“Give me alcohol right now,” Aimee says upon her return to the bar. We’re at Latitude, and the place is crawling with so many hot women the bartenders are all wearing idiot grins on their faces. Aimee is doe-eyed and done up, her blonde hair in a cute bob. She squeezes in beside Tracey, who’s plainly pretty and skinny as a stick. Aimee’s just returned from the video interview portion of her audition and sucks her gin and tonic angrily. “I felt like such a cheeseball when I was answering the questions,” she says. She shakes her head. “I’m never going to get picked.” Tracey, meanwhile, doesn’t have time to indulge doubts. She’s already making plans for her date with destiny (no pun intended). If she’s chosen for ABC’s The Bachelor III, she promises to go on a diet, as if this vow among strangers is binding. “Otherwise I won’t feel confident in a bikini on television,” she says seriously.
It’s a Thursday night, and Latitude is aswirl with the scents of singlehood: a mix of Altoids, aftershave, perfume and pricey salon hairspray. There are easily a couple of hundred men and women here, all of them buff and bodacious, every one of these single, 21-and-overs hoping to be the next Mr. or Mrs. Right and none of them asking why. Really, it could be any meet market happening in town, except for the fact that a lucky local (man and/or woman) could be married in July to someone they don’t even know yet. Or then again, maybe it’s not that different at all.
This is the first time ABC casting has carried its caravan of merry marriage makers to Tennessee to scrape the cream off the top of our singles scene. Nashville is one of 16 cities around the nation singled outagain no punfor the search, and one of four in the Southeast. The turnout is so impressivethe girls so numerous and guys so cuteit might be the next great idea in theme bars.
“This top is killing me,” says Kelly, 29, a drop-dead gorgeous blonde in real estate sales. She adjusts her gauzy blue Tiffany top and when it’s fixed, only three-quarters of her breasts show. Kelly explains that she’s auditioning to assert her newfound independence from her recent ex-boyfriend. Though she describes herself as “extremely picky,” she allows that she could envision marrying a man after only knowing him six weeks. “I am a firm believer in chemistry. And if it’s there, I’m going for ithook, line and sinker.” Kelly surveys the bar, checking out the competition or just looking for that special someone. “I dated a man who came up to here,” she says, and lays her hand on her nipple. “He was sexy as hell because we had that chemistry.”
Bobby freely admits that meeting hot, single chicks is his motivation to audition for the show. Fashionwise, he’s a carbon copy of all the other boys (white button down shirt, tie and pressed khakis). He checks out the behind of a pretty passerby, nods, then pauses for a moment of reflection. “I want to meet a woman whose eyes I can look into every morning for the rest of my life,” he says. Like other hopefuls, he’s already got his process of elimination down. “I’d kick off the easiest girls first,” he says.
Lunch Dates, a local satellite in a national matchmaking chain, sponsored the event, which is being hosted by Woody & Jim from 107.5 The River. The DJs are off in the corner, being pros, and so is Nashville Lunch Dates president Christie Gallent, who has a booth set up where women can sign up for the dating service. “A lot of women told me they’re here because the men have had background checks,” she says. “I’ve given a lot of them my card and told them that if they don’t get picked they should give us a call.” She’s thrilled with the turnout, and like a proud Shadchen cites 14 marriages and 26 known engagements in the company’s five-year history. “We’re just like The Bachelor,” she says, “because we promote nontraditional approaches to meeting people.” The press release announcing Lunch Dates’ partnership with ABC reads, “There’s more than one way to skin a cat.” She’s even planned a follow-up singles event with the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation to watch the final episode of this year’s show at Latitude on Nov. 27.
To keep the energy level high while we wait, Lunch Dates has set up a mock Match Game (three women at a time are asked questions by the emcee) with prizes awarded to the best contestants. “I want to treat a man well and give him the world,” Kristie says into the microphone. Her voice is so breathy that if you closed your eyes, you’d think Marilyn Monroe had been resurrected for the occasion. Raven-haired and possessed of a gaze that could burn a man’s clothes off, Kristie explains why she should be picked, as if affiliates from ABC casting were strategically planted in the room.
