“PenisGate 2014” was the last straw for Adrienne Gang, one of season one’s stars of Bravo’s hit reality show Below Deck. “I’m over it,” Gang says. “I was horrified. I feel like they have destroyed everything I have built.”
Gang, who was the chief stewardess on season one, was not asked to return for season two with Capt. Lee Rosbach, Chef Ben Robinson, Bosun Eddie Lucas and Stewardess Kat Held. “I’ll be honest, at first I was a little hurt,” Gang says. “But now, if this is what Bravo wants? I’m okay with it.”
Gang spoke to Dockwalk last week about the dynamic of season two on Bravo. “What made the first season really good was that it was genuine conflict among people who were trying to learn each other. I think it was very authentic. … We shattered the glass wall on the fact that crew really have drama. [Our owners] aren’t stupid, but we all did a magnificent job and managed to keep it together in front of the guests.”
Not so much this season. Gang finds it unforgivable that the drama below is spilling over above deck. “Watching the crew turn on the guests is horrifying to me. I feel like [Bravo] is encouraging a ‘mean girl’ attitude,” Gang says. “It’s become an ‘us’ vs. ‘them’ mentality. Since when does yachting encourage that?”
Guest on guest drama is one thing, but to have the crew causing drama with the guests is truly unprofessional, Gang believes. In the first season, “the drama was kept below decks. No one knew what was going on with the crew. It did not transfer to the guests. Everyone left happy...[with] not a single complaint about our attitude.”
That has not been the case this season, as seven-year veteran Chief Stewardess Kate Chastain has made waves (on board and online) with her self-described “bitchy resting face” and the now-infamous PenisGate. When the principal charterer informed Chief Stewardess Kate that she looked bitchy and requested she smile more, she got even. She channeled her anger into art, crafting a penis towel that she placed on said guest’s bed, a hardly subtle “you’re a dick” statement.
Despite feigning anger for the show’s duration, the guest finally laughed about it and handed over a fat tip, which may have defused the situation, but did not negate the fact that a professional crewmember had retaliated against a guest, reality show or otherwise.
Gang maintains that none of the guest interactions are scripted (at least on season one), so she believes it’s all coming from the crew. “They’re given all the rein in the world to degrade the guests. Nothing is scripted,” she says. “I’m cringing for the guests every time. Who in their right mind is going to pay next season to have the crew tear them apart?”
Crew may agree that the guests make an easy target on charter. They’re the cause of all the stress. When another easy target, the incompetent deckhand Andrew, was fired, who better? “Everyone needs some outlet for their aggression. I was it last season; after Andrew [left], now it’s the guests,” Gang says. “I’m not going to lie, and say I’ve never have strong feelings about guests, but now it’s encouraged to be ugly and nasty to the guests. It’s just not cute to take out your aggression on the guests.”
But could this simply be a case of sour grapes for Gang not making it back on board for season two? Gang says no. “I don’t want to be part of a culture that promotes bullying. If this is what Bravo wants, I don’t want to be part of it. Watching everything going on now is what the yachting industry was anticipating last time. This is what I was attempting to avoid.”
Below Deck, which took a pounding from the yachting industry last year, has seemed to move somewhat under the radar this season. Perhaps it’s because the industry is simply over it, or perhaps they’re resigned to the fact that it’s here and there is nothing to be done about it. But Gang still takes it very personally. “Perhaps I shouldn’t,” she says. “But seeing what is happening now [on the show] is what I was attempting to avoid [last season]. I’m appalled that what I thought we put together has turned into this. I think there was a general sigh of relief after the last episode [last season], but this is what people thought it was going to be.”
So what do you think, crew — is the penis towel forgivable or not? Is the second season of Below Deck headed in the wrong direction?