Guy Fieri in Diners, Drive-Ins, and Disasters

Food Network host gets raw behind the scenes

She remembers an afternoon of shooting when Fieri ran late. Kloster went looking for Fieri and found him camped out with the crew, shooting promotional material for a project unrelated to Diners.

"Some people who work in television fall into this excitement at the idea of thinking they're close friends with the talent. They get a kick out of having a celebrity on speed dial," Kloster says. "When you start to think you have that relationship with someone like that, you tend to do what they want and lose sight of what your job is out there."

The infighting only intensified when it involved money.

"The longer we shot, the more he started taking financial liberties with our budget," Page says of Fieri.

The final straw was a dispute over how to divide revenue from the bestselling Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives books. Fieri had promised to "split" the proceeds. Instead, Fieri gave Page Productions nothing.

When the second book was commissioned, Fieri approached Page to ask for access to some of the show's research material. That led to an "uncomfortable discussion" over compensation, Page claims.

"They were demanding tremendous research from my people, and pictures, but they didn't want to pay for them," Page says. "Guy said to me: 'You know, it's true: Jews are cheap.'"

   

FOOD NETWORK REPRESENTATIVES declined to address many of Page's allegations, but Vice President of Communications and Public Relations Irika Slavin denies the network removed Page at Fieri's request.

"Guy Fieri is and always has been a consummate professional, and we look forward to continuing our work with him," Slavin says in a prepared statement. "Our lawsuit with Page Productions has settled and we will have no further comment about it."

Before the lawsuit was settled, the network had much more to say in court papers. According to the network's countersuit, Page can be blunt bordering on brutal.

In one email the network submitted as evidence, Page calls an employee "a vile uninformed piece of shit." Another email refers to a colleague as "one fucked up dumbass loser." In a particularly dark passage, Page wishes death on an employee who disagrees with him: "I hope you die so I can dance on your fucking grave."

Nobody who worked with Page would confuse him for a shrinking violet, acknowledges Ian Logan, an editor at Page Productions. "Passive-aggressive David is not. You know where you stand with David at all times."

Everyone who knows Page has a story about a time he let them have it. Supervising producer Drew Sondeland remembers the bruising reception he got after he dropped the ball on a tape delivery.

"He said some pretty harsh things," Sondeland says. "But it was a pretty big fuck-up. He explained why it was a big deal. It wasn't just him screaming at me."

Some employees have walked away disillusioned. As Page puts it: "There's a lot of people who couldn't cut it."

Jayne Ubl was almost one of them. A grizzled veteran of television, Ubl worked on Diners for nine months and says it almost destroyed her self-confidence.

"You get beat up," Ubl says. "After a number of months I started asking, 'How did I get so terrible at this job?'"

Head writer Margaret Elkins agrees Page's criticism can create an existential crisis. She wound up in Page's doghouse last year and grew so tired of his haranguing that she finally had to confront him about it.

"I said to David: 'You've got to know, you're killing me,'" Elkins recalls.

Page's response was to get angry. "I can't believe you would tell me you think I'm an asshole!" he told her.

To Page's credit, he eventually settled down and apologized for his behavior.

That angry side is in full flower when it comes to the court battle. Page says the Food Network's lawsuit was an attempt at creating a "revisionist history" that he was fired for "creating an intolerable workplace." Page calls it a "convenient excuse" to smear him.

Food Network host Tom Pizzica worked with Page on another show, Outrageous Foods, and supports him. Pizzica says the problem was as much Fieri as it was Page.

"I think it was just two people whose egos are very big, and they can't be in the same room together," Pizzica says. "That's how people are in this industry."

   

A DOZEN WRITERS, EDITORS,and producers gather around Page, who holds court on a leather couch in a Longfellow living room. Today is the premiere of a new episode of Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, and Page and his production crew want to see what it's going to look like without them.

Rumors flew that the show would be canceled after the Food Network ended its relationship with Page Productions. But Page handed over all the footage his team had shot for future programs, including a couple of finished episodes. The network gave the tapes to Citizen Pictures, a Denver studio, to re-cut and repackage.

Page's team is anxious to see how the Food Network will handle the credits. The staff wonder if their hard work will be acknowledged.

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6 comments
joxer36
joxer36

wont watch the show EVER!

Joshua Graf
Joshua Graf

Mr. Fieri once called me a douchebag for no good reason other than his ego was in the way. It still gives me a chuckle.

David Lutchen
David Lutchen

I hear from restaraunt owners he is pretty good guy but from others I hear he is a big Hollywood conceded asshole.

Hoffman Humphrey
Hoffman Humphrey

I saw a guy who I thought looked like Guy in the MSP airport. Turned out it really was him....the leather jacket he was wearing had his name written across the back. >shudder

 
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