There’s nothing like a post-modern Punk’d-ish estrogen parade to liven up summer.
Learn why the locals behind TV’s ‘Rad Girls’ are about to make the season sizzle.
First came John Waters, the King of Shock. Chicken love, eating dog crap—jaws dropped in 1972 after the release of the director’s Pink Flamingoes. Then came Madonna with her in-your-face sexual frolicking and irreverent punches at authority and religion. Next? Howard Stern. His pitchfork-like tongue pierced the airwaves. By the time MTV’s Johnny Knoxville hit the air with Jackass, it was hard to imagine anything surpassing the prankster’s outlandish humor.
Thanks to three Santa Cruzans, more than a million viewers have been tuning in weekly to Fuse TV to watch a national TV show that takes Jackass even further. Trust me, your mother probably won’t be watching the series, but it is unique—the stars are three women in their twenties. Ramona Cash, Clementine and Munchie, who’ve lived in Santa Cruz for years, jump into a world that’s part Fear Factor, part Jackass and part something you’ve never seen before. Now, they’re crushing stereotypes and proving that yes, girls can have just as much outrageous fun as rambunctious boys.
Remember the old, classic Mother Goose nursery rhyme?
What are little boys made of?
Snips and snails, and puppy dogs’ tails.
That’s what little boys are made of!
What are little girls made of?
Sugar and spice and all things nice.
That’s what little girls are made of!
Not any more.
In Rad Girls, Clementine, Munchie and Ramona Cash make it OK for anyone sporting the XX chromosome forget about being prim and proper. And while there’s no doubt that some people will get riled about the show, Rad Girls has managed to attract a lot of fans. With Fuse TV hitting 50 million homes, the series, which the locals produce and star in themselves, garners attention because the girls aren’t afraid to indulge in wild antics and crazy stunts that are often unbelievably gross yet hilarious, not to mention vomit-inducing, gut wrenching and all around out-on-a-limb courageous.
Santa Cruz has already been buzzing about Rad Girls, but it’s also sparked interest nationally. The show nabbed high ratings on imdb.com, the trusty movie and television online database, and Clementine says that they will be featured on MySpace’s homepage in the near future. On April 24, when the show premiered, “for the first time in the network’s history, our show beat MTV2,” she says of Fuse TV’s major rival.
The girls are also currently featured on Maxim.com and have a story coming out about their show in Penthouse magazine. “Most of the time, women have to take their clothes off to get where we’re at,” Clementine says, noting that they are not doing that.
After watching the girls’ various skits on fusetv.com, I’m unsure what to make of them. They seem bent on poking holes in your comfort zone, making you laugh, and even make you question your views on women or expand your feminist horizon.
I decide to meet them in person. Ramona is still working on the show in Los Angeles, but Clementine and Munchie agree to a meeting. When I walk into a downtown Santa Cruz bagel shop, I spot a girl that I think is Munchie—maybe?—sitting at a table by herself.
“Um, Munchie?” I ask, thinking how awkward it is to call a woman Munchie.
She looks up with a big smile and shakes my hand. I sit down and in a few minutes Clementine joins us. The women look similar to their personas on television, but glammed down from their promotional materials. In our entire time together they never utter a curse word or go Howard Stern on me. In person, they seem to just be ordinary, polite, thoughtful, intelligent girls. I learn that Munchie isn’t really “Munchie.” Ditto for Clementine and Ramona. For privacy reasons, the women took on “stage” names.
We talk for a nice chunk of the morning and while none of us actually eats a bagel, someone downs a cup of coffee. No pranks here. No ketchup poured in the java. No Fear Factor meals, or John Waters daredevil type antics in the middle of the bagel shop. It’s girl time, a chance to learn more about how three Santa Cruz women managed to land a national TV show.
“First and foremost, it’s entertainment,” Clementine says. “You may not like it in your opinion, but someone else will laugh their ass off and I’m happy that I took someone out of the doldrums of their life.”
