Author Topic: TAR 21: James LoMenzo & Mark “Abba” Abbattista "Friends"  (Read 22205 times)

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Online georgiapeach

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Re: TAR 21: James LoMenzo & Mark “Abba” Abbattista "Friends"
« Reply #25 on: November 19, 2012, 04:46:30 PM »
I LOVED the way these two ran their race....A class act in my book (and funny and a delight to watch) and I would love to see them back for another shot anytime!
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Re: TAR 21: James LoMenzo & Mark “Abba” Abbattista "Friends"
« Reply #26 on: November 19, 2012, 10:42:23 PM »
'Amazing Race': James and Abba on Their Stolen Passport and Why They Were in a Limo With a Priest 5:04 PM PST 11/19/2012 by Kimberly Nordyke      The rocker and entertainment attorney were eliminated in Sunday night's episode after a taxi drove off with their backpacks.     
Amazing Race James LoMenzo Mark Abbattista - P 2012
Cliff Lipson/CBS James LoMenzo, left, and Mark "Abba" Abbatista "We was robbed," James LoMenzo quipped at the end of Sunday night's The Amazing Race. "Literally," chimed in Mark "Abba" Abbatista. Which sums up the duo's stroke of seriously bad luck leading to their elimination in Sunday night's episode.
        It all started in last week's episode, when James, a former member of the bands White Lion and Megadeth, and Abba, an entertainment lawyer, left their backpacks in a taxi while heading to perform one of the challenges to receive their next clue -- and the cab driver drove off with their belongings, including Abba's passport. As longtime viewers know, teams must have their passport to continue on with the race. 
When James and Abba reached the mat, host Phil Keoghan told they were in fourth place and still had time to find the missing passport. Failing to locate the taxi, they finally returned to the mat in last place, only to be told it was a non-elimination leg.
James, 53, and Abba, 45, spent a good deal of time in this week's episode trying to procure a new passport for Abba -- including filing a police report -- to no avail. As such, they were eliminated from the race. (Five teams remain.)
On Monday, the duo talked to The Hollywood Reporter about how they got home, whether they finished the entire leg, the prank Abba almost pulled on the other competitors and why they were seen in a limo with a priest.
The Hollywood Reporter: So Abba, it was just you who lost the passport?
Abba: No, I did not lose my passport; it was stolen from us. We had a cab driver who drove away with both our bags. As soon as we got out of the car, he drove off; it was a conscious, malicious act of theft and not something stupid where we just left our bags somewhere. Why my passport was in my bag was I had gotten out of the pool [where the challenge called for the competitors to perform with a Russian synchronized swim team] and I had no towel and I was wet. I took the passport out of my clothes because they were soaking wet. It was the one of the oddest circumstances in my life; next time I'm synchronized-swimming with a Russian Olympic team, that definitely will not happen.
James: He normally has his passport tattooed to himself.
Abba: Normally, I sleep with my passport because I'm so insecure; I have it tied with a piece of string and I tie my bags to me, so people can't take something if I'm sleeping. We were in the airport overnight in Bangladesh and everybody was sleeping and took off their shoes. And I was contemplating taking everybody's shoes just for fun. They were all just laying there with their bags. I [took extra precaution] to make sure nobody took my shoes. It's a lesson for everybody: No matter how careful you are, every once in a while it gets you.
THR: So he literally just drove off as soon as you got out of the car? Had you told him to wait for you?
James: Throughout the race, I told the twins [Natalie and Nadiya] on more than one occasion, [leaving your bags] was the most foolish thing you could do, and they did it with impunity. I felt it would be OK to leave our bags there because I actually saw the clue box where we pulled over, and I thought we could grab the clue and jump back into the cab and go on to the next clue.
Abba: We were only 50 feet from the car.
James: It was a calculated risk, but it didn't feel like that at the time. We thought we'd jump back in the car and go on with our day. The rules are that you can't really split up, so I couldn't hold the cab while Abba did the task. By the time we started getting to the task, several minutes had gone by, and Abba said, "Let's make sure the cab is still there. By that time, the cab was long gone. It happened so fast. The situation was not that uncommon; everybody does it: I could see the clue box and I thought we'd run up there and grab it and in 30 seconds we'd be back to the car. It wasn't a stupid move; it was a common move. Everybody out there did the same thing; the only time we did it, our bags were taken.
THR: So how was the situation finally resolved?
James: We're actually talking to you from a Russian prison [laughs] .
Abba: Who's paying for this phone call? Because this one is expensive [laughs]. We did our best before the elimination during the leg, going out to different police stations and hoping to file reports. But the Russian bureaucracy and the culture of the governement and the authoritative organization of the police are quite a bit different than ours. You have to sign their forms 15 different ways, and then everybody else has to sign it. ... And everything happened on a Friday and Saturday, and Tuesday was Russia's Independence Day. The country shut down. It was the worst possible weekend it could have happened. We were knocking on everybody's door, trying to get some leeway. We went inside Interpol -- some places we were like, "How did we get here?" ... We spent quite a bit of time there -- six days -- before we were able to get this thing taken care of and out of there.
THR: So I take it you never got your backpacks back?
James: There is some guy wearing very stylish clothes wandering around Russia [laughs]. At this point, we had nothing. I literally had a hair tie, and James had a sweatshirt on. That night we were combing our hair with a fork because we had no comb. We were total MacGyvers. It was rough because lost a pair of prescription eyeglasses, so I was basically blind and wearing my contacts until I got home.
James: I had a Snickers bar -- damn, I was satisfied [laughs].
THR: Did you complete all the challenges?
James: I actually completed two of them. The speed bump [the duo had to complete a speed bump for coming in last during a non-elimination leg, but it wasn't shown on TV] was to bring a priest to a church but there were only one-way streets and you had to figure out a way to get around [without asking anybody for directions] -- we nailed that. We got to the time zone challenge and did it in 20 minutes. But by that time, because we had burned the whole day, we just went back to the finish; we had nowhere else to go. Having seen the Russian dancing challenge, I don't know if Abba could have done that [because of problems he was experiencing with his knees]; it would have been horrific.
THR: I was going to ask you why we saw you in a limo with a priest with no explanation.
James: Obviously, he was not a very good priest [laughs]. We needed some divine intervention. Please pray for our passport or do something.
THR: Earlier, your money was found by two other teams [the twins and Lexi/Trey] while you were making travel arrangements, but you thought you had lost it. When did you realize those teams found and kept the money for themselves?
Abba: Until we saw the episode, we had no idea. We had been in a cab, and I fell asleep while in the back, and I thought that while I was laying down it fell out in the cab.
THR: Were you shocked when you discovered the truth?
Abba: Yeah, I think I was, especially Lexi and Trey. Their participation in it was shocking to me. We got along with all the teams, but it was pretty disappointing to see what happened.
James: It created another great adventure for us we hadn't counted on.
Abba: And James was extremely supportive in that situation. I was just embarrassed and guilty and ashamed. ... But getting out of that situation was probably one of my favorite moments of the whole race [they hit the streets to ask people for money]. The generosity of strangers really saved us. It was a touching moment where we were in one of the poorest places on the planet, and people are helping you and giving you something they don't even have.
THR: What do you think about your nickname, "Long hair, don't care," that the Chippendales [James and Jaymes] gave you?
James: I love it. When people are talking about you, it's great.
Abba: What happened was, we wound up on a flight that nobody else was on in Indonesia. This created a situation where the other teams were going, "Oh my god, what the heck are those guys doing?" I asked [the Chippendales], and so they told me that Chippendales are usually clean-cut guys, but some decided to let their hair go? And they would ask, "What, are you not going to get your haircut? You're long hair, don't care?" Because they don't care enough to get a haircut. ... But we played well into "long hair, do care."
James: We realized jumping into alliances early in the game couldn't serve us in any way. But I could see how that looked to an outsider and why they called us out. But I thought it was perfectly cool.
Abba: It was confusing to them, but we are older and more experienced in our travels, and we didn't need the validation of the group to make a decision. We played differently ... but also attracted a bunch of attention to ourselves. But like James said, if people are talking about you, it's a good thing.
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Offline bc922

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Re: TAR 21: James LoMenzo & Mark “Abba” Abbattista "Friends"
« Reply #27 on: November 20, 2012, 09:06:58 PM »

The Amazing Race 21: Exclusive Interview with James LoMenzo and Mark "Abba" Abbattista

Posted on 11/20/2012 by Gina in The Amazing Race and Cast Interviews

by Gina Scarpa

It's safe to say that James and Abba did not have the best of luck this season on The Amazing Race. From dealing with a sick parent back home to having their money stolen (by a fellow team no less) in Bangladesh to losing their passports in Russia, it was a constant emotional rollercoaster for the rocker and entertainment lawyer. Yet, the friends always kept it classy and remained positive all the way up until their elimination this week. We talked to them today in an exclusive interview to find out what they really thought of their money being taken, trying to track down their passports, and whether or not they'd be ready for a second chance on The Amazing Race.

Q. Gina, RealityWanted: Whose idea was it to do The Amazing Race?
A. James: This is where we point to each other and say, "It was his idea!" Abba was the fan of the show and I had seen it a few times.

Q. Gina, RealityWanted: And did you do any preparation before leaving to compete?
A. James: We just kept losing our passports! No, I spent a lot of time running under the Hollywood sign. You have to take it seriously because you're going to be running.

Q. Gina, RealityWanted: I'm sure everyone wants to know when you found out the real story about how your money went missing.
A. Abba: I was sitting on my couch and was watching the commercial two days before the show started airing. We had taken a van in Bangladesh and each one of us had a bench seat. I had laid down and fallen asleep. I thought the money had fallen out and was fearing that episode. When I first saw the commercial for that episode, I shot off the couch and called James like, "Oh my god! Did you see what happened?" I don't think that you drive forward looking in the rearview mirror. We're disappointed definitely, we got along with both teams and now we know something different.
A. James: It brings you back to the notion about it being a competitive game. It's more of a moral thing that they have to deal with. They were exposed on tv with that.
A. Abba: They felt the wrath and scorn of the public. We chose to go a different way. We had the opportunity to solve a problem, which we did. I think we were mature and classy and it was one of my favorite days of the whole race. We wound up meeting a whole lot of Bangladeshi people. It was roundabout way of getting to something positive.

