Exclusive: Toni and Dallas Imbimbo talk about 'The Amazing Race'
By John Bracchitta, 12/02/2008
While other teams around them made costly mistakes as the weeks progressed, the "Mother and Son" team of Toni and Dallas Imbimbo proved to be the model of consistency as they continually placed solidly in each leg of The Amazing Race 13 without garnering much attention.
However, one week after winning their first leg of competition, Toni and Dallas suffered their first significant misstep in the race and lost their money and one of their passports in a taxi, resulting in the team becoming the eighth team to be eliminated from the competition during Sunday night's broadcast on CBS.
On Monday, Toni and Dallas spoke to Reality TV World about what events led up to Dallas losing his bag, why they decided to ignore the rules and take a subway despite knowing they would be penalized for it, and how Dallas' relationship statushas changed since appearing on the show.
Reality TV World: So Dallas, just to clarify to start, were you carrying just your own passport or also you mom's also?
Dallas: I was carrying just mine and then the money.
Reality TV World: Last night's broadcast didn't show much of the lead-up to when you forgot the bag [with all of the money and passport] in the cab. What happened for that to happen, were you just rushed?
Dallas: No, what actually happened was when I got in the cab we actually had to do a microphone change, and the microphone is actually around your waist. So they had to undo the fanny pack that was around my waist to change that microphone out.
So they did that, and the cab driver in the cab I was in at the time I [had been] driving with for about an hour in circles, he didn't know where he was going. So I was like 'Hey, pull me over, I'm gonna take a new cab.' He pulled me over and they did the microphone change and unstrapped that pack and I got out. The [cab driver] did not make me pay because he didn't know where he was going.
So I got out and flagged down a new taxi, got a new taxi and went in there for about 20-30 minutes and finally had them take me to somewhere I knew. When I got there that's when I realized I didn't have the bag with me and my passport and my money was long gone.
They made it look like [the cab] was right there and I could run after it but that's not true. If it was anywhere near there I would've caught up to it, I don't care if it was three miles down the road I woulda ran after it. But I had no chance of finding it.
Reality TV World: You said you didn't [notice the missing bag] for about half an hour?
Dallas: I didn't know until I had hopped in a new cab [and gone] a way further distance than I had even started. And in Moscow cabs can be anything, it's not like an official cab in the United States where it's yellow and it's a cab company. Any random car is a cab so I couldn't even say "Oh well it's this cab company" and try to hunt it down that way.
Reality TV World: So, [even though] you didn't have your passport. you guys decided to continue the leg and [try and] not get eliminated. If you hadn't been eliminated, how [were you planning to] have gotten out of Russia for the next leg of the race?
Dallas: (Jokingly) What I would've done is put all my mom's clothes in my backpack and I woulda hopped in her backpack.
Toni: Actually part of what we were doing as we were running around begging on the street, I was sitting there thinking to myself, Dallas had gone back to a hotel with the second cab driver, and maybe they'll turn his passport in there or something, or maybe they'll turn it in to the embassy.
And along this route I'm just gonna keep begging and doing what we can and I'm gonna see if I can find a way to make a phone call to see if his passport got turned in and see if we can possibly get that passport and still keep going and have it to go with.
So part of our strategy in running the rest of the race was "Can we get the passport back as well?"
Reality TV World: And because you didn't have your passport, did you guys end up getting stuck in Russia after you were eliminated? How long did it take to get your passport back?
Dallas: Well, luckily the next day my bag was... well not my bag, my passport was turned in to the U.S. Embassy, so I was actually [able to] get home. I wasn't able to make it for the finale, but we finally got back later, luckily not too much later than everybody else.
Toni: We knew on my visa that I had a little more time than the production crew had in Russia, so we just stayed back and said we're gonna do what we can. Then the next morning when the embassy finally opened and we called them they told us that somebody had turned in the passport late the night before after the embassy had closed and they had it there.
Reality TV World: When you both decided to go out on the street and search for money to try and continue [in the race], it seemed like you didn't have a lot of trouble getting money from people on the street. Were people really that generous, or did the episode just show the people who were willing to give up money and cut out a whole bunch of people who didn't?
Toni: I think that you saw some of the people who were willing to help. There were probably as many that weren't willing to help us as that were. But, we were pleasantly surprised by the number of people that helped because people had not been that friendly to us and there had been a couple men in one of the squares who had worked their butts off to try to get money for us and they were asking and begging all their friends for money. And their friends were saying things to them like "Why are you helping them? They're American," so we were a little bit discouraged, but they kept pushing on and so we thought "Okay, we're gonna keep going."
