Editor's note: Welcome to the return of "Media Blitz," a regular column that focuses on the ins and outs of the sports entertainment world.
In the intersection of sports and pop culture, the summer of 2012 may very well go down as the "Summer of Jeah," and only partly because of what swimmer Ryan Lochte accomplished at the London Games.
What the three-time Olympian does outside of the pool is, at times, considerably more fascinating.
When Lochte wasn’t fishing for medals -- and snagging five -- this summer, he was punctuating his wins with a blinged-out grill, much to the IOC’s chagrin; trademarking a motto -- “jeah” -- that makes no sense but would make any frat boy proud; talking about sex at the Olympics with me; bantering with his mom in the media about his love life; hitting up movie premieres and talk shows, and even stripping down to his undies for Joan Rivers; inspiring the man who is third in line for the British throne to go all King Ralph in Vegas; and, currently, covering NYC Fashion Week for E!.
Next, you’ll see Lochte on CW’s "90210" when he appears on the prime-time soap’s Oct. 29 episode. After that, you just might catch him wading in the reality TV cesspool.
Make no mistake, while Lochte is a wild card -- and perhaps adored by Americans because of this -- his rising brand is carefully managed.
Blitz recently spoke to Lochte about his acting debut and his wild summer in a phone conversation held under the supervision of his reps, who handed down two pre-interview rules: “No questions about Ryan’s family or Vegas.”
One of these rules was observed.
You’ve been on quite the tour since London, but let’s start with "90210." You had your pick of cameos, I’m sure. Why that one first?
I liked the show. I grew up watching it as a kid, so when they asked me, I was like, oh yeah, by all means.
So you remember the old gang. There are two types of guys in this world: are you a Dylan or a Brandon?
I definitely would say Brandon.
So you see yourself as squeaky clean?
Yeah, I do, but I have a little more of an edge to it. [Laughs.]
Brenda, Kelly or Donna?
I’d go with Kelly. I don’t know -- her eyes. They were sexy.
Totally agree. Tell me about your scene. Why was Ryan Lochte kicking it with Naomi and Max?
I guess they were doing a ropes course at a resort. I had my pretend-girlfriend, and we’d just finished the ropes course. Then Naomi goes, oh my god, is that Ryan Lochte? And then we had a little skit that we did. It was pretty hard, remembering your lines while knowing where to be and how to act, even though I was just playing myself. But the cast definitely helped me out. They said, “If you mess up, just keep going and play off it.” We went through, like 10 takes of it, though. [Acting is] definitely something different. It’s something I could do when my career is done.
While in L.A., you attended "The Expendables 2” premiere. Let’s say you could take a time machine to the heyday of its cast and co-star in all of the movies done by only one of those guys. Who’d you chose?
My favorite is [Sylvester] Stallone. I mean, I grew up watching all of the Rambo and Rocky movies. If I could, I’d be in a "Rocky." I got to meet all of those guys, actually. You know how Stallone, in his movies, is always a hard-ass? He’s a really nice guy and really approachable. I thought that was cool, seeing a different side of him.
You’ve expressed interest in doing "The Bachelor." You’ve also talked about your desire for a post-London relationship. Do you think it’s possible to find love on a reality show, or -- let’s be honest -- would you be doing the show for your brand?
Well, right now, with "The Bachelor," "Dancing with the Stars," there are no offers. I’m not set in stone with anything. But that’s what I definitely want to do, because I’m big into family -- down the road, now that the Olympics are over, I do want to settle down and find true love. And I think you can find it anywhere, whether it’s on a show or in real life.
At this point, are you finding it difficult to meet someone who wants you for you and not for your celebrity?
It’s hard and something that definitely crosses my mind when I’m talking to girls -- are they after my money or fame, and not me? It’s hard, but it’s something I have to live with and be aware of.
Do you have faith in your B.S. detector, so to speak, to help in identifying the disingenuous girls?
Yeah, I mean, after you see it, like, every day, you start noticing little things. You do start noticing a little more.
You’ll turn 32 during the next Olympics. Is there a chance you could get comfortable with Hollywood’s spotlight and not rock Rio?
I mean, that’s -- I don’t know. It’s definitely going to be different, these next few years. But you know what, first and foremost, I’m an athlete, and I’m definitely looking forward to Rio. I know my body, and I know what it takes to perform at the Olympics, so if I start feeling like I’m not doing my job in the pool, I’ll have to start not doing certain things and just getting focused for Rio.
What certain things?
You know, the reason I’m able to do "90210” and all of these movie premieres, all of that stuff, is because I have a really good background. And I’ve had eight years of great, hard training. Now I have an opportunity to do all of the things I wasn’t able to do in the past and still maintain my swimming career. The talk shows, that stuff was so much fun. That, and getting off the airplane and having people scream, "Hey, Ryan!" -- these are the things I’ll remember for the rest of my life.
As far as surreal moments since London, racing Prince Harry in a Vegas pool at 3 a.m. has to rank up there. Were you surprised when that news blew up?
I mean, I was just involved with the race with him in the pool. I wasn’t involved in anything else. But, yeah, he’s a part of the royal family, so you know anyone and everyone is going to be taking pictures of him. But, you know what -- when do you ever get a chance to race a prince? [Laughs.]
And when you got that chance, did you take it easy on him?
I definitely took it easy on him. I’ve been swimming for 20 years now. I'd better be able to beat him. But he’s really good at motocross, so maybe since he raced me in the pool, I should race him in motocross.
How will you wrap up the Summer of Jeah?
Actually, I’m going back home. I’m moving into my new place in Gainesville, Fla., so I’ll start moving some stuff in. And the first Gators football game, I’ll probably attend that and just hang out, and hopefully just get back into the pool.
Did you like my “Summer of Jeah” bit? I just made that up.
Jeah. [Laughs.] It’s just normal Ryan language.