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Aspiring Angels

A Report on the Most Extensive and Wide-Ranging Talent Search in Television History



Smile on command. State your name, turn around, and say a little about yourself--very little, you have only 30 seconds. Oh yes. You have to wait about four hours for your turn. Get in line, please.

About 1,000 of Chicago's most beautiful women, between the ages of 21 and 25, followed directions to a tee last week, hoping to be chosen as the newest angel for the remake of Charlie's Angels scheduled to appear on the Fox network this fall with a new name, Angels '88.

Chicago was the second stop on an 11-city talent search, dubbed by its sponsors, Aaron Spelling Productions and Fox Broadcasting Company, "the most extensive and wide-ranging talent search in television history."

The cast director, Ann Remsen, estimates that more than 10,000 women will be interviewed before the field is narrowed to finalists on March 28; the final selection of four angels, not three, will take place on April 6 in Los Angeles.

The lobby, the stairs, and the studio at Channel 32 (WFLD) were alive with spruced-up women hoping to turn their 30 seconds into an opportunity of a lifetime. This had to be a man's heaven: women dressed to kill, wanting to be noticed and looked at. They even made themselves available for small talk. The station's janitor seized the opportunity to mingle, his broom and garbage can far behind. As he passed, the women stared at him curiously. Was he a decision maker? They took no chances, and he received hundreds of warm smiles and friendly hellos. Later he reappeared with a clipboard and showed us his own ability to act.

Since 9 AM the awestruck had been waiting, their stomachs tied in knots. First they waited to have their pictures snapped by a Polaroid camera. Their photos were then stapled to a brief application form. At the bottom of the application form were two boxes; one read "YES," the other "NO." Directly above the boxes it read, "DO NOT WRITE IN THE SPACE BELOW."

New women arrived continually. The station converted a studio into a human holding pen with about 300 folding chairs facing an empty stage set. Periodically, 20 or 30 aspiring starlets would be called away and given their turn to shine for the judges. But, for the majority of the women, waiting was all they would have to remember.

Kim Huffman sat filling out frequent-flier discount coupons and writing postcards. A Toronto native, she was in Chicago singing in H.M.S. Pinafore at the Civic Opera House. The clear-skinned, hazel-eyed, brunette soprano hoped to prove to the judge that her experience was a great asset.

Huffman's tiny frame was packed perfectly into a worn pair of jeans. She had tied a brown bandanna around her waist, the ends down her side like a gun holster. Demonstrating her form, she reached for an imaginary gun, flicked her hair back, and fired. She blew away the smoke from her pointing index finger, but it looked more like she was throwing a kiss. She worried that since her company was heading to San Francisco, she might not be available if she was called back.

Alana Edwards told a group of models sitting near her that her modeling career was just beginning to accelerate. "I wish they would pick the winner by brains," she said. "The blond shows are really out of it. I think there are too many shows on television that lack intelligence." She classified herself with the more-brains-than-beauty types, but was still optimistic.

Two contestants clearly stood out among the challengers: Phillip Potts and Joseph Rutledge, who hoped to change the angel role forever, or at least to pitch for another part if the casting director wasn't ready to shock viewers with a male halo wearer.

Rutledge pointed out that he had once enrolled in an all-women early childhood development class. "I learned how to breast-feed in that class," he said, then added that if asked, he would be willing to cross-dress for fame and fortune.

Some of the women also planned to make an impression at any cost. Linda Pech wore black furry earmuffs. She said she wasn't cold and that she did have nice ears, but refused to remove the earmuffs. When someone compared her to Linus and his blanket, she said, "I'm not insecure, I just like to be different. And besides, they match my boots."

Pech was plain in contrast to the other beautiful women, and maybe even a little out of place. But she came because the guys in her band told her to try out. She seemed pleased at the attention that her earmuffs brought.

Marilyn McConnell tried to finagle her way into the interview without the required wait, but was unsuccessful. With only an hour for lunch, she had to return for work. "If you want to go to a lot of auditions, you can't have a nine-to-five job. . . . And, I'm going to quit mine," she said.

A station engineer, Russ Sherman, said that he was in charge of keeping the women happy. That meant bringing water to the studio and giving directions to the bathroom. "Angels '88 is a new employee public relations gimmick to keep the employees like myself happy. They should do this all the time," Sherman said. "This gal corral has created a festival here--nobody can get any work done."

By nightfall, the Chicago part of the search was history. All the contestants sparkled on cue and the judge had too many faces to remember.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photos/Steven D. Arazmus.

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