'I still have my 15 minutes'

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My 15 minutes of fame never happened. I was so close yet so far from appearing on "Hotel Hell."

It wasn't surprising that my wife and I ended up on the cutting room floor. We're not confrontational enough. We clearly can't compete with the Roosevelt Inn's owners John and Tina Hough in the drama department.

When word spread that Gordon Ramsay would be taping an episode of his new show, "Hotel Hell" in Coeur d'Alene and they were looking for people to be on the show, my wife Monique and I thought it would be fun to apply. I dashed off a quick email explaining that we had our rehearsal dinner at the Roosevelt Inn more than 10 years ago and that we're regular viewers of Ramsay's other shows.

We both thought there was no way in "Hotel Hell" that we would be selected. We were wrong.

After a follow up email that asked a series of questions about our impressions of the Roosevelt and the hospitality business in the region - I received a phone call from an assistant producer. The producer wanted to know if I wanted to stay overnight or have high tea on the show. We didn't feel like forking over hundreds of dollars for an overnight stay because we live here. We opted for the tea.

North Idaho and high tea seem at opposite ends of the cultural spectrum, but I wasn't about to let a chance to watch Gordon Ramsay go off on some unsuspecting cook or waitress slip past me.

The afternoon of the filming it was miserable weather. We arrived at a production tent behind the Roosevelt and proceeded to wait an eternity to go inside the inn. I watched the production crew, which was comprised of 20-somethings, tap away at their smart phones and whisper to each other.

A very nice young lady explained some of the ground rules to us.

We were supposed to say only positive things about the food in front of the camera. If we had a problem with our food or drink - look for Pip, one of the two producers in the room. Talk to Pip. She is the short one. Then she would get the owners and then they would film the entire exchange.

The production assistant got serious with her next batch of directives.

When Gordon enters the dining area - do not look at him.

When Gordon starts eating - do not look at him.

When Gordon is talking to the camera - you guessed it - don't look him.

And most importantly - do not talk to Gordon.

A short while later we were ushered to the front of the Roosevelt Inn. Suddenly I felt very nervous as I walked slowly toward the inn. As we climbed the steps, Monique pointed out that there was dog doo on the front steps. My wife is obsessed with making sure I don't get dog poop on my shoes and we don't even own a dog.

I stepped over the brown poop and entered the historic inn. Gordon was nowhere in sight. The other customers were talking softly. Then Tina Hough arrived. She was pleasant and warm. She talked about the various teas and we ordered.

I looked down at my teacup and I saw a long black hair inside it. As I pondered what kind of hair it was, I knew I had a problem. I looked around and realized Pip wasn't in the room. Where was Pip? No producers in sight. The cameraman was suddenly right next to me. I made a few jokes and Monique gave me a look that screamed "Shut up. What are you doing?"

I am sure it was a dog hair. Well, pretty sure. Tina appeared and quickly replaced my cup. Then tea and a tray of food arrived. I nibbled on a few things, but none of it looked very appealing. As I stared at the tray of sandwiches, cheeses, fruit and scones, I quickly became aware that Gordon Ramsay had entered the room.

But I didn't look. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed that he was sitting right next to us. I could have reached out and touched him.

Next I heard Gordon speaking, "How is your sandwich?"

He was talking to me!

My mind swirled, I remembered the rules - but I also thought, "How many times am I going to get to interact with Gordon Ramsay?"

"It's a mayo bomb," I proclaimed. "It's not really my thing. It's pretty goopy."

Gordon launched into a hilarious critique of the food. "What's up with these almonds on the sandwich? It looks like it has scabies."

He talked to us some more about the high prices of the inn and quality of the food, which he deemed "Ghastly, dreadful and unbelievable for the price." At one point, he asked if my cheese was sweating, which it was. He asked for my cheese, "Can I have that?"

Sure. I handed it to him. The cameraman zoomed in on Gordon as he held up the offending cheese and cursed it out.

I told Gordon about the dog hair in my tea cup and he said, "The whole place smells like dog (stuff) and then asked one of the other customers, "Does your dog crap in your garden?"

Gordon was extremely warm and kind to us. He seems like a very nice man who is good at his job. After 30 minutes, we forked over about $50 and left smiling even though the food was ghastly - Gordon Ramsay was cool.

Watching the finished episode, we quickly became aware why we had been edited out. It's all so clear now. We forgot to use fake British accents. We forgot to dress up as Sherlock Holmes characters. We forgot to act.

Oh well, I still have my 15 minutes.

Marc Stewart is a Coeur d'Alene resident and former Press reporter.

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