|LaPonza was one of Meek's final four on 'Average Joe' TV show. (NBC photo by Byron Choen|
Cleveland cement contractor Fredo LaPonza is back from his two-month adventure as one of the bachelors seeking to win the heart of a beauty on NBC's reality TV show "Average Joe Hawaii." The premise of the show is for the unsuspecting beauty, Larissa Meek, to think she is on spectacular Kona, Hawaii, to meet handsome, sexy men, one of whom might end up to be the man of her dreams. Instead, she meets a whole host of "Average Joes" (some of whom redefine the word "average," and not necessarily in a good way). After her initial shock and disappointment, she resigns herself to getting to know the guys and begins to enjoy and appreciate them. But right about then, eight new hunky men appear to challenge the Joes.
If you saw Fredo LaPonza, a 31-year-old muscle-bound guy with tatoos and a ponytail, and knew only that he was one of the bachelors on the show, you might mistake him for one of the hunks. LaPonza, however was in the original group of Average Joes. As those who have watched the show -- or even the promos -- can tell you, LaPonza not only didn't get the girl, he was gutsy enough to leave the show when he was one of Meek's last four guys (two Average Joes and two hunks) after the show's producers put him in a submarine and offered him the opportunity to spy on Meek on one of her private dates. He clearly didn't like what he saw.
LaPonza is back in Cleveland, back to being a contractor and back to normal, although "normal" may well be different for him than it ever was before. He calls himself a cement contractor, but what he does stretches to excavation, carpentry, design and construction involving stamped concrete, tile and marble. He especially enjoys mosaic design and says he is "meticulous" at it. LaPonza's family has been in construction in Cleveland for four generations. The 31-year-old LaPonza quit school at 16 to join his developer/homebuilder parents in their business and now owns two construction and interiors businesses plus a dance club in Cleveland. His businesses are LP Construction and Creative Images & Design; his dance club is Kaos. And he requests that an article about him include a mention of his children's charity, Miracle Angels. (Info can be found on www.fredolaponza.com.)
LP Construction was founded by his grandfather and now includes his uncle, who ran the business when he was in Hawaii, and several other family members. "It's one big family company," he says. "You know how us Italians are."
Most of LaPonza's business is residential. His company is nonunion, employing six to nine tradesmen during the summer. His most fun project was adding a room where a crawl space was underneath a foundation. LaPonza takes pride in his mosaic work. "I love to design things. I love doing different patterns in floors, incorporating art or a broken plate and different things into a mosaic in a wall or countertop," he says. "I haven't expanded because I enjoy doing it myself. Mosaic is very time-consuming. I'm so meticulous about it."
LaPonza mourns the loss of interest among kids for the trades, especially those that require artistry. "I don't think the trades get as much recognition as they did before because [kids] are playing video games," he says. "Kids are neglecting the true art of carpenters, tinters, tile-setters. It's something that's wasting away. I'd love to see more trade schools open."
|LaPonza, Meek and fellow 'average Joe' David Daskal reunite at a promotional event after the final taping. (NBC photo by Chris Haston)|
LaPonza, although outspoken and candid, consistently was the guy on the show who was the nicest; the most supportive of his fellow bachelors, whether they were hunks or Joes; and the least prone when the secret cameras were rolling to say anything that would get him in trouble later. However, when he saw something he didn't like, namely Meek hanging all over and passionately kissing one of the hunks on their private date, LaPonza's Midwestern values and traditional Italian family expectations came out and he decided he hadhad enough. He wrote Meek a note -- the version Meek got was quite a bit different from LaPonza's original but the show's producers worked with him to tone it down -- and left Hawaii the day before the elimination ceremony.
The producers of the nine-week-long "Average Joe Hawaii" show may not initially have been thrilled with LaPonza's departure but they made hay with it afterward. A poll on the "Average Joe Hawaii" site (http://www.nbc.com/Average_Joe:_Hawaii/) asked, "Was Fredo right to leave?" Plus, LaPonza is under contract for promoting the show. He has appeared on the "Today" show and engaged in many other media interviews.
The whole idea of LaPonza driving a submarine to spy on Meek seemed to come out of left field on the show. He says he actually did drive it himself.
The producers approached LaPonza and asked merely if he would like to drive a submarine under water. "They knew I ran heavy equipment and know how to run machines and stuff, and they went over everything with me and let me at it," he says. "There was nothing really complicated about it once it was in the water and decompressed. It's just fans and motors that pushed it around in the water."
|Meek, a former beauty queen, had to choose from among 'average Joes' and hunks. (NBC photo by Mario Perez)|
When LaPonza saw Meek getting physical with fellow contender Jim Frassetto, he had seen enough. "I saw what I had to see," he says. "There was nothing left there for me. Am I going to bring that home to meet my mother? I would've been so embarrassed....that she was making out with 20-some dudes. She's nice but not that nice for me."
Did LaPonza really expect -- or even want -- to get the girl? Was Meek his type? He somewhat evades the question. "I'm very spontaneous. I don't want to wait for someone for an hour to put their make-up on. I want someone who can throw a hat on and a pair of jeans and say, 'Let's go out to breakfast.'" He realizes that his newfound visibility could give him a lot more opportunities to meet someone. It's appealing, but, he says, "I'm in no hurry....I am so busy!"
What LaPonza hopes to get out of the show now is a positive impact on his business. He hopes that his personality and values come out in the show to overcome some people's tendency to be judgemental about ponytails, long hair and tatoos. "I hope it will just broaden people more about who I am. When you go into people's homes, you sell yourself as a product. I think I'm a pretty good person. I think it's good for people to see."