Jun Dishes

verb/diSH/ : food or sex or gossip or fiction in real life

Home » Posts tagged "Big Brother"

RIP John Zsa Zsa Martin aka GaYToR



We met on a website called Big Brother Dish in the summer of 2009, where I was writing Big Brother blogs for fun. I never even thought to charge for my writing. I was doing it for the love of Big Brother and “for the fans.” The concept of fans was so new to me, even after so many years after winning Big Brother because at the end of the day, I’m just like everyone else. My mother thought I was crazy to write for free, so I lied to her and told her I was getting paid $25 an article, and this made her happy. That was 2009.

I didn’t know what to make of GaYToR at first. I didn’t know why the “Y” and “T” and “R” were capitalized in his username. I still don’t know. I always meant to ask but always forgot to. It didn’t matter. He was GaYToR. He was a drag queen in fabulous New Orleans, and he was a huge and old school fan of Big Brother.

Then, at some point, GaYToR went from fan to friend. The Big-Brother-Fan-to-Friend. This doesn’t happen often but when it does it’s warm and sincere and long-lasting. I learned that GaYToR’s real name was John Martin, and Zsa Zsa his stage name, and his loving partner in life’s name was Danny Stark.

John Zsa Zsa Martin and I were friends before I ever had a Facebook fan page or Twitter account, or my own blog. I tasted my first-ever New Orleans King Cake because Zsa Zsa sent me one with Louisiana love. Zsa Zsa never asked me for a thing but gave a lot of himself.

Over the years, John Zsa Zsa Martin watched me go from single thrill-seeker to married to mom and we exchanged stories and anecdotes like any other friends would, regardless of how we met. Zsa Zsa shamelessly lusted after my husband Davy, to my delight and Davy’s laughs. Davy and I talked about Zsa Zsa often, and interestingly enough, we always referred to Zsa Zsa as “her” or “she” and it always just felt right. Davy always laughed extra loud when Zsa Zsa flirted with him.

Zsa Zsa loved his Danny Stark, but Zsa Zsa held a special place in his heart for Davy too and for me and Noah.

After all their years together, Zsa Zsa and Danny were to be married this past Friday in Connecticut. On Saturday morning, I received the news that Zsa Zsa died of a massive heart attack right before the wedding. April Fool’s Day had already come and gone, and the reality of Zsa Zsa’s passing was cold and shocking and raw still. Danny is now mourning his partner of 33 years and yet still so in love.

Davy wasn’t home yesterday when I received the news. He was helping a friend move into the city. I told him everything in one long breath when he got home and the hairs on his arms stood up as his face fell. Neither Davy nor I had ever met Zsa Zsa in person. How could we be so affected?

GaYToRRIP John Zsa Zsa Martin

I can only imagine what Danny is going through right now. Bringing John home to New Orleans from Connecticut is the harsh reality that must be addressed. Who has extra money these days? Nobody I know. But what Davy and I could, we spared and sent to Danny. Danny needs help to repay a kind minister who paid all final expenses up-front. With no legal recognition or death benefits to collect, Danny Stark could use a compassionate shoulder to lean on.

At the time of this writing, the John Zsa Zsa Martin fundly fundraiser is nearly two-thirds of the way there. If you can, please help. The smallest amounts can amount to enough.

We miss Zsa Zsa already.

Always dishing,


What Rice House Means to Me


Not many people outside my immediate family know this, but…

When I won Big Brother in 2003 and returned to New York, I told my parents that I wanted to invest my winnings in opening a Korean takeout place on the Upper East Side in Manhattan. It’s where I was living at the time and I thought there was a hole in the market. My parents freaked out completely. Freaking out was my momz thing and never my dad’s, so it shocked me. He’d become fearful.

My dad was still in the Intensive Care Unit at Beth Israel Hospital at the time, and he almost cried, saying he didn’t want me to open a business. He said it was too risky and that I should invest in real estate instead. But I knew what he really meant.

My dad was dying and we all knew it. His kidneys were barely functioning and dialysis was making his sicker. He just wanted to see me stable and back to my old life, before Big Brother ever happened, before he died. My dad wanted me to go back to work at Citigroup or any group comprised of bankers, and have a “steady job” again so he could die in peace.

