around 9am they started handing out wristbands to the first 500 people who would be the lucky ones to audition in front of the creative director at The Biggest Loser auditions. hundreds didn’t make the cut and were sent off in the cold rain to their waiting cars. they seemed to have melted into the sidewalk to us, though. huddled together under umbrellas we had formed our own little community, our weighty and wet nucleus from which we didn’t often stray with the exception of stepping out onto the empty sidewalk to check the line both ahead of us and behind us. bob had stepped out to check the line and said, “hey. the line isn’t going around the corner any more. a lot of people are just gone.” we looked down at our wristbands and knew we were the lucky ones. or were we?
our beacon from the beginning of our wait was the world-famous Wildhorse Saloon sign. we gauged our progress by how far away we were and then by how close we’d gotten to it. we were finally underneath the sign at 2 o’clock in the afternoon. we’d stood in line for seven hours in the cold and the rain. one of the sisters looked at us all and said, “you know, even if we don’t get picked, it was worth everything just to meet all you people.” what a beautiful thing to say.
the doorway was were we encountered our first ‘counter’. fifteen of us were let in about every 20 minutes, more or less. once inside we were directed up the stairs into the large bar room where there was a super-sized anaconda-like line that serpentined around the outside of the room, between tables and chairs, bar stools and pool tables. we stood, we moved. we sat in chairs, we moved. we sat at the bar, we moved. we sat in more chairs, we moved. we sat on benches and chairs and finally moved into the interview room. we were counted after each sit and move. fifteen. fifteen. fifteen. fifteen. i was given a questionable look a couple of times and was both complimented by it and insulted. these were my peeps after all. at the last station before the interview room, i took down a contact information from my new friends so we can keep track of each other and celebrate if anyone got call-backs.
the counter chick came out and gave us the rules. “put your personal items behind your chairs, be friendly, be loud, shine, speak clearly, speak up and be noticed. you’ll have about 7 minutes to impress the creative director.” total. not each one of us. all fifteen of us. at once. we were up against each other, so we wished each other well, and it was time to go into the room.
we suddenly became bouncy, cheshire-smiling chubbies as we entered the room enmass. we roped ourselves around three sides of the table. the CD and her mom were safe on the inside behind the enormous slab of shiney mahogony. she introduced herself and told us she was 25. not that it mattered, but i remember thinking, i’ve got underwear older than you, kiddo. as she spoke a commotion commenced behind us. she explained that another group of 15 people would be going through the same process that we would be going through just about 10 feet behind us.
we each had to stand, state our name, our age, how much weight we wanted to lose and our occupation. i was doing the math with the weight loss part and came up with 70 pounds which i knew was their lowest limit. i could lose that and not be considered anorexic easily. the occupation part had me stumped and i was contemplating that when bob stood up next to me and in his big booming voice said something like, “my name is bob and i have an issue with back fat.” that’s all i heard. i have no idea what else he said. i just know i never want to see bob without his shirt. i came up with, “my name is susie, i’ll be 57 in may and i’d like to lose 70 pounds.” i stopped, deer in headlights-type stopping. “bob, what else am i supposed to say?” the cd walked over to me and looked at my application. “sorry,” i said,”age and memory…oh! i’m a writer.” she smiled sweetly, most likely remembering her mom sitting close by. “it’s okay,” she said, “thank you.”
“now, this audition is about entertainment. it’s not all about losing weight even though we know that that’s a very important part of the show and very important to everyone here. we wish we could help you all but that’s just not possible. we need entertaining personalities so when you answer make sure you stand out.”
at this point you could feel smiles drop to the floor.
“i’m going to throw a topic out to you all and i want you to start telling me how you feel about it. stand and then talk about it. here it is: do you feel that there is discrimination in the workplace where overweight people are concerned?”
well, off they went. unfortunately for me, i haven’t been in the workplace since 1992. the instant cacophany of voices trying to spurt themselves to the top of the bedlam was fascinating. finally, a topper who turned into a time-munching whiner. “this woman at work lost a lot of weight and she started putting diet books and magazines on my desk. waa waa waa.” she went on until another woman had had enough, popped up and spouted off her two-croissants worth. my mind was swirling…what the heck can i add? i’ve got to say something and fast. the seven minutes were ticking down. bob tried valiantly to get a word in edgewise, but couldn’t manage to wedge himself any further than, “and how about….and how about…and how about…” each time he was bludgeoned back into his seat by a bigger mouth in heels. he elbowed me, trying to get me out of my stupor to voice my opinion of which i usually have many.
finally, bob gets a break and blurts out, “heck, aren’t we all tired of shopping at Lane Bryant?”
i looked up at him as if i’d never seen him before in my life. like he was wearing a polyester muumuu from you-know-where. “what?” i finally said. he shrugged and laughed. so did i. then i thought, what the hell? i don’t know what i’ll say if i can wiggle in there, but here goes, ‘and then…and then…and then…’. oh forget it.
a quick thank you and we were out the door again. it was 3:15pm. it was over. a lucky few might get a phone call for a second interview and all were encouraged to send in ten minute video tapes. bob and i didn’t get a phone call and have decided not to do the video. bob is drinking moccachinos and i’m counting a few calories and trying to keep up with a workout program. 70 pounds… damn. i coulda been a contender. i coulda been somebody.