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MTV's Eric Nies and the Real World of Weimaraners, Waistlines and "Reality" TV
by Diane West

Eric Nies and Humphrey Eric Nies and Weimaraner
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The Real World, a popular MTV "reality tv" series, began in New York City some 14 years ago. One of the stars on the very first season, Eric Nies, spoke one-on-one with New York Tails about his life after reality tv, what he thinks about today's reality tv shows, and his Weimaraner.

Like countless others before him, Eric Nies shared an apartment down in Soho with other twenty-something roommates in the early 1990s. Nothing too unusual there-except every moment of their lives was chronicled for the world to see on the first season of MTV's now-famous series, The Real World. While television had dipped a tentative toe in the waters of what we now call "reality tv" prior to The Real World, the show is credited with sparking an obsession with reality TV which has spawned countless other "reality" shows 14 years later.

But, let's get real for a minute. How real, according to this pioneering reality TV star, are most "reality TV" shows today?

Not very, Nies says. In fact, sometimes reality gets a nudge.

"Real World wasn't all about the hot tub and hooking up," Nies, who was inducted into the Television and Broadcasters Hall of Fame for his pioneering work in reality television. "Many reality shows today will only cast people who will get into a hot tub and party."

"Real World wasn't all about the hot tub and hooking up," Nies, who was inducted into the Television and Broadcasters Hall of Fame for his pioneering work in reality television. "Many reality shows today will only cast people who will get into a hot tub and party."

That's not to say Nies is shy about getting naked. Indeed, he and his older brother, professional model John Nies, posed in a book called Bear Pond prior to Eric's Real World fame. The nude pictures in the book quickly sped across the Web as Eric's television fame grew.

What does bother him about many reality tv shows today, he says, is their producers' willingness to "create" the reality they think viewers-and sponsors-want to see. In subsequent reality shows he's been tapped for, for example, alcohol was considered a major food group. "There was one time I was cast on a reality show where they only stocked the refrigerator with beer," he says. "When we asked for some real food, like fruits and vegetables, they refused. So we ended up trading beer with the locals for food."

But Nies, who parlayed his fame into other projects since The Real World, isn't ready to give up on the genre yet. "I think reality tv devolved and has now begun to evolve again," he says. While he dismisses shows like Wife Swap and the now-defunct Temptation Island "horrible", he does think shows like American Idol and The Biggest Loser are "great."

It's no surprise to hear Nies likes The Biggest Loser. Many of his projects before and since the Real World has focused on physical fitness, including several exercise videos. His current focus, fighting childhood obesity, has him working on a multimedia project with international fitness expert Tony Findlay and Dr James "Butch" Rosser, Chief of the Minimally Invasive Surgery Center and the Advanced Medical Technology Institute at Beth Israel Hospital, New York City. Called "The Body Mechanics Toolkit", the kit includes an action movie ("Escape from Obeez City") and DVD game (which pits heroes like 'Sara Bellum' against villains like 'The Free Radz') which families and children watch together in order to learn how their bodies work and how to keep them healthy. (To learn more, visit A comic book is due out this summer.

What About the Weimaraner?

Oh, yes, the Weimaraner. Humphrey (pictured with Nies on our cover) has enjoyed some fame of his own, appearing with Nies and other New York/pet pairs in the very successful 2002 coffee table book NYC Pet Project, published by Good Books. (Sales of the book benefit animal welfare groups with "no kill" policies.) Humphrey, however, does not live with Nies full-time in Manhattan; the dog enjoys the company of a rabbit, Betta fish, hermit crab and human members of the Nies family at the family home on the Jersey Shore. "I don't think big dogs should be in the city," he says. "I think they should be out in the wilderness. Sometimes people get a dog for selfish reasons and think only of their own needs."

In fact, if you were to adopt a dog from Nies, you might find yourself getting measured and weighed. "If you're overweight, how are you going to take care of a dog?" he says, only half-kidding. "I think the way you take care of yourself reflects upon the way you take care of everyone else in your life, including your pets."

Then again, Nies admits, a dog can be the catalyst of an entire lifestyle change. (In the book Angel By My Side, by Westminster Kennel Club's David Frei, a man with a heart condition is urged by his doctor to adopt a dog to make sure he gets out and walks.) "I'm amazed at the ability of pets to ignite feelings in someone, often more than a friend or family member can," Nies laughs, recalling how one neighbor often drove with his Boxer in the passenger seat and his wife in the back of the car. "That really showed you who was valued in that family," he says.

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Most recent update: 6/17/06
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