Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 16 December 2019

Was Paris Hilton in on Ramez Galal’s Dubai flight prank?

Paris Hilton has said she plans to sue an Egyptian reality programme that played a prank on her during a flight over Dubai – but she might have been in on the trick all along. Here we deconstruct the controversy and looks at the show’s history.
Host Ramez Galal, above, has tried the plane prank on other celebrities, one of whom chased him down the runway while pelting him with stones. Courtesy MBC
Host Ramez Galal, above, has tried the plane prank on other celebrities, one of whom chased him down the runway while pelting him with stones. Courtesy MBC
It’s got the whole world talking. A week after notorious Egyptian comic and TV show presenter Ramez Galal took American socialite and part-time DJ Paris Hilton on a scenic, terror-filled flight over Dubai, the aftermath has seen as many twists and turns as the plane in question: Hilton last week announced her intentions to sue the show, Ramez Wakel el-Gaw (Ramez In Control), for emotional distress.

The following day, celebrity news website TMZ reported that it exclusively obtained a document from the show’s production house, which stated that not only was Hilton a willing participant in the prank, she was also paid nearly a million dollars to get on that plane.

Hilton is yet to respond to the claims, but it does sound like a rather well-­coordinated operation to push up the reality show’s ratings while giving the celebrity plenty of publicity.

The set-up

It began last Sunday when Hilton’s episode was broadcast as part of Galal’s latest MBC ­comedy series.

The set-up involved the stars boarding a light plane for a leisurely, aerial tour over the emirate, only for the situation to escalate — or should we say, descend — into terror: the aircraft suddenly nosedived after a simulated technical failure. The video clip, which went viral after it was uploaded on YouTube, shows Hilton getting anxious, then panicking as skydivers masquerading as passengers open the cabin door and leap out.

Only after the plane returned to the ground was the celebrity told the truth. Taking it surprisingly well, a shaky Hilton goes on to praise Galal for “taking it to the next level. I have seen Punk’d [American prank reality show hosted by Ashton Kutcher] but you have taken me on a plane and nearly killed me”.

Ramez in Control

Ramez Wakel el-Gaw has Galal playing elaborate pranks on a series of guest stars, which, until Hilton’s appearance, had been limited to celebrities from the Arab world. Where Punk’d was designed to anger its targets, Galal’s goals can only be best ­described as to psychologically scar his victims.

Take, for example, 2012’s Ramez Tha’lab Al Sahra (Ramez Desert Fox). The joke played on real fears – it involved the unwitting stars being kidnapped in the desert in broad daylight by armed terrorists after their tour bus is hijacked. In last year’s Ramez Qarash Al Bahar (Ramez The Sea Shark), the mayhem was moved to the ocean. Celebrities were invited for a cruise on a small boat, which began leaking and ended up with the captain abandoning ship and leaving the passengers to fend for themselves while (fake) sharks appear and make a beeline for the stranded vessel.

The appeal

Galal’s programme is incredibly popular, not least because each prank is meticulously executed. In Tha’lab Al Sahra, for instance, no detail was spared, from the fake, screaming passengers and bus driver who feigned his death to the sounds of gunfire and approaching police sirens. In Ramez Wakel el-Gaw, the fact that the pilots had the nerve to almost hurtle the plane to the ground was enough for anyone on the flight to believe the end was near.

Then there are the celebrity reactions.

Stripped of their public facade, the stars give viewers a rare – and sometimes shocking – glimpse of who they really are. Egyptian singer Mustafa Kamel, who was pranked in similar fashion to Hilton, tearfully admitted to Galal that he was thinking of his children because he was expecting the plane to crash.

Other victims of the plane prank include Egyptian actress Sara Salama, who was so livid that she couldn’t speak; and Lebanese television host Neeshan, whose reaction was ­explosive: he pelted Galal with stones and chased him down the runway while letting out a torrent of expletives.

Why he gets away with it

Because he is much loved. In his 15-year career as an actor, singer and television talk-show host — not to mention being the son of esteemed Egyptian director Ahmed Tawfik Galal — the 42-year-old’s amiable personality both on- and off-screen has earned him plenty of goodwill.

Which is one the reasons why it’s entirely possible that Hilton was in on the joke the entire time.

Ramez Wakel el-Gaw is on nightly during Ramadan at 9.30pm on MBC. For details, go to www.mbc.net

sasaeed@thenational.ae

Updated: July 4, 2015 04:00 AM

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