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Oh, those evil producers

They're getting the blame for making Valrico's Kirsten Buschbacher look not-so-nice in The Bachelor - blame from Buschbacher, her father, even someone not named Buschbacher.

By ERIC DEGGANS, Times Television Critic
© St. Petersburg Times
published May 22, 2003

Ask once and Kirsten Buschbacher will say that she was totally pleased with how she came off in Sunday's two-hour finale of ABC's reality romance show The Bachelor.

But push a little more and the 24-year-old Valrico woman will admit to feeling a little bruised after the conclusion of the show, in which tire heir Andrew Firestone rejected her and proposed to 26-year-old account executive Jennifer Schefft of Chicago.

The two women were the surviving finalists from a field of 25 women Firestone dated in January and February to find his match.

"At the beginning of this, I thought it was so much fun. . . . I thought I had made some great friendships, but things have changed," said Buschbacher, who was often shown making insulting comments about her fellow competitors while speaking to the camera.

"It started to feel a lot more out of my control after the first two-hour special, the episode that showed me on my individual date (with Firestone)," she said. "The girls, for whatever reason, felt I was separating myself from them. And I realized, this show is going to go the way the producers want it to go."

During Sunday's show, Buschbacher may have taken her hardest hits. Facing tough questions during a visit with Firestone's family, she fumbled in answering a query about an old boyfriend. Later, she showed flashes of anger in talking about the subject on her final night with Firestone.

After her rejection, Buschbacher said on camera that the idea of Firestone proposing to Schefft "makes me want to throw up."

Comments like these stoked fans' hatred of Buschbacher, said C. Brian Devinney, a columnist for the Web site Reality News Online.

Though he agreed with those who hoped Firestone would reject her, Devinney also said producers "set (Buschbacher) up for a very huge public humiliation. She came across very b---, very snobbish, elitist almost. It was built up to the point where you thought (Firestone) was going to pick her, but in the end, you're surprised and relieved when he doesn't."

Buschbacher spoke to the St. Petersburg Times on Tuesday (her 24th birthday) on the condition, required by ABC, that this story not be printed before today. The network's strategy, which even kept the contestants off ABC's Good Morning America, allowed ABC to feature Buschbacher, Schefft and Firestone exclusively in its post-finale special Wednesday night, After the Rose.

Her biggest surprise: Facing Firestone and Schefft during the special, taped Sunday in Los Angeles, wasn't as tough as she had feared. "I pretty much had come to terms with the situation," Buschbacher said, noting that her visit with the Firestone family probably sealed her fate.

"His brother got the complete wrong idea," said Buschbacher of Adam Firestone, shown Sunday warning his sibling that Buschbacher had left an ex-boyfriend in the Tampa area who didn't know she was participating in the show.

"It wasn't like I was trying to trade up," Buschbacher said. "I was, at that point, sick and tired of discussing it."

For the record, Buschbacher says now that the ex-boyfriend, Bill (she won't reveal his full name for fear of dragging him further into the limelight), knew that she was doing the show and helped her deal with the emotional fallout once the series began airing.

"My opinion is that Andrew hasn't been allowed to make a lot of his own decisions," she said. "He was looking for answers, so he asked his family, "Could you help me decide?' "

Buschbacher also said that her comment about throwing up referred to a general queasiness over being rejected and wasn't meant as a specific insult.

Frank Buschbacher, Kirsten's father, blamed manipulative editing for the way his daughter came across.

"The producers told me they had enough material to make Jen look good or bad, just as they could make Kirsten look good or bad," he said, noting that producers suggested that he ask Firestone about his net worth during a visit to their Valrico home. "If Andrew had selected Kirsten, just imagine how they would have made Jen look."

Now working at Home Shopping Network's Web site and free from having to pretend that Firestone might have picked her (ABC, for example, barred her from dating until the show ended), Kirsten Buschbacher said that the Bachelor experience wasn't all negative.

"I think I've matured a lot," she said. "And the fact is, people make comments like I did every day. Fortunately, in real life you don't always have a camera recording everything you say."

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