August 23, 2004 -- THEY don't call it the City of Brotherly Love for nothing.
The cast for the 15th season of "The Real World," set in the Old City in Philadelphia, includes not one, but two gay cast members — including one (as yet unidentified) who tackles coming out of the closet on the show.
"People are very political in this house," says Sarah, a 22-year-old cast member from Tampa, Fla., who is known as the house vamp.
"We have political debates, and there are issues of race and sexuality with two gay men in the house," she says.
This "Real World" cast is also older and more mature than crews in the past. All of them are over 21 — five who are over the age of 23.
"It's so much more enjoyable to be among people who are more your peers," says Sarah. "If I were stuck in a house with an 18-year-old . . . I'm not that patient."
The show debuts Sept. 7.
Other cast members are:
* Willy, a 23-year-old, gay Puerto Rican New Yorker who wears John Galliano and loves Josh Duhamel;
* Karamo, a handsome African American who wears baggy jeans and would love to meet Homer Simpson;
* M.J., a blond playboy from Tennessee who learned about the audition by "making out" with the right girl;
* Landon, 24, a former wrestler who is getting over a seven-year relationship;
* Melanie, 22, an adorable blonde who is in a long-distance relationship;
* and Shavonda, a stunning African-American woman who has an earring in the cartilage-part of her ear lobe. Very cool.
As in past "Real World" seasons, the townies provided at least some of the drama.
Shavonda and Landon made headlines here by igniting a brawl at a local nightclub that landed a 22-year-old man in the hospital.
"We're chilling at this club and a Philly local wanted to be on camera or something, and he started disrespecting me, and one of my male roommates stepped up instinctively and said, 'You don't disrespect my roommate like that,' " says Shavonda. "Then security got us out because we didn't start it, and the right people were reprimanded."
The seven cast members held the final "move out" of their palatial, 10,000-square-foot mansion this past weekend.
A former bank and the Seamen's Church Institute, the century-old house is located within walking distance of the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall.
The building was completely gutted and transformed into a wonderland for this show — equipped with a basketball court, pool table, a video-game arcade, two Jacuzzis, a massage chair, an aquarium and a complete gym.
A blue entrance door leads into the mansion and a massive black olive tree grows from a pot in the middle of the floor. The stainless steel kitchen is to the right and a red living room with a computer station and a phone room is in the back.
Upstairs are the purple room (where the roommates sleep) and the yellow room (which consists entirely of pillows).
The bathroom has four Vischy showers and a hammock strung in the middle of the sink area — so that the guys can watch the girls get ready to go out.
Deep in the basement is the confession room — an ominous, former bank vault where cast members divulge their secret thoughts to a camera.
There was also romance in the series.
"I don't know about love, but there's definitely . . . there's more than romance," says Shavonda. "There's a strong bond between some people in the house and it evolves into something a little bit more."
The cast, who also went on an on-camera vacation to Fiji for a week, became so close that they each got tattoos with the inscription XV — for "Real World 15."