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Hundreds line up in Tampa for 'The Biggest Loser' tryouts

TAMPA — Tom Roth has tried it all, from the Atkins diet to diet pills. He's even lost 150 pounds — three times in the past six years.

But it always comes back.

On Saturday, weighing in at 370 pounds, Roth, 62, sought a different kind of solution: a spot on NBC's The Biggest Loser. He joined a crowd of close to 800 people at the Seminole Hard Rock Casino on Saturday to audition for Season 10.

"It used to be about time, but I've got that now," said Roth, who's retired. "Now, it's about motivation."

He got in line about 6:30 a.m., and by the time he sat down for a group interview with a casting director four hours later, he had befriended the group of hopeful contestants around him.

They cracked jokes and commiserated about how hard it is to buy clothes off the rack.

"It's nice to know you're not alone in the world," said Jiselle Arrieta, 30, of Fort Lauderdale.

Some people showed up as early as 3 a.m., hoping to be first in line to impress the casting directors.

"We're looking for people with a lot of energy, a lot of personality," said casting director D.J. Feldman, as he pumped up the crowd.

One Sarasota woman came armed with props to help her stand out. Janet Landi, 59, strapped fake dynamite to her back — a costume made from chopped-up pool "noodles" wrapped in red duct tape. She carried a sign that declared she's a ticking time bomb.

"My family has a history of heart disease," she said. "I've had family members die."

She hopes to lose 100 pounds on the show. She said she's ready for the grueling workouts and strict trainers.

"I'm terrified of it," she said. "I know it's going to be very, very hard."

Saturday was the first day of casting for The Biggest Loser, with open auditions held in Tampa; Washington, D.C.; and Chicago. Those who impressed the directors Saturday will get callbacks this week, Feldman said.

It's not too late to try out, he said. Contestants can still film an audition and send it to NBC. More information is online at

Casting director Barb Wulff told people to have fun with their applications. The casting directors like that, she said.

That's what fifth-grade teachers Heather Strom, 47, and Ellen Thomas, 50, tried to do Saturday. The Port Richey-based teachers brought large "report cards" on poster board with their grades:

Nutrition: F

Exercise: F

Healthy cooking: F

Desire to be the biggest loser: A+.

"I need someone to kick my butt," Strom said.

Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at or (813) 226-3433.

Hundreds line up in Tampa for 'The Biggest Loser' tryouts 03/06/10 [Last modified: Saturday, March 6, 2010 11:08pm]
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