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    Reality TV wanna-bes toss privacy

    The applicants audition in a bid to spend 100 days with strangers under the gaze of cameras on Big Brother 3.

    By BABITA PERSAUD, Times Staff Writer
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published March 31, 2002

    TAMPA -- The applicants were asked about their politics, previous jobs, their tempers, and the last time they hit, punched, kicked or threw something in anger.

    The reason? Those things can make a big difference when you spend 100 days locked in a house with 11 strangers, with cameras recording your every move.

    About 150 people hoping to do exactly that came Saturday to the Ice Palace for what was billed as an open casting call for Big Brother 3, the latest edition of the CBS "reality show" that has yet to make much of a dent in the ratings.

    Not that mediocre ratings matter much to people such as Mariann Gil.

    "I just want some exposure," said Gil, 26, who said she recently was fired for insubordination from her job as a senior front desk person. "People ask me constantly, "What drugs are you on?' I say, "I'm not on drugs. This is me.' "

    All of the Big Brother installments work the same. Houseguests are voted off one by one by the other occupants. The person left standing at the end walks away with $500,000.

    That was enough to attract a crowd Saturday, though it was far smaller than the 2,000 people who came to downtown Tampa two years ago to audition for MTV's The Real World, one of the more enduring entrants in the reality genre.

    The hopefuls who lined up for Saturday's auditions were asked to complete a 69-question application. Question No. 61: What would you do if Big Brother made you famous?

    They also had to provide two photos, a head shot and a full body shot, and then appear on camera for two minutes.

    "Have a seat," a cameraman told Michelle Elliott, 22, directing her to a leather couch.

    A microphone was clipped to her sweater. A Polaroid snapped.

    "We are rolling," said the cameraman.

    Elliott held up a prop: a poster board time line of her life's most embarrassing moments. Included was the time her mother went to her prom. And that very unfortunate perm Mom gave her. "I have a lot of mother issues," Elliott said.

    Applicants who earn callbacks advance to the semifinals, which requires traveling at their own expense to one of 11 cities. The final round is in Los Angeles. The show airs in June.

    Not all of the hopefuls were in the 21 to 30 age bracket.

    Tom Schramek, who wore a BINGO T-shirt to the audition, is 57, retired from the military and an upholsterer from St. Petersburg.

    But he feels 20, he said.

    "It's only when I look in the mirror and see this 57-year-old guy stare back that I wonder, how did this guy get there."

    He glanced at the competition.

    "I can lie and cheat with the best of these young kids," he said.

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