Mon, Jan 10, 2005 - Page 16 News List

Flava Flav and Brigitte Nielsen hook up

The bleach-blonde and the rapper make for an unlikely pairing, some would even say too unlikely

NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE

Brigitte Nielsen and Flava Flav cuddle.

PHOTO: NY TIMES

Opposites attract, yes, but they also bicker like third graders sometimes. When the 170cm rapper Flavor Flav -- whose group, Public Enemy, emerged as the Black Panthers of the hip-hop generation in the late 1980s -- met the 184cm former action-film star Brigitte Nielsen, a battle of bling versus brawn began.

He balked when she tried to touch his gold teeth; she towered over him, swiped him with her makeup bag and proclaimed that she would wear the pants in the house.

The house in question was the set of American music channel VH1's reality show The Surreal Life, Season 3. Flavor Flav, Nielsen and four other C-list celebrities were settling in for what appeared to be a fraught 12-day stay, which was shown last fall.

Not long after their arrival, though, Nielsen, 41, had a few drinks and began parading in pint-sized skivvies and an apron, and Flav, 45, toned down his irritation. He brought her dinner in bed, where she lay in a drunken haze, then joined her under the covers. The next morning, as he watched her serenely cooking breakfast, he said he just might fall in love.

And if Flav, Nielsen and VH1 are to be believed, that is essentially what happened. Within two months of the Surreal Life September season premiere -- the most watched show in VH1's history -- the channel announced the new couple would be getting their own reality series: Strange Love, currently playing in the US.

The show is part ebony-and-ivory cliche, part believe it or not: the outspoken rapper who once epitomized black power dating the Nordic giantess who used to embody, well, blonde power.

Even devotees of The Surreal Life and its always strange interpersonal dynamics were taken aback by this oddball couple. Grousing about the spectacle of "the original public enemy" canoodling with the bleach-blond Nielsen, whose former husbands include Sylvester Stallone, one viewer wrote on the VH1 Web site, "What a sellout."

Another viewer, SnowflakeGirl, wrote on FansOfRealityTV.com that the hookup "seems as unnatural and unlikely" as that between a giraffe and a house cat.

But VH1's audience could not seem to turn away as Nielsen flirted with other men and Flav called her "loose"; as Flav promised he would give up his gold teeth if Gitte (Nielsen's given name) would marry him; as Nielsen proclaimed her love for "William Drayton" (Flav's real name).

More recently, as Flav and Nielson have appeared together to build interest in Strange Love, some fans suspected a setup. The image the two project of an over-the-top caricature of an "it" couple began to seem too deliciously (or horrifically) odd to be true.

"VH1 must think I'm a fool to believe that," said Tommy Smith, a DJ in Los Angeles and a longtime fan of Public Enemy, with evident disgust. "At what point can we stop calling it reality TV?"

A viewer using the name Deny predicted on FansOfRealityTV.com that the "new show will be a fake."

Is it? Mark Cronin, a producer of Strange Love, said that Brian Graden, the programming chief of MTV Networks, VH1's parent company, had asked him exactly that when the idea for the new show came up.

Cronin's reply? "Well, producers see Flav and Brigitte when the cameras aren't around, and we can tell you: it is real," he said.

Dave Coulier, who was Flav's roommate on The Surreal Life, is not so sure. He has no doubts the couple were once an item. "They called me from a hotel room the day after the show ended, obviously feeling no pain," he said.

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