Resident Ego

At the center of his own reality, Key Biscayne native Carlos Arias has a brash game plan to make it big in Hollywood with a Florida-flavored unscripted TV show

Now come the kind of twists and turns you could probably only find in a reality show. By June UTA and Wiseman, who had assumed the role of Arias's adviser, let him know he'd be packaged with Thomas Beers, whose Original Productions is behind some of cable's biggest reality series including American Chopper and Monster Garage. Together they'd produce Miss University. While not represented by UTA himself, Arias would fall under Beers's umbrella and retain part ownership of the property. Arias says UTA preferred to package him that way because Beers's name would make shopping Miss University easier.

Arias's plan for Miss University is to film the pageant over a season, eliminating contestants on a weekly basis, à la many network reality shows. But Arias wasn't happy with the proposed contract. He thought he was getting jacked.

"I was fresh meat with his hands on a slam dunk," he fumes.

Jonathan Postal
Jonathan Postal

On July 22nd Arias met with Beers, Wiseman, and UTA's head of syndication, Heyden Meyer. Beers walked in wearing jeans, flip-flops, and a Hawaiian shirt. Arias wore a crisp suit and was accompanied by an unexpected guest. Before the meeting began, Meyer asked Arias about the gentleman. Steve Muslin spoke for himself: "I'm Carlos's attorney." The atmosphere in the room chilled.

Muslin is an entertainment and defense lawyer who helped create the series New York Undercover. Arias contacted him through his son, a college friend.

UTA's proposal called for a 50-50 split of Miss University's rights between Arias and Beers, with Wiseman holding 7.5 percent of Arias's half for the life of the franchise. There was no up-front payout, which meant Arias would have to recoup the quarter-million he'd already invested off the top. Arias wouldn't take the deal. Beers walked out of the meeting.

Rather then continue negotiations, Arias e-mailed Beers a blistering missive: "What I thought was the face of a good man turned out to be a poor disguise for a pathetic person. Not only do I wish no association with you, but know this ... if you choose to steal any of my ideas regarding my Miss University pageant, or any of the beauty pageant ideas I communicated to you and your organization, my attorney and I will legally pursue you, even if it takes the rest of my life ... I will use the one thing that you tried to take advantage of -- my youth -- to make sure of that. "

Common sense would indicate that such a Growing Up Gotti attitude would torpedo a would-be producer, but Arias received a squirming apology from Beers and continued offers from UTA reps and from Wiseman. Arias says Muslin told him that the treatment he received, in spite of his brazen negotiation tactics, was indicative of his commercial potential. In other words, they didn't want to beat on a brat who's on his way up.

Here's the True Hollywood moment: Throughout this entire process, Arias was playing with a bluff hand. The trademarked rights to Miss University didn't officially belong to him until August 17 of this year. Because the trademark had been litigated over by a producer from Texas and Trump Enterprises ten years ago, the period of opposition required for any trademark application was longer than usual. Despite lacking that final seal of ownership, Arias went ahead and shopped the property to Hollywood's heavyweights.

He says most of the television executives were mesmerized by the billing Wiseman gave him, "the kid who trumped Trump out of a property," and not one of them was the wiser. "When they'd ask me for proof of ownership I just showed them papelitos, application papers and such. I didn't want to wait for the inevitable," he explains.

Now that Arias owns Miss University, officially, he has signed with Endeavor Talent Agency, which also represents Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, and Martin Scorsese. Endeavor optioned Miss University in August and MTV signed off on a development deal this month. Arias will be working with Tony DiSanto, executive producer of the network's Laguna Beach. Pre-production is set for this fall, with the show likely to air as a mid-season replacement in the spring.

So what's next?

Arias holds forth: "Jordi [Villasuso] and I are penning the Miss University story, it's a natural. An inside peek into the politics of showbiz through the eyes of a first-timer. DJ Irie's Urban Entertainment Group has already raised three million dollars for it. It will be a slam dunk, dude."

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