Since The Real World premiered in 1992, the once ground-breaking series has had, including the current cast, 209 roommates in 25 different destinations. While some have extended their time in the spotlight by participating in any one of the multitude of spin-off challenge shows, others have left their house on the final day and were never heard from again. It’s hard to stand out amongst your peers on the longest running reality TV show ever, but here are a few that are impossible to forget.
The Entire Cast-Season 1 New York-This season really was the “true story of seven strangers.” When Julie, Norm, Eric, Heather, Becky, Kevin and Andre agreed to live in a modest New York City apartment, they had absolutely no idea what to expect. This was before MTV provided cast members with ultra-posh pads or added gimmicks such as making cast mates work or vacation together.
David Edwards-Season 2 Los Angeles-This comedian was confrontational from the start. Edwards had the most problems with country boy/aspiring singer Jon Brennan and Beth Stolarcyk, a drama queen with an interest in acting. It was an incident with roommate Tami Roman that gave him the distinction of being the first participant to be ousted from the house by the other cast members.
David “Puck” Rainey-Season 3 San Francisco-Rainey, a bike messenger, helped catapult The Real World into the pop culture stratosphere. His unhygienic and often disgusting behavior eventually caused issues with the other roommates, in particular with AIDS educator Pedro Zamora. Their relationship was so toxic that Pedro gave the rest of the cast an ultimatum: either Puck had to go or he would leave. Puck and Pedro’s bitter relationship landed them a spot on Time Magazine's “32 Epic Moments in Reality TV History". Rainey was the second cast member evicted from the house by his co-stars.
Pedro Zamora-Season 3 San Francisco-Zamora, a Cuban-American with AIDS, used his notoriety as a Real World cast member to educate the public about the challenges of living with the disease day to day. One roommate, Rachel Campos, who was a staunch political conservative and Catholic, was initially fearful of living with Zamora. However, he was able to assuage her concerns and the two grew very close. Zamora and his boyfriend Sean Sasser exchanged vows in a commitment ceremony during filming. Pedro Zamora finally succumbed to his disease in November 1994.
Irene McGee-Season 7 Seattle-McGee was the first cast member to voluntarily leave before filming on her season was completed. This acerbic, quick-witted New Yorker revealed that she was suffering from Lyme disease and that was her reason for exiting. On her final day, as she said her goodbyes, she antagonized house mate Stephen Williams by accusing him of being gay. In response, he smacked her in the face before her cab pulled away. Despite this physical abuse, the remaining roomies allowed Williams to remain if he agreed to attend anger management classes. McGee later claimed that she quit because she had ethical objections to the show.
Ruthie Alcaide-Season 8 Hawaii-Alcaide, a Rutgers University student with familial roots in Hawaii, drank so much alcohol the first night in the house that she passed out. Fearing for her safety, her cast mates called an ambulance and Alcaide was taken to the hospital. Even though she promised to drink in moderation from there on out, she continued to do so in excess and even got behind the wheel while severely intoxicated. MTV finally stepped in and told Ruthie that if she wanted to remain, she would have to attend alcohol counseling.
Julie Stoffer-Season 9 New Orleans-Stoffer was the first Mormon to appear on The Real World. Stoffer, who attended Brigham Young University developed a crush on fellow cast mate Matt Smith, who was devoutly Catholic. Smith did not return Stoffer’s affections. She was also booted out of BYU for breaking the school’s honor code by sleeping in a house with men who were not relatives.
Chris “C.T.” Tamburello-Season 13 Paris-Tamburello is probably more notable now for his appearances on various challenge shows rather than for his time in Paris. However, his aggressive douchebaggery was on full display back in 2003. This Boston bartender might have been out of his element but it didn’t diminish his swagger. He had disagreements with three of his roommates including Adam King, who he tried to physically attack on the street. His bad attitude along with his disinterest in the cast job with travel guide Frommer were sources of discontent and drama.
Frankie Abernathy-Season 14 San Diego-Abernathy was the second cast member who entered the house with a terminal illness. She was diagnosed as a child with cystic fibrosis. In spite of the disease’s effect on her respiratory system, she was a chain smoker. This undoubtedly contributed to her deteriorating health while in the house. Sporting bright red hair as well as multiple tattoos and piercings, Abernathy was a punk rock party girl. She also had a phobia regarding large metal objects which made the cast’s jobs as glorified deck hands on a tourist boat extremely difficult for her. Never quite finding her niche in the house and missing home and her boyfriend, Abernathy left early. She passed away in 2007.
Danny Jamieson-Season 16 Austin-Jamieson was one half of one of the show’s most beloved couples of all time. He and roommate Melinda Stolp became seriously involved during filming. Aside from his relationship with Melinda, Danny had a rough time in Austin. After Jamieson got in a drunken brawl, he required surgery to repair a bone near his eye. On Valentine’s Day 2005, Jamieson received a call from his father telling him that his mother had died that morning. Danny returned to Boston and his future on the show remained up in the air until he returned for the last few episodes.
Paula Meronek-Season 17 Key West- It might be easier to explore what wasn’t wrong with Meronek during her time in the Florida Keys. She was crippled with incredibly low self-esteem which wasn’t helped by either the constant presence of her gorgeous cast mates Janelle Casanave and Svetlana Shusterman or the verbal abuse heaped on her regularly by male roommate Johnny Devenanzio. In addition to severe anxiety, Meronek admitted to suffering from an eating disorder. Drinking made her emotionally volatile, and she would often end up crying and hyperventilating over minor transgressions made by her cast mates.
Joey Kovar-Season 20 Hollywood-In the words of the great and powerful Snooki, Joey appeared from the outset to be your typical “juice head.” Well-built and handsome, he, like many others, came to Hollywood hoping to find fame. Unfortunately, his violent outbursts after drinking revealed a past battle with addiction. Kovar left for a treatment facility and exited permanently soon after he returned, fearing a relapse. Unlike Alcaide, Kovar was unable to maintain sobriety and showed up on Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew in 2010 for drug and alcohol addiction. He died of an apparent drug overdose in 2012.
Ryan Conklin-Season 21 Brooklyn-Conklin was cast almost immediately after returning from a yearlong deployment in Iraq. Ryan enlisted in the army at the age of 17 after September 11. Ryan’s experiences while in Iraq made him critical of the administration’s policies, and he attended a meeting of Iraq Veterans Against the War while filming The Real World. Conklin was also informed during this time, that he had been called back to active duty.
Dustin Zito-Season 25 Las Vegas-Zito who fancied himself a southern gentleman had a few shocking skeletons in his closet. On his first night in Vegas, Zito admitted to having engaged in a threesome, kissing another guy and having sex in a hot tub. However, he failed to reveal to his roomies his stint as a member of Fratpad, a web-based show about college-aged guys living together completely uncensored; kind of like a naughty, unedited version of The Real World. He quickly became romantically involved with his roommate Heather Cooke but failed to disclose some pretty relevant information from his past. On the same day, both ex-roommate Adam Royer and Heather’s mom expose Dustin’s history and insinuate that he might have engaged in a bit more than naked group showers and ass slapping.
Who will be the next unforgettable cast member? The Real World: Portland airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. on MTV.