Mt. Laurel couple join `The Amazing Race'
Saturday, July 3, 2004
Pair who met through Internet ready to take on younger teams
By WILFORD S. SHAMLIN
Two township residents who met through an Internet dating service after losing their spouses to cancer will compete in The Amazing Race, a reality television game show that takes them on missions around the world for a chance at winning a $1 million prize.
Bob Barron, 61, a retired Navy engineer, and Joyce Nicolo, 54, a medical office administrator, are among 11 two-person teams competing against each other.
"People will see probably the most ambitious race around the world you can imagine," said Bertram van Munster, the show's co-creator and executive producer.
"We are traveling, in 29 days, 73,000 miles. And that, in itself, is, of course, a major hardship, no matter how enthusiastic a traveler you are," van Munster said.
In its fifth season, the Emmy Award-winning show will feature 13 weekly episodes that chronicle trips to nine countries. The teams must accomplish certain tasks indigenous to that country before moving onto the next destination.
"A lot of things are very alien to people. They have to dive into the culture and take care of business," van Munster said.
The last team to reach a destination is eliminated until one team is left and declared the winner.
Barron, who has two grown children, and Nicolo, who has three grown children, have been dating for more than a year.
CBS policy bars the competitors from talking to the media about their experience until they have been eliminated from the race or win it all.
According to a CBS Web site, Barron said the couple was looking for fun and adventure.
They also wanted to show that an older, physically fit couple with smart and compatible partners could beat younger competitors.
"But the main reason is to try to let other folks who may be in the same situation we were before we met - widowed, lonely, wanting a better, fuller life - to let them know that they can make a new life for themselves, get out and try to meet someone as wonderful as we did and enjoy life again," Barron said.
Sometimes, competitors must go two days or more without sleep to reach their next destination, van Munster said.
The show was taped in February and March. Thousands of applicants responded to cast calls in Philadelphia and other major cities.
The race pairs people who knew each other before entering the race. They include identical twins, cousins, brothers, a father and daughter, two mothers who are bowling enthusiasts and several dating couples, one of which includes a former Miss Texas.
Van Munster said the race tests the competitors' will to accomplish mental and physical tasks and challenges them to overcome fear of heights, often bringing out the true nature in people.
Barron and Nicolo had what the show's producers were looking for.
"We always look for the story between the people. Is there a story? Are they articulate? Are they smart? Are they physically in condition that they can do something like this? We're looking for a story, drama, humor.
"We are looking for people who are street-wise."
Atco native Amie Barsky, 30, who was eliminated in the first season of The Amazing Race in 2001, lives in Los Angeles with her fiancee, 34-year-old Paul Alessi, who was her race partner.
The two got lost in the Sahara desert, unable to find clues to their next destination.
The couple, who had dreams of a sunset wedding on a Los Angeles beach, has pushed back their wedding date to October 2005.
Alessi met the former cheerleader for the Philadelphia Eagles and Philadelphia Sixers in a Los Angeles nightclub where she was bartending.
Barsky says she is now acting in a film and her fiance works as a fitness trainer. She said her talent landed her the acting job, not publicity from the television show.
Barsky said she and Alessi enjoyed the competition, even though she described the race as "very intense."
The experience helped the two develop unconditional love, she said. "When somebody makes a mistake, you just have to accept that and move on," she said.
The two argued a lot during the competition, but Alessi said it came as no surprise. "What couples don't argue. That's just how we are," she said.
Barsky and Alessi have developed lasting friendships with members of the other teams. "Everyone's up on what's happening in each other's life, whether it be a wedding, promotions, retirements," she said. ON TVhttp://www.courierpostonline.com/news/southjersey/m070304a.htm