After a Fashion

See where Austin ranks in a national list of most creative cities and then wonder why Dallas also made the list once you find out that the cheesy reality TV show Cheaters is based there …

THE CHEATING KIND Have you seen the television show Cheaters yet? On UPN, Sunday nights at 10pm, it's just fabulous -- cheesy production values, tawdry scenarios, and trashy participants. Based out of Dallas, the episodes revolve around a person who believes his or her mate is cheating. Enter the Cheaters producers, who follow the suspected cheater around with cameras, even installing them in homes to catch the action on tape. Then they present the lurid evidence to the injured party, who is allowed to confront the cheater, usually during an intimate moment ... and all on tape, of course, for our viewing pleasure. It is reality TV at its nadir, and extremely funny to watch. Narrated and facilitated by an unctuously repulsive host named Tommy Grand, who always seems to have an agenda of his own, the show has the gall to present itself as performing an extremely valuable service. A recent scenario involves a large woman of low self-esteem and uncertain appeal (we'll call her "Baby") who suspects that her cracker boyfriend (we'll call him "Bubba") is cheating on her. She allowed Cheaters to place a camera in the home that she shares with a female roommate (we'll call her "Butch," a tough-as-nails looking creature, whom we're surprised to find has any interest in men at all). While Baby is at work, Bubba drops by her house for unknown reasons, but the hidden camera tells all. Bubba hops in bed with Butch, the blankets start shimmying and shaking, and you actually see Bubba's silhouette as he's goin' to town with Butch. Then he leaves. The incident is repeated several times: Bubba arrives, he and Butch have sex in various positions, and Bubba leaves again. When enough taped evidence is gathered, it is presented to Baby during an especially vulnerable moment, and she is offered the opportunity to catch the cheaters in the act. The confrontation is full of tears and anger. Butch takes the stance that Baby is not able to please her man, so that she (Butch) is actually providing a much-needed public service. Bubba, deeply embarrassed to be caught in the act, realizes that Butch was nothing more than a distraction and that he really does love Baby, and begins to weep copiously. Baby, ignoring her own distress, flies to Bubba's side to comfort him, hugging him and saying, "It's alright, don't cry, Bubba." Meanwhile, Butch is spewing obscenities at the camera, and host Tommy Grand is spouting off all kinds of value judgments, adding an even more surreal dimension. In the end, Bubba and Baby express their undying love for each other and return to their home, which might as well be a trailer park called Dysfunction Junction. The rejected Butch is left sputtering and steaming about how her privacy has been invaded, and you can practically see in her eyes that she's swearing off men forever this time. Tommy Grand is smug and smarmy as he ties up the case, knowing that he has done his job well, especially since in most cases, the unhappy couple does not get back together. The show provides many variations on this scenario -- a trashy babe cheating on her boyfriend with another woman (you get to see the females dress up in fetish-wear and unknowingly act out in front of the hidden camera), or an unemployed slacker/stoner guy who is being supported by his girlfriend, and using her money to take care of his other girlfriend, who happens to be the mother of his child. Crass, common, and cheap, Cheaters is an absolute joy to behold; one viewing of it can assure you beyond the shadow of a doubt that your life is fabulous next to all these miserably unhappy people ... and it will certainly make you think twice about cheating on your mate. Or at least it will make you check your bedroom very carefully for hidden cameras. Remember: Sunday nights, 10pm, UPN.

CREATIVE CLASSISM "How do we explain Austin?" asks a prominent researcher. As reported in Out magazine and the New York Times, Austin has ranked second on a list of the 10 most creative cities in the country. Based on a study by Richard Florida, a professor of regional economic development at Carnegie Mellon University, Austin successfully combines all "three T's": tolerance, talent, and technology. Florida's book, The Rise of the Creative Class: And How It's Transforming Work, Leisure, Community, and Everyday Life (Basic Books), draws a correlation between prosperous cities with a large gay population and a large artistic community, combined with advanced technology and education. In fact, three of the 10 most creative cities are in Texas. San Francisco was first, followed by Austin, San Diego and Boston (a tie), Seattle, Raleigh-Durham, Houston, Washington-Baltimore, New York, and a tie between Dallas and Minneapolis-St. Paul. Says Florida, "Austin is a growth miracle. It has a great university and has long been a lifestyle mecca for gays and bohemians. But 10 to 20 years ago, if anyone said 'Austin,' you would have said, 'Huh?'" It is to our credit that 10 to 20 years ago, many of us did not say, "Huh?" but instead said, "Austin? Sure!"

A BRUSH WITH GREATNESS A report from the trenches by Assistant Politics Editor Lauri Apple: "We were at the Dog & Duck, and my friend went in to get beer, came back out to the patio and said, 'Wiley Wiggins is in there. He used to date my friend Jessica.' We went inside, because I wanted to see what Wiley was like, and my friend introduced us, saying, 'This is Lauri Apple who writes for the Chronicle.' Then I said something dumb to Wiley, like 'Hey, I guess you were in the same movies as my boss.' You know, to see if he'd come back with something clever about our clever boss, Louis Black. But Wiley was really standoffish and dismissive. It took me back to high school cafeteria days. I went out cursing little Wiley for his insouciance ... 'I read his short stories online, and the boy can't write,' stuff like that. Well, about an hour later, Wiley and his friends (about four of them) came out of the pub. He was all nice, smiley Wiley all of a sudden. 'It was nice to meet you,' he said, initiating the dialogue. It was very sweet. I said, 'Good luck with your next movie.' And he said, 'Thanks. I don't know if there's going to be another.' 'Be optimistic,' I said. He chuckled, and that was that." And now, even you can have a close encounter with Wiley by visiting his Web site at www.wileywiggins.com, where you can see photos, read his writing, and learn interesting facts (like that his preferred nickname is "Weevil").

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Austin, Out, New York Times, Richard Florida, Carnegie Mellon University, The Rise of the Creative Class: And How It's Transforming Work, Leisure, Community, and Everyday Life, Lauri Apple, Dog & Duck, Wiley Wiggins, www.wileywiggins.com, Cheaters, Tommy Grand

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