Interview Done By Mike Wilkerson
MW: Please introduce yourself:
MA: My name is Mark “Abba” Abbattista but everybody calls me Abba. I am a music/entertainment attorney based out of Beverly Hills and was a contestant on the last season of the 9 time Emmy award winning show, The Amazing Race.
MW: You were on The Amazing Race 21. What do you remember about getting the call you were going to be on the show?
MA: It was a total thrill! Both James (Lomenzo, my partner) and I felt this sense that it was almost our destiny to be on the show, we just knew it was going to happen once we applied.
MW: How did you pick James to be your partner for the race?
MA: Being in the music business we had both traveled extensively together and felt we had the skills that best suited the Race. It was a natural process that initially started when we were running through an airport and I turned to James and joked that we should go on the show because essentially we were running the Race in our normal lives…except for the million bucks.
MW: Had you really wanted to be on The Amazing Race?
MA: Abbasolutely! We’ve been big fans of the Amazing Race for a long time. It’s the best show on television and has 9 Emmy awards as the Best Reality show to prove it. The whole production of how they bring the world into your living room is truly unfathomable and it was an honor to have been a part of it.
MW: What was your favorite Road Block to do?
MA: The bamboo challenge in Indonesia was great because it showed how well James and I worked together as a team and the Turkish bath in Istanbul was a pleasurable break from the rigors of running the Race.
MW: What was your favorite challenge to do?
MA: Believe it or not I most enjoyed eating the frog fallopian tubes in Shanghai, the rappel to start the Race in Pasadena and collecting the rats in Dhaka. When do you ever get to things like that?!
MW: Tell me how you all lost all your money on the 6th. leg and had to quit the game?
MA: You’re confused a bit here – our money was taken by two other teams in Bangladesh and despite the dire circumstances we actually prevailed in not only getting the money back from the generous gifts of locals but we also beat the team that took it.
We were eliminated 2 legs later in Moscow when a taxi driver drove away and stole all our belongings including my passport so we could not leave Russia and therefore could not proceed forward in the Race. We tried everything we could to get a new passport issued by the US government and then the required exit visa from the Russian side but it just couldn’t be done in time. It wound up taking six days before we had a letter of diplomatic immunity issued to us that allowed us to come back to the States.
For the record, we never quit and I’d like to think we were never actually beaten. We were eliminated by a uniquely ridiculous set of bad luck circumstances that has never happened in 22 seasons of the show.
MW: Do you feel if you were not made to leave you and James would have won The Amazing Race 21?
MA: I’d like to think that, yes. We were a strong team that had won two legs previously and were hitting our stride but as we, and many teams before us, found out anything can happen and that’s the beauty of the Amazing Race.
MW: What was your favorite team to hang out with?
MA: We don’t really get the opportunity to hang out together and it just so happened that we never really ran with the other teams very much.
MW: How was it when you were at a Pit Stop?
MA: It’s pure adrenaline as you run in to meet Phil and await the stressful declaration of where you finished the leg. Once you step off the mat it’s like everything just flushes out of your body, you catch your breath and then exhaustion slams you immediately.
MW: What was your favorite country to visit?
MA: I’d say China, Indonesia and Bangladesh only because I had never been there before (I had been to Turkey and Russia several times previously).
MW: What was your least favorite country to visit?
MA: I loved them all! The conditions in Bangladesh were by far the toughest but we won both legs there and had wonderful experiences with all the local people there – they all hold a special place to me.
MW: What happens when you get eliminated?
MA: You go back to the hotel and cry! It’s really an emotional ride because you prepare so hard to win and the realization that you’ve just been eliminated is terribly disappointing.
Typically you would go to a secret sequester location with all the other teams that have been eliminated but due to our passport/visa problems we never went there and just went straight from Russia to the finale in New York. We just made it in the nick of time.
MW: What have you 2 done since The Amazing Race 21?
MA: I’ve done my best to transition back to normal life. There are several months between when we finish running until the show airs on TV and I just laid low and recuperated from my broken legs during that time. Once the show airs it was a whole new experience of people recognizing us in public.
MW: What reality conventions will you be at?
MA: I just came back from the Reality Rally which is a huge charity event for a breast cancer research facility in California called Michelle’s Place. It’s put together by ex-Survivor Gillian Larson and features 100 guests from a variety of different reality shows. It was a totally amazing experience! I got to meet a ton of people, the event raised a tremendous amount of money and I feel blessed by the opportunity that my simple participation on a television show can unite me with such wonderful people in making a positive impact.
MW: Tell me about being in the music business?
MA: It’s a unique world full of creative people that is a joy to work in – I wake up every morning wondering what’s going to happen and go to bed every night wondering what just happened! LOL
MW: Who have you worked with?
MA: Due to confidentiality I can’t name specifics but I’ve pretty much worked with all the big names in the metal genre.
MW: Give me a good story about a rockstar you have worked with?
MA: This guy I know very well, James Lomenzo, who played bass in White Lion, Megadeth, Ozzy and more, went on a television show called the Amazing Race!
MW: Would you want to MC a 3 day rock show here in Kentucky in 2014 as a tribute to Dimebag?
MA: Abbasolutely! Having known Dime it would be a honor. He really was like no other – his playing speaks for itself and anybody who ever met him has a story of that day forever. He made everybody laugh and was a lot of fun.
MW: What would you like to say in closing?
MA: My simple message is Be Dipherent – Be Yourself. Whoever you are, that’s who you are supposed to be. Embrace yourself, do things that make you, and others, happy and cherish life.