Star Search sweeps Reno for the next big thing
It’s Wednesday afternoon, and one by one they come through the door, ready for the audition. Two or three vocalists warm up simultaneously, their soulful sounds sending chills up the spine, while a guy with a guitar paces around the room as he practices. They’re getting pumped up, the creative juices setting a peaceful yet energizing tone.
Hollywood came knocking on the Biggest Little City in the World’s door once again, as local singers, songwriters and spokesmodels strutted, sashayed and schmoozed into Integrity Casting’s office last week for a shot at a spot on Star Search, which premieres on Jan. 8 at 8 p.m. on CBS.
“I’m performing an original song titled ‘My Home’ that I was inspired to write after 9/11 last year,” says Randy “The Wizz” Collins, a local studio musician with a day job, a recording contract with Hollywood Records, and a daughter singing back-up vocals. “I love doing music, and if I make it to the semi-finals or not, it doesn’t matter, because I enjoy people listening to stuff I’ve created. It’s such a high.”
That brand of tenacity and heart just might be enough to win Collins the $100,000 grand prize. According to the official Star Search website, the new Star Search is a one-hour variety show “inspired by the original Star Search television program [1983-1995],” and that includes “live, tournament-style competition in four categories: Adult Singer, Junior Singer, Comic and Supermodel.” There will be one grand-prize winning star from each category, judged by a “panel of celebrity judges,” and “at-home, interactive viewers will determine the winners.”
Each week, winners will advance to the next round, and the semi-finalists will go head-to-head on the Grand Finale Episode on Feb. 6.
“I haven’t even thought about it,” says Collins, 45. “I just want people to see what I can do and hear what I can accomplish. The money actually never came to mind, because I play just for the love of it.”
Daughter Carmenita Collins, a Truckee Meadows Community College student, has been singing since she was born. “It’s all I know to do,” she says. “My dad thinks I’m the soloist of the family, which I’m not. My dad is so talented. He wants me to come back later on this evening and try to audition, just myself.”
Stars come and stars go, and ultimately, there’s no secret formula for success. Fame and fortune, though, is an increasingly common dream for many in this media-saturated society. Carmenita, 20, has a sensible theory on what it takes to make an impression, to stand out, to rise above the rest in a rejection-based business.
“You have to have your own style of uniqueness and determination. Maybe you can work on this or work on that. [But] don’t get upset over what anyone says to you, off the bat. I’m going to keep trying, nevertheless.”
The two follow Gamma Films president Matthew Kilburn into the Fred and Ginger Room for their videotaped audition, and soon their smooth harmonies emanate down the hall.
“God bless our hearts in these troubled times,” Collins croons, as his daughter coos as divine as a dove.
“It went great,” Carmenita says. “It seemed like he liked us. After me and my dad got done singing, he wanted me to do something by myself.”
“I’m hoping she gets the recognition she deserves, because she is a singer,” her doting dad says. “She’s gifted and talented, and I’m just happy to be able to write her music for her. The kid rocks. He said we both sounded great, and they would let us know something this afternoon.”
Whoever does come out on top here will head to San Francisco to audition for CBS executives. Statuesque stunner Kerry Day just wrapped up her audition in the supermodel category. For the 6-foot-tall brunette, who had to wear a bikini to prove she’s “swimsuit quality,” it was a breeze.
“It was really exciting,” Day says, flashing a cover-worthy smile. “It was simple, fast. I just had to state my name, my measurements and my height. Then I had to walk up and down a couple of times and pose. I think if you just be yourself and let your personality [emerge], and if people think they can relate to you, then they’re going to like you. So if you’re fake, they’re not going to be able to relate to you and think you’re cocky.”
Day, 19, has already been up and down a runway or two, competing in last year’s International Model and Talent Competition in New York City, then spending two months modeling in Milan, Italy. In an arena where 30 is considered too old, Day began modeling two years ago, says she is accustomed to “being picked apart,” and has a clear direction in mind should she win Star Search. Her contingency plan includes finishing her biology degree at UNR, but she says she’d “love to move to New York. It’s definitely a goal for me to graduate. Modeling isn’t something you can count on forever. I really enjoy it, and have had a really good time, so I’ll just do it as long as I can. I’ve learned that everyone has something different in mind when they’re casting for a job. [If] one casting director doesn’t like your look or something about you, someone else will probably like you. If I keep trying, I’m going to find someone that likes me. Models that keep changing themselves to fit the trends don’t have the same longevity.”
Longevity is key, according to Integrity Casting Director Toni Suttie, who got a call from CBS, and within a day was scouting for men, women and children to audition for the show. Angel Driggs is an eager 13-year-old Reno middle-school student with musical and acting abilities and experience. She belts out a goosebump-inducing rendition of “The Christmas Song,” then reflects on her audition and the ambition required to get noticed on Star Search.
“I was nervous, but I tried not to show it,” she admits. “[You have to] have enthusiasm, be happy and do your best.” Following the success of this summer’s American Idol series on FOX, ’tweens and teens from coast to coast are running down their dreams, in a pursuit of glorious fame and fortune. The networks, for their part, are taking notice of the abundance of talent being honed on Reno-Tahoe stages.
“There’s so much untapped talent," Suttie says. "There’s a lot coming up in 2003 in northern Nevada. Our talent will get opportunities that they’ve never had before. Kids want to perform. They’re not inhibited. A lot of adult performers are nervous. I’ve had so many more calls from adults than children, but the children end up showing up, because the adults kind of chicken out a bit."