Monday, Dec. 10, 2012 | 9:59 p.m.
The finale of the $1 million “The Amazing Race” on CBS was a nail-biting thrill right to the final two minutes, but sadly our two Chippendales dancers were split seconds behind the winning team. It had been an incredible 10-week Season 21 where on the first episode, we thought that we’d lost best friends Jaymes Vaughan and James Davis in the grueling global trek of challenges.
However, they eventually went on to win two legs, one a Costa Rica vacation and the second last night in a castle with matching Ford Escapes, which they’ve already given to their needy parents.
They had entered in hopes of winning the big prize to pay for Jaymes’ dad Ed’s chemotherapy, radiation and medical bills and save him from having to continue working to stay afloat; we reported their heartbreaking story on Nov. 26.
The adult male revue headliners at the Rio moved on last night into the Final Three for the second hour of the top-rated program. It was a peril-fraught journey from Spain to France and on to New York City. One challenge lay in Leonardo da Vinci’s final resting place, and another was to pick mushrooms in a dark cave.
It was down to three teams for the final hour filmed in Manhattan: James and Jaymes, the Beekman boys (Brent Ridge and Josh Kilmer-Purcell) and the dating couple of Trey and Lexi. They jumped around from Coney Island to the United Nations in the hunt for clues.
Jaymes received loud applause from viewers and his fellow contestants for his daredevil Houdini trick suspended 15 stories upside down in a straightjacket before a free fall. A pizza delivery of three orders of 10 pies proved more difficult at New York’s first pizzeria.
It was neck-and-neck to the final U.N. headquarters roadblock, where they were challenged to raise flags saying “ hello” and “ goodbye” in the language of certain country’s flags. It was a long, brutal challenge, but Team Chippendales stayed close on the heels of the Beekman boys in the race to Gotham Hall.
If not for a slow cab driver -- unheard of in the Big Apple, BTW! -- our bare-chested, hunky heroes could have won the $1 million. It was that close, an edge-of-the-seat thriller to the end. The Beekman boys had never won a leg, so the most important one of all won them the big prize.
Team Chippendales had come so close; they told me that they broke into tears at the loss. These are two fine young men, polite and well mannered, and as I sat with them at the screening of the show at Boca Park’s Martini Bar, I was impressed with their friendship, extraordinary loyalty -- and parental devotion.
We chatted seconds after the broadcast ended. They’d filmed it for 30 days this past June literally jumping off the Rio stage to begin the adventure and returning to their show right after they’d completed the tasks in New York. They had to return not just to the twice-daily Chippendales shows but also a second shift of the Sky Rio spectaculars for extra money to help cover the increasing medical bills. They are dedicated and determined beyond belief -- true heroes.
(BTW, they start and finish each other’s sentences, just like on the show!)
You came so close! Was it exhilaration? Was it a horrible letdown? Was it still an accomplishment considering you could have been bounced from Episode 1?
Considering how we started off the race, in first place on the first leg and then falling all the way down to last and saving ourselves at the last moment in a foot race, to get to the end of the whole show, we felt such a sense of accomplishment.
If you look at our track record throughout the race, we were always kind of on the bottom rung, coming in 5th or 6th, and then we started to come in at the front. It was an incredible feeling. It took us a minute to get our bearings and then once there, we stayed right in the front the whole time. It was still scary because you never know with one little misstep.
What tripped you up in the last minute?
We had a lot of bad taxi luck. Honestly, when we got to the U.N. thing, we were ready to go; we thought it was the flags. We took copious notes in every destination and memorized them to be sure that we were ready, but the last thing we were expecting was for them to ask us the hello and goodbye. After getting to the mat, you just want to know if you made it or not, so you kind of tune out after that. It was a really tough final challenge.
Which is tougher dancing on the stage at the Rio or globetrotting the world for 10 weeks?
I would definitely say that globetrotting the world is much tougher than dancing at the Rio, but it is a hell of a lot more fun. The Rio is fun, I never thought you could top that fun getting onstage and people screaming for you every night, but when you race around the world with your best friend, I couldn’t have done this with anybody else. He calms me down so well. Just the rush, the sheer exhilaration of racing for that million dollars and being in all those exotic locations, it is really so incredible.
When did the real journey start?
This past June. It took about a month, and it was exhausting. It was a lot more exhausting then it looks on TV because they have the luxury of editing and trimming the real time each week for the show. You don’t realize that some things take six, seven, eight hours and the traveling. I certainly wish it only took 42 minutes to get through a leg of the race!
It was really physically grueling. We both lost a bunch of weight -- 27 pounds and 15 pounds by the time we got back. We came back and shot our annual calendar. It was perfect because we were in shape.
How many hours after you left the stage of Chippendales were you running for the first leg?
We did the show at Chippendales and finished about midnight and then we were on a plane by 6 a.m. to start racing. They didn’t show it on TV, but we said as filming completely ended, we will see you at the Rio tomorrow, and we were right back to work the next day. The point is that we were racing to raise money for my dad, and since we didn’t get it, we had to get right back to the grind -- come right back to work here, two shifts.
How did you keep it a secret?
