Token gay reality show contestant charms middle america with his Autofellatio art

Interview by Danny Calvi

Originally from Chicago, now happily transplanted to sunny Southern California, John Parot has held a number of odd jobs to support his art career. He moonlights as a certified Pantone color consultant, does illustration for Mattel toys, and occasionally plays chauffeur to child actress Grace Peyton when she’s in LA for auditions and the awards season. Back in the Spring of 2010, there was nothing really going on for John except a humdrum art studio manager job, so when he was offered a part on Bravo’s ‘Work of Art: The Next Great Artist,’ his curiosity about the reality TV phenomenon got the best of him. We talked about his experience on the show, via a network PR mediator, just after he was eliminated in the third week of the season.

Danny: Besides the obvious spoiler of who might have won, is there anything else we’re not allowed to discuss?
Network Mediator: Sorry to interject here you guys, but anything that hasn’t been on the show we can’t talk about.
Got it. When did you realize you were an artist?
John: Really young… I was an uppity, hyperactive child, you know. My parents tried everything to try to calm me down and control me. And the only thing that really worked was colored pencils. I would sharpen them. I would arrange them by color. I would only use certain colors in a certain order. When I was like eleven or ten, my parents took me to this guy’s basement in the neighborhood and I would have art lessons with all these like, elderly people.
Did he ever touch you in an inappropriate way?
No, no…
Did you attend a casting call and present slides of your work for ‘Work of Art’?
Yeah, I was invited to come down to show my work to a panel of judges. The judges hated my work. ‘Your work is not appropriate for TV,’ was what they told me. A week later, I get a call telling me I’m in the semi-finals.
What was the interview process like?
I had to take a personality test, so they’d know if I had a violent streak. But it was mostly talking about my art, what motivates me, and what I like to do. I just pretended like I was a host at one of my parties.
Did you have to sign a release form?
Oh yeah… it was very long, and it took a long time to read through. But I knew I was going to watch the show, so why not be on the show? I either win the money or I win the money, you know.
Were you compensated for appearing on the show?
Network Mediator: Let me…I’m going to get a network rep to answer that for you. I’m not sure of the answer off the top of my head and I’m not sure if John can answer that.
Okay. Can we move on to a different topic then?
Network Mediator: Absolutely.

“Sleeping bag”, Gouache and Ink collage, 2010

How did being on TV change your life?
Not at all. Being on TV is not that big of a deal. The only thing that’s kind of weird is hearing your voice come out of the box when you’re like, making dinner. It’s kind of unsettling having your own image come at you when you’re just doing your daily business.
Has being on the show affected your love life?
Not yet. I keep waiting for that. I get a lot of eighteen to twenty-two-year-old aspiring artists. A lot of, ‘Can you look at my sketches, please?’ I did have Brad Benton, the porn star, come up to me and say he really liked the show.
Are you happy with how you were portrayed on the show?
I’m happy with it, but much to my chagrin, a lot of funny moments were edited out. To see yourself edited down to a couple of smiles and a couple of looks was kind of — I never noticed that about myself, how expressive my face can get.
There’s tons of product placement on the show. Audi, Chanel, Seattle’s Best Coffee, Penguin Books… And it seems like every challenge begins with a trip to Utrecht, the art supplies store that sponsors the show. Do you start every new work with a shopping trip?
No, no… I start with a trip to the bar, or the bathhouse, or the thrift store…
Didn’t you find it difficult to live like a student again?
I’m all for new experiences, you know. By the time you cross the forty line, there are worse problems to deal with than sharing a room with two attractive young men in their twenties.
What was the food like?
We had meals from participating restaurants nearby.
Did you ever do any cooking?
Well, we’d make eggs in the morning, things like that. We made coffee.
Seattle’s Best Coffee?
Whatever was there.
Who did the cleaning at the apartment?
I think —
Network Mediator: Can we try to keep this about what’s actually on the air? I don’t really see the point of these questions.
Okay. Were your fellow contestants tidy?
No.

Let’s talk about the week that you won the challenge. I thought you were an obvious favorite for creating book cover art because your work is so graphic.
Catherine Court at Penguin is kind of a genius, and Penguin’s a really brave company. They have a contemporary view on how books should look, and which books should be published, so I was like, this is a great challenge. I was thinking about all these illustrators from the seventies, like Milton Glaser and those C.S. Lewis paperbacks with the gorgeous sci-fi colors.
Were you compensated for the drawing?
No, it’s property of the… can I say who owns the drawing?
Network Mediator: Yes.
All the artwork that we produced on the show is property of Bravo, but that’s fine. It was a fair trade. They got a good drawing and I got my artwork published on an H.G. Wells classic.
Does the network provide a counselor on set to help contestants deal with the experience?
Can I talk about this?
Network Mediator: Yeah, personally I don’t know the answer to that question, but I don’t see why not.
Yeah, there is a therapist you can talk to after you get eliminated, and I was like, free therapy…? Sure. Therapy is so expensive in LA. No one told me that. In Chicago, you can find a cheap one, but in LA, forget it.
Sometimes it seems like the judges are reading from a script. To what extent is the show scripted?
They would purposely try to create sound bites. But scripts…? Simone de Pury needed a script. I was kind of shocked he — having never picked up a paintbrush — was even chosen as our mentor. He’s not a creative person, and he never knew what to say to us. That’s why he looks so nervous. Every time he came over ‘to mentor me,’ he would just repeat back what I had said to him about what I was up to. Always aware of the camera, that one… I want to be the mentor next season.
Can we go back to whether or not you were compensated for being on the show?
Um… I can’t really answer that question.
Network Mediator: Can I get back to you on that? Just let me look into it for you.
Did you meet the show’s executive producer, Sarah Jessica Parker?
Yes. She knew our names, she saw our artwork. It was kind of surreal.
Is she an idol of yours?
I wouldn’t say she’s an idol.
Did you see her latest ‘Sex and the City’ movie?
I saw it on a date, but I was kind of tipsy.
Did you ever feel like the token gay on the show?
Oh yes, all the time. They wouldn’t get my humor — blank stares. For the judging, the entire panel is straight, and except for China Chow, all the judges are in their fifties. All the guest judges were straight men as well.
Maybe you were eliminated for not being like one of the asexual, mincing queens in ‘Sex and the City.’
I think my elimination was fine. I’d rather be eliminated and have the public feel I was wrongly eliminated than be that person about whom everybody says, ‘Oh yeah, the right person went home,’ or, ‘We hated his work, it’s about time he went home.’ I had a woman come up to me on the street, she pointed her finger at me and she was like, ‘You were robbed! I can’t believe they did that to you! A nice young man like you…’ I love that people get so hot and bothered over reality TV… so much dialog, so much anger. They’re not just digesting it. They’re digesting it and spitting it out.

“Back Room”, Gouache and acrylic, 2010

John’s website: www.johnparot.com.

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