Saturday, March 19, 2011 | 4:50 p.m.
This is good enough to be scripted: The former “Tarzan” on Broadway, current co-lead in a Strip adult production and vocalist for one of the hottest dance tracks on iTunes delving into the Deep South to find his birth mother.
Except, this is Josh Strickland’s real life. Of course, it’s a life playing out for the cameras tailing him and Holly Madison’s merry entourage on “Holly’s World," but it is true that Strickland was adopted upon birth in 1983 and has never known his birth mother.
- Josh Strickland and Hal Sparks
In one of the plot lines he suggested to producers of “Holly’s World” on E! Entertainment, Strickland is seeking the identity of the woman who put him up for adoption as a newborn in Charleston, S.C. Strickland was born and raised there but had never actively sought the identity of his birth mother until attending therapy sessions as part of his subplot in “Holly’s World.”
"That whole process segued into the search for my birth mom,” Strickland said during an interview with Tricia McCrone and I on “Kats With the Dish” for the show that aired Friday on KUNV 91.5-FM (you can click on the show in this column, too). “I told my mom I wanted to do this, and she said, ‘It’s a closed adoption. I’m not really sure how far you can get.’ But rules have changed since 1983. More documents are now available.”
The process and Strickland’s face-to-face meeting with his natural mother plays out in episodes airing this Sunday (at 10:30 p.m.) and next. The private investigators hired by the show -- who happen to be from Detroit -- didn’t need much documentation to locate the woman. Old-school gumshoeing led them to her very doorstep.
“The show is so current, what happens just happened,” said Strickland, an original “Peepshow” cast member who joined the show when it opened two years ago at Planet Hollywood. “The private investigators went down deep -- they went and they looked and found people. The episode coming up is where they tell me that they found her, and it’s been a very emotional roller coaster.”
Asked if he would have made this sort of tortuous effort absent the TV show, Strickland said, “That’s a question I keep asking myself. I’m not sure if I would have. It’s something I always wanted to do but I probably would have just shoved away. But it was just something that going to therapy just catapulted me into doing it.”
Strickland said allowing producers to control the pace of the investigation and the information he received was sometimes jarring.
“Obviously, there is a lot of anger, because I was not told what was going on or what had been found out,” he said. “I felt like my emotions were being played with a little bit, but it is an emotional thing. I just wish it had been done in a little bit of a different way. I’m used to the cameras being there, I’m not putting on a show. But what made it a little more emotional for me was that it was all put on me within two days. I went down (to Charleston) knowing nothing.”
Without divulging what happened, Strickland said he came away from the powerful experience more fulfilled about his life and career than before he knew of his birth mother’s identity.
“A lot of adopted people can relate to this,” he said. “You don’t know the information. … You don’t know why they gave you up. It’s really nice to be able to put the puzzle pieces together. … I think a lot of people will watch this and really get in tune with their family, whether adopted or not. It made me appreciate my life and family a lot more.”
Strickland emphasizes, too, that it was a real experience. Madison, Angel Porrino, Laura Croft and Strickland are pretty much the same personalities on the show as off.
“A lot of the misconceptions about reality shows are that it is not real. But we are seriously friends, we are doing the things we’d normally do, we just happen to have cameras on us. There are stories we want to arc out, of course, because we can’t just be ‘The Real World.’ ”