Not counting the mousy Devin, Annette is Kristie’s strongest competition. Mid-game, Annette flirts with a group of boys in the small audience, offering each of them a rose. It’s this outgoing quality, plus her self-described excess of “charasma” that eventually wins her first prize and a lovely gift set. She shows her gratitude by sticking her arms straight above her head and waggling her fingers like a high school cheerleader after a touchdown.
Still, this isn’t a meet market; it’s an audition for one of the most popular shows on television. With ABC application in hand, eager auditioneers are greeted by TV staff, assigned a name tag and number and escorted behind the table for their head shot. (A sign here reads: “It is considered good luck to kiss the photographer.” He’s a guy, and none of the male applicants kiss him.) Then the hopeful bachelor and bachelorettes are let loose in the bar, where cliques form and cocktails disappear until their number is called for the video interview. A quick glance around the crowd reveals a 5 percent male to 95 percent female ratio. The pickin’s are slim for the ladies, and the guys have the smug look of the blessedly outnumbered. In other words, it’s a lot like most bars in Nashville.
Come video-interview time, contestants are led by twos into a separate room off the bar. Here, casting producer Neal Konstantini, 26, who has godlike looks and a Titan’s ego, floats between cameras set up at opposite ends of the room. He has cropped black hair and a chest puffed out from pride and free weights, and he interjects questions to the nervous ladies, who are literally backed up against the wall behind the cameras. “My personal taste is in everything I do,” he explains. “Everybody you see on Survivor is there because of my personal taste.”
Konstantini, who likes to touch the applicants (particularly the females), smooths down a stray lock of Jenn’s auburn hair in between answers. She’s looking for a man with a dog who will rub her shoulders after a hard day at work. Konstantini nods, not hearing a word she says. “Why are you still single?” he blurts out. Jenn slumps like she’s been punched in the stomach. “I haven’t found anybody worthy enough?” she offers. Then, recovering a shred of confidence, she adds: “People see me and think I’m already taken.” At the end of the interview, Konstantini asks her to sell herself to the camera. In response, she unleashes a litany of personals clichés. She’s fun and energetic. Loves movies and long walks on the beach. “And I’ll show you a good time,” she says.
But now it’s my turn to go mana a mano with Konstantini. To wade through the intimate interview process, I block out images of feminists burning bras and Rosie the Riveter’s flexed arm and put my best lipstick forward. Leaving the salary line blank and cheating a pound (or 10) on the weight, I charge into the adjoining room ready to speak my mind and distinguish myself from the rest of my desperate demographic.
I’m immediately thrown when I get interviewer Pierre instead. He’s a slight black man with a French name.
“Do you have any children?” he asks as the cameraman focuses in on my face.
“If I did, would I be here?”
“When was the last time you made out with somebody?”
I stop to think, count on my fingers.
“Four months ago.”
It’s not that there isn’t anybody, I try to explain, just that there are a lot of nobodies.... but Pierre’s already speeding up the interview process.
Later I learn that my application doesn’t make it into the coveted second stack. Konstantini must have sniffed me out as a mole instead of someone in search of my Mrs. degree. That explains it! Alas, I’ll never get to go “skydiving, snow skiing, ice skating, para-sailing, water skiing, rollerblading” with the Bachelor at the “risk of death, serious injury, illness or disease and/or property damage”a stipulation I would have had to agree to when I signed my eligibility contract with ABC. Of course, the upside of this rejection is that I won’t have to subject myself to “embarrassing, unfavorable, humiliating, derogatory” situations that may “portray The Bachelor and/or The Bachelorettes in a false light.”
And there’s hope for my future in reality television. Fox network is developing a reality series called Married in America in which couples are set up in arranged marriages and the viewing public votes on which couples will get engaged.
Still, after driving home with the radio off and 20 minutes at the bottom of a hot shower, I can’t shake the feeling I’ve had since the interview that something must be wrong with me.
Danny Solomon is the lifestyle editor of The City Paper (www.nashvillecitypaper.com).
No pigtails Pink, just pig.
Ms Harris, your belief that only those that do not want to die seek help…
A religious man gives his opinion about the biblical sin of homosexuality and he's labeled…
Finally some truth about polar bears. There's also more of them then ever. They're in…
My neighborhood association in Green Hills has been battling developers who don't care if they…