Q. Gina, RealityWanted: How much time did you spend looking for your passports after you first checked in in Russia?
A. James: As soon as we checked in, and Phil informed us that we weren't out of the game just yet, we went and got a hotel and got right on it.
A. Abba: At that time, we could have conceded and quit but because the other two teams were out on the course, you could head back out. They were hours and hours behind us. We wound up going and doing as much as we could. It was a Russian holiday so everything was closed. Had it been a Tuesday, maybe things would've turned out differently but if my aunt had a wiener, she might be my uncle.

Q. Gina, RealityWanted: That might be the greatest thing any Amazing Race team has ever said to me! Was it tough to run that last leg, without knowing if you'd track your passports down?
A. Abba: We had a different Speed Bump, you could say.
A. James: We kind of hoped that something would happen. We stopped at a bunch of police stations and put out as much information as we could. We were hoping it would turn up somewhere. It was mostly language as the biggest problem. At the police station, it was pure Russian. At one point, you saw on the episode, a young man stopped by and we asked him to help us and he spent hours translating. We couldn't do anything until we filled out the forms. It was definitely a tough situation.
A. Abba: With that, it was like, we know we're dead, what are we gonna run to the electric chair for? There was sort of an appreciation for what we were going through even though we knew what was happening. We went by a church, the bells started ringing, the Speed Bump with the priest... we made the most out of a pretty crappy day.

Q. Gina, RealityWanted: There are many fans who would love to see you return for all star edition or second shot at the money. I assume if The Amazing Race called you right now...
A. Abba: I would leave right now, I wouldn't even pack.
A. James: Now see, that's what got us into this in the first place!
A. Abba: It was an honor to be on the show, it's an amazing show. When you see the production, it's unbelievable! And again the world is brought to your living room. It's something special and it's a wonderful situation. It's the best reality show on tv, period, the end.

Offline bc922

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Re: TAR 21: James LoMenzo & Mark “Abba” Abbattista "Friends"
« Reply #28 on: November 20, 2012, 09:11:05 PM »

Amazing Race's James & Abba Talk Moscow Misfortune


November 20, 2012

The Amazing Race bid farewell to long-haired music industry veterans James LoMenzo and Mark "Abba" Abbatista on Sunday night, and ETonline caught up with the pair to find out how hard it was to have their bags stolen in Moscow, if they ever made it out of Russia, and what they thought of two other teams taking their cash, in an interview filled with lots of laughs.

James: (Plays the ET theme song on his guitar).

Abba: That was James by the way. How are ya?

ETonline: I'm good how are you? I'm sad to be talking to you guys honestly.
James: Oh we're not… we're happy.

Abba: I'm not. (laughs)

ETonline: Because I wanted you to keep going. Oh my gosh it was so hard to see you--
James: Who says we're out of the race yet -- Abba?

ETonline: You're still out there racing, right?
Abba: There may be a gas leak in James's house, uh...

James: No, there's a gas leak in this Russian prison cell...

ETonline: I was really bummed to see you lose your bags, that was just awful to watch. How did that feel? What was your reaction when you saw that the cabbie left?
Abba: It felt great! It was a lot easier without the bags… No. Let me correct you too because we didn't lose our bags, this was a cabbie drove away with our bags and conscious act of theft here we got out of the cab and he drove away.

ETonline: Oh, okay.
Abba: And so you know, we were like fifty feet away from the clue box, you could see it, and you know we just thought we were running up and getting the clue and coming back, we had not paid him at the time, and apparently he thought that the bags were more important and more valuable than the money we owed him, and as soon as we got out of the car, boom he went.

ETonline: Wow.
Abba: So again it wasn't some act of you know kind of foolishness or you know, slack part of anything on our part, it was really just a bad situation. And the reason to why my passport was in there was because we had come out of the pool and I didn't have a towel, and when we put our closed on they were soaking wet because I couldn't dry off. And that's the reason why. I mean normally my passport, I sleep with it when I travel. And so again, just weird things happened and it got us.

James: I have a confession Abba. I slept with your passport too. Maybe this isn't the place.

ETonline: On the show it wasn't really clear, because I know a lot of the times on The Amazing Race people will leave their bags in the cab and so I just assumed watching it that that was what had happened, but the way you describe it, that's much worse.
Abba: You know I would bet, and I'll probably go back and take a look at this, that every single team did exactly that. And that was the first and only time that we ever separated from our bags. In the bamboo challenge we actually put them down and I tied them to the bike that we were in. So, okay I sit corrected that there were actually two times that I ever remember leaving the bag that was not in our possession like that.

James: Throughout the race I kept telling the Sri Lankan girls, you girls are out of your mind, don't leave your bags in the cab cause they were doing it with impunity, and I thought well you know, you guys are just risking it. So it wasn't like we were, you know not aware that could happen or weren't thinking that couldn't happen. Again it was all at the moment, we were rushing, we thought okay let's just get up there, get back in the cab and move on. So that's kind of why we took that shot.

ETonline: Yeah, that guy probably made a lot of money off of all the stuff you had in your bags.
Abba: Well we actually had the lightest bags ever in race history. We were under ten pounds on our bags so good luck to him he stole the wrong ones.

ETonline: Ha!
Abba: But you know, we had to comb our hair with a fork the next day because you know we didn't have a comb.

ETonline: (laughs) I was going to ask you guys that because besides the fact that you ended up getting eliminated from the race, I mean how hard was it to be in a foreign country with basically only the clothes on your back?
Abba: Yeah it was a little bit uncomfortable. Especially cause it was raining and cold. (laughs)

James: Yeah, actually it was freezing that night. ... Having lost luggage many times, it's not the first time we've ended up somewhere without or stuff, you know? 'Cause we've traveled [while] touring [with a band] for years. And that's almost commonplace to have your bags go away for a day or two.

Abba: It was rough for me because I had contacts in, and my glasses were stolen and I'm pretty not much functional without my glasses, so having contacts in every day and waking up in the middle of the night in a hotel and I couldn't see where the bathroom or something was and I couldn't walk anyway because you know… That was pretty hard to go through a daily situation of nothing but contacts.

ETonline: Totally.
Abba: But you know what, you MacGyver things you know, as best you can.

James: Strapped on some glasses backwards on his eyes.

L: How long did it take you to get a passport and get out of the country?
J: It is an interesting story, tell her why we couldn't get it right away.

A: What happened is that you just can't get a passport ... There's also a Russian visa for entry and exit, so you're dealing with two different governments at this point. This happened on a Friday and a Saturday, and Tuesday was the Russian day of independence like our Fourth of July. ... So not only did we get hit with lightning, we got hit with a hurricane on top of that, and then like an electric eel came and zapped us and then we were stung in the face by a bee. ... We wound up having to go through the bureaucracy of the Russian system which is a very procedure-driven, it's not the easiest kind of culture to be in sometimes, there's no flexibility in it, everything is very much by the rules and very you know, that's the way it is and you have to jump through the hoops. But you know what we got lucky with some of it and we were able to get the passport issued, the temporary passport that got us home, and then the visa that allowed us to get out too. So, and there's a little bit more story to that but um there was actually a letter of diplomatic immunity that was granted, that is how this thing happened.

ETonline: (laughs) Wow.
James: We would have had to stay there for over a month (laughs).

ETonline: How long did it take?
Abba: It was I think six days.

ETonline: Wow.
Abba: I looked at James at one point I said, "Hey you know what, if we had won this leg, we would have got say a trip to go somewhere." So this way here we got our six day all-expense paid trip to Moscow, you know?

James: (laughs)

Abba: And that was kind of how we felt and it was like you know what like alright, we're over it we're out of the race, we have to kind of re-transition ourselves, and even though we're doing this all day long at least at night we can drink voluminous--

James: Vodka!

Abba: Vodka (laughs).

ETonline: So on Sunday night's episode in the last closing scene, you see that you are in a car with a priest. Can you tell me how that happened?
Abba: (laughs)

James: That was our speed bump, if you recall we heard the speed bump. ... So we were the only ones that had to do that, that's why you kept seeing our faces on the speed bump sign, and that was actually his church which was conspicuously placed throughout a bunch of roads going in the same direction. So it was a bit of a challenge, we knocked it out pretty quick. We were kind of hoping that, you know, maybe he'd put in a good prayer for us or at least he'd open up his collection box and the passport would be in it but obviously he wasn't a very good priest because neither one of those things happened (laughs).

ETonline: Unfortunately he couldn't materialize your passport for you (laughs). ... I also want to talk to you about another turning point in the race this season, another major, major event. What did you think when you watched the episode where the twins took your money and shared it with Trey and Lexi?
James: I was dumbfounded because we were convinced that we had lost the money. I mean just lost it, like it just slipped out of Abba's pocket along the way. So that was the first, I mean we kind of discovered that with the audience watching the show, you know. It was kind of weird to all of a sudden look at these people we'd been running around with and go, 'Oh my God, look at them!' But you know, my take on it, Abba's a little different, there's no rule against picking up somebody's money if it's fallen on the floor, you know, and part of the game is to kind of compete and get ahead and stuff like that. I don't know if it was a scrupulous thing but you know I don't hold really any animosity towards them. I think it was kind of, you know it's bad taste to have to be shown on TV doing something like that. And I was really surprised that Lexi jumped on board as well. You know, and to me it is kind of a part of the game, maybe not the most, [moral] part of the game. I don't know.

Abba: Yep, and as he said I don't totally buy into that kind of situation. I mean, I don't condone what happened. I think under the circumstances that we were the only people in there, it was a substantial amount of American money, and they knew it was, and so I'm disappointed, kind of shocked at Trey and Lexi. Not so shocked at the twins. But you know what, it happened to us, we didn't know that that had happened until we saw it on television that week. Previously going there we had been in a van as our cab and I had fallen asleep on the back bench and that's how I thought the money was lost. You know I wasn't going to accuse anybody because I didn't know that, and now, looking at it in hindsight, I just don't think that looking in the rearview mirror is the best way to go forward. So, you know, it happened and I think that you know I was very happy the way that we kind of dealt with it level-headed and--

James: It created a really great experience anyway, you know? Despite all that we did get back on track relatively quickly, so I mean it kind of [ended up being positive] in a strange way.

ETonline: Yeah, I thought it was pretty amazing that in a country like Bangladesh where there's clearly so much poverty, that you were able to replace that money with everyone being so generous.
Abba: Yeah. And you know what again if we had had the money, we would not have had that life experience, and I think that quite honestly for me, that day was probably one of my highlights of the whole race, you know? Because it's really like the generosity of strangers giving you something that, you have no chance of ever paying back, and it really is just like, why are you doing this, you know? And then it kind of makes you feel guilty about all the times that maybe you could've reached out your hand to somebody and you didn't, you know? And you're kind of like, God I feel somewhat terrible about myself here, but at least at the same time it's like there's these angels around us that are you know, kind of like -- wow.