Except he never said it like that, at least not to me.

I felt like a monster that day for making him worry, when all he should have been doing was resting and recuperating and staying alive. So I didn’t invest in the takeout place. But I didn’t go back to work right away either. I spent as much time as I could with my dad and my family, and months later I did end up buying real estate with my Big Brother winnings and I returned to work in finance too (more on this).

My dad passed away shortly thereafter, in 2004, knowing I could take care of myself but probably never considering I’d do anything as crazy as illegal (more on this). I can’t believe it’s been 10 years. I’m a different person but I’m the same person.

And now I’m finally opening a Korean takeout place – in my little Belgian town in Ghent called Evergem (Everville), no less! Rice House is happening and my dad’s not around to see it. But I can picture him laughing from heaven because I’m getting everything I wanted in the end.

I am his daughter after all.

This is what I’m starting with:



Where now stands Take A Break is where Rice House will open its doors on May 1st!


Every time I embark on a new adventure I try not to dwell on bad shit that’s happened in my life, but I do acknowledge that it made me who I was and who I am today. You cannot forget where you came from because nobody else knows but you, in the end. You owe it to yourself to never lose who you are, and to not listen to people’s advice to sell sandwiches AND rice. Um, no.

And for me and my husband Davy, Noah priority #1, and Rice House #2. At some point Noah will be “helping” me at Rice House and things will fall into place. I can’t wait for that day.

I’m lucky to have a man in my life after my dad, who believes in me wholeheartedly.  I couldn’t do this without Davy.

Always dishing,




Train of Thought Over A Cup of Coffee: Charity and Philanthropy


I started on this cup of coffee and I’m almost done with it.

Here’s my train of thought over this cup, and many people may disagree with me:

Celebrities are great and their efforts to raise awareness in fundraising for charities is humbling, most of the time. I never loved Celebrity Apprentice because it always just came down to making phone calls to other celebrities. I just give what I can, when I can. It’s what I’m comfortable with doing.

Celebrities sometimes make or break fundraising events, and charities certainly appreciate the larger number in donations that celebrities afford them. It should always be a beautiful thing. Legitimate charities all over the world need funds. Literally. Money is tight for everyone. It’s nobody’s business but yours how you spend your money.

Most of my life, and even as a child, I’ve donated to charities. But I’ve only given a few times in the true sense of philanthropy. One isn’t any better than the other, as long as nothing is ever expected in return. I only differentiate because with philanthropy, I was never going to really know who got the help they needed with the amount I donated. With charities, I always give because there’s some personal degree of separation or person associated with the cause I’m giving to, and usually someone whom I respect or mourn or celebrate. I guess I’d make a horrible lobbyist that way.

When I can give I choose charities that speak to my heart, and I give quietly regardless of what size the donation. I’d actually play Big Brother again if the whole $500,000 prize was for a charity, of American’s choosing, and Houseguests only got stipend at the end of it all. That’s philanthropic at the same time as it is charitable!

Clearly I’ve had too much coffee or not enough, because I’m fantasizing about a Big Brother Charity season.

I should probably drink some water.

I’ll have some water now…

Always dishing,


My Dad and Deutsche Bank


When I bought a condo in Midtown Manhattan with my Big Brother winnings, it was because my dad told me to. He was dying and he knew it. I knew it too. He needed new kidneys, like, yesterday. I’d thought about it investing the money in other things but my dad insisted it be real estate. It’s like when I returned to work after winning Big Brother. I accepted an offer from Deutsche Bank and got back to banking. I did it mostly because my dad wanted to see me gainfully employed once again. All he knew about Deutsche Bank was that it was “German” but it was good enough for him.

My dad just wanted to make sure I was okay before he died. I didn’t think twice about giving my dad what he wanted because I didn’t care about money anyway. I was about to lose my dad and I just wanted to do whatever it took to put his mind at ease while his body was never at ease.

The thing is, my dad never really insisted I do anything when I was growing up. He was so open to my zany ideas and frequent whims. He was my biggest cheerleader when I entered contests and memorized lines for plays. As soon as I could play songs from the church hymnal on the piano, my dad stood next to me and sang along in his very deep voice. My dad gave me such freedom of expression and drive that he never had to insist I do any more than I was already doing.