At one point the man actually tried to pawn his cell phone to get us enough money for the taxi because they couldn't afford the taxi's themselves out there. That was the point where I said to Dallas "No, we're not gonna take this man's money, we're not gonna let him pawn his cell phone."
Dallas: And the other thing is, it does look like we got a lot of money but Russia's a very, very, very expensive city. So though we may have gotten a lot of money, it cost so much money to get anywhere.
Reality TV World: Did you pursue any other possible courses of action as opposed to just going around and looking for money? Had you thought about waiting for [Andrew Lappitt] to come back to try and get some money from [he and teammate Dan Honig]?
Toni: Well at first we went to Dan and thought we'd get some money from him, but he didn't have the money, we knew Andrew did. And, to be honest, knowing how long it would take Dan and Andrew to complete a task was not something we should sit around and wait for because that could take forever.
So I kinda went rogue and said "Dallas, we just need to try to honor the race as best we can, get what money we can and get this leg done. If it means we don't follow the letter of the rules [than] let's just take the penalties as they come and lets just try to salvage what we can out of it and try to get the passport along the way." Waiting for Dan and Andrew wasn't something that we thought was gonna make sense.
Dallas: (Jokingly) I was thinking of taking nude pictures on the corner and selling them to make money.
Reality TV World: Kind of going off of what you just said about not specifically following the rules to get where you want to get to, when you got on the subway [to get the Detour challenge] that led to a whole thing where you had to go back and take a taxi. Were you thinking -- or hoping I guess -- that you would just be assessed some penalty for doing that?
Toni: Exactly. We'd asked a couple of taxis how much it was gonna cost and it was such a large amount of money that we didn't think there was any way we could get that kind of money. So I said "Let's just take the Metro," everybody on the streets said we were crazy to take a taxi [and to] just take the Metro.
So I said "Let's just take the penalty we're gonna get assessed, at least we'll finish this out, and if we get our passport along the way and get assessed a penalty, Dan and Andrew will probably screw up enough that we'll find a way to make it. So it was interesting for us to watch last night to see that it was [Ken and Tina Greene] who had the biggest mistakes.
Dallas: Yeah, and the way we looked at it was that [Mark Yturralde] and [Bill Hahler] in Bolivia had taken a taxi when they were supposed to walk, [and they got] a 30 minute penalty. So that's what we were banking on.
Then we took the subway, we got to that park, and they said no you have to go back. Now we couldn't take the subway back because the rules for the city of Moscow are that you cannot take those video cameras that they're recording everything on [into] the subway after 3PM and it was about 3:15PM at that time. So now instead of taking the subway back to where we had started we had to walk all the way back, which took us about two hours, and that's what killed us.
Reality TV World: On last night's episode, and unlike [the rest of the season], they didn't show the departure times of each team leaving [the Pit Stop]. Do you have any idea how much of a lead you had at the beginning of the leg and how far apart the teams left from each other throughout the race?
Toni: Well, at the beginning of that leg when we got to the submarine there were probably a number of hours [lead] that we had over [Nick and Starr Spangler]. But what you didn't see last night was when we got there it was one of those [locations] where we had to wait until it opened. So we had to wait outside that submarine for three or four hours in the morning waiting until it opened. It equalized out again because we all had to sit and wait.
The only team that hadn't met up with us yet at that point in time when the place opened was Dan and Andrew. We were all just sitting outside waiting for it to open.
Reality TV World: Were you surprised when [The Amazing Race host] Phil Keoghan met with you guys to tell you that you had been eliminated [before you had completed the leg]?
Toni: Well we were a little surprised because we really didn't think it was a Pit Stop and we didn't really know. At the same token, we had been out there for so many hours and it was getting dark and it was getting cold and we were begging everyone who was around, so they probably didn't want people begging on the streets to the level that we were begging so it sorta made sense.
It didn't surprise me that that's what they did because it made sense in the long run, but it was disheartening not to have finished the leg.
Reality TV World: Do you have any idea how far behind Andrew and Dan you were?
Dallas: Well it was actually Ken and Tina who came in last.
Reality TV World: Oh yeah, sorry...
Dallas: But they said we were only a half-hour behind them, which, that's what kinda ticked us off a little bit is that if it wasn't for that rule of not being able to take the subway back to where we started because of the cameras.... if we took the subway there and screwed up because of that, then we should at least be allowed to take the subway back. We got double penalized, and it was only a half-hour back but that thing took us two hours. We would've easily still came in third without a problem because even Ken and Tina were behind Andrew and Dan, we probably would've finished ahead of them as well.
Toni: But we wouldn't have had a passport and we wouldn't have continued, and we wouldn't have met the people that we met begging on the street, and we probably would have thought that Russian people were horrible and we found out that they weren't. There was a lot of things that we learned by that process so I'm not pissed off by anything. I think everything happened the way it needed to happen and we learned a lot from it.
