The altered realities of reality TV

  • Koli Palu, left, and Ashley Johnston were contestants on The Biggest Loser. Palu and Johnston are opening their own personal health and diet company in Rohnert Park.

As the new year begins and many set out to fulfill their resolutions, one Sonoma man will have his quest to find love broadcast on national television.

And millions around the country will likely indulge in one of America's most popular guilty pleasures, following Sonoma's own Ben Flajnik's triumphs and disasters, real or exaggerated, as he stars on ABC's "The Bachelor" on Monday night.

The North Coast has been home to many who have given up their privacy and gone on the airwaves to lose weight, find love or cook their hearts out, hoping for a glimmer of fame or major life change.

Sonoma Man On 'The Bachelorette'


After the spotlight shone and faded, the lasting impacts and the reality of what goes on behind the scenes emerged.

Guy Fieri, co-founder of Johnny Garlic's and Tex Wasabi's, is probably the best known from Sonoma County. The famous restaurateur and TV personality launched into the public eye when he won "The Next Food Network Star," which led to a series of shows and best-selling cookbooks for the Ferndale-born personality.

Fieri declined to be interviewed through a spokesman, but tweeted last week to his more than 484,000 followers, using his characteristic spelling for "cool": "Kewl to roll through my local Costco and see they're carryin the tequila lime sausage and rosemary peppered tri tip."

Koli Palu, 31, of Rohnert Park lost more than half of his body weight on NBC's "The Biggest Loser," and he fell in love with co-contestant Ashley Johnston, 29. The couple now live together in Santa Rosa and are planning to open their own personal training and weight-loss coaching business.

But finding lasting love has eluded most who have appeared on "The Bachelor" or "The Bachelorette." Todd Hedrick, owner of Third Street Aleworks, was one of them, having appeared in a few episodes of "The Bachelorette" in 2004. He described the scene at the bachelor mansion as more like a fraternity party than a serious quest for a soul mate.

Behind the scenes

"It was fun. It was like a paid vacation, with lots of drinking," Hedrick said. "I'd recommend that people going on the show be careful what they say."

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