He believed in me in a way only a father could believe in his child…

I was one week into that new job when my dad died. I was one of three portfolio assistants on my team and I was just getting to know the 80+ private investment accounts I was helping manage for some of the wealthiest families in America. I remember getting ready for work that morning and getting the call from my aunt that my dad passed in his sleep in the ICU. Okay I’ll be there soon is all I said, before hanging up the telephone to call my new brand-new boss. Memories of the days following my dad’s funeral are blurry in some spots and crystal clear in others, but I’ll never forget how my boss (and the whole team at work) proved to be compassionate and understanding of my loss. Deutsche Bank was a pivotal point in my life’s timeline.

All these years later I’ve learned many lessons the fast and hard way. Among them…

I know now that you should never take a job because of someone else, even if it’s your dying dad who’s the someone else. I got no real joy working at Deutsche Bank but I stuck it out for a good while. In the end my heart wasn’t in it and I left for another investment firm that was a better match. I realize now that leaving Deutsche Bank was probably what my dad would have wanted for me anyway, if I wasn’t happy there…

I treasure everything my father instilled in me because it’s what drives me still.

Always dishing,


Why Is There No Big Brother: South Korea?


With all the international formats of Big Brother all over the world, Korea stands among one of the countries without the show. I’d like to say I don’t know why Korea doesn’t have its own version of Big Brother but I actually have an educated guess as to why they don’t.

Obviously the Korea I refer to is South Korea. As a Korean I don’t walk around differentiating it myself. I’m Korean. Occasionally when I’m asked if I’m “from North or South,” I answer kindly that I was born in South Korea.

Historically, and through bloodlines still, Korea as a country is not keen on seeing what’s real and beneath the surface all laid out. I’m just an anomaly. Nobody needs to air their dirty laundry like that in Korea and mental health is still hush-hush to disastrous effects but contained, and hidden away, again. I cherish my upbringing built on respect and honor and meticulousness but I’m aware of all the veils of secrecy. Sometimes I just want to break secrets.

I’d rather see a Big Brother format in North Korea and not to exploit North Koreans more than they already have been, but to show the world just how fucked up it is over there.

If we ever had a Big Brother format in South Korea, which we never would (I’m jinxing myself purposely), then we’d see lots of what I’ve described growing up Korean to be. If I picture my mother in a Big Brother house with a bunch of other Koreans young and old I almost pee at the scenario. I could just picture her in there with a bunch of random Koreans, but not random to me. If I had a fantasy Big Brother: South Korea season in my head I’d put my mother in the Big Brother house.

I’d put her in there with:

- Jee’s mom or sister, but just one of them. After Jee ended up on Big Brother with me I did what I had to do to win, with or without his help, but I did use him. I did apologize. It was a game, right? I’d love to see how momz does with another Choe family twist.

- My old piano teacher Ms. Han because Ms. Han always had a way of putting my mother in her place with almost no words.

- Margaret Cho because she made me laugh a lot when I was younger and I thought it was cool as hell that she was Korean. Plus, my mother always said I looked like Margaret during my fat years.

- Sandra Oh because she makes me laugh now.

- Psy for obvious reasons like watching my mother’s diary room sessions about him.

- My one and only ever Korean lady neighbor growing up, who’d also happened to be married to an African-American GI from New York. She’d left Korea for a better life in America way before my parents ever dreamt of moving to New York, and a lot of people had judged my neighbor lady for that. Times of war sometimes called for extreme measures yet people will always judge. I’d always felt bad and I sometimes wonder how she’s doing now. I do remember her daughter’s name, Eunice. Eunice had a very beautiful soul and her smile held grace even when we were young girls growing up in Masaryk Towers. She was one of the naturally prettiest and kind-hearted Korean girls I’d ever know in my life.

- Maybe I’d put Eunice in the house instead of her mom…

You can add to the cast if you want.

Only Korean would be allowed to be spoken of course, since the show’s in Korea. My ex Jee and I weren’t allowed to speak in Korean to each other during our season of Big Brother. The good news is if a Big Brother: South Korea ever happened, you’d all have me to translate and watch along with.