The antics, the pranks, the crazy stunts—what are they, really? Here’s a rundown of a few sketches you might find on television or at fuse.tv/radgirls:
Pizza Delivery: The blonde Clementine is in your face, with bright red lips, telling you that that they’re holding a “pseudo porno party.” In the background are the sounds of people supposedly going at it. Someone’s walking around in lingerie. It’s fake porno central. A pizza delivery guy is at the door and look what he just walked in to. (You know that deep down inside, he’s completely stoked and would much rather stay there than deliver another pepperoni pie to some pimply faced college kid down the street.) The girls convince him to stay and Clementine lures him into a bedroom where it looks like Mr. Pizza Man is about to get lucky. He sheds his shirt and she leaves, only to have a man in underwear walk into the room.
Puke: This one is gross, but it attracted a huge crowd in L.A., where the show was filmed. The women are manning a small booth outdoors. Next to them is a spin-the-wheel apparatus (like Wheel of Fortune), only the “prizes” here are to watch these three pretty girls ingest various disgusting food items until they puke. Pickled pigs legs, a gallon of milk and a mayonnaise sundae are on the menu. They’re troopers, and yes, they do puke. A lot.
Mermaid Ramona: This one is just funny and wacky. Ramona “swims” through a convenience store and dumps bottles of water on her head, then flops around the store, while the clerk looks on.
Bridal Boxing: Ever heard of a bridezilla? How about two of them, battling it out in a boxing ring in stark white gowns? I wonder what they’re fighting about. A groom, perhaps?
X-Rated Mimes: If you walk through any city, you’ll find a white-faced mime trying to get a few dollars from you, while mimicking a typical scenario from real life. In this version, our Rad Girls are on Hollywood Boulevard, miming the types of things you’d never expect to see a mime do.
Out of the 60 or so skits that they filmed, Clementine explains that there are only a few that fall into the truly gross category. For the most part, they’re goofy or edgy, and nobody gets hurt. It’s just the type of stuff that no one has ever seen women do on TV.
Clearly, the show is meant to be offensive and controversial.
“Yes, it is,” Ramona says. “I think it can be considered art, certainly, and can do what other ‘art’ does by holding a mirror up to what’s going on in society. If people see a girl being gross and they find that offensive, that says a lot about the viewer.”
Curious to know what the ladies think of their endeavors, I asked each of them to take a stab at explaining themselves.
Munchie: “We’re the first girls on national television to do what we’re doing. There’s not a show like it and it’s pretty awesome. The whole concept is to bring good energy to women. You can do it. You can do whatever you want … We’re not promoting any kind of behaviors, but we’re promoting women to be themselves and don’t feel you need to be inhibited in any way because of how society says you need to be. Be yourself. If you want to run around and be crazy, that’s fine. Just be yourself … We are so pro-women. … All I want is to be giving power to women.
Clementine: “I grew up in the South. … It was pretty stifling how I could be or act, or how I could dress. … In Santa Cruz, no one cares what you look like or act like, that’s part of why I wanted to be a part of this project—for all the girls who grew up like I grew up. If I saw something like [Rad Girls] it would inspire me so much. … I’m making a point that I don’t have to be pretty or act like Miss. Manners wants me to act in order to be successful, to be happy, to find love.”
Ramona: “The kind of woman you would see on television is usually very eager to please and well-groomed, and may or may not have very much personality. I really think there’s something radical about showing women who are not approval-seeking, but on the contrary, disapproval-seeking. It turns [things] on their head that women should be perfectly sexy or seen and not heard, or trying to be models. Some people would argue that it’s a strained feminist argument, but I feel that there’s something quite feminist about doing what you want …
“If a little boy falls down and hurts himself, teachers always say, ‘You’re OK, you’re strong.’ If a girl falls down it’s, ‘Oh sweetie, I bet that hurt.’ Girls are supposed to be protected and boys are supposed to be tough. … Boys will be boys, but if girls try, people will be like, ‘That’s awesome, finally,’ or the opposite, ‘You’re not supposed to do that, it’s gross, aren’t you guys embarrassed?’ And they have a strong feeling of being taken aback.”