Abba: I'll tend to look at it as, if that didn't happen that day we would have never had that experience, and you know again it wasn't something fatal, you know we said sort of through it that a lot of times you know you're gonna to make mistakes trying to stay away from the catastrophic ones, well we hit one of those (laughs), you know? But I think just going through life if you bend and don't break, you're probably better off. And I think that you know it was a nice gesture of the Bangladeshi people. You saw throughout the race, we had support of a lot of the locals. Everywhere we went with the children in Bangladesh, and the people helping us with the bamboo, and if you look there's always a circle around us that are sort of smiling and enjoying what it is that we're doing. And you know, I think that that's sort of a testament to James and I, and I hope anyway that that's why they were there, because they wanted to be with us. And we could respect their culture and their local customs, and you know, who they are, and I'd like to think that's some of the experience of us traveling, you know? That we're not scared of this stuff that seems so exotic and so foreign sometimes the first time that you see it.

Abba: And even the poverty that was there in Bangladesh, it's awful, you know? I mean the conditions that these people are living in -- they're there right now today and have the same conditions. But the spirit of the people in some of the poorest places that I've ever been has been the most wonderful spirits that I could find. Anywhere. And you know it's just I think a nice reminder sometimes and people use it as that positive kind of reminder, then you know what, it was a lesson that we learned, and hopefully everybody else could kind of benefit from it.

ETonline: Yeah definitely. Has it changed how you live your life daily now that you're back in any way?
James: You know what, I've always kind of had an open heart for people, and more so than a lot of people in my business. But this has kind of reinforced that. When we were stuck in Russia we were at the police station, and we were trying desperately to find our passport, we just couldn't make a connection language wise with the guy on duty, and we had to fill out a form. And so you saw this fellow come walking up and I asked him could you help translate. That guy stood there for hours. Hours. He had just come home from school, and he had his smoothie he was gonna sit down and eat, and he gave us all that time. And, I mean, I was amazed, I am forever thankful to him. It didn't get us the passports, nonetheless he gave us all that time to try and help us. I mean there are so many great people in the world and I think you know, we get the kind of the thing of being ugly Americans, you know that kind of strips off once you see the generosity of people with maybe a little less. I mean not so much [with this guy] but certainly Bangladesh. I came away with so much renewed positivity for people in general throughout the whole world.

Abba: I think we kind of came across as being kind of serious and it's really not the way that so much of this was, you know I think we had a whole lot of goofy like moments through things, and there were people that helped us. Again we wound up even going into the final pit stop, there was a really pretty girl that was jogging along, and it was kind of like I put out my thumb like hitchhiking and she laughed, and you know she walked up to the pit stop with us, and we kind of hugged her, and when we were in Moscow the first time again there was another very pretty woman that was dressed in this business suit and she was the one who kind of helped and walked with us, and got a cab for us. Going on to the one plane that we wound up getting on going into Russia we met these two women that were I think from Ireland or Scotland, and they got on the plane and we wound up going down the runway with them holding hands and like singing and dancing, and like you know. I mean it was just so much fun that like we had, and you know obviously they can't show everything but you know what it's like we enjoyed the experience.

Abba: And I think that's really something everybody should take [away, that] there's so much stuff in the world that you could just kind of unbelievably enjoy. Try to eat something different today. Say hello to somebody you've never said hello to before, you know just do something different, whatever it is. And I think that if you have that attitude, life really opens up and maybe these people were all around us all the time but you know what, it's like a clenched fist can't receive the gift. So if you open up your hand sometimes you might be surprised what falls into them. And not just when you need something. And, again, I think our experiences of traveling have sort of maybe taught us that slowly along the way, and maybe you saw some of that. I'd like to think that that's sort of how we live our life, and I think it was pretty accurately represented.

ETonline: One last question: Who do you think of the remaining pairs, who do you think will win?
Abba: I'm gonna go with Monster Truck.

James: Yeah me too.

ETonline: (laughs) You guys know they're not in it any more, right?
A: They're not? Who are you voting for?

J: They only let us watch TV for forty minutes at a time here in Russia.

A: Yeah we're still in Russia by the way. Did they tell you that?

Offline bc922

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Re: TAR 21: James LoMenzo & Mark “Abba” Abbattista "Friends"
« Reply #29 on: November 20, 2012, 09:14:11 PM »

Amazing Race's James and Abba: We'd Love to Know What the Cabbie Did with Our Bags
By Joyce Eng, TV GUIDE
Published 2:42 p.m., Monday, November 19, 2012

James and Abba's Amazing Race came to an end Sunday after two of the unluckiest legs in Race history. A week after Natalie and Nadiya kept their dropped $100, the rockers' cabbie in Moscow drove off with their bags and Abba's passport. They were saved by a non-elimination, but ultimately couldn't recover the lost passport. "We did everything we could," Abba tells "We went to all the police stations in the area with the hope that someone might have found it. We spent a long time inside Interpol. There was nothing else we could've done." So why did they leave their bags in the cab in the first place? Do they hold a grudge against the twins for keeping their money? Find out below.

What was it like being dead men walking in Moscow?
Abba: You're asking all these happy questions! [Laughs] Obviously, it wasn't the situation we wished we were in, but every problem poses the opportunity to find a solution. That was really it. As soon as the cabbie took off with our stuff, we realized the grimness of the situation, but at the same time, we knew we were not dead yet. I think that was something that came across.

Did you do any of the tasks? We just saw you in what looked like a hearse with a priest. Was that the Speed Bump?
James: [Laughs] Yeah, we did. We actually went to Interpol and a bunch of police stations. They only showed us at one. After we exhausted everything we could possible do - basically what it boiled down to was putting in a police report and hoping that someone would turn it in - we picked up back in the Race. Abba did the time zone Roadblock. He ripped through in about 20 minutes. We did the Speed Bump, which involved the priest.
Abba: That was our last rites.
James: [Laughs] Yeah, we had to get him to a church. We found him his way home before we found ours. Those are the ones we did.
Abba: A lot of people think, "Go to the embassy." But this happened on a Friday and a Saturday, and that Tuesday was the Russian Independence Day, so for the whole week, all the government places were closed, so it took a while before anyone could do anything for us. I don't think viewers realized that it was during the weekend and it was also a national holiday. ... After we reported to every place we could, you just realize there's nothing else you can do, so let's just move forward and do the tasks and have some fun. That's how we ended the day.

One of the top two Race rules is to always have your passport on you. Why did you leave it in the cab?
James: What's funny is, throughout the Race, I had told the twins at least twice, quite vehemently, "That's crazy! Never leave your bags in the cab." They were doing it with reckless abandon. In this case, when we got to the Trees of Love, we could see the cluebox from where we were parked. It was maybe 50 feet away. We figured, let's get out, get the clue and see if we still need the cab or if we need to go by foot or something. This was one of those things where it seemed to make sense to hold the driver, which we had been doing through the Race, since he was in our eyeshot. But when we got the clue, it was like, "You have to start the challenge." Abba started it and the rules say you can't be apart from your partner past a certain distance unless otherwise noted, so I couldn't go back to the cab by myself. We both had to go back. This probably transpired in five minutes. But it is always your responsibility to keep your stuff with you.

You only lost one passport along with your bags, right?
Abba: Yeah, it was all our bags, but my passport was in the backpack because when we came out of the pool, I didn't have a towel, so my clothes got wet. Because of that, I took my passport out of my pocket and put it in the backpack. It was just odd circumstances that had never happened to me before, and I hope to God never happens again. I'm going to have some synchronized swimming lessons this summer. I'm gonna sign up all the kids in my neighborhood now that I'm an experienced Russian Olympic synchronized swimmer. [Laughs] It just shows that no matter how prepared you are, not even going into the Race, but just daily life, you never know what's going to happen to you. This was catastrophic, but this experience also gave us something no one else on the Race experienced. No one else spent hours in police stations and saw what Russian jail cells looked like.

None of the past three teams who lost their passports went through anything like this.
Abba: Yeah, and they lost theirs. I think there is a difference and I want it on the record that ours was stolen. This was theft. Should we have left our bags in cab? In retrospect, no, but we knew we left them there, so we didn't lose anything. This guy just drove away with our stuff. We didn't even pay him.

Why did he drive off when you didn't pay him?
Abba: I think he realized that the bags were more expensive than whatever few dollars the fare was. The other thing is how the cabs work there. You're not allowed to get into gypsy cabs anywhere else, but Russia is set up where everybody is a gypsy cab. There are very, very few official cabs. These are just people who if you wave down, they'll come and pick you up, and that's their culture. This was just a private person who picked us up and gypped us. We couldn't call Black and White Cab Company or whatever and say, "Your cab took off with our stuff." It's not like that. He just got us. I just wonder what he was thinking. I have no idea what he did with our stuff. I'd love to know! I mean, he has no idea how he impacted our lives that day. It'll be interesting to know if he ever finds out what he did.

How surprised were you that it was a non-elimination leg and you were still in the Race, even though you're supposed to have your passport when you check in?
James: That was strange because on one hand, you're elated, and the other, you realize how hopeless the situation is. We got lucky that the next leg was still in Moscow and we didn't have to fly. It felt good to grasp onto that for a moment. We had conquered something similarly when we lost our money on the last leg in Bangladesh. It was like, "Well, can we do this twice?" [Laughs]

Did you not know the twins took your money until the episode aired?
Abba: Yup. I saw it when I saw the commercial. It was news to me. Until we saw the episode, we didn't know what happened. We don't see it until the public sees it. It's interesting because people ask, "What's your favorite part of the Race?" And they don't realize that, quite honestly, it's not over for us yet. Although we know the ending and what we did, we don't know what anybody else did or said. Seeing even the Russian dancing Detour last night - we had no idea what that was. That was the first time we saw it. Each week as you watch, it opens a new experience for yourself. I got some e-mails from some of the other teams this morning, saying, "We had no idea that happened to you guys."

They just saw that you had a Speed Bump.
Abba: Yeah, and one of the Chippendales was talking about it in a deleted scene, where they commented on our picture on the Speed Bump. "How did they come in last when we left them at the first clue?" And they thought we must've spent 12 hours in the pool. [Laughs] They had no idea.