This is my fantasy blog and that’s how it would work. And it would have to be calaled BIg Brother: South Korea because “brother” in Korean has multiple translations depending on whether a sibling is older or younger or sister or brother to the brother. Then there’s rank and age and seniority to consider. See? Complicated.


Always dishing…

Big Brother Meets Fans of Flanders


In the nearly 3 years I’ve been living in Belgium I’ve been interviewed for a newspaper, on radio, and now for television. If I hadn’t won Big Brother and married a Belgian and moved to Belgium, then none of this would have happened. But I did and did and did and today I spent the better part of my morning and some of my afternoon having some of my life filmed.


The footage will be used in a special guest segment on a Belgian television program called Fans of Flanders on VRT/Canvas and hosted by Chris Dusauchoit who is very dry and very funny. Flanders is basically the top half of Belgium. Without giving too much away before the show actually airs here, I’ll tell you that the segment was about me and my expat living. I’ll share the clip here on the site in a follow-up blog when I get it, good or bad, I promise.

How does something like this even happen? I’ve been asked this since I was a young girl, and I still get asked this now.

Today, in particular, started with just one tweet I tweeted 3 weeks ago.


Obviously, and it was confirmed, there was a Google search done of me.

So fast forward from the tweet and phone calls and emails later…I opened my home and life to Fans of Flanders today. It wasn’t very different from when I opened my door to Big Brother a few times, for the first time 10 years ago, in that I cleaned my home and smeared on extra lipstick. During the day there was a ton of footage taken, just like there would for American television programming where everything’s edited down to one segment lasting just a few minutes. I had to clip on a microphone pack like the ones I had to wear for CBS, which I just blogged about the other day. I had no idea I’d actually be wearing one today!

Despite all the similarities there was one stark difference.

I opened my front door this morning to see standing there not a “crew” but one sole professional, a lady by the name of Lies (pronounced Lees) to do it all. I mean all. I was surprised, but it’s not the first time I’ve seen stark differences in work crews in all fields and professions.

Belgian work environments, compared to American ones, run on skeleton crews. It’s efficiency on crack sometimes, and I witnessed it when a small road crew dug up the main road outside our house and repaved in days not months. Whether in an office or a supermarket, the manpower used in the States is higher than here in Belgium. So hours later after Lies has gone, I’m still impressed with how she managed to do the work usually delegated to 2 or 3 people back in the U.S.

Noah was very drawn to Lies, and he even sat in her lap and took in everything that was happening and all her fancy equipment…

You don’t know how much you’ve grown as a person while you’re doing the growing. Not everybody needs 10 years between a season on an American reality show and a segment on a Belgian television show to realize how much they’ve grown, but I did realize again today how full and different my life has become. I’m not looking forward to seeing what I look like on television all these years older, but I’m willing.

I wasn’t born shy.

Update as of February, 2014: The interview will be aired on Saturday, February 8th and Sunday, February 9th here in Belgium. I will update again with a link of the clip. For now, you can see a preview if you click on this link and fast forward to the last 15 seconds of the clip. Noah’s in the footage!

Always dishing,



About Blogging and Other Things


All of a sudden out of nowhere I’ve been getting contacted about blogging and many of the questions are around where to start and how to do it. Valid yet vague questions. Blogging is a personal experience, if you so choose to start the path of blogging. I’ve covered some of this already if you do a quick “blogging” search on the site.

Being a good blogger is different than being a good writer, and they can be mutually exclusive. Blogging is just a snippet of life with a point. If there’s no point then it’s just your online diary.

I’m a blogger by day and writer by night, and my one piece of advice to bloggers would be:

Be prepared for everything and nothing when you start to blog.

I checked the stats to this this morning and still my top three blog posts of “All time,” as of today 2013-11-04, are about Big Brother:



Big Brother AlumBig Brother Hiatus, and Big Brother Diary Room FAQs are 1, 2 and 3. Incidentally 4 and 5 are also Big Brother-related.

