By Sally Deering
Photo sent by Enzo Palumbo
First, an explanation of the “meow meow.” It’s like “etcetera, etcetera,” mixed with “yada yada” with a hint of “Oh yeah? What’s it to ya?” It’s also the nickname of Enzo Palumbo, a handsome, funny, “tell it like it is” insurance adjustor from Bayonne who spent 75 days as a contestant on CBS’s “Big Brother” this summer. Let’s let Palumbo describe the “meow-meow.”
“Meow-meow” it stems from back in the day,” Palumbo says. “Years ago, I was with my friend and we were with two girls. One sits in the front seat with me and before I put my radio on, she farts in my car and tries to blame me. I ask her, what are you doing? She says, ‘whatever, meow, meow. That was the end of it. Meow meow. I’m a straight up cool cat.”
Little life-lessons like those charmed 10 million TV viewers who tuned in each week to watch Enzo, Lane, Hayden, Britney, Rachel and seven other “Big Brother” contestants room together in a snazzy Hollywood pad complete with outdoor Jacuzzi and 24/7camera surveillance. Palumbo lasted 75 days living in the ‘goldfish bowl’ with viewers watching his antics and the Jersey way he did things, like creating an alliance called “The Brigade” and nick-naming his alliance teammates the “Beast,” “Animal,” “Brains” and himself the “meow-meow.”
Enzo’s boisterous and playful personality, handsome good looks and Jersey edge intrigued viewers and his fellow players, but underneath his Jersey boy persona, Palumbo proved to be a sharp gamer, outlasting nine other contestants and maneuvering himself into the No. 3 position at the show’s finale. Enzo didn’t win the $500,000 1st Place cash prize awarded to Hayden or the $50,000 2nd Place award Lane received, but Enzo played a great game and now that the show has ended, he’s hoping to parlay his “15 minutes of fame” into a show biz career in “La-La Land.”
Immediately after the show’s finale, CBS and the Big Brother production company treated Enzo and his cast mates to a ballyhoo weekend at Bally’s Hotel in Las Vegas, to allow the gang to party after three months of soul-baring and game-playing. Enzo reunited with his wife and daughter Gia, taped interviews and met with former “Big Brother” cast members from the 11 previous seasons. During his weekend stay, fans recognized Enzo as a celebrity, asking him to sign autographs and pose for pictures. Hollywood agents slipped him their business cards and one filmmaker wants to cast him in a movie. And Enzo is loving every minute of his newfound celebrity.
Viva Las Vegas
“I’m a star in Vegas,” Enzo says from his Bally’s suite. “Grandmothers, young women, middle-aged women all want to hug me. Even men hug me. The fans are unbelievable. My head is so big right now I can’t even fit out the door.”
Enzo’s Las Vegas fans also used their chance encounters with the Reality TV star to learn about his time on the “Big Brother” homestead and the strategic moves that kept him in the game and on prime-time TV for 2-1/2 months. As soon as the show began, Enzo initiated the idea for an alliance between the men, who met in the shadows to plan strategies-well, more like secret meetings in the sauna.
“Before I came in I wanted to get three or four people into the thing and with my personality, I knew three or four people would like it and I would use that to make some type of mafia,” Enzo says. “I called it the Brigade. They could do the dirty work for me and if I ever got on the block, I had my alliance. We would have meetings late night when everybody was sleeping. Sometimes we went to the Story room, the H.O.H. room. Sometimes even the pool or sauna. We’d go over things real quick. I had a blast and it got me to the finale. It was the best alliance ever in Big Brother history.”
So did Enzo trust the Brigade alliance or did he think they would turn on him at any given moment?
“In that house, it’s hard to put a hundred percent trust in anybody,” Enzo says. “I felt like we were definitely loyal. Lane worried me the most because of his side alliance with Britney. That was our plan from the beginning to break off and make side alliances with other people so they never knew we were an alliance together. I was never a target the whole season. I was playing the whole house, manipulating everybody. It was just amazing.”
On “Big Brother” Enzo played dumb at times, like when Britney tried to teach him how to speak properly and during a shopping trip, when she explained how to read food labels. There are plenty of excerpts on YouTube to see these hilarious exchanges, Enzo’s “Meow Mix” commercial and videos uploaded by several “Big Brother” fans including a digital animation called “The Formation of the BB Brigade,” where Enzo is depicted as a fat gray tabby cat wearing a fedora and black sunglasses named “meow-meow.”
“Back where I’m from, you have nicknames,” Enzo says. “There’s me, the ‘Meow Meow.’ I can be sneaky but I play it nice and cool and calm.”
When it got down to the final three, Enzo says he knew Lane and Hayden weren’t going to take him to the final two because they knew the seven teammates in the Jury House liked Enzo more and would name him the winner.
“Most of them pretty much liked me and Lane and Hayden knew it,” Enzo says. “It would have been tough for Lane or Hayden to beat me.”
In the finale, Enzo was voted out and Hayden named the winner with Lane in second place. But no hard feelings, Enzo says, crying over spilled milk is just a lot of “meow meow.” Enzo marked his territory on Season 12 of “Big Brother,” and along with a big sense of humor, he brought a little Jersey to the show.
“No matter what, I had tons of fans and I loved it,” Enzo says. “That was a big part of this. I didn’t care about the money. I wanted the title. I wanted to be the champ, I wanted to show that I was the “meow-meow” and for me, that will always be my legacy.”
Going Back to His Hometown Fans
Reality TV fame and the celebrity that it brings can either fade when contestants return to their “normal” lives or jump-start careers into new directions, like the case of Buddy Valastro of Hoboken, the “Cake Boss,” who after several Food Channel cooking contests, landed his own reality TV show on TLC. Just like his game plan forming the alliance on “Big Brother” Enzo’s devised a game plan for his future, too.
“I’m going to try to do everything and anything, maybe get an agent, some groupies or stalkers, whatever comes my way,” Enzo says. “I heard Howard Stern’s people might want me on his show. I had a couple of agents give me their cards. One guy is filming a movie in December and has a good part for me playing some type of Jersey kid. I’m open to everything and anything, big roles, small roles. I know it will be hard, but I’d like to take a crack at it.”
Enzo’s hometown fans in Bayonne have been watching every episode and rooting for him. Hot and Toasty Bagels in Bayonne named a couple of sandwiches after him and his cousins Giacomo DeRosa and Leonardo DeRosa, owners of Paesano’s Pizzeria in Downtown Bayonne named “The Meow Meow Pizza” after him. It’s piled high with sausage, mushrooms, onions, sautéed garlic and drizzled with olive oil. They also created “The Brigade,” a dish that consists of broccoli rabe and shrimp sautéed in garlic and olive oil over pasta. Both dishes have a lot of flavor and stand out on the plate – just like Enzo.
“This is the real me, the real ‘meow meow,'” Enzo says. “I’m charismatic. I’m creative. I love to make people laugh. I like to bust chops.”