Are you upset the twins didn't give the money back to you?
James: I can't really fault them for not giving it back to us. We thought we lost it, which we did, but we didn't know it was found until the episode. They didn't steal it from our bags. We accidentally lost it, had no idea where we lost it, and they found it. There's no rule about finding money and having to give it back to people. It was unpleasant for us, but they didn't violate any rules. [Laughs] The thing that amazes me about The Amazing Race, for lack of a better word, is what you see is what you get. When [Kaylani lost her] passport at a gas station one season and some good Samaritan returned it to her, I thought, "Oh, come on! The producers set that up." I can tell you firsthand that there is no interference. The producers do a great job with the show because they really pull the story together as it happens. They don't interfere, but just monitor the rules, which is a great thing for the audience because the show has a lot of integrity. I'd like to think that comes through when you watch it.
Abba: If you want to move forward in your life, you don't drive just looking through the rearview mirror. As far as the money, we didn't know what happened at the time. I think we did a commendable job keeping our wits. I was really proud of how James dealt with me. I was ashamed and embarrassed and guilty. I thought I lost the money and I did drop it. I was really surprised he didn't blast into me because I thought I deserved it. I think a lot of it had to do with our friendship. He said to me, "What am I going to do? Yell at you? Is that going to make you feel better? We have a problem, so let's figure it out." I think our friendship and support was apparent. I take pride that he's my friend and my partner on this. What happened happened.

What are you up to now?
James: Up to no good!
Abba: James shaved his head.
James: [Laughs] Yeah, we thought we'd shave our heads in solidarity for all those who had to do it on the show.
Abba: Well, there were only two. And both teams already had a bald person on the team. That's not fair.

That's why they did it. It's half a Fast Forward.
Abba: Yeah, it's half a challenge! We're enjoying the rest of the season. We've got Thanksgiving coming up and there's sort of a transition of coming back. We've both got families and children, and some other teams don't, so I think for us going away might've been a different emotional kind of thing, saying goodbye to our wives and children for a month. I'm very thankful to my family for doing all the things that they did to allow this to happen in my life and I really appreciate it. We won two trips. When I left, my son said, "Daddy, I just want you to win a trip." And when we won, I was like, "Dude, I got one for ya!" There are so many people who are involved in this that you don't see on TV.

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Re: TAR 21: James LoMenzo & Mark “Abba” Abbattista "Friends"
« Reply #30 on: November 20, 2012, 09:16:47 PM »

Exclusive: James LoMenzo and Mark "Abba" Abbattista talk 'The Amazing Race' (Part 1)

By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 11/19/2012

James LoMenzo and Mark "Abba" Abbattista were eliminated from The Amazing Race during Sunday night's broadcast of the CBS reality competition's 21st season.

The "Friends" team became the sixth team eliminated from the around-the-world competition after they arrived at the Race's eighth Pit Stop at Sokolniki Park's public performance pavilion in Moscow, Russia in last place. The pair's primary reason for finishing in last place appeared to be because they were forced to waste most of their time during the leg trying to find their stolen bags and retrieve Abba's passport in order to continue on, but they failed to get their hands on both of them.

In an exclusive interview with Reality TV World on Monday, James and Abba talked about their The Amazing Race experience.

Below is the first half of James' and Abba's interview. Check back with Reality TV World on Tuesday for the concluding portion.

Reality TV World: Do you have any idea how long you guys spent looking for Abba's passport?

Mark "Abba" Abbattista: That night, when we checked in initially with [The Amazing Race host Phil Keoghan], we had been sort of given the opportunity, like, "Listen, you can either quit or, because there's still teams out running there, technically, you're still in the Race. So what do you want to do?"

And I was like, "Well, that was an easy choice." So we wound up going and we went to kind of a big hotel chain to a concierge, we had police come in, we tried to fill out police reports -- it was a crazy long night.

And then the next day was kind of the same thing, where we had been inside of Interpol, we had been to several different police stations, we were filling out with the hope that maybe this guy got [feeling] guilty and threw the bag out a window somewhere and maybe just realized that there wasn't much in there or somebody found it -- who knew.

These were all kind of hopes, but that's all we had at that point. (Laughs) So we tried our best, and what happened was too that it was a Friday and a Saturday night, and the Tuesday was the Russian Independence Day. So because of the holiday, all the Russian government buildings were also closed that week.

We happened to run into something else, so it was just bad timing all around. So basically, it was our whole time. And then even afterwards, when we were eliminated, we still had to get home. I mean, this wasn't just a TV show. This was real life.

We had to get out of Russia, so we ended up going to the U.S. Embassy, it took a couple days to get a passport, and then we also had to go and get a Russian visa to exit the country. And the Russian Democratic system is not very flexible, so through a lot of pounding and perseverance, it was about six days before we got the visa.

Reality TV World: Could you explain why you couldn't check in without having both passports when you first got to the Pit Stop in fourth place but then were able to check in later? Is there a rule about that or could you at least talk about what explanation you were given?

Mark "Abba" Abbattista: I can't explain that, and it was kind of weird because just this morning I was reading something online, and somebody asked that same question, like, "How come they were able to -- if the passport didn't make a difference when they came in on the final leg, why did it make a difference when they came in fourth?"

And you know what? I never even really thought about it until I read it. So no, I have no explanation. Looking back, maybe we should've been entitled to come in fourth. That might've changed the next day and our ability to maybe do something. I don't think so, I mean, I don't think that it had an impact. But that I can't answer. I don't know!

Reality TV World: Do you know whether the fact the next leg was taking place in the same country or the fact that the leg was a non-elimination was why you were allowed to check in and survive? Because when the same thing happened back in Season 15 with Zev Glassenberg and Justin Kanew lost his passport, and they weren't allowed to check in at all. They were immediately disqualified.

Mark "Abba" Abbattista: Yeah, but that was also because they had movement the next day. So because we had the second leg in Russia, we did not have a need for the passport on that first leg. Obviously we needed it for the second leg, and that was the cause for the disqualification. We couldn't move on. But we didn't need a passport to end that first leg.

James LoMenzo: Right, so theoretically when you check in and the next leg goes to a different country, I mean factually, then you have to have your passport to move on. So that's why we got that extra day out of it.

Reality TV World: Just to clarify a little bit, is it normal for Racers to leave their bags in a cab maybe because it tends to be the safe or easiest thing to do or was that just a case for you guys in which you meant to take them with you but forgot them? Because it seems like you're always taking a risk that your cab might take off even with your belongings inside.

James LoMenzo: Beth, that was a totally calculated risk. Throughout the whole Race, and I said this before, I kept telling [Natalie and Nadiya Anderson], "Look girls, you can't" -- because they kept leaving their bags in their cabs and made the cabs wait. So I said, "Listen, that's a bad idea. You never know if they're going to take off."

So clearly I was aware of that. When we got to the bridge with the "trees of love," we had found the clue box. We assumed that we were going to grab the clue and then get right back in and go. We had such a tough time that day getting cabs that we thought we were just going to grab the thing -- grab the clue and go.

So then when it turned out the challenge was taking place right there and we took an extra minute to set up the challenge, then we were like, "Oh jeeze, okay, get the cab and tell him to wait. Whatever."

And by that time, he had already gone. So, it was really weird because there was a moment when I was about to step out of the cab and grab my bag and I realized that Abba's bag was in the trunk, and so I was just like, "Ahh, we'll just grab the clue and then we'll come back."

So it was one of those fast decisions. It wasn't like -- it wasn't something that I would recommend anybody do during the Race. And again, I cautioned other people...

Mark "Abba" Abbattista: I'm going to go back and take a look at this, because I bet every single team did exactly that. Because the clue box was only like 50 feet away from the cab. You could see it very clearly. We had not paid the cab, and as soon as we got out of the car, he drove away. It was a conscious act and intent to steal our bag.

And that was the only time that had ever happened and we had ever left our bags. So I mean, it was just an odd situation. Why was my passport in the bag? Because we had come out of the pool. There were towels in the room with the pool but not in the locker room.

And when I came into the locker room, I didn't have a towel and all my clothes were soaking wet and I had my passport in my pocket, took it out, put it in the bag -- otherwise, it never would have been in the bag, and we would've been able to move forward. So it was just a very unfortunate sort of string of circumstances that really just kind of fell into a bad way for us that day.

But we got a six-day all-expense paid trip out of it to Moscow. Had we won the leg, we would've been getting the same trip, and so that's kind of what we view it as.

Reality TV World: Speaking of unfortunate incidents, during a prior leg of the Race, you guys accidentally dropped $100 and Natalie and Nadiya picked it up and stole it. They even admitted during the episode they knew it was yours, so what was your reaction when you found out it was actually another team who took your money?

Mark "Abba" Abbattista: Yeah, we found out by watching it that night on television. We saw it two days before or whatever on a commercial, and that was sort of news to us what had happened.

So you know, I wish it didn't happen from their point of view. I wish that they had made a better decision. We liked both of those teams. [Trey Wier and Alexis "Lexi" Beerman], it was pretty shocking that they went along and did that -- [split the money with the twins].

But you know what? We used it as sort of an opportunity to go, "Hey, you know what? We had a problem here." Looking back at it, the rearview mirror is probably not kind of the way that you learn how to drive -- by looking at pictures of car crashes -- it's too late at that point to make a decision. But we went about it level-headed.

We thought, "Okay, here's this problem." And we very successfully corrected that problem, and we had a wonderful day there with the generosity of these people in Bangladesh, and no other team go to experience the day that we had. And that was kind of the beauty of it. And if there was some kind of almost like a little bit of a "haha"-kind of vengeance, it was that we would have beaten that team anyway.

We beat the twins that day, you know? So yeah, you know, we got hit with a lemon and we made lemonade out of it that day. The next day we got hit with another lemon (laughs) -- We didn't have any water that day though. We just got hit with lemons. (Laughs) I don't know.

James LoMenzo: We made smoothies the next day. (Laughs)

Reality TV World: When I recently talked to Rob French and Kelley Carrington-French, they said that Natalie and Nadiya -- if not Trey and Lexi as well -- should've received a penalty of some kind for stealing your money -- maybe even going as far as eliminating them from the Race. Do you have any thoughts on that or what kind of penalty they should've gotten, if anything at all?

James LoMenzo: They should've been struck with a wet noodle. They didn't break any of the rules as they're written before the game. I mean, they basically picked up our money off the floor. It's more of a moral question then, because I'm sure production would've been right on that, you know?

Mark "Abba" Abbattista: There are rules that say they're not allowed to steal or vandalize any of the other teams' property. And apparently, the Race made a decision that this wasn't technically stealing, you know? And we were the only people in the room. There were six of us there and four of them were huddled around kind of dancing with money that they found.

