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Talking with 'Wonder'-ful duo Fenton Bailey, Randy Barbato
by Jerry Nunn, Windy City Times
2013-03-06

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Celebrating more than 21 years of entertainment, the latest project from award-winning filmmakers Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato is the book The World According to Wonder. This eye-popping collectors' item is almost 400 pages long and is chock full of pictures and memories.

On the forefront of reality television, the duo has had many hits over the years, with addictive shows like Million Dollar Listing for Bravo and RuPaul's Drag Race on Logo. Bailey and Barbato have also directed more than 23 programs for HBO. They've also been involved with The Eyes of Tammy Faye, Inside Deep Throat and Becoming Chaz.

Windy City talked with the Wonder boys about their book and Hollywood life.

Windy City Times: So the last time we talked was for the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" documentary that you did for HBO.

Fenton Bailey: It has been a while!

WCT: You haven't been back to Chicago since then, have you?

Fenton Bailey: The last time we were there was for the last few episodes of Oprah Winfrey's show. Chaz Bono was on the show. I haven't been back but I heard it's really cold!

WCT: It is. The book goes through your history even back to working on Manhattan Cable.

Fenton Bailey: That was our inspiration. It was the idea that anyone can make television. It was how we got started in the whole thing.

WCT: Your company grew into a major operation in the past 21 years.

Fenton Bailey: Twenty-one years is an interesting period of time because you really do see the birth of reality TV. MTV's Real World was on the air but that was the only show. In the past 20 years you have seen this medium go from the small screen to being the next big thing. In a way, our story is a version of that. It is not the definitive version—that would be very presumptuous—but we have had a front-row seat. It is really interesting that no one is telling the story of its evolution.

WCT: How did you go about putting the pictures together for the book? Is it a scrapbook for you?

Fenton Bailey: Well, yes. The real miracle of the book is Idris Rheubottom and Tony Craig, [who] agreed to take all of these pictures of people for nothing much more than love and passion. Without them we really couldn't have done the book. Their work is fantastic.

WCT: The pictures of RuPaul's Drag Race are especially beautiful.

Fenton Bailey: Mathu Anderson, who is the creative producer on Drag Race, was on set every day until we were able to get those shots. Mathu has worked with Ru for years. This was before lighting and Photoshop and things of that nature.

WCT: I've been watching season five since it started.

Randy Barbato: It is the best season ever!

WCT: Was there one celebrity that meant the most to you personally meeting?

Fenton Bailey: Meeting RuPaul was a life-changing moment for us. He wasn't famous when we met him but we knew he was a massive star.

Randy Barbato: Tammy Faye, too. Those are our two favorite drag queens on the planet: RuPaul and Tammy Faye! Fenton talked about the evolution of reality television; well, it felt the same way in terms of drag. We have always been fascinated by drag queens.

When Fenton and I first met we spent a lot of time hanging out at the Pyramid Club in East New York. Our teachers were all of the drag queens that hung out there. We were going to NYU grad school but our real education was at the Pyramid Club. It has been exciting to watch the evolution and mainstreaming of drag. We have kind of been a part of it.

WCT: You are already working on The World According to Wonder, Volume Two?

Fenton Bailey: We sure are. We realized that we left out some people, and on we go. It is such a fun thing to do. The idea of the book was to give some explanation to why we have done what we have done but also the thank all of the people we have work with over the years. It is a crazy collection of amazing and different people. It is like a big thank-you note.

WCT: On that note, let's play the Nunn's Name Game where I call out some past people you have worked with and stars featured in the book. Just say a word associated with them. Here goes … Tori Spelling.

Randy Barbato: NoTORIous!

Fenton Bailey: TORInado!

WCT: John Waters

Fenton Bailey: Genius

Randy Barbato: QUEENius!

WCT: Pamela Anderson

Fenton Bailey: Edit Baywatch. We say that because when we did her show she would come into the edit bay pretty much all of the time every day.

WCT: Oprah Winfrey

Fenton Bailey: Age of Oprah. This is definitely the age of Oprah and she is the queen.

WCT: Carrie Fisher

Fenton Bailey: Brilliant

WCT: RuPaul

Randy Barbato: Sweet thing

Fenton Bailey: She's got legs!

WCT: Chaz Bono

Fenton Bailey: Courage

WCT: Tammy Faye

Fenton Bailey: Saint

Randy Barbato: Heaven

Visit Amazon.com to purchase The World According to Wonder and keep up with the team's projects at www.worldofwonder.net .


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