Reality TV World: Toni, During the Roadblock challenge in the park with the Soviet statues, at different point both of you both seemed to express some doubt in the choice of Dallas to perform the challenge. Is that accurate, and would you have chosen to switch places if you could go back and do it again?
Toni: Well you don't always know what the Roadblock is, you just get this one-liner-zinger that says "to solve a mystery literally" and that's all we knew. Part of me sort of said that "Oh, literally? Is this gonna involve reading? Maybe I should do this one" but it had been such a long morning and we had been driving for hours and I was like "I don't think I'm as sharp today as I should be and so Dallas needs to do it."
Then when Dallas opened it up and started reading all this stuff about Lenin and Stalin I was like "Oh no, this could be a problem."
But I think it's really a toss-up because I might have been a little more diligent about the statues, but then leaving there and having to get around Moscow and figuring out the taxis was really difficult, and Dallas has a great ability to manipulate and work situations. I don't know that I would've been as strong at getting that taxi and ever finding that apartment. I had to get there and I thought I would never find my way there, so it's a toss up.
Reality TV World: Ok, and on to the other big topic -- Dallas, there were clearly sparks between you and Starr. Did you two ever begin dating after the show?
Dallas: (sarcastically) Oh, well I've only heard [this] 800 times.
Reality TV World: I'm sure.
Dallas: Yeah, we've been dating pretty much since the show ended for about six months now.
Reality TV World: Ok, so it's going well?
Dallas: Well, she lives in New York, I live in California, so it's going well. We're just taking it how it is and one day at a time, but it's going well.
Reality TV World: The show didn't really begin hinting at a possible relationship until the show was about halfway over. Had you two been getting to know each other during the entire duration of the show or did it not develop until midway through?
Dallas: We fell in love on the flight to Kazakhstan. (Toni Laughs) We got a chance to sit next to each other on the flight to Kazakhstan and that's where we really -- I don't know how long that flight was, it was a long, long flight -- but that's where we got to know each other and talk to each other. There had been some playful flirting all the way from the first episode and it wasn't really until being on that plane and sitting next to each other and getting to know each other until we started beginning to like each other.
Reality TV World: We've talked to some former contestants of the show who didn't think too highly of Nick and Starr. Were either of you concerned about being linked with them at all?
Toni: No we actually enjoyed being with them. We found them to be honest people. We were all playing a game, I mean we knew it was a game, and when it was time to go we would go. We didn't have any doubts in our mind that they would do whatever they had to do to win that race, but we felt the same way. We found them to be genuine and very big-hearted throughout the entire race and I was happy to run with them. I'd run with them any day.
Reality TV World: So, they were definitely more aggressive than many of the other teams. You didn't find that to be an issue?
Toni: No, because I think when we were with them we were equally as aggressive and they knew it. I mean, we would've knocked them down running too.
Reality TV World: It seemed like for much of the race, at least the first half, you both were able to fly under the radar and perform consistently without getting too much attention on yourselves. Or at least that's the way the show ended up showing it. Would you agree with that?
Dallas: Well I think that was our goal. I mean obviously I am loud, crazy, have out-of-control hair, and people usually look at that and they have their first opinions. But our main goal was just "Let's fly under the radar," we don't want anyone to really think we're a threat, and no one really did think we were a threat, nobody thought we were anybody until we just consistently performed and that was our goal.
We were going to keep our mouths shut and play our game, we're never gonna get caught up in the drama, we're not gonna be the people who call people names. We're just gonna play our game, we're gonna be ourselves, we're not gonna put our character at risk and whatever is meant to happen will happen.
Toni: And I do think, for us, the benefit was I do think that most teams, in general, liked us. So if they didn't like Nick and Starr it didn't matter, they didn't hold it against us. We didn't feel any animosity towards us at all.
So people kinda looked at me and thought "Oh, well that's mom," and I really don't think that they thought we were any kind of threat to them at all. And I think that even when we would consistently be up in the Top 2 or 3 all the time, it probably wasn't until four or five in [that] they finally kept going "Shoot, they keep coming in up there, what's going on?" They just didn't notice.
Reality TV World: Yeah, I was gonna ask, When did you think that you might have finally started to catch some other [teams'] attention?
Dallas: Well, I don't know if we even ever really caught anyone's attention because even when we got first [in the ninth leg]... I mean I think people always knew that we were really strong but I don't think people ever thought that we were going to be as strong as we were.