It was a lot of U.S. dollars, and if we had been at [a] McDonalds, I think I would've felt a little differently about it -- [or a] Dunkin' Donuts I think they made a bad decision. I think that the public outcry sort of happened after that. It's just kind of the result of their actions, and you know what? Let them deal with it. And we didn't do that, so you know, we'll stay on the high road.

Above is the first half of James' and Abba's interview. Check back with Reality TV World soon for the concluding portion.

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Re: TAR 21: James LoMenzo & Mark “Abba” Abbattista "Friends"
« Reply #31 on: November 20, 2012, 09:19:15 PM »

Exclusive: James LoMenzo and Mark "Abba" Abbattista talk 'The Amazing Race' (Part 2)

By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 11/20/2012

James LoMenzo and Mark "Abba" Abbattista were eliminated from The Amazing Race during Sunday night's broadcast of the CBS reality competition's 21st season.
The "Friends" team became the sixth team eliminated from the around-the-world competition after they arrived at the Race's eighth Pit Stop at Sokolniki Park's public performance pavilion in Moscow, Russia in last place. The pair's primary reason for finishing in last place appeared to be because they were forced to waste most of their time during the leg trying to find their stolen bags and retrieve Abba's passport in order to continue on, but they failed to get their hands on both of them.

In an exclusive interview with Reality TV World on Monday, James and Abba talked about their The Amazing Race experience.
Below is the concluding portion of James' and Abba's interview. Click here to read the first half.

Reality TV World: Referring to how Natalie Anderson and Nadiya Anderson had stolen your $100 cash when they found it, what would you have done if you were in their shoes and discovered another team's lost money? Would you have returned it?

Mark "Abba" Abbattista: Yeah, I think that, again, if you found money on the street somewhere and it was local money, I think that the answer would be different. But we were in a room, in a travel agency, and we were the only ones there and it was really an exorbitant amount of U.S. dollars in that society.

So you knew it was somebody's, and I just kind of think that the decision they made -- again, I can try to understand it, but I think they made a bad one, you know? It's not, I don't think, something we would've done. I hope not anyway, because again, you are on-camera and people are watching you.

Not that that makes it any different. I just think the camera, if you're a good person, it magnifies it. Well, I shouldn't say that. When you do a good thing, it's magnified. And when you do a bad thing, it's also magnified.

Reality TV World: Obviously you guys got kind of lucky because you were right near the financial district when you lost the $100, but were you still shocked you were able to gather all that money back, especially as quickly as you managed to?

James LoMenzo: We were floored. Floored. We didn't expect it was going to be -- it wasn't incredibly easy, but we didn't expect it to come to us like it did. It was merely, we were just kind of reaching out to people and asking them... One of the fellas, it almost looked like he was giving us the money, but what he had actually done was he held a cab for us.

It was actually a very funny moment because the cab he held for us, the guy refused to take us. So he made this big speech the guy, he was like, "These are guests in our country! We have to show them that we treat them as guests." And then the guy goes, "But my cab is broken." And he goes, "I don't believe you." So then the guy got out of the car and in fact, his back bumper practically fell off. (Laughs)

Mark "Abba" Abbattista: There was no floor in the backseat either. (Laughs) He said, "I'd take them but my car is broken!" And the guy was like, "I don't believe it!" I thought they were like going to get in a fight, you know? And he was like, "There's no floor!" And I was like, "Thanks anyway. We'll take the next one."

James LoMenzo: But then the guy found us a good cab and he was really representing on behalf of everyone in Bangladesh. It was beautiful. We had a great time trying to find our way out of that problem.

Mark "Abba" Abbattista: That was also a great time in retrospect, because that was happening and it was 110 degrees and life was pretty miserable, you know? But it was one of those things where you're like, "Okay, you know what? Today is maybe not going our way, but it's not over yet."

And I think that that was just sort of -- we really did try to make the best out of whatever little we had. And it was pretty unbelievable that the people there were as generous as they were with the little that they had.

Reality TV World: During last night's episode, we saw you had to complete a Speed Bump task but viewers didn't get to see anything between that moment and when you got eliminated. What was the Speed Bump task and how long did it take you to complete it?

Mark "Abba" Abbattista: James had to drink a milkshake through a straw in his nose.

James LoMenzo: It was pretty hard to do.

Reality TV World: What?! (Laughs)

Mark "Abba" Abbattista: (Laughs)

James LoMenzo: No, we had to find the church. We were sitting in a limo and we had to direct the guy -- obviously in an English, Russian translation -- where to go directly to this church and not make too many wrong turns because there were a lot of one-way streets.

It was around the university, so it could've gone really badly. We were kind of hoping when we showed up to the church that the guy would like pull our passport out of the contribution box or something.

What you didn't see was we got back and we did actually complete one more task. Abba took on the "time zone" challenge. He just whizzed through it. It was shocking. I wish they had -- were able to show that last night, because I mean, he was probably quicker than [Brent Ridge], I believe.

We sat there for maybe -- I think we went through five tries and then we were on our way. So we were hell-bent on completing the course whether we were winning or losing -- passports or not. We thought it was very important to finish up while we were there.

Reality TV World: So did you also do the Detour task as well or just the "time zone" Roadblock you just mentioned?

Mark "Abba" Abbattista: No, the Detour -- by that time, because this was well into the second day, I don't think that those tasks were available to us anymore. Because we had spent most of the day running all over town to the police station and all that.

James LoMenzo: Yeah, we never did the Detour.

Reality TV World: While you guys were on the show, which teams did you believe were your toughest competition and why?

James LoMenzo: That kept changing week by week, so it's really hard to call that one. You know, we kind of didn't feel like -- some of the teams we didn't feel like were our biggest competition, like the monster truck guy. We thought he was kind of weighing himself down with the bags they were carrying and stuff like that -- and maybe that isn't the best decision.

There were a couple teams like that where you kind of look at them and go, "Well, I don't think they're really going to keep up with us." But at the same time, we didn't underestimate anybody just because that would make us weaker, actually. So we kind of gave everybody the best props.

Reality TV World: Abbie Ginsberg and Ryan Danz have obviously been coming across as an extremely competitive team this season. So considering the last two legs, were you guys surprised they actually stay with Josh Kilmer-Purcell and Brent and wanted to race with them and wait for them in certain tasks? What was your reaction to all that?

James LoMenzo: They're just beautiful, lovely people, and we'd expect no less from them. (Laughs) I wonder how much of that was purely out of necessity and I wonder how much of that might have been because of just Josh and Brent.

I don't know. I guess what happens when you're in those situations, it's best to keep people close to you, you know? I think that's the old mafia rule, right? Keep your enemies closer.

Mark "Abba" Abbattista: I think Josh and Brent, they played everything with, again, a certain maturity and class to them. They were very kind of open with people. Abbie and Ryan came at this thing from a whole different kind of way -- not just what you see on TV. That's what was really happening there. So yeah, I was actually a little bit surprised that they held out and waited for them.

I wasn't sure when I first saw it if it was just kind of some ploy to kind of go, "Well, we don't want them" -- like look, you're the last two teams. What are you going to do? You're going to race each other? Somewhere along the way, you're going to have to break that.

So you know, I mean, in a foot race, I think I would take, again, Abbie and Ryan over the other two. And I think they would probably say that too. So I was kind of expecting sort of some little kind of last minute race to the mat kind of thing. So I was a little surprised by it, but you know, I don't think surprises mean too much in this Race because it changes everyday.

Reality TV World: Zev Glassenberg and Justin Kanew ended up making it on an All-stars edition after being eliminated in their first The Amazing Race season for a similar passport issue as you guys had? Would you guys ever be interested in doing something like that?

Mark "Abba" Abbattista: Right now, I wouldn't even change. I'd grab my passport. That's the one thing I would do. (Laughs)

Reality TV World: And keep it on you at all times? (Laughs)

Mark "Abba" Abbattista: You know, I've kept it on me my entire life up until now! -- at all times. I think it would be an honor if we were asked. I think that the response we received back from people watching -- the fans of the show -- has been wonderful for us. It's nice to feel appreciated and supported like that. Obviously we think this is the best show on television.

It's got the hardware -- the Emmys -- to prove it. After being there and watching the way that it's put together, it's really an honor. It's really a top-shelf unbelievable production with how this television show comes about. To be asked back, I think it would certainly provide us an opportunity to try and kind of write something that kind of happened to us.

And also, I think the fact that we didn't feel like we were beaten by another team sort of leaves a little bit of unfinished business that I think we might have that the other teams may not. So again, if it happens, we'd love to do that. And yeah, go knock on CBS and keep telling them you want us. (Laughs)

James LoMenzo: We definitely didn't go out on a positive in this case, so we'd definitely like to get back to where we were. (Laughs)

Reality TV World: How were you guys cast on The Amazing Race? How did you end up on the show?

James LoMenzo: We did it like everyone else. We submitted a video tape and some information and it was that simple. We just decided to do it. It's that simple -- just like everybody else gets.

Mark "Abba" Abbattista: We supplied the online application. I live in Colorado, and in Denver, there was apparently an open casting call here -- which I didn't even know about. But you know what? Yeah, we just -- we went through the application process like everybody else and for all the people that always sort of say, "How do we get on?" It's one word -- apply!

I think that probably the fact of our occupations are somewhat kind of a novelty, the way that we look with the long hair, things like that -- again, I think we made a nice team. We were something different obviously to look at.

I think our stories of how we got to this point in life hopefully are kind of interesting to people, and I think our friendship is real. And I think everyone saw that. I think we've lived pretty adventurous, interesting lives up to this point. And I don't see that changing. It's only going to get better.

Above is the concluding portion of James' and Abba's interview.

Offline serendipity

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Re: TAR 21: James LoMenzo & Mark “Abba” Abbattista "Friends"
« Reply #32 on: November 20, 2012, 10:29:15 PM »
After reading their interviews I really hope to see them in All Stars.  They are very funny and are always so positive!   :hrt:

To me, the producers owe them for not penalizing Natalie/Nadiya of stealing and that's already a valid reason to invite them racing again!

Online Alenaveda

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Re: TAR 21: James LoMenzo & Mark “Abba” Abbattista "Friends"
« Reply #33 on: November 21, 2012, 04:30:40 PM »
James LoMenzo ‏@BassiusMaximus

Thanks for all your good wishes for us on The Amazing Race, It was a grand adventure! Fun to share it! More stuff ahead, stay tuned!

