How I became the Ultimate English Virgin
I've been meaning to write down this story for a while. Several years back, I was living in Argentina and looking to embark on a career as a multi-lingual documentary presenter. I cover some of the origins of that story in more detail in my blog post about my UFO documentary for HBO.
I had sent a bunch of documentary ideas to a TV channel in the States called Fusion, and they got back to me months later. They wanted my idea about infidelity. I was surprised they called, and even more surprised they wanted that of all the ideas (rather than ones about Nazis in Patagonia or an entire town whose layout was shaped like the figure of Eva (Evita) Peron). I was also worried because it was the thinnest of all my pitches; we had very little.
Fusion wanted the finished product - a video about infidelity in Buenos Aires - in a matter of weeks. They were paying about $12k for it. This was a big break for me, but joy turned quickly to panic, as I realised I had nothing. How do you document infidelity? In my earlier research, I had gone to a swingers bar (just research, I swear!) in the city centre owned by an Israeli-Canadian couple. They had invited me to their weekly Thursday 'Cheaters Night', where I saw a lifetime's unfaithful flesh in one sordid night. But when I returned there to tell them I had the green light to film, the bar was gone. Vanished from thin air.
I spent the next week scouring the bars of the trendy Palermo district, asking random Argentines whether they were cheating. Many were, and gloated about it. Thursday night, it turned out, was Cheaters Night all around town. But none were prepared to go on camera. Obviously.
Finally, my producer Remi Lehmann told me he knew of a radio show called Dar Para Darse. This is how the show works: someone calls in and tells famous local presenter Andy Kusnetzoff that they fancy their co-worker, wife's friend or friend's mum. Basically, anything that might make for a juicy and salacious tale. The radio then calls and connects that person on air to the object of their desires. The caller then has to ask three innocent questions: 'how was your day?' etc., while the person on the other end becomes increasingly confused or curious. Then comes the titular line: 'Dar para darse?' (Do you want to do it?). It's such a famous show that everyone knows what that means: if the recipient says 'si', then they hook up (off-air at some later date...presumably).
It was perfect for my documentary, because it was so popular. It wasn't quite as exciting as the swingers bar, but it showed how at home the locals were with cheating in a way I didn't think we would be back in the UK. However, it happened that, of all people, Hollywood actor Viggo Mortensen (Lord of the Rings, Captain Fantastic, A History of Violence) was on the previous show. He grew up in Argentina and speaks perfect Porteño Spanish. When asked about the premise for my documentary, he laughed at me and my team, saying that we Brits and Dutch (my production team) had our own problems. We were publicly humiliated, but it blew up big time.
Our producer was inundated with calls from TV shows asking me to appear. We decided I'd go on a big live show called Duro de Domar.
It was maybe the Argie equivalent in viewing figures and tone of the UK's Have I Got News For You. It was one of the most nerve-wracking moments in my life. I'd never done live TV, and especially not in Spanish, which I was still learning at the time.
What I hadn't prepared for was that the hosts and other guests had taken offence to my claims about Argentine cheating. 'What about John Terry? And Princess Diana?' They peppered me with questions, using all sorts of slang that left me feeling dizzy. One woman asked, 'What's wrong with the English, don't you like sex?'
'I don't know,' I replied. 'I've never tried it.'
It was supposed to be a funny, throwaway remark, but the English humour didn't go down well. Some nodded, some looked surprised. None realised I'd been joking. And then it was gone; the conversation moved on, and I was left looking as though I'd just admitted to being a virgin on live TV. To make matters worse, I had just the week before met my girlfriend (now of six years), Juli. She was watching.
Unbeknown to me, the producers had propped up a lower third graphic proclaiming 'Andrew David Gold: The Ultimate English Virgin'. Twitter was ablaze with shock, shame and amusement, and for days afterwards, I couldn't walk down the street without Argentines shouting, 'Hey, it's the virgin!'. It even made the news internationally, popping up in The Sun.
Days later, another show had me on to talk about the video - or so I thought. They waited until the dying seconds of the programme to ask: "Andrew - are you a virgin?" I opened my mouth to respond, but my microphone had already been turned off.
Then the announcer boomed: "Find out if Andrew is a virgin next week!"
We didn't include that part in the documentary, when we sent it back to Fusion. They then sold the series to HBO, so we did alright out of the whole endeavour. Still, I'm not looking forward to my next trip back to the mean streets of Buenos Aires!
If you liked that story, perhaps you'll enjoy my podcast episodes with the Coffin Confessor who reveals the secrets of the dead at funerals, the female Mormon psychopath and the ex-Muslim whose family is trying to kill her for blasphemy laws.