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Talent Search

Richard von Busack searches the web for TV stardom

TV IS constantly looking for new faces, and provided you don't look like Quasimodo, you, too, can give it a try. I got as far as the audition stage of a well-known TV trivia game. That same quality that's so obnoxious at parties—"Five bucks says the author of The Decameron is Boccaccio, not Pinocchio"—was finally going to pay off. Me and a group of 40 mister-and-misses-knowitalls gathered in an empty soundstage at the former MGM lot in Culver City. We were the survivors of a written test; what was left were about 90 percent school teachers and a couple of Army officers. They wore their dress uniforms in what might be considered an unfair attempt to get some patriotic preference when cutting time came.

It was a roasting hot day. I'd had a long walk, and by the time I got in front of the audition camera in my sports coat, I was red-faced. Some combination of too much sweat, disheveled hair and an overeagerness to push the button ("BZZZT! What was 'The Diet of Worms?'") made sure I didn't get a call back.

Here are some leads if you feel lucky.

  • Youstarnow.com requires a monthly $14.95 fee to place your photo and bio with upcoming reality shows. Some of the shows listed on Youstarnow.com demonstrate the thin line between the credible and the incredible: America's Ugliest Bedrooms and Survival of the Richest.
  • Most game shows have web addresses with info on getting tickets. No show will provide an auditioner with accommodations or travel expenses. The Jeopardy site (Jeopardy.com) stresses that it is not a good idea to come to L.A. just for the show. Rather, it's better to make an appointment to audition. Jeopardy also brings road-trip auditions to places as far-flung as Chicago, Phoenix and Washington, D.C.
  • Keep an eye peeled for Wheel of Fortune's Wheelmobile—a 32-foot-long banana-yellow mobile home that the show uses to hunt contestants to watch that big wheel keep a turnin'. The website warns: over a million people each year try to get on the show; only 600 are chosen.
  • Judge Hatchett's site (embedded into the Sony Pictures site) has a form you can fill out to describe why you require her brand of justice.
  • If your band's version of "Free Bird" renders audiences incontinent with pleasure, note that CBS is creating a star-searching "Untitled Rock Star Project." Auditions are coming up at Tipitina's in New Orleans on Valentine's Day.
  • Fear Factor requires a home-videotaped audition. So does Extreme Makeover. Because the ABC hit claims to be receiving 1,000 makeover requests per day, its requirements are by far the most exacting of any reality show. They exclude applicants with houses over 2,000 square feet; secondly, they won't take people who have "outgrown their homes" or those who bought a fixer-upper they can't afford to renovate. At the end of their 13-page-long application form—most of it legal disclaimers—the show offers suggestions to applicants filming a video tour of their sad blighted hovels:
  • Don't put people who don't live in the house in the video. Don't wear white or red or tight check patterns or stripes (all of these look bad on TV). Logos on T-shirts should be avoided. Be uplifting and greet the camera with (their example) "'ABC, we're the ____ family!'... lots of smiles and energy." The hints go on: "Be emotional, talk to the camera, tell us you need help ... but don't be afraid to smile. ... Don't say things like 'Our house isn't that bad.' Don't chew gum."

    Richard von Busack has been co-host of more than 100 episodes of TV's 'CinemaScene.'

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    From the February 2-8, 2005 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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