11:27 am - 21 nov 12
"When you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains--however improbable--must be the truth." --Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

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Offline ovalorange

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Re: TAR 21: James LoMenzo & Mark “Abba” Abbattista "Friends"
« Reply #34 on: November 22, 2012, 04:55:08 AM »
Such a bummer to see them go, especially like that. I was just starting to really like them :(

Offline Topita

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Re: TAR 21: James LoMenzo & Mark “Abba” Abbattista "Friends"
« Reply #35 on: November 23, 2012, 08:27:40 PM »
Such a bummer to see them go, especially like that. I was just starting to really like them :(
Maybe that's because they got so little screen time?  :duno:
I suspect as viewers we'd have gotten more attached and in their 'camp' if they had gotten more airtime.
As the twins are still in it, that was probably deliberate, I think.  :duno:

At any rate, depending on how the next few series go ito potential allstars, I would personally definitely be quite happy to see these two back in such a series provided there'll be another one.  :yess:

I think they deserve another chance, they were good and solid racers and quite entertaining too imo.  :lol:

ETA: I think they already got the edit that leaves this open for that UB-return possibility..  :lol:
I guess it all boils down to the next couple of series and their availability for an AllStar version..
But I really think this isn't the last we'll see of this team, somehow.  :lol:
« Last Edit: November 23, 2012, 08:41:08 PM by Topita »
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Offline Glamazon Racer

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Re: TAR 21: James LoMenzo & Mark “Abba” Abbattista "Friends"
« Reply #36 on: November 27, 2012, 07:24:57 AM »
Would not object to seeing a return for these two either. :hearts: They were definitely one of my favourite teams for sure! :hearts:
1. Don't pick up the phone - You know he's only calling 'cause he's drunk and alone.
2. Don't let him in - You have to kick him out again.
3. Don't be his friend - You know you're gonna wake up in his bed in the morning.
And if you're under him, you ain't gettin' over him. ♥

Offline Abba TAR 21

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Abba - Reality Rally
« Reply #37 on: January 22, 2013, 06:22:43 PM »
Hi everybody! 

Thank you sooo much for all your kind words and support for James and I throughout the season - we super appreciate it!

I will be attending the Reality Rally in Temcula, CA April 5-7.  It's a charity event for breast cancer sponsored by Gillian Larson from Survivor that will have 100+ reality "stars" from The Amazing Race, Survivor, Big Brother, Bachelor/ette, etc. and feature a golf tournament, red carpet dinner and an Amazing Race game.  If you are in the area and can attend I look forward to meeting you.

Additionally, money is raised through auctions (I will be auctioning off my custom made leg brace which I wore throughout my healing process of two broken legs suffered on the show - yup, that's why I was running like that!  I'll sign it, write you a letter and include pictures of me wearing it in my race garb (all that remains after the theft in Russia  :'()) and donations. 

I'd personally like to ask you all to please support this great cause - breast cancer effects both men and women and needs to be erased!

Please follow the link to my bio and if possible please donate.  All money raised goes to providing free mammograms so even a few dollars helps.   

Thank you so much and feel free to correspond. :luvya:


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Re: TAR 21: James LoMenzo & Mark “Abba” Abbattista "Friends"
« Reply #38 on: January 22, 2013, 06:34:12 PM »
 :hello2: Abba, and  :bigwelcome to the RFF.
"When you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains--however improbable--must be the truth." --Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

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Offline Bwils927

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Re: TAR 21: James LoMenzo & Mark “Abba” Abbattista "Friends"
« Reply #39 on: January 22, 2013, 06:53:48 PM »
 :hello2:Abba  :wel2 to RFF. I was one a big fan, I wanted you in the final 3 with Trey/Lexi and Jaymes/James!
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Re: TAR 21: James LoMenzo & Mark “Abba” Abbattista "Friends"
« Reply #40 on: January 22, 2013, 07:06:19 PM »
 :welcome2: Abba!!
It is a true joy to have you here, and hopefully we can all support your cause! You and James touched a lot of our hearts!
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Offline Declive

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Re: TAR 21: James LoMenzo & Mark “Abba” Abbattista "Friends"
« Reply #41 on: January 24, 2013, 07:52:42 PM »

Hi Man! I'm your biggest fan in RFF , believe me!!!  :hearts: :hearts: :hearts: :hearts:
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Offline Felix

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Re: TAR 21: James LoMenzo & Mark “Abba” Abbattista "Friends"
« Reply #42 on: January 24, 2013, 09:41:30 PM »
WELCOME ABBA!  :hello2:

I'm a big fan of you and James,you're one of my top 5 teams! :conf: :conf: :conf:

I hope you have a chance to come back in a future All-Stars Season!

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Re: TAR 21: James LoMenzo & Mark “Abba” Abbattista "Friends"
« Reply #43 on: January 25, 2013, 05:04:59 AM »
 :hello2: James & Abba. Loved you guys! Hope you appear on the next All-Stars and don't get your money stolen or lose your passport this time!!!

PS: What exactly happened with the money thing?

Offline Leafsfan

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Re: TAR 21: James LoMenzo & Mark “Abba” Abbattista "Friends"
« Reply #44 on: December 06, 2013, 04:09:40 PM »
What’s it like to be a contestant on The Amazing Race?
In entertainment, an awful lot happens behind closed doors, from canceling TV shows to organizing music festival lineups. While the public sees the end product on TVs, movie screens, or radio dials, they don’t see what it took to get there. In Expert Witness, The A.V. Club talks to industry insiders about the actual business of entertainment in hopes of shedding some light on how the pop-culture sausage gets made.

Since its launch in 2001, The Amazing Race has been widely considered the Cadillac of American reality shows. The globetrotting game has won an armload of Primetime Emmys, including nine for Outstanding Reality-Competition Program. The show, currently in its 23rd season, has even birthed international versions, including The Amazing Race Asia, The Amazing Race Norge, and HaMerotz LaMillion, the latter from Israel. Considering the show’s grand scale, it should come as no surprise that, behind the scenes, the production is a well-oiled machine. Still, viewers at home get thrills from watching contestants race from unknown place to unknown place, having to navigate with just the clothes on their backs and some gimmicky clues. So what’s it actually like for those contestants, all of whom are spending months at a time racing around the world hoping to win a million dollars? The A.V. Club talked to Mark “Abba” Abbattista about his appearance on the show’s 21st season. Turns out running from China to Indonesia to Turkey to Russia on relatively little sleep and nursing two broken legs doesn’t actually feel all that amazing.

The A.V. Club: How did you end up on the show?

Mark Abbattista: My partner, James LoMenzo, and I wound up applying; we weren’t recruited. In fact, I didn’t even know about recruiting until I wound up getting involved, which is disappointing because the people who want to get involved should have the first right to get on the show. I understand the practicality of casting, and that sometimes the person you need to come through the door doesn’t come through the door, but I feel more honor because I was an applicant.

Anyway, we were running through an airport in Poland and I turned to him and said, “Hey, you ever watch The Amazing Race? We should apply for that.” It was sort of a “ha-ha” moment until we started thinking about the skill sets we had. We’d both traveled around the world. He’d been in bands like Megadeth and White Lion and Ozzy Osbourne. He had a 30-year career as a touring musician, and I’m a music lawyer, so I go out with a lot of my clients. I also travel extensively myself so we started thinking about, “Well, I’ve been in 500 airports and you’ve been in 500 different airports and I’ve been in 70 countries and you’ve been in 70 different countries and our bodies have seen bacteria in Asia and South America. We’re set up differently than any other team in the history of the race.”

So that’s where the idea came from. We ended up making a pretty funny video at 3 a.m. during this trip I made out to L.A. I was in the studio and we just let it roll. I thought it was great and submitted it and got called back and ended up going through the regular audition process.

AVC: What happened then?

MA: I think they get a hundred million applications and go through them all quickly and pick the ones that initially look good or bring attention to themselves in odd ways. Then they keep whittling down the astronomical numbers of people that apply. We wound up out in L.A. doing a bunch of interviews. You’re always being filtered through to the next level. You’re always jumping through hoops, but the whole time it’s not like, “You’re on the show,” it’s that you’re in consideration. You’re in the dark for most of it.

And then we got a call several days before we left, “Okay, you’re going to L.A. to start,” and that was it. I got dropped off at the airport and it was like, “Okay, where are you going?” “I don’t know.” “When are you coming home?” “I don’t know.” And that was even the way I ended up coming home. I called at midnight saying, “I’ve got a flight coming in at 7 p.m. tomorrow at the airport. Come pick me up.”

It’s a very big stress, especially for people who have families and children and normal kinds of jobs. If you’re 20 and coming out of college and don’t have any responsibilities, it’s really easy to leave. But even on the last season, the roller-derby moms, Beth and Mona, they both have three children. You take mom out of two different households and it’s very interesting to think about dad, who doesn’t typically make the lunches for the kids or do the laundry and do the homework and drive them to school. It changes the family dynamic for some people in such a drastic way. And even the one with the ER doctors, they’ve got five or six kids and you took mom and dad out of the equation. So now you have grandma and grandpa and aunts and uncles and friends having to get these kids to school and dressed and do logistical things like walking the dog. I don’t think a lot of people realize the impact that it has on these peripheral people. It’s harder to go away because if you have kids, you’re going to bed at night thinking about your kids. If you’re in college, you’re thinking about your fraternity brothers like, “Bro! Dude!” Having gone through it and seeing this last season, I’m a little more sensitive to those people because I relate to them and I understand it more, whereas before I never thought about it. I never thought about kids or what you had to do to get there.

AVC: Or if you can get time off your job.

MA: Right. You can’t say you’re going on the show, either. Imagine going into work and saying, “Hey boss, can I have some time off of work?” “Sure. How long?” “I don’t know.” “When do you want to get off?” “I don’t know.” “When are you coming home?” “I’m not sure.” “Well, what are you doing?” “I don’t know.” “Are you traveling?” “I think so.” “Where are you going?” “I don’t know.” “Are you on drugs? We should fire you.”

The people you see on these shows tend to be younger couples that aren’t established in family and work situations, so it’s easier for them to disappear. Or you see the older couples that are either retired or have a seasonal job or they’re self-employed and they can redo their schedule. James and I are perfect examples of that.

AVC: How long does the actual taping take?