From Start to Finish
It all started when Ramona went on a surfing trip in 2004 with a few of her girlfriends. They joked about the off-kilter idea of a Jackass-like television show for girls. But that’s where the concept stayed. In March of 2005, Ramona bounced the idea off a friend of hers, Jason Martinez, who lives in Los Angeles and has worked in the entertainment industry. He asked if Ramona was serious, and this Rad Girl herself was taken aback. She quickly recovered and said, “Let’s do it.” Martinez relocated up to Santa Cruz in August of 2005, and a week before they were to gear up for a guerilla style shoot to gather footage for a pilot, Ramona broke her femur while out skateboarding in Scotts Valley. At the time, she was on board to star in the show along with a few other friends. Noticing the apparent ‘danger’ involved with possibly participating in the show, her friends backed out. That’s where her friend Munchie came on board, and a new friend, Clementine, joined the ranks. The women quickly bonded (no surprise, considering their wild antics together) and they shot hordes of self-made, homespun footage around Santa Cruz.
Martinez and Ramona edited the footage into a rough pilot and showed it to some folks in L.A. who cleaned it up for them, and the pilot eventually landed them an agent at UTA, one of the larger and highly reputable talent agencies in Los Angeles. From there, the women landed a deal with Fuse TV and 10 episodes were shot for six weeks in Los Angeles.
The only glitch was that the Rad Girls had hoped to shoot their $1 million-budgeted show here in their hometown of Santa Cruz. That didn’t happen. According to Kathy Agnone, special events coordinator for the city of Santa Cruz, “some of the stunts they wanted to do would damage city property … an idea to do a candy bar in a pool … and use a vehicle to ride around in a park,” Agnone says. “Originally their idea of the show was that they would showcase the beauty and athletic abilities of the women and give a positive view of the town.”
Agnone, who also works for the Santa Cruz City Commission for the Prevention of Violence Against Women, says that she did not have any subjective reasons for not giving the women a public filming permit.
Ramona, co-creator of the project, says that Agnone was given a list of ideas that the Rad Girls would do possible sketches on, and Ramona wishes that if Agnone was deterred by some of those sketches that she would have ruled those out, but continued the conversations about having them film in Santa Cruz.
“We gave her ideas to sort of work with, which she took at face value instead of anticipating the flexible nature of production,” Ramona says. “I will say that my personal opinion about this is that she remains very sensitive with the koi fish (an incident, when MTV shot a fraternity prank on the UC Santa Cruz campus), and fears the worst and is probably pragmatically pessimistic. We have never tried to be destructive. We haven’t vandalized anything in production. We may have inflicted harm upon ourselves, but we didn’t damage any city property and were never intending to do so. We adore Santa Cruz and were wanting to showcase the beauty and character of the county.”
The candy bar in the pool sketch? Ramona says they were talking about the idea of putting a six-ounce candy bar in a pool as a pretend piece of poop. “We would have liked to have had more collaboration than the gavel coming down as a hard no.”
In any case, the production moved to Los Angeles, where the girls relocated for six weeks. Production wrapped in April and the first episode of Rad Girls aired later that month. Now, the girls are sitting tight to see where the project takes them next. Is there a second season ahead? A feature film, like the Jackass guys had?
No one knows what the future holds for the Rad Girls, but Ramona keeps an open mind.
“I really want to give people room to not like it,” she says. “And I can see how they feel that way and they’re entitled to that. For me, the redeemable thing about it is that I think at the heart of it, it is light-hearted and it shows young women who are very self-possessed and funny.”Tune in to Rad Girls at 10 p.m. Tuesdays on Channel 339 on Direct TV, and 476 on Comcast. Reruns of the show are on almost every night at 8 p.m. For more information visit fuse.tv/radgirls or myspace.com/radgirls.