"Are you married? If you’re not married, put down that you’re single. She doesn’t want people with girlfriends, no engaged people. Divorced with kids is okay.”
I hear this piece of advice an hour and a half too late. I’ve already filled out my half-sheet application, which asked my relationship status (have boyfriend), age (26), weight (cough-cough) and reason for attending this “Big Brother” open casting call. For that last prompt, I scribbled a few sentences about my fascination with reality television as a cultural concept and how I want to experience the phenomenon firsthand. I guess I’m vying for the group intellectual.
“Did I hear that right?” I ask No.0058, also known as the guy that got in line behind me. “They only want single people? I guess they want as much on-camera banging as possible.”
He laughs, and we make a few porn jokes before the casting call herder tells us to get ready for our group photo. No.0058 gets scolded for throwing up a hand sign -- peace symbol, gang sign, none of it’s allowed. Buff No.0056, who looks to me better suited for “Jersey Shore” than “Big Brother,” is disappointed they’ll be using the point-and-click group camera shots over the nice headshots he brought with him. The five of us hold up our numbers and smile -- big energy, we’re instructed, lots of energy!
After our mugshots, we stand with an associate producer making small talk. One of the casting call hopefuls tells the associate producer he’d love to have his job and fly across the country meeting people at casting calls. “I live in L.A.,” the producer replies, “You’d have to leave Louisville.”
“Fine by me!”
Everyone else in our group of five agrees except me. I am no proud Louisvillian, but I have been to L.A. It sucks. The producer says Louisville seems like a nice town, and my fellow contestants brush away the thought. “There’s only Fourth Street Live!,” she says, “and I’m over it.” When the associate producer brings up Bardstown Road, the lady just scoffs.
Impulse tells me to put my smug hat on and argue with her. I love Bardstown Road, and Fourth Street Live! is right up there with L.A. in terms of places I not-so-eloquently describe as sucky. I find it fake and forced. Of course, here I am standing inside the T.G.I. Friday’s in Fourth Street Live!, waiting two hours for a five-minute shot at wooing a director into selecting me to live sequestered in a house with a bunch of strangers, being filmed 24/7 and subjected to whatever cruel editing someone in a darkroom deems appropriate.
I can hardly claim cultural seniority. I’m as guilty as anyone else here -- they have the group mugshot to prove it.
Behind my thin “I am just doing this for a story” facade, I am excited by the possibility of winning $500,000 in 10 weeks and earning enough D-list psuedo-celebrity to earn my own Wikipedia page. Plus, I am arrogant enough to think I’m interesting enough to be on television.
So, I keep my mouth shut until the group interview with the director. I tell myself my lack of socialization up until now is my strategy, not nerves. We were warned when getting into line not to share strategies because somebody might steal it and use it during their interview. Instead, everyone talked about what reality television shows they’d most like to be on. (My favorite answer, courtesy a guy who decided to audition on a whim after seeing a flyer given to him at the Bats game the night before: “Anything on the DIY Channel. You can get a free kitchen remodeling out of it!")
The group interview with the director goes quicker than you can imagine. We’re asked why we want to be on the show (“The money!” says the girl who hates Bardstown Road) and why we think we could win. I don’t admit that I think I’d be eliminated somewhere in the middle of the pack, instead stressing that I’d be that contestant who stays relatively quiet during public challenges and interactions but talks the most smack during the one-on-one interviews. In real life such behavior makes you a two-faced gossip. Under the watchful eyes of “Big Brother,” it would be called strategy. I think I may have realized why I love reality television.
After all is said and done, we’re dismissed, told to stay by our phones and wait for the next few days. Follow-up interviews and casting is scheduled to go quickly, the director explains. It feels a little anti-climactic, nothing at all like a reality show. I guess I expected more public judgment, and maybe a surprise announcement that our interviews had been taped for a “Big Brother: The Auditions” special.
Instead, I walk out alone, with two hours of life less than before I walked in. My fellow hopefuls are a dozen feet behind me, chatting. Maybe I should have hung back and joined in on the banter about how it went, but naaah. I wasn’t here to make friends, I tell myself. I was here to win.
Yeah, I definitely watch too much reality television.
Photos: Originals courtesy of CBS