It was handed to me a week ago. An innocent looking, baby-blue postcard. A casting call for a dating game show. My nightmare, really. But when you are jobless, and your nightmare promises $500 for a single day’s work, it’s shockingly easy to face your worst fears. Or so I thought.
Next day I sent them an email, saying I was interested in auditioning. They asked me to submit a photo and answer some simple questions. Easy enough. I did as I was told by the Invisible Casting Gods. A nice woman named Veronica called me, and we set a time. I’m not an actress, and I don’t think I’ve ever really gone on an actress-y audition, so I had to ask, “Um, what should I wear? And bring?” Veronica told me to just bring myself and “wear date clothes.” Hmmm. One woman’s date clothes may be another woman’s trash… or something like that. I mean, we’re all different! What if I like to wear jeans on a first date, and another chick likes to wear a gold sparkly tube top and pink stilettos? Something told me that in this situation, I should up the ante and leave the jeans in the closet. I settled on a white dress. Done. Let the chips fall where they may!
Driving to the audition across town, I blared Temper Trap and sang along. I passed Century City, where I used to sit day in and day out, cooped up in a fancy-pants high rise with sporks in the kitchen and fluorescent lights all around. I sang louder, feeling elated that instead of being in Spork-ville, I was doing something as ridiculous as auditioning for a dating show! I really wanted the audition to go well — I wanted to be picked!
I found the building where the audition would occur. As I walked into the building I noticed a sign that said “Goethe Institute.” Hmmm. That’s weird. I liked Goethe in high school, lord knows why — probably because he was German and pissed off at the world, and I was a teenager and pissed off too — but a whole Goethe Institute? Why? What did they do in there? And why is it in the same building as this audition? I still don’t have the answers.
I asked the concierge where to go and he said, “See all those TVs?” I saw them. “Go in there.” I went. The waiting room tipped me off to the fact that this wasn’t some dinky dating show cooked up by some sleaze ball in his Van Nuys garage. Six flat screen TVs proudly played: E! True Hollywood Story; COPS; and some Hayden Panetierre cheerleading movie. The couches were plush and pseudo-fancy. This, I learned, was Comcast territory. And this was not just any dating game show – it was a Jerry Springer dating game show. I gulped, and took a seat.
I surveyed the scene. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen so many stilettos. There was a really pretty Indian woman who had a pink plastic folder with papers in it. I panicked – does she know something I don’t? Did she bring a resume of some sort?! Did Veronica tell her secrets she failed to reveal to me?! And then there were the Botox Twins: two scary looking blondes who looked like their faces were cast from the same mold – or from the same doctor. Yikes. The excitement I felt as I sang at the top of my lungs on the drive over petered out a little. What the hell was I getting into? Before I could bolt, a sweet-faced girl came and rounded us up.
We were piled into another, much smaller, waiting room. In my high school, if you were “bad,” you got sent to the Bull Pen — basically a tiny, windowless, brick-walled prison cell next to the principal’s office. This waiting room reminded me of the Bull Pen. Ah, memories. The sweet-faced girl handed us a bunch of forms to fill out, and left. I settled in and, being the impatient person that I am, I started filling out the endless forms at warp speed, handwriting be damned. I suddenly got the feeling I was going to be waiting in this Bull Pen for a long, long time, no matter how fast I answered questions about my dating history and “quirks”.
About halfway through the questionnaires, it dawned on me: if I want to be picked, and get that $500, I should probably, maybe, embellish my answers a wee bit. I mean, this was Springer, right? There was a whole form asking us to circle “All That Apply” and some of that “All” included: I’m a circus performer; I wear adult diapers; I am a gang/mafia/Triad member. I didn’t even know what the hell Triad member meant! I do now. I Googled it.
I wondered what the other men and women were writing on their forms. I’d never run over my no-good boyfriend with a sedan because he was banging my BFF. I’d never had sex with three midgets on top of a Vegas hotel. I’d never married a blind, octogenarian hermaphrodite … because I loved him/her! Again, I needed to up the ante if I was gonna compete in this pageant. For example, for the question: “List 5 outrageous things you have done” I snuck in: “Took a joyride in a random car.” What a (lying) rebel I was! That’ll entice them. And for the question, “Strange or bizarre collections?” My answer: “I collect taxidermy bugs.” Um, what? Don’t ask me where that came from because it is a mystery to me. But there it is. Finally, for the question, “Unique beliefs?” I wrote: “Sarah Palin is evil.” Now that answer is 100% true. I’m not sure it’s a unique belief though. I think I was just getting tired.
Finally I came to the final form, the mother of them all: Consent and Release. You bet I read that damn thing word for word. I knew the stories of people getting plied with alcohol on reality shows and edited together so they act like they’re part of Marianne the Maenad’s bacchanal on True Blood! No thanks. My pen hovered above the signature line. I mean, signing this gave Comast the right to use my likeness, voice and image however they wanted, in perpetuity. My stomach dropped. I panicked. People worry about privacy issues and Facebook and all that, but trust me, that stuff has nothing on the sheer terror of signing yourself away to Comcast and Jerry Springer. I shoved the papers into my purse and bolted.
The halls were empty. I found a good-looking guy in white button down doing god-knows-what important work in his office.
Me: Excuse me? Where can I get my parking validated?
Dude: Did you finish the audition?
Me: No… I’m not gonna do it. I can’t sign the release form.
Dude: Oh, that’s nothing. We have plenty of actresses who…
Me: I’m not an actress. Can you guys use the audition tape any way you want?
Dude: Well, only on our web site and maybe in commercials. It’s harmless. You don’t have to answer anything you don’t want to. You’ll be great! Don’t leave!
I think he used some cult-leader type techniques on me because I found myself back in the Bull Pen, hand poised over the signature line again. Why was I such a worrywart? I’ll tell you why: When a camera is put in front of my face, I get nervous. Nerves cause me to have what I will call “Truth Tourettes,” and I know myself enough to know that whatever scandalous question they asked me, I would blurt out the total, embarrassing truth. No filter. I was doomed. Not that I would blurt out anything as scandalous as having a taxidermy collection, but still. Personal is personal. Visions of the $500 danced in my head. The consent form stared up at me. The Bull Pen walls closed in. I bolted. Again.
In the elevator this Tina Turner look-alike woman asked how my audition was. Even though there was no camera in front of my face, I blurted, “The consent form freaked me out. I’m leaving.” She, too, must have taken the same course in cult-leader tactics as the good looking fellow, because she soothingly said, “you need to go back up there and audition. I was married to Ike Turner, I have plenty of baggage honey, but who cares!” Something told me her Ike Turner marriage was about as true as my taxidermy collection. I smiled, she exited the elevator, and I rode on down to the lobby, finally feeling sure that bolting was the right thing to do.
I slept well that night. If you have no qualms about letting some corporate entity plaster your likeness all over a Jerry Springer show, more power to you. You’re probably $500 richer than I am. But as I sit here with the unsigned Consent Form and the silly questionnaires in my apartment, for my eyes only, my Truth Tourettes safely at bay, I realize there are some things this girl can’t do for a buck.
Not yet, anyway…
Dina Gachman’s comedic blog Bureaucracy for Breakfast (where this post originally appeared) has been featured by Chelsea Handler’s Borderline Amazing Comedy, AOL News, and NPR. She has written for Lost in a Supermarket, Thought Catalog, Hello Giggles, Comediva, and The Impersonals, and she just launched an online graphic novel and site called Fling Girl LA. You can find her on Twitter @TheElf26