'Road Rules' Turns 20: Mark Long Looks Back... and Hints at a Return

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·New York Bureau Chief, Yahoo Entertainment
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Can you believe it’s been 20 years since the premiere of Road Rules on MTV? Well, neither can cast member Mark Long.

The network premiered the adventure series on July 19, 1995, to be a sister series to The Real World and put in an impressive 14 seasons before being phased out once and for all in 2007 due to the success of The Challenge. The reality show had humble beginnings: Five or six strangers lived in an RV and their travels were guided by a series of clues and missions. Much like The Real World before it, Road Rules was groundbreaking with its depiction of real people doing crazy, death-defying stunts, and helped pave the way for future shows like Fear Factor and Survivor.

Kit Hoover, Carlos “Los” Jackson, Allison Jones, Shelly Spottedhorse, and Long made up the first quintet to take the wheel. For Long, who originally auditioned to replace Puck on Real World: San Francisco and has since become a fan favorite on The Challenge, stepping into the RV was far more exciting than sitting in a hot tub. “This was still the social experiment, [and then] you add in the competitions and the fear and the risks that we took jumping out of planes and going into demolition derbies,” says Long, now 44.

Looking back, certain memories from that first adventure stand out for Long… and inspire him. In fact, he’s even game to come out of “retirement” and compete on another season of The Challenge.

You had no Internet or GPS on that first adventure — what stands out about trying to solve those clues?
What’s funny is I remember they gave us Taco Bell gift certificates. If I could add up in burritos and tacos how many Kit Hoover and I ate across the country, I’m sure it was in the thousands because we got it for free because we had no money all the time.

What moment from that first season do you think about the most?
The skydiving competition where my shoot didn’t pull and I almost died. I jumped out of the plane last and landed on the ground first before everyone. My shoot malfunctioned every which way except loose. I was seconds away from dying. Thank God there’s a CO2 cartridge that fires, like your last resort, so I was safe.

How has that experience affected your life?
I still do lots and lots of physical stuff and take lots of risks. But I’m always in the back of my head thinking, “Is this gonna be the day that I show up on the news and it’s a big news headline of Mark from Road Rules had an accident or his something failed and he plummeted to the ground?” I’ve jumped out of planes since then and thought, “There’s no way this could go wrong twice.”

You’ve done tons of Challenges since — have the safety precautions changed?
Yeah. Nowadays, when we go to The Challenge, there is such an extensive physical that you take, you’d think that you were going into World War 3. There’s physical tests, we go to the cardiologist, we take a psychological test, we sit down with a counselor. It’s a lot different than, “Hey do you want to do this show? You know, let’s get your blood pressure and take your temperature and throw you on the show.” There’s a lot more insurance, I’m sure.

What do fans ask you the most?
Even to this day, people say, “Are you and Kit still together?” Listen, she’s married with kids.

Are you in touch with any of your original castmates?
Kit’s the only one. When I left the mountaintop in Malibu — in theory you think you’re going to keep in touch with these people but the only one I really identified with was her. So we’ve kept in touch over the years. But none of the others.

Do you think MTV will ever bring back Road Rules?
Listen, it’s a hard show to produce, a lot of money getting cast and crew all over the place and mapping out the whole country or internationally and you get that same audience and those same competitions on The Challenge, so just be thankful that it’s still on. I still watch every once in awhile.

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Speaking of, you’ve done six seasons of The Challenge — would you ever do it again?
I said on my last show that I was done, but like any true legend of the sport, I have gotten the itch again. So if you want to print it in this article and direct it to MTV, a lot of the cast members now call me the Godfather on social media — which I embrace because I think it’s great — you can say, “Newsflash: the Godfather is hungry for another championship and wants to come out of retirement, ASAP.” Because who doesn’t want to see the 44-year-old guy just kick everyone’s ass?

Whoa. Who do you want to face off with?
I want all the big dogs on the show. I want the Johnny Bananas, I want the CTs, I want the Zacks, I want the Weses. No one is out of my range or out of my target. … I’m ready. I mean the time is right. I’m physically ready. I’m 6-foot-3, 210 pounds of twisted steel. I’m ready to do this.

What else are you up to?
I started a company called Pocket Protein. It’s a protein supplement that is universal for everyone, doesn’t need refrigeration, and comes in these cool, two-ounce foil packs. It’s in about 1,200 stores across the country and it’s awesome because I started it from scratch. It’s mine. … I’ve also been doing some producing as well… and I still host every once in awhile.