As a blogger I have no control over what anyone reads or comments on, or shares or sends me love and hate mail about. Even though I know my highest readership is Big Brother-related, most of my blogging is spent on things like my childhood or my son Noah or maybe:

Reasons I Might Not Like Going to Your Home

1. It’s dirty. Not messy, but dirty like I didn’t want my child to sit on your floor, or my ass stuck to your sofa because your sofa is dirty, or I held my pee in until I left your house just to avoid using your bathroom.

2. It smells. Whether it’s your pets or mildew or trash or smoking, really, whatever it is that’s making your house smell like shit.

3. It’s dangerous. I don’t like risking my life on your wobbly stairs, or wayward nails jutting out of your walls, and I don’t want my child picking up your pet’s feces dropped in multiple places on the carpet.

Or blogging about people like Laura Ingalls Wilder, all of whose Little House books I read. I’ve watched every Little House episode and special and movie too, but more importantly I’ve read all the Little House books. I lived in Walnut Grove in my wildest imagination, and Laura Ingalls was my muse. My childhood was picture-perfect but scarred once or twice, because life isn’t always fair. We all have an escape and for many of us it’s through reading. It was for me. So as a little girl I read Laura Ingalls Wilder, and countless other authors, as I loved the English language as soon as I was introduced to it.

I hated writing for most of my life and up until just a few years ago. Now I can’t live without writing every day, although I could probably live without blogging every day. It’s not as glamorous as some may think. As much as I enjoy it, and enjoy what a real forum this site has become.

It’s hard to make your blog fly unless you have the kind of exposure and manpower and money behind it like all shades of celebrities do. I’m self-aware enough to know that my site wouldn’t have the traffic it does, had I not won Big Brother. As a blogger, I’ve learned that controlling my site’s design and content and subject matter is all the control I actually have. It’s a lot, but then after I hit “Publish” it’s up to the universe and world wide web what happens. No more control. You can delete, but then you’ve already lost control then.

Be prepared for everything and nothing when you start to blog.

Always dishing,


My Biggest Fan



My dad was my biggest fan in life since the day I was born, and my biggest Big Brother fan too. He told just about everybody proudly in his Korean-accented English, about my CBS reign that summer of 2003. He loved how I was always up to something, and how I’d always find bigger challenges for myself. It’s why he raised me in America.

When my died just a year after I won the showI wasn’t ready to face the reality that he was really gone forever. For a long time I avoided thinking about his death. My biggest fan.

I’ve learned through the years now that grappling with the forever and dead part is painful, and not so helpful. Living is the key. So when I get asked why I don’t “get over” Big Brother and “move on” with my life…I wonder what constitutes “getting over and moving on from Big Brother.” 

I can’t speak for all Big Brother alum, and they can’t speak for me, but…

To me, Big Brother is one of those experiences I’ll never let go of. And not just because I won, but because of what happened while I was on the show. My dad was healthy when I went into the BB house, and he was in a coma in ICU when I came out 3 months later. For me, personally, my Big Brother experience was a turning point in my life because it marked the start of my dad’s declining health. I’d never lost anyone close to me before in my 28 years at the time, and my first hit was my father.

I’ve come to terms with the guilt I once felt about being on some television show completely ignorant to the fact that my father was slowly dying back at home. I’ve let go of a lot of layers through the years, and particularly after becoming a parent myself I’ve forgiven myself for a lot. Big Brother isn’t just some show I won and that I blogged about, it’s a goal I once set 10 years ago and met. I will not get over it and I will not move on from it, as long as I blog and breathe. My biggest fan would have none of that, even from above.

My dad raised me to dish in perfect English.

Always dishing,


Not Quite Orwell’s Big Brother


Let’s just say for the sake of this blog we all agree that the reality show Big Brother is based around the novel by George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four, there’s also a Kindle version, where there’s controlled chaos and:

“…tyranny is headed by Big Brother…Big Brother and the Party justify their rule in the name of a supposed greater good. The protagonist of the novel, Winston Smith…is a diligent and skillful worker, but he secretly hates the Party and dreams of rebellion against Big Brother.”

