By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO July 2, 2004 Lance Hudes could have been an average Joe.
No, really he could have been a real average Joe.
But when producers of the NBC reality TV show Average Joe heard Lances request that he not be embarrassed on national television, they dropped him like a hot potato.
And so, after traveling to California for a week of rigorous mental and physical tests, Lance returned to Dallas and the restaurant he had just opened there with his brother Marshall.
Although he later learned he had escaped public humiliation in front of a national audience, it seemed Lance had missed his shot at those elusive 15 minutes of fame.
Then, as father and longtime Monticello podiatrist Dr. Marc Hudes recalls the story, Lance got a call from one of the Average Joe producers.
The executive was unhappy that Lance got cut, so he put him in touch with another TV producer one that happened to be working on a CBS reality TV show.
More than six months later, Lance, 25, and his brother Marshall, 31, are two of the 22 contestants in the fifth season of The Amazing Race, the Jerry Bruckheimer-produced hit that garnered an Emmy last year.
The tale of their round-the-world race to beat the other 10 teams for a $1 million prize begins this Tuesday at 9:30 p.m. on CBS and continues for a dozen more Tuesdays after that (starting at 10 p.m.).
Lance and Marshall Hudes are already back at home in Texas, running Café Nostra and its successful catering spinoff . . .
And not saying a thing.
They cant, said their father, else they face a $10 million lawsuit from CBS.
But while Dr. Hudes has the same legal threat hanging over his head, hes not besieged by autograph hounds and Amazing Race fans who hunger for any crumb about the brothers adventures.
Neither is he castigated for his looks or demeanor on such no-holds-barred Web sites as www.television withoutpity.com, where fans and non-fans alike critique seemingly every word on every show including The Amazing Race.
Phrases like Tweedledoof and Tweedleduh, real jerks and famewhore are used on that site against Lance and Marshall although when one of the brothers admits on the CBS.com site to wanting to cruise the world to see all the beautiful honeys and any nude beaches, you can expect a few negative reactions.
Of course, the brothers themselves call each other a dork and dumb, fully aware that their not-so-in-shape physiques will be held against them by some viewers. Indeed, on a short promotional clip for CBS, they seem to be hamming up their physical and emotional shortcomings for the camera.
But Dr. Hudes remains unfazed, proud of all three of his Monticello High School graduates (daughter Gayle, 29, works in the Internet security business and lives with her husband in New York City).
All three were excellent students, he said inside his office at 427 Broadway last week.
Lance is sort of a free spirit. He went to Rutgers, SUNY Binghamton, then Florida, he explained.
Although Lance has enough credits for a degree, Dr. Hudes indicated the structured life of a stockbroker/student in Florida turned out not to be Lances cup of tea, and when Marshall invited him to try the restaurant business in Texas, he jumped at the chance.
Marshall, however, was already retired by that time, having successfully parlayed a fledgling Internet security firm into a national, 40-employee company he sold in 2001 to Web site security giant VeriSign for a substantial amount of money, said Dr. Hudes.
The Cornell University business grad, however, wasnt at all ready to retire before 30, and chased out of New York City by the destruction of the World Trade Center right across the street from his apartment he headed to Dallas at the invite of a former business partner.
Lance tried to woo him to Florida, but instead, remembering that Lance had some formal training and experience in the culinary arts, Marshall pitched a partnership deal to his brother. (Lance once assisted the manager for the Mongaup Valley branch of the Monticello Bagel Bakery, and Marshall had spent some teenage time manning the concession stand at Holiday Mountain.)
They decided . . . to open up a pizzeria and an Italian restaurant, recalled Dr. Hudes.
Following Lances affection for the nightlife, the brothers opened Café Nostra in downtown Dallas bar district in 2002.
It was a tough business, though, with shadier characters frequenting the restaurant in the wee hours of the morning, occasionally damaging furniture and fixtures.
But after a drug company representative signed them up to cater a promotional party for local doctors, Marshall and Lance found their true niche.
They revamped the model of the business to focus on catering, said Dr. Hudes, and they have now become extremely successful.
Theyve become so good at it, in fact, that they even managed to convince CBS execs to allow them to wear clothing imprinted with the restaurant/catering business logo during The Amazing Race.
Of course, some of that success, said Hudes, should be credited to their mother, Judy, who Lance calls sometimes weekly for recipes. (Dont worry: Marshall phones dad for health issues.)
The restaurant is still open closing at 11 p.m. these days and likely will grow wildly in popularity during and after the show.
As well it should, as it was the place a certain TV crew searching for certain characters to star in a certain unnamed reality show on NBC stumbled across the brothers.
But instead of being ridiculed as average Joes, the two spent time hoofing it around the world, having impressed the producers with their chutzpah and charm.
In the midst of planning a season premiere party at the family homestead in Monticello, dad said he couldnt be more excited to see the show and how his sons interact with each other and the other teams.
Marshall and Lance are basically two different types, . . . [but] both are extremely resourceful people and learned to survive on their own, he said. I can only assume they did a lot of crazy and wild things.
Editors Note: We will be following Lance and Marshalls adventures around the globe for as long as they are not eliminated on The Amazing Race. Check the Democrat every Friday to see if the duo beat the odds and the clock . . . or if the latest episode turned out to be their last.