have you ever been in Times Sqaure at New Year's Eve? It was like that with only eight people. Bill: It was fun. Joe: We were hooting and hollaring and screaming and cutting it up... and it was Mirna and Charla that did it. Bill: We were like right next to the post office with the beauty queens when this was all going down and we were pretty sure because we could hear Rob being pissed off. It was like, "Uh-oh, I don't think it's going good for them." Joe: We were down a path, and we had to hide so we wouldn't get caught in their shots from their camera crew and they kept telling us we had to be quiet because we were giggling and making so much noise and hooting so much about it that they could probably hear us inside the post office.
Reality TV World: Joe you called yourself "the fish whisperer" during the third leg's Roadblock then didn't read the entire clue at the bottom of the tank. When did you realize your mistake in not reading the part about Petrohue? Do you thin if it wasn't for the fact you ran into Charla and Mirna in town you would have been eliminated?
Joe: We would have been eliminated. I honestly to this day don't know where the name Petrohue was... I call it Petro-huey. I simply didn't see it on the bottom of the pool. I thought I had everything that was there and looking back on it Bill and I have suggested maybe I was standing on that word. So that I didn't read it because I wasn't looking directly underneath my feet for the final piece of the clue. But the clue was written in slort of a big "S" curve, curly "Q" sort of way and there were actually fish painted on the bottom of the pool and stuff like that. So I thought I had the whole thing, and off we go marching then we actually found people who told us they knew what La Maquina was. They told us it was the name of this boat down at the end of the road where this fish hatchery was. So we went down all the way to where this road ended looking for this big boat and thinking that was going to take us out to an island that was the Pit Stop. We were as shocked as anybody (laughing). Had we not found Mirna and Charla on the way back to town -- they had stopped at a hotel and were asking questions and we pulled up behind them -- had we not seen them we'd probably still be looking for it. They saved our necks. Bill: We would have definitely been out. Joe: You saw the look on my face when Mirna said, "You haven't got the whole clue it's lucky you found us." I was just in a little shock and I wanted to ring her neck for saying it on camera. (laughing with Bill)
Reality TV World: Your first season completely skipped South America and Eastern Europe in favor of North Africa and Western Europe. Obviously you didn't get to race the whole thing this time around, but which course did you enjoy more?
Bill: Well I'd say the first one was much more panoramic world view whereas this one was definitely like "Bertram's Boot Camp." You know it's really a rough course -- a good one -- Bertram did the right thing, that was the one to throw at us. It was definitely a curveball because you're kind of expecting to go to these world, historic kind of sites and ancient sites and we really just did the nitty-gritty tour of South America. Joe: [Bertram van Munster] just had every intention of just putting us through the mill. When we were in South America, I'm convinced every contestant was certain we were going to Antarctica. And that was going to be the fulfillment of a The Amazing Race dream because they had never been there. We were all totally convinced that's next after Ushuaia. So when we found out we had to go to Maputo... Yuck!
Reality TV World: Do you consider yourselves all-stars?
Joe: I think we are and I think it's somewhat deserved. I won't say we're the best racers of all-time or whatever, but as [host Phil Keoghan] said in an interview earlier on, they chose it based on the people they thought were the most interesting and had the most interesting stories to tell. I think the combination of Bill and myself pitted against [fellow The Amazing Race 1 contestants and All-Stars Kevin O'Connor and Drew Feinberg] was really the clincher. So as humbling as it was to be called the villains of The Amazing Race 1 -- and to see them as sort of the class clowns of The Aamzing Race 1 and everybody loved them -- had it not been for that relationship, we would not be here now.
Reality TV World: Were you surprised by the shape Kevin and Drew were in for All-Stars?
Bill: We had heard through the grapevine and we do occasionally talk to them that Drew had had some health problems, they both were married now... even Joe and I had trouble with our knees. Sprains, and pulled muscles... we're all six years older. Joe: You know we're the oldest ones. We're older than Teri and Ian.
Reality TV World: Who did you consider your biggest competition?
Bill: I don't think we wanted to say anyone in particular because they all were strong. I really think everybody was pretty... we had guessed that about 50% of those people were going to be cast and any one of us could have been the winner. You saw Rob and Amber go out on kind of a minor technicality -- the way they got sidetracked, the same thing could happen to any team no matter how strong they are. Joe: I think starting out, certainly we would have considered Rob and Amber as sort of the primo competition there. It's nothing else other than they're really clever, crafty people, but they've also got the level of notoriety where everybody knows them locally and are willing and able to help them.
Reality TV World: Were there any teams you were surprised didn't make All-Stars?
Joe: Actually there was [The Amazing Race 5 runner-ups Colin Guinn and Christie Woods]... I was also surprised not to see the clowns [The Amazing Race 4 Ringling Brothers circus clowns Jon Weiss and Al Rios] and bowling moms [The Amazing Race 5 Linda Ruiz and Karen Heins]. Those are people I was certain was going to be on. We had a lot of respect for them and they also were real loveable people on prior The Amazing Races... especially the bowling moms... I thought for certain people like that would be included... I was kind of shocked.
Reality TV World: A lot of the eliminated racers have mentioned Colin and Christie as the answer to that question. Any reason why?
Bill: They're probably some of the best racers in the show's history... even though they didn't win their season. They were pretty hard competition to beat. Joe: They came way close to winning. They were way up at the top of practically every leg. Nobody tried harder then Colin and eventually as [The Amazing Race 5 winner Chip McAllister] said, "Colin's going to beat himself." And he did.
Reality TV World: How was Sequesterville?
Bill and Joe laughing... Bill: That's a very good question. We're not sure about that... can we talk about Sequesterville? Joe: We didn't go. We were the very first dummy team [that continued to travel around the world and try and throw off local Race witnesses by doing a lot of the same tasks that the other still competing teams were also doing]. Bill: The decoys... Joe (laughing): Decoys, not dummy team.
Reality TV World: What was with the matching outfits? How much did all that "Team Guido" gear cost you guys?
Joe: About $600 each... that's not that bad.
Reality TV World: Was it worth it?
Bill: Looking in the mirror each morning as a racer we looked like hell... no we don't dress alike.
Reality TV World: How are things going now for The Guidos?
Bill (laughing): What do you suggest? We're ready. Joe: We're not counting on anything but if something happens that's great.