This is according to Wikipedia, but anyone who’s read Orwell’s work will confirm that this is the premise. In the story, there’s a rigid social structure where 2% of the population rule as elitists. 13% of the population lived pretty well, compared to the remaining 85% of the lowest class population. In modern times, “We are the 85%” might work, but in Orwell’s work it doesn’t. There’s one dictator called “Big Brother,” and he controls everyone and everything.

“Big Brother is watching you.”

That was Orwell’s before it was John de Mol’s or Arnold Shapiro’s or Allison Grodner’s. Don’t know John de Mol, of Endemol? John’s short for Johannes Hendrikus Hubert, and he’s essentially the creator of the reality television series Big Brother. He first brought the show to air in The Netherlands, 50 years after Orwell published Nineteen Eighty-Four in 1949, in 1999. He’s had much success in other endeavors, and Johannes is a much cooler name than John but I understand…


In the novel, “Big Brother” was some probably made-up creepy dictator who ruled by brainwash and kept the 85% drowning in the social sewers.  In the movie, which was released in 1984 of course, Big Brother looked like a total creeper indeed. In the U.S. reality television show, “Big Brother” has the voice of Don Wollman we know that. Don’s voice has the perfect voice and understanding of the game for it. Big Brother’s body though I imagine is a combination of Allison Grodner and Rich Meehan and Les Moonves. I’d say the face of Moonves, the body and glasses of Meehan, and the curly hair of Grodner. Creepy.

In the novel, Big Brother ruled by using brainwashing propaganda and morbid oppression by mind control. In the reality show, Big Brother rules by taking away everything that defines each Houseguest, and putting them on watch 24 hours-a-day, for a chance at money.

One of the best parts of Nineteen Eighty-Four is that the ending is different for every reader. It can be argued whether it’s a happy ending or and ending of gloom. So where does the viewing audience of Big Brother come in? Even if we define which Houseguests are part of the elite and who else make up 13% and 85%, where does America factor in?

Who’s actually in charge here?

Always dishing,


Summer Plans


Last night I basically had my last bite of dinner then passed out and slept until this morning, because my body told my brain to get some fucking rest. It’s true. Wahhh I’m so tired even now, but I’ll stop crying as it annoys even me.

Instead of crying it’s time to re-prioriritze, using everything I can control and leveraging things that I can’t…

For months now I’ve been anxious leading up to this summer because Big Brother blogging done right requires so many hours of devotion, and I just have no more hours to devote to anything much extra these days. With my other writing job, running my site here and little Noah in full toddler-gear something’s gotta give.


It’s unbelievable to me that it’s been 10 years since I was on Big Brother wearing fishnet. My whole Big Brother experience has always been my guilty pleasure and good story to tell because I won, and it came along with some cash bonuses here and there after the fact. Most of all it’s connected me with thousands of you instantly, and some for forever. However, this summer I’m letting go of my guilty pleasure a little bit.

“Everything happens for a reason,” is the perfect reasoning for so much happening around me lately and all signs point to taking a step away from Big Brother. For now. Thank you to everyone who’s offered me a writing gig this summer, and to everyone who enjoyed Power Rankings with me, but I’m taking a BB-break.


A family vacation is in order, and Noah’s first steps have yet to happen so it will be a big summer for me yet!

I’ll miss watching feeds and reporting in all the nonsense and I’ll miss snarking voraciously on BB HGs through Power Rankings blogs, but I’ll be watching from afar and checking in. This is why I compiled the partial list of sites I’ll be following this summer while I’m BB-less.

I’m looking forward to taking a breather and being a voyeur like all of you, and shielding myself and my family as much as possible from some of the threats and hostility I’ve received the last few seasons of Big Brother. Unfortunately having been on Big Brother means you take the good with the bad, but there truly is some bad out there when fans threaten people’s lives over a television show. Having now a family of my own, I know I’m making the right decision in taking the summer off from BB.

Taking Noah to the children’s reading room in the library and to the playground nearby, and all the other summer things that involve an ice cream treat will be my live feeds action this summer.


A family road trip will happen at the end of this month as we drive to France, specifically to Omaha Beach in Normandy where I’ll stand in awe of the history there. I’ll blog about it, and other things too this summer, so I’ll stop being so dramatic as if i’m going to disappear off the face of the freaking earth.

Always dishing,