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How's Bayou? Alternate realities

Madewood Plantation, where French reality stars were to dine.

"That's the way it is with reality TV," the gently-admonishing voice on the other end of the line advised me. "Things change all the time, just like in real life."

OK. I could accept that the crew from a French version of "The Amazing Race" might arrive at Madewood a little late Sunday afternoon. The lead man would leave Lafayette after contestants completed something on the order of a cotton-picking competition to scout which room the winning couple would occupy during their romantic getaway at a plantation house, "un reve de la vie de Rhett et Scarlett."

The Swedish director had e-mailed generalities over the past few months, which should have been a clue. He seemed pleased that the winners would enjoy a romantic candlelight dinner, and we thought that was what he wanted. I now realize that what I'd suggested was just penciled in to fill the space for what they'd do that night.

Little by little, the spontaneity that such shows tout as reality began to slip away, and the production team carefully crafted the reality that viewers would see.

No -- reality strikes again -- the crew member wouldn't be by in the afternoon; they'd decided it would be great to film the winners at some pre-game Super Bowl festivities in New Orleans. So could dinner be later, say around 8? Can you do a crawfish boil outside?

Crestfallen voice on the other end when told no: Madewood does a romantic candlelight dinner in the impressive dining room -- that's the reality of what we do.

I assured him that it would be interesting South-Louisiana reality things like gumbo, crawfish étouffée, a three-layer white-chocolate cream cake from Frances' Bakery just outside New Orleans -- with Mardi-Gras colors on the icing, very photogenic -- followed by coffee and brandy in the parlor. The camera will love it, I added enthusiastically.

As the sun set, the phone rang. They'd be even later. Reality, you know.

When I stressed that I couldn't keep staff working much later, the bombshell dropped.

"Oh, we decided we won't be filming dinner. Can you do a really fabulous breakfast for us to shoot instead? You can just serve us all casually when we arrive later tonight."

Flashback to the filming at Madewood of a pilot for "Mind Your Manners," a reality show that never materialized. Contestants were taught the rules of etiquette, and a final elegant dinner would determine who was voted off the plantation.

But that dinner also never materialized, as everyone was too tired after filming the preceding reception till after midnight. As crew unexpectedly joined cast, and they needed my bed to sleep an extra participant, I dined at 2 a.m. at the drive-through of the Thibodaux Taco Bell on my way to my Serta at home in the Big Easy.

So much for living in the real world on the old plantation.

This time, I just went to bed, as Angie said she'd handle everything when they arrived. And the next morning, I slept through Angie's fancy breakfast that included her iced pancake-batter muffins topped with crumbled bacon. I never met the lucky winners.

And the cream cake that never left the refrigerator Sunday night? Will we ship it off to the Kardashians? Will it appear on a Survivor Avery Island episode after the Who Can Drink the Most Tabasco Sauce competition, or be presented by a Bachelor to his favorite Bachelorette?

Stay tuned for more episodes of "How Keith Copes" in an unreal world.

How's Bayou? the secrets of remaining sane while running an upscale B&B on Bayou Lafourche, is written weekly for NolaVie by Keith Marshall, a former Rhodes Scholar and graduate of Yale and Oxford universities who now runs Madewood Plantation House in Napoleonville.


How’s Bayou? the secrets of remaining sane while running an upscale B&B on Bayou Lafourche, is written weekly for NolaVie by Keith Marshall, a former Rhodes Scholar and graduate of Yale and Oxford universities who now runs Madewood Plantation House in Napoleonville.