"Gentlemen, I have a special announcement," Dickinson says. "Tonight at nine o'clock we are doing Manhunt International karaoke!" The response is lukewarm. Not all the delegates speak Englishand the ones who do aren't particularly thrilled about the prospect of a mandatory sing-along. Nevertheless, the boys take part in what may be the cruelest form of recreation ever devised: alcohol-free karaoke.
The evening has its poignant moments. Five countries team up on the Backstreet Boys' "I Want It That Way," and everybody sings along to Ghana's version of "You're Beautiful." Nepal learns that his country has become a republic, and Morocco, a dark, 26-year-old telephone operator whose disposition is as sunny as his hometown of Tangier, pours his heart out for U2's "One." But Anderson is over it. As far as he's concerned, tonight's karaoke is a ploy to keep the boys sober and supervised before their big daya candy-coated house arrest.
While many of the contestants had to go through rigorous trials to make it to the finals (Australia's Dean Tahana competed against 800 men in 12 heats for the privilege), Anderson had America's complete lack of Manhunt awareness on his side. Manhunt's U.S. directorsa flight attendant and a transgendered woman who works in retail, both Filipinofound him on a modeling website. They paid his way to Seoul out of their own pockets, with the stipulation that he give back 20 percent of any winnings. The only real challenge was the national costume. Anderson would be responsible for making it himself. He opted for Native American dress.
"I worked on it for a month, piece by piece," he says. He scoured fabric shops until he had exactly what he wanted: a feathery black shoulder piece with leather bottoms. "I didn't want to settle," he says. "I thought it was important to bring it back to its roots rather than be a sexy firefighter."
The morning after the karaoke, Anderson is nowhere to be found. The big white bus has been idling in front of the Young Dong for 30 minutes, loaded with delegates. But America, Greece, and Hawaii are missing. Dickinson is enraged, and he's on the verge of telling the driver to leave when the trio, wearing dark sunglasses, finally amble out of the hotel. No one gave them a schedule.
"You guys are fuckin' hopeless, all right? Fuckin' hopeless," Dickinson says. "You do that again you're out of the show."
The three find their seats quietly. If they're worried about the prospect of black marks, it's not immediately apparent. But when they disembark at a park next to a stream that runs through the center of town, it becomes clear why a contest like Manhunt works in Asia: Throngs of Korean grade-schoolers in sailor suits surround themBeatlemania-stylescreaming and fanning themselves. In a country that has maintained most of its ethnic homogeneity, Manhunt's delegates are more than just attractive: They are novelties.