Reality stars tell tales of achieving life goals


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Photo by Nelson Morales |

Jonnie Penn, one of four friends who stars in the MTV reality series 'The Buried Life,' talks about some of the goals he has accomplished on his bucket list.


The four friends on the MTV reality series "The Buried Life" have helped deliver a baby, competed in a krumping competition and played basketball with President Barack Obama.

But they still have to make it to space.

Brothers Duncan and Jonnie Penn and their friends Ben Nemtin and Dave Lingwood relayed stories of their adventures in pursuit of life goals last night in the Multipurpose Room of the Rutgers Student Center on the College Avenue campus.

Before a crowd of 500 students, the young men, all in their 20s, gave their answers to one question — What do you want to do before you die?

Photo: Nelson Morales

Duncan Penn and Ben Nemtin, two stars of 'The Buried Life,' share their adventures from crashing a party at the Playboy Mansion to helping arrange a shopping spree for chronically ill children.

Although each had a unique story of his origin with the group, a longing for a greater meaning to life was at the center of them all, a theme that stemmed from the show's eponym, a poem Jonnie Penn read in college.

"[The poem] touched us because it was like that's exactly the feeling I had," he said. "When I'm feeling bad or when everything's so crazy, I feel like I'm buried. I want to just bust through that."

Although the show is now in its second season, the group began its journey during the summer of 2006, when Nemtin started calling companies to ask if they wanted to get involved with a new production company called The Buried Life.

Soon enough, the guys received free products and money to help support them on their travels and got in with a local newspaper, which sent a photographer to see Nemtin become a knight for a day.

The next day, their goal of being on the front page of a newspaper was accomplished.

But fulfilling their dreams is not just fun and games for members of the group. For every one of the 100 items completed on their bucket list, the four friends commit themselves to helping others to do the same.

"You can make an incredible difference in someone's life just by helping them give a voice to what they want to do before they die," Jonnie Penn said.

Nemtin related one story of a cancer patient whose wish was that the guys would help sick kids enjoy their childhoods.

And with a just a few calls to Toys "R" Us, they were able to arrange a shopping spree for children with the illness, an experience Nemtin said had a big impact on the group.

"The moments that were sticking with us when we were doing all these trips were the moments when we were helping somebody else," Nemtin said.

After reports from local media outlets shed light on the group's mission, hundreds of e-mails from people all around the world flooded their inboxes.

"It seemed to have resonated with people the same way it resonated with us," Duncan Penn said. "[Because] the common denominator is everybody is going to die someday."

They were at first hesitant to accept offers from networks for a television show for fear of losing control over production, but after turning down several offers, they agreed to work with MTV, Duncan Penn said.

But there was just one condition.

"Why couldn't we make a show the way we wanted to?" Johnnie Penn said. "We went to MTV and said, ‘We will do this if you let us do the show.' Amazingly, they said yes."

Their first televised mission was crashing a party at the Playboy Mansion, which was Lingwood's lifelong dream.

"Every Halloween dance, I went as Hugh Hefner," he said.

The group ran into some legal trouble, but after hand-writing a letter to Hefner himself, they were granted permission to put their first episode on television last year and are now in season two.

Although much of the event, sponsored by RUPA, was lighthearted, the guys wish to encourage students to think deeply about their own goals and pursue them ardently.

"In life, you just have to do what you do," Jonnie Penn said. "Doing what you do in your life inspires other people to do what they want to do. We've seen that every day for the last five years."

He said writing goals down, working to achieve them and then helping others can make students' dreams a reality.

After the event, students relayed their own goals, from making someone smile every day to walking on a red carpet.

Graduate School of Education student Joe Thompson, a fan of the show, appreciates the men's sense of philanthropy.

"The best thing about the show is that at the end, they help someone live out their dreams [as well]," Thompson said.

School of Arts and Sciences sophomore Crystal Kucuk, who has watched both seasons of the show, agreed.

"I like what they do, that they also give back to other people," she said.


Colleen Roache

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