It says something about the lasting legacy of “The Real World: San Francisco” that, nearly 20 years after its debut, it’s still remembered for giving us some of the most engaging moments in the series’ history — AIDS activist Pedro Zamora’s battle with the disease that would ultimately claim his life, the burgeoning relationship between Judd Winick and Pam Ling, the countless ways Rachel Campos attempted to pronounce “Pedro” — and, of course, the most memorable housemate of all time: David “Puck” Rainey.
Yes, from the first day he moved in (after getting hit by a car and arrested) to the day he was evicted, Rainey seemed to find delight in pushing boundaries and buttons, much like the mythological trickster he’s named after. He was unlike any TV character we’d seen at the time, and though many have tried to replicate his actions and eccentricities in the years since, none have succeeded.
And now, with a “RetroMTV: Real World” marathon set to begin Friday at 8 p.m. ET/PT with airings of seasons 1 (New York), 12 (Vegas) and 3 (San Fran), MTV News is taking a look back at the iconic show’s run, speaking with its creators and most memorable castmembers and, of course, we had to include Puck. So earlier this week, we traveled to his sprawling farm complex near Lancaster, California, to get his take on the show that has come to define him. (Whether he likes that fact or not.)
“You know what made me do TV? My mom and my grandma would watch ’Days of Our Lives’ all the time, and it kind of intrigued me that they would follow these people’s lives, it was kind of imaginary. I got it,” Rainey said. “So when I got on TV, I had to kind of cheat it, because everybody else is going on TV like, ’Oh, I’m in San Francisco, I’m going to be in a band.’ F—, I wasn’t trying to do that.”
That’s the tone Rainey took for most of our visit to his farm, too, where he raises chickens and vegetables, races four-wheeled ATVs and proudly lives “off the grid.” He said he hasn’t watched a single episode of his “Real World” season in years and, frankly, seemed more interested in discussing his time in prison, his myriad tattoos and his seven children (“I have three with my wife and then four with lesbians,” he said. “I’ve got, like, a lesbian breeding program.”) Oh, and the very nature of celebrity itself, because really, he’s mystified by it.
“How do you get famous now? Nicole Richie? That’s insane. Nicole Richie’s talent lives right here in my f—ing pinkie. You can you get famous just because your dad’s famous? She’s not even blood, she’s adopted,” he laughed. “She’s famous for no reason, and this is Puck talking; I did ’Cribs.’ I reinvent myself a lot. All my friends in San Francisco still do the same sh–. They haven’t changed. I can call a guy right now, same music world, produces stuff, we’re just older now. The people I know that were dastardly, they’re still dastardly, they’re still bad people. A lot of them are in prison.”
Rainey also has a bone to pick with the creators of “Glee,” who he accuses of stealing his nickname for the character of Noah “Puck” Puckerman. And though it was often tough to tell throughout our chat, it seemed pretty obvious that, in this moment, he was being completely serious.
“I’m confused about that. Because here I am, hard-core Puck, I’m a cool guy. So that show, those f—ers stole my name. And it’s grandfather law, I’ll give them that, it’s Shakespearian. Cool, my mom’s a hippie, but why do they have to steal my name?” he asked. “Because now, people, my friends that are bikers and sh–, think I’m on ’Glee.’ They’re like ’Dude, you’re on ’Glee’ bro, I saw it on the Internet. You’ve got a Mohawk.’ I’m like ’That ain’t me!’ That show sucks. Shows suck.”
You get the feeling Rainey feels the same way about “The Real World” — mostly because he said as much — and though he hasn’t stayed in contact with any of his former San Francisco housemates, he did share one memory of his first day in the house … rather unapologetically so.
“When I first moved into the ’Real World’ house, everyone thought I was the AIDS guy for the first 10 hours, because I was all scabbed up; I had just got hit by a car, and arrested, so I came in all tore up from jail and sh–.” He said. “It was cool, and I think God did that, for me to move into TV and fire me all the way up. It was like “Bam! Like ’Bullitt,’ the movie. Like ’Yeah, rippin’ ass all day.’ It was good for me, and not so good for them.”
Don’t miss the “RetroMTV: Real World” marathon , which includes the New York, San Francisco and Las Vegas seasons, starting at 8 p.m. Friday on MTV. It all leads up to the premiere of “The Real World: Portland” on Wednesday at 10 p.m. on MTV! For more “Real World” coverage, visit the MTV Remote Control blog.