It was virtually impossible. We just had to keep saying you will have to wait and see. I couldn’t even tell my father. We had two goals when we set out on the race. One was to get James’ mom a car, and one was to get my parents a house that is paid for … and the second-to-last leg of the race, we won the cars. One for my mom in Maine who looks after special needs children but has to walk to work because she doesn’t have a car.
We won a trip to Costa Rica, and as soon as we get the trip, it will be for sale on eBay, for my dad. We tried to let them pass us on that leg of the race because what were we going to do with a romantic trip for two?
Right to the end, you had a shot to win the $1 million for your dad, Ed’s cancer battle?
There was still a shot up until the last two minutes, going back and forth until the very end. I think we did realize how close it was. We confess that there were tears, but that wasn’t shown on television.
Is it as difficult as it looks? What was the worst challenge?
It is definitely as difficult, if not more so, as it looks. I would say the flag challenge at the U.N. was the most difficult. We had just arrived from a 14-hour flight from Barcelona and then hoisting all those flags up and down for four hours, my hands were so bloody.
It is different when you are at home watching, eating your popcorn on the couch, saying, “Oh, I would have done that,” but when you are actually on the “Race,” you will do some ridiculous stuff when your adrenaline is going. You don’t even realize, but you forget to stop and think because of the adrenaline rush. That is what makes it fun.
It was an experience that I would not trade for anything. I would not have done anything differently, and I couldn’t have done it with anybody else. We did the race with honor, integrity, truth and by the rules the entire time, and we never fought. I think we set a good example of what good parents can raise you to be.
Even at our lowest of lows, we were still laughing at ourselves and having a good time. You have to enjoy yourself; it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. They don’t call it “The Amazing Race” for nothing. We said we were going to be ourselves the entire time, and we never had a moment where we were not ourselves.
You get so close to the million and you wind up with next to nothing. How does that make you feel?
We said two things: The experience was for us, and the money was for our families. I honestly feel a little selfish that I got the full experience from leg one to the end, but we didn’t get to come home and give our family what they needed. That is why we are not giving up and doing a fundraiser this Wednesday, because we made a promise to our families that we were going to bring home a million dollars, and we are going to find a way to do that. It is been really amazing that they have been able to watch us, and the best for me, more than a million dollars, is my dad calling to say, “I am proud of you for how you raced.”
This is obviously a difficult time for you?
It has been wild ride with my dad, such a roller coaster, because when we went on the “Race,” it wasn’t nearly as bad as it is now. My dad is such a fighter and has the best attitude about everything, and it has been hard. I feel like my dad is going to be the first person to say I had an incurable disease and I beat it. Now we just have to raise the money for him to stop working so he can just go to chemo and go to radiation and just get better -- and we can pay the medical and insurance bills.
What did the race teach you for the future?
It taught me to stay calm; there is nothing you can’t do. It taught me to believe in myself and just never give up -- always pursue.
Did you make lifelong friendships with the rival teams?
We have built amazing friendships with these 11 teams because they are the only ones who know what you have been through; it is a bond that you can’t break. They all had our backs the whole time, they knew why we were racing, and we have a place in our hearts for every one of them, every single person. A lot of them have already come to see us at Chippendales, and winners Josh and Brent already said that they are going to come out here for their bachelor party. We are going to show them the time of their lives!
Ed is battling one of the rarest forms of cancer in the world, and they have set up a website to allow fans to donate to his dad since their quest to win the $1 million came up just a few seconds short. Please go to ForgetCancerNow.com and click on the donate button.
This Wednesday at the Act in the Palazzo, you can help the great cause taking part in a Kiss for the Cure benefit. There will be special holiday performances by cast members of the Las Vegas Tenors and the casts of “Jubilee!” at Bally’s and “Fantasy” at the Luxor. Jaymes and James will make appearances along with their fellow Chippendales, plus, surprise guests from “The Amazing Race” all anxious to raise money for Jaymes’ father.
A kissing booth will be set up with 100 percent of the funds going to ForgetCancerNow.com, and the $10 door cover and a percentage of bar receipts will go to the American Cancer Society. Please support generously for these well-deserving guys.
Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.
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Carnival lasts all year at the Rio. With a float occasionally passing overhead and dropping beads while feathered dancers fire up the gamblers below, the Rio tries to keep its 120,000-square foot casino jumping with excitement. Special Brazilian mixed-drinks are also served throughout the casino. The hotel suites tend to be larger than similar priced rooms on the Strip and many offer excellent views with floor to ceiling windows.
The Rio offers some quality shows like "Penn & Teller" and "Chippendales." Many come to the Rio for the nightlife at the VooDoo Lounge, located on the 51st floor, or McFadden's Irish Pub on the casino level.
Others come for a bit relaxation at the Rio Spa or pool area and still others come to shop at the hotel's 60,000 square feet of shops. In each of these endeavors, the Rio attempts to make the experience a bit more fun and spontaneous.
The Rio also offers guests a variety of dining choices from all-American food at the All-American Bar & Grille to Gaylord India Restaurant for something a little spicier and even Carnival World Buffet for the indecisive.