Amazing crowd for ‘Amazing’ tryout in Saugus
Originally Published on Monday, November 14, 2011
By Amber Parcher / The Daily Item
SAUGUS — The crowds and police cars outside a Saugus furniture store this weekend could have confused any casual passerby.
But Bernie & Phyl’s on Route 1 wasn’t giving away free furniture: The store was filled with thousands of would-be actors trying out for a coveted spot for “The Amazing Race,” a popular reality TV show.
For a decade, CBS has sent 11 pairs of travelers in a race across the world for a shot to race through checkpoints, clues and cultures and a chance to win $1 million.
The show came to Saugus on Saturday to find potential New England contestants for the next season.
Local CBS affiliate WBZ-TV and Bernie & Phyl’s Saugus franchise sponsored the casting call, which brought starry-eyed fans from Lynn, Saugus, Boston, New Hampshire and beyond.
Saturday’s casting call was aimed at to find duos that represent the East Coast, said Avry Sandler, sales marketing manager for WBZ-TV.
“We’re looking for people who are genuine, passionate, who have personality and who really have that local flavor,” she said.
New England must be fertile ground for reality TV stars: The Amazing Race held a casting call last year in Tewksbury and Survivor held one in August at Six Flags in Agawam.
Past casting calls in the area drew hundreds of potential contestants, but CBS officials said Saturday’s numbers blew that out of the water, with an unofficial count of 3,000.
The eclectic crowd kept themselves entertained as they waited for hours in a line that snaked around Bernie & Phyl’s several times over. Groups kicked around a soccer ball, partners in homemade “pick me” T-shirts rehearsed their 60-second speeches, and one person outfitted in a head-to-toe chicken costume danced around.
Lynn residents Jessica and Jenna Barbuzzi weren’t intimidated by some of their more outlandish competition.
They had arrived at Bernie & Phyl’s at 7:50 a.m. to check “trying out for a reality show” off their bucket list.
“We don’t know what will happen when we get in, but we just might have a chance,” Jessica said.
A few dozen people ahead of them, Ken Hanlon of Quincy was blowing his hands to keep warm. He had the same go-lucky attitude.
“Can’t win a lottery if you don’t buy a ticket,” he said, shrugging.
His try-out partner, Brian Baker of Quincy, agreed. But a case of beer would be nice to wait out the line, he admitted.
Kimberly Swanson and Arline Shea of Hudson, N.H., woke up at 5 a.m. to arrive to the casting call in time. For the pair, who had recently lost 75 pounds combined, trying out for such a physical show was a personal victory.
“It was something we couldn’t even fathom to do, and now we can,” Shea said.
Deep in the Saugus franchise of Bernie & Phyl’s, producers manning three makeshift stations with cameras and microphones filed contestants through in 60-second intervals, giving each pair total creativity to share why they should be picked for the show.
Lynne Spillman, the LA-based casting director for The Amazing Race and Survivor, said she looks for contestants that can grow throughout the show.
“It’s a relationship show, so I care a lot about the relationship and where it is now and what it could turn into from doing the race together,” she said in an interview last week.
Sure enough, Shea and Swanson, with their story of health and recovery, received a nod of approval from the mic-ed up producer standing behind them.
As for Lynn’s Barbuzzi sisters, they were a bit disappointed in how their sales pitch turned out.
“We should have practiced more,” Jessica said.
But her little sister Jenna stayed optimistic: “You only get one minute to make a million bucks,” she said.