They thought that we would've got eliminated much earlier than we did, and I think even until the end people just didn't expect us to do as well as we did, and that's okay with us. We didn't do this for anybody else, we didn't do this to prove anything to anybody. We did it to have fun. That's what we kept in mind the entire time, this is a once in a lifetime experience and we weren't gonna be cutthroat, we were just gonna have fun and go with it.
People that wanted us to have [a different] mentality... I'm guilty, as many other people are, of looking at some of these blogs [that say] "Dallas and Toni, they don't even really try. They don't even put that much effort into it." For us we had fun with it. I'm sorry that I'm not gonna stab somebody in the back or call people names, and if that's what you have to do to win, well then that's not gonna be us and we're never gonna be those people.
Toni: And I do think that we didn't look like we were that much of a threat for... probably the reason is I'm a mom, I'm older. I looked, in the race... most people thought "Oh she's not gonna be able t keep up," and it's because the comparison was I was running with a 22-year-old. It wasn't like Ken and Tina who were both the same age running together and looking like they're keeping up with each other. I was running and keeping up with a 22-year-old, very fit kid. So the fact that I was a little bit winded every once in a while... well, yeah!
Dallas: And that's because -- quote this -- my mom is the shit! (Toni Laughs)
Reality TV World: What was the hardest thing that either of you did while on the race?
Toni: Physically for me, the hardest thing was moving the boats on the beach in Fortaleza, Brazil.
Dallas: Oh yeah! That was so hard.
Toni: That was the most physically challenging I think for us because we had to rely so much on Dallas' strength and as much as I could move what I could move it was still really hard.
Reality TV World: What teams did you get along with the best and worst with? I'm sure Nick and Starr probably rank up there...
Dallas: (sarcastically) [Kelly Crabb] and [Christy Cook] were our favorites! (Toni laughs)
Toni: I actually think we got along with everyone. We really loved being with everyone and we were sorry every time a team got eliminated, with the exception of one. We really did love every one of them. I think it was a heartbreaker for us [because] we knew [Anita and Arthur Jones] would go quickly. We of course didn't want to go before them...
Dallas: (interrupting) Anita and Arthur were the best! They did group hugs and the hokey-pokey!
Toni: We were just loving being with people, [Anthony Marotta] and [Stephanie Kacandes]... they were all just great, great, people to be with. So it was sad to see them go and not being able to spend time with them, and I only hope that we get to continue to spend time with these people because they're all great.
Dallas: Yeah, I would have to say it's a tie on everybody except for one team. There was only one team we didn't like...
Toni: But we learned to like them!
Reality TV World: Can you [say which team]?
Dallas: Well, let's put it this way... We don't like people that are only out for themselves and that talk trash about everybody else, and we don't like people that are ignorant and dumb.
Toni: No, stop.
Dallas: (Laughs) I didn't say any names! I didn't say any names! Leave it up to the masses.
Reality TV World: Okay, I'll let them decide. And, overall what was your favorite experience on The Amazing Race?
Toni: For me, my favorite was Cambodia because it really embodied everything we thought about the race. We were in a place we never would have gone to, we saw things we never would have imagined seeing. The people were phenomenal and incredible. We ran a race very tightly together, and there was great fun in the racing. Every one of the teams were laughing as they were trying to get past each other and just loving the race itself. And then to be ins such an awe-inspiring environment, it was a very emotional leg for me.
Dallas: Yeah, Cambodia was The Amazing Race. That's were you can truly see what The Amazing Race is about, where you see that competition and so many teams so close to each other, as well as a beautiful place where the human spirit really shines through and a culture that was just untouched almost by the outside world.
Reality TV World: What was your least favorite experience?
Toni and Dallas: Russia!!!
Reality TV World: Is there anything that you wanted to make it onto the show that was edited out?
Toni: The first leg of the race Dallas and I were pretty much our normal selves and we were bickering and fighting, and it would've probably been nice to see a little bit of that so most of our family would've believed that the same people they know were on the show
Because they know we do fight and bicker a lot, and most of our family couldn't believe that we were so well behaved.
Dallas: And I wish they would've put in any time we ran into Anita and Arthur in the first leg we had group hug time, whether it was at the Brazil camp or in the airport. They didn't show any of the group hugs, it was like ten of us all in a hug together. It was awesome.
Reality TV World: Whose idea was it to get on the show, and had you guys applied before?
Toni: We had never applied before. I always thought it would be a fun thing to do, so it was Dallas' birthday, I'd seen an ad on TV saying that there was an open casting call, and I said "You're coming home for your birthday. I want you to come home early, we're gonna go to this."
And he was kind of like "Okay?" and I said "No, no, no, we're really gonna do this." To his credit he didn't argue with me and he just showed up and we went down and did this open casting call and had a great, great time just doing that piece of it.