MA: The whole thing, when we were away, was like a month. We ended up running for like three weeks when we were actually taping, and then there’s the logistics of going around the world. We’re moving all the time. We were never in one place, and it’s not just us; it’s a tremendous amount of production people. There may be 100 people on the road with us, and the cost of keeping all these people out on a daily basis has to be ridiculous. That’s why you’re never sitting around. If you are, you’re just costing money and not getting anything back for it. And that’s Phil [Keoghan, the host] and Bertram [Van Munster] and Elise [Doganieri, the creators]—they’re all out there with us. They’re road warriors, too.

AVC: Their hotels might be nicer than where you guys stay.

MA: We’re all in the same hotels. Actually, most of the times after the legs, we ate with the crew. It’s kind of like you’re traveling as a family. You’re not in the rooms with each other, but Phil and Bertram and Elise, it’s their show and they’re out there with you. It makes you respect them because you’re like, “God, Bertram is seventysomething and the guy is unbelievable.” He’s had a fascinating life, and he’s not phoning it in. He’s out here directing these episodes with you, he’s on the red-eye flights with you, and he’s a tough son of a bitch. And he doesn’t have to do that, but the pride in his show is what brings him out there. Elise is his wife and they have a small child and, again, they make it happen. So, hats off to them.

The Amazing Race is one of the most interesting shows on television in terms of putting it together. You’re not on a soundstage. You don’t drive your car and park in your spot and walk there. You don’t have six cameras, and everything is moving all the time. You’re in rain and sand storms and in places where sound is bad and lighting is bad. What they do to bring the world into your living room is truly the amazing part. It’s phenomenal.

AVC: There are so many moving parts on the show.

MA: The only non-moving part is really Phil at a pit stop because that’s the only place you know will be where it’s supposed to be. Everything else is completely variable. If they know there’s one flight that everybody is going to get on, but one team has a flat and can’t get on that flight, think about it. Production has to be like, “Hold on, we have to wait till tomorrow.” The fact that everyone stayed together—even though some of that is manipulated with flights and those early-morning start times and stuff—it’s pretty fascinating.

AVC: Let’s go back. You get the call that you’re going to be on and you have to leave in a couple of days. Do they tell you what kind of bags to bring? Do you have to get shots? What don’t we see?

MA: They don’t tell you what to bring. What they do is give you a list of what you can’t bring. If you want to bring your anvil collection and carry it around on your back, good luck to you. Nothing is supplied to you. Whatever clothes you choose to wear, you pick out. There are some limitations of what you can’t wear, like they’d have to clear the rights for you to be able to wear logos.

We had someone on our season with three pairs of sneakers in their bag. That’s not something I recommend. When I saw that I almost broke out laughing. James and I ended up going out with the lightest bags ever in the history of the race. Mine ended up being under 10 pounds. But I do a lot of hiking and climbing and camping, so I was familiar with all of this gear. That was sort of a big advantage, I thought. There’s a difference between having weight on your back for this period of time while you’re running, with the weight of the pounding on your back and your hips and your knees and your feet and your spine and everything else over the course of running around the world. Now, weirdly, after taking that stance, I was the guy who winds up with two broken legs, and I don’t know if the weight had anything to do with that.

AVC: How did you end up with two broken legs?

MA: I ended up breaking both legs on the race, so if you saw the season, you saw me limping around. I don’t normally look like an 85-year-old man with a diaper on. It’s kind of embarrassing to look at, and that story never really came out on the air. The right leg happened the first day we were in Shanghai, China. We were running into the pit stop and James ran down these stairs. I stepped, pivoted, and felt something pop. I thought I tweaked something. I went back to the hotel that night and got some ice on it and woke up the next day and was like, “Oh my God, I can’t move my leg.” Still, there’s so much adrenaline going on that I did my best to try and massage it and stretch it out a little and put it in the hot tub to kind of loosen it up, and we went out the next day.

For the other leg, you don’t see the fall on air, but you see me coming out from behind a bus. I stepped off this sidewalk in Bangladesh and the whole thing collapsed. I fell through the sidewalk and into this big monsoon gutter. Three-quarters of my calf was in this human filth that was raw and disgusting. I wound up landing with my left leg underneath me. I got out and they show this guy pouring water on my legs because it’s literally human ****. There’s a part in the cab where I’m rubbing hand sanitizer on my leg because this stuff got into my shoe, and it was soaking wet. I couldn’t get my clothes off. I went on a game show, but I didn’t go there to die.

So I got questioned a little bit about that and they were saying, “Are you sure you’re not overdoing it?” Amy and Daniel were on my season, and Amy was the double-amputee snowboarder, and I thought, “There’s a person out here with no legs, no kidney, and no spleen because of bacteria, so I don’t think I’m overdoing it.” Things happen when you expose yourself in these crazy places around the world, so I was really nervous about that.

I thought I had torn the meniscus in both legs. It was awful. I ran through this whole thing without medical attention. There were some scenes that wound up in the bonus scenes, like there’s one in Turkey where a doctor came to my room because I just couldn’t take it anymore, so I got a shot in my ass. It didn’t do anything.

After we got eliminated in Russia, we got stuck there. I ended up going to the hospital and they were like, “You’re so inflamed.” The day I got home I went to the knee surgeon for the Colorado Rockies and he was like, “No, it’s not the meniscus. The tendons are fine, the ligaments are fine. You have two broken tibias.” And I was like, “Hold on, what?” I had a plateau tibial fracture right behind the kneecap and the tibia. The bone right in front of your shin broke straight down. I had to wear these big magnetic bone-growth stimulators on my knees for three months, and then for six months I had to go to physical therapy. So, yeah, nobody saw that, and there’s your expert witness.

AVC: What’s the medical care like on the show?

MA: My concern before I went on was that we’d be in a village in the middle of nowhere and I’d have some witch doctor pouring goat blood on me or something. It’s not so much that you’re not getting the best care available, but rather what the best care available is.

On the show, they have several paramedic and EMT guys there with you. They deal with the day-to-day stuff. I would imagine the show has people in every location so that when things do happen catastrophically, they’ve got evacuation plans and things like that. It’s not just the people you see on the show; it’s crew and people they need to move out if there’s some kind of civil uprising or an earthquake or fire. They’ve come close a few times. I remember when the tsunami hit Thailand, they were in Sri Lanka a day or two before that. I think there was a sand storm they came across in Africa one time. They got out the day before Hurricane Katrina hit Louisiana, too. So things happen that they can’t control and they do their best. I’m sure they have doctors on call and if they have to get you to a hospital somewhere, there are ways for them to do that.

AVC: But contestants are putting themselves in relatively dangerous situations. Sure, they can handle it if you get thrown off a camel, but you wouldn’t normally be on a camel at home.

MA: On the last two seasons there’s been a lot of self-driving. My season, we didn’t have it. We drove to the airport from Pasadena to LAX and from there, we never drove. The season after me, everywhere they went, they were driving. Ford was a sponsor of the show, and guess what cars they were driving?

From a practical point of view, having driven on the other side of the road or in a car you’re not used to, it can be a harrowing situation. I’m always concerned about the liability part of it because I’m a lawyer, and if you put someone in a situation like that, where they’re driving on the wrong side of the road in the wrong side of the car with a stick, even if you’re used to driving a stick, you’re driving with it in your left hand rather than your right hand, and your rearview mirror isn’t looking over your right shoulder, it’s looking over your left. You put them in these crazy places where there are goats and cows and chickens flying around roads, and you’re going around circles the opposite way of what we’re used to and doing it at night, it’s pretty crazy. The fact that nobody has been more injured in car crashes is astounding to me.

AVC: When did you guys sleep?

MA: My normal rule of traveling is you sleep, eat, and **** when you can, not when you want to. If you see food along the way, even though you’re not hungry, grab it because you may never see food again. When you have that opportunity and you’re in the airport, you go to the bathroom because you can. So when the pit stops are over, you sleep.

Some of these things end in the middle of the night, sometimes they end in the middle of the afternoon. Sometimes you’re leaving in the middle of the afternoon, sometimes you’re leaving in the middle of the night. Sometimes you flip-flop jet lag. For people that live on a clock, it’s very difficult to get your body accustomed. The first thing we did was, we left L.A. and flew to China. So you’re already upside-down in your time. You’ve crossed the dateline, you’re running around, and that’s part of the show. I think they do that on purpose because it gets everybody off their game immediately. You’re already foggy, you don’t know what’s going on, you’re hungry and dehydrated, and that’s why you see some of these intelligent people making dumb decisions. You’re sitting in your living room with your air conditioner on and a cold soda and you’re thinking, “How stupid are they?”

The conditions are also quite a bit different. When we slept in hotels, they were always nice. But we didn’t always get to sleep in hotels. Sometimes it was a cot in the middle of a field of Indonesia with a mosquito net. We slept on the floor of an airport in Bangladesh. The day we went to Moscow, we got the first flight in there and got stuck waiting for the museum to open the next day, so we slept on the floor of a Russian apartment building. Had we not got on that flight, we’d have been able to sleep inside of an airport.

This is an odd thing that people don’t see: They don’t wake you up, because you’re on your own. You get into your hotel and it’s 11 o’clock in the morning and they’re like, “Okay, you’re going to leave at 11 o’clock tonight.” It’s hard to sleep like that. But you know that if you’re going to be up all night, you should sleep while you can. That creates a stress that I think affects a lot of people’s sleeping. You sleep until 11 o’clock and then get up and go to this place and it doesn’t open up till 7 o’clock in the morning so now you’re up all night, whereas this person you beat by seven hours gets to sleep in a bed until 6 o’clock. Then they get up, and you’re both at the same place at 7 o’clock in the morning.

Still, they can’t let anyone get too far out. It is a race and there has to be some kind of competition to it. If one team finished eight days ahead of everyone, that’s not a good TV show.

AVC: You guys came in first on two legs, so you won two trips, correct?

MA: That’s correct. We won two in a row in Bangladesh and won trips to Antigua and Malaysia.

AVC: How does that work?

MA: You don’t get to go on any of your trips till after your season airs. The trips are sponsored through whatever hotel puts up the trip and Travelocity is also a sponsor, so you have a liaison you go through. When the season is over, you do a bunch of legal paperwork then they turn you over to Travelocity. The woman I dealt with there was really helpful and nice and I wound up going on the trips and, yes, you pay taxes because it’s considered income as a prize. So if the trip is worth $10,000, guess what? You owe Uncle Sam $3,500. And they’re not all-inclusive. Your air is paid for and your hotel and they include some other things, like massages or a snorkel trip, but all the food is not included. So you’re spending money and going to places that you’re not necessarily interested in.

