I was at the Adolphus Hotel this morning and ran into "Vanilla Face," which is probably not how the hotel's director of public relations, David Davis, wants to be referred to. In fact, I can guarantee it: When I asked Davis if he'd mind doing an interview for Unfair Park concerning his brief appearance in Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, Davis kinda shrugged it off and said, in short: Not so much. Then he talked about it anyway.
Davis, who's as soft-spoken and as helpful and as nice a guy you'd ever want to meet, says he's "mortified" by his appearance in the film, which opens Friday, and in the trailer, where he shows up about a minute and 45 seconds into the thing. In August, I suggested that Davis was in on the gag, since there was a camera in the lobby to capture Borat (Sacha Baron Cohen) entering the joint with his pants hanging off his ass. Davis says he actually had no idea what to expect: Echoing other unsuspecting victims who appear in the movie against their wishes and, in retrospect, better judgment, Davis says he was told during the summer of 2005 that the filming was for "a travel documentary," and in fact he showed the film crew around the Adolphus so they could shoot some of the artwork before the host arrived.
That's why Davis, who's normally not behind the desk, is seen working the registration counter in the film; he thought he would be greeting the normal ol' host of this travelogue, which, according to the convoluted consent forms recently provided by Slate, is described as "a documentary-style film" intended "to reach a young adult audience by using entertaining content and formats." Hey, it's not a lie.
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When Borat enters in the film, he not only refers to Davis as "Vanilla Face" but begins using racial epithets, which he, ya know, picked up from some helpful guys loitering around what appears to be Lincoln High School in South Dallas during a scene immediately preceding the one at the hotel. Borat's just trying to be, ya know, one of the brothers--and that didn't sit well with Davis, who was standing next to an African-American woman working the check-in counter at the hotel when Borat walked in and started talkin' about needing a place for his homies to crash and so forth.
He hasn't seen the movie yet and didn't say if he will. He was just happy when some friends who saw the movie in London told him the Adolphus sign wasn't prominently displayed in the movie. Nonetheless, he says he's "mortified." Coulda been worse: Davis could have ended up holding Borat's bag of doo-doo during a dinner party. Hey, shit happens. --Robert Wilonsky
Bonus Video: Trailer for Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (again)