I don’t know if a lot of people never use the trip or not, because it is an expense and not everyone has the resources to do that. It sounds good in theory, but I think a fair amount of them don’t get used. Of course, if you win the money, you can use the money to pay the taxes, and if you win a car, you can sell the car, which I think a lot of people do. I think a lot of people that go on these game shows might not be sophisticated enough to know that ahead of time. You think you’re winning, but it’s like, “Hold on. If I flew there myself, it would have cost me $300, but you booked a ticket and told me it’s a $6,000 flight.”

AVC: Do you get a stipend for being on the show?

MA: Yeah. I don’t know what they call it; it’s certainly not “paid,” but you get some kind of money for the order that you come in. If you’re not on food stamps, you wind up losing money on it. It cost me quite a bit of money to go on the show, just because I wasn’t working. I’m self-employed, so if I’m not bringing money in, it’s not coming in. And, again, I’m not complaining about that. I knew that was the cost for me wanting to do the show, and fortunately I was able to do that. Still, it becomes a financial burden for some people. If mom and dad are going away and not getting paid for that period of time, and they don’t win, you’re not compensating yourself with that money.

AVC: Can you talk about when you were eliminated?

MA: I make the distinction that we were eliminated—never beaten—and that I did not lose my passport, it was stolen. We were in Moscow. On the show, you’re not supposed to use gypsy cabs. They only allow you to use official cabs, but the culture of Russia is different. They don’t have too many official cabs, so you just stand on the corner with your hand up and they’re like, “Oh, where are you going? I’m going over there. Here’s a dollar, get in a private car.” It’s kind of like paid hitchhiking. Anyway, we were allowed to do that with these cars.

We came out of the synchronized-swimming challenge where you get to see myself and James in Speedos—that’s one of the highlights of my television career, being in a Speedo in front of millions and millions of people. When we got in the car, they asked us to put our stuff in the trunk and I didn’t want to, but I did. We got to the clue at the locks, and we thought we were just running up and grabbing a clue and getting out. When we got out of the car, the cab took off with all of our stuff. They even got my passport.

I always carry my passport with me, and I will carry this with me until the day I die. When we came out of the pool with the synchronized swimmers, we had to walk through all of these corridors to get to the locker room area, and I had been in the pool for hours. My legs were killing me, the floor was all slippery, and I got to the lockers and there were no towels there. I was not about to walk back out to the pool, so we ended up just putting our clothes on soaking wet and my passport was in the zipper pocket that I have in my pants, in a plastic bag so it wouldn’t get wet. And I don’t know why I did this, but I took it out of my pants and put it into the backpack. When he drove away with the backpack, that was our fatal thing because without the passport, we couldn’t get out of Russia.

So if you’re going to go out, go out like Halley’s Comet. In the history of the race, nobody has gone out like that before. There have been a couple of teams that lost their passports, but I distinguish that mine was stolen. It was an act of malice and theft. I never got it back. We lost both of our backpacks, and I came home with the clothes on my back, a hair tie, and a pen. I combed my hair with a fork for several days.

It was an incredible experience, because the show moved on and we were stuck in Russia. I had been to Russia prior and had done some business in Siberia and had cleared some work visas, so I knew the whole cultural bureaucracy was different than ours. It’s a lot more stern and by the book and I was familiar with this and had dealt with it. We caught a lot of flack online like, “Oh, why didn’t you just go to the embassy and get a new passport?” Well, guess what everybody? The U.S. government issued another passport, and that was done very quickly, but the more important part was getting an exit visa from the Russian government so we could get out. This all happened to us on a Friday and Saturday, and Tuesday was their Independence Day, so the entire Russian government was shut down for the week in celebration. It couldn’t get done. Through a weird act of God, really, someone recognized me who was Russian and in the U.S. embassy. I was in the embassy every day, inside Interpol and the police department trying to find my passport, and it was a nightmare.

But, again, the race moved on. A letter of diplomatic immunity was declared for me which kind of allowed this crisis situation to be evaluated, and that’s how I got the visa to get out of there. We got back to New York that night in time for the finale. So if that hadn’t happened, we probably would have been there for close to a month.

AVC: So what would’ve happened if you had gotten back? Do they keep you sequestered?

MA: Yeah, they keep you sequestered. You can’t go home three days after you leave because then everyone knows you didn’t win. So, to protect the integrity of the show, once you go out, you’re out. They bring people to a sequestered location after they get eliminated and they stay together. From what I’ve heard from everybody, it was a pretty nice experience. I didn’t go there so I don’t know, but they’ve got to take care of you to a certain extent. They feed you and there’s some entertainment. I don’t know how they pick the location. I’m sure there’s some cost, like you’re going to put people in cheaper countries rather than in Norway. Then, for the finale, people typically get flown back so that they’re all there when the finishers come into the final pit.

AVC: How receptive are the communities that you stop in on the road? Is it awkward at all?

MA: Not on my part. I would imagine that a lot of planning goes into setting this stuff up locally, especially in the more remote areas. If you go somewhere in Ghana, to a village with 100 people, you have communication situations and electricity and phone and things that a lot of people don’t think about. And then there’s shooting permits and having 100 hotel rooms and being able to feed this amount of people, so there’s a tremendous amount of planning that goes on that we don’t see.

Locally, I’m sure they’re very supportive of the places that they go to. The show is very respectful of the local customs. They always gave us a little heads-up, like in some Muslim countries they’ll remind us about the decorum, especially toward the women. You cover up and don’t wear shorts and tank tops, because that’s not only disrespectful, but probably illegal in a lot of these places. So places like that where safety is an issue, we got the heads-up about how not to behave.

If you get on the show, you’re kind of an ambassador for the United States. You see people behaving poorly in that ugly American image, but I’ve seen it when I travel not for the show. I think it is kind of disrespectful, because you get off the plane and—bam!—everyone is barreling through and you’re pushing kids down escalators. You’re running up behind people and they have no idea what’s about to hit them. You’re going down the line and getting in the bus and cutting in front of them and cutting in front of cab lines and doing what you can because you’re in the middle of a race and those people aren’t. So it was kind of interesting.

And I guess it was kind of disrespectful, to be honest, but I think that James and myself having traveled like that before, we ended up having a wonderful cultural experience wherever we went. And after the show was airing, it was brought to our attention in emails, like, “Wherever you go, you have the local kids there!” We always had the kids running after us. It was a big, giant parade and we’re high-fiving them and that felt really nice. One time there was a little guy selling soda and candy at a kiosk. By the time we were done, there were 100 people around us and it was a big deal. So I said to James, “Let’s just buy all the candy and throw it up in the air,” then I thought we might end up setting off some kinds of fights. I wanted to say thank you, but at the same time, I don’t want these kids fighting over the candy. So we ended up just buying all the soda that he had. I handed them to the kids as a way of saying thank you. A lot of them might not have ever had a Coke. And the guy only had five or six of them so it was like, “Okay, just give them all to me and I’ll try to do something nice.”

AVC: Would you do it again?

MA: I would run to the airport right now with the clothes on my back. I’ve had kind of a difficult time with this whole thing only because I really believed, in my heart, that we were the only team that could have and should have won it. Being eliminated in the way that we were, having to deal with the things that we did that some of the other people didn’t have to deal with, being eliminated by someone not in the race… If another team beat me because they were better, stronger, faster… But nobody beat me, nobody beat James. And that part, to me, was so inherently unjust. And really, until we get a chance to redeem ourselves, that will haunt me and I’ll be out of balance.

AVC: So are you lobbying for a slot on one of the Unfinished Business seasons?

MA: No. I’m not desperate. I have a job and a family, but I definitely want everyone to know that we’re interested, we’re available, we have motivations that no other people have going in. How in the world can you have an Unfinished Business season without us? We were eliminated the only time ever like this, and then you throw in two broken legs… Sure, other people have been hurt and maybe had one broken leg, but I had two broken legs and ran around the world like that! That, I think, entitles me to something. We had to deal with James’ father. The first phone call that I’m aware of that ever got through to the show was informing us that his dad had terminal lung cancer. Nobody knew that at all. We had another team steal our money! And we overcame that through the generosity of strangers and angels and, honestly, that stuff was in one of the crappiest places I’ve ever seen. That was never really on the show. And we beat the people who stole our money. So you have to take the personal victories in this, but I also have to spin it for my own sanity. James feels the same way. I don’t know how any other team deserves that spot.

« Last Edit: December 06, 2013, 05:04:21 PM by georgiapeach »

Offline stekay

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Re: TAR 21: James LoMenzo & Mark “Abba” Abbattista "Friends"
« Reply #45 on: December 06, 2013, 04:41:37 PM »
I loved these two. They won 2 legs with 2 broken legs, falling through a pavement into sewage?! They were great guys, but knowing that is just incredible. Sorry to hear it happened. They are AllStars in my eyes, but I wouldn't see them returning after the ordeals.

Edit: Oops, I read more and saw they would be open to returning. That would be awesome! They were one of my favs in the season!  :cmas51
« Last Edit: December 06, 2013, 05:56:38 PM by SteKay »

Online georgiapeach

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Re: TAR 21: James LoMenzo & Mark “Abba” Abbattista "Friends"
« Reply #46 on: December 06, 2013, 05:05:10 PM »
Great Interview!!
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Offline Felix

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Re: TAR 21: James LoMenzo & Mark “Abba” Abbattista "Friends"
« Reply #47 on: December 06, 2013, 05:57:37 PM »
Awesome interview by one half of one of my favorite teams of All Time!

It's really a shame they weren't casted for this new All-Stars,instead of the pathetic teams that are in...And I think CBS will never remember then for any season like this,even with the way they were eliminated.

Offline Leilani

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Re: TAR 21: James LoMenzo & Mark “Abba” Abbattista "Friends"
« Reply #48 on: December 07, 2013, 11:55:46 AM »
I'd love to see them on another season.

Offline Best Loser

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Re: TAR 21: James LoMenzo & Mark “Abba” Abbattista "Friends"
« Reply #49 on: December 08, 2013, 12:04:52 AM »
I've got to say, out of all the interviews I've read this was a really good one. One thing I noticed:

AVC: Their hotels might be nicer than where you guys stay.

MA: We’re all in the same hotels. Actually, most of the times after the legs, we ate with the crew. It’s kind of like you’re traveling as a family. You’re not in the rooms with each other, but Phil and Bertram and Elise, it’s their show and they’re out there with you.

Does this mean that teams aren't separated from each other during pitstops anymore?