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'Survivor' hopefuls endure a 2-minute screen test

ST. PETERSBURG — Survival of the fittest is an enduring theory that has carried man and beast from one generation to the next.

What about surviving a two-minute audition for the reality TV show Survivor?

"They don't tell you anything, just 'talk for two minutes,' " said Raechele Wemken of Seminole, sitting on the steps of the Venue early Monday after mugging for a camera crew during her audition. "It went okay. I was talking a little fast."

Nerves?

"Yeah. That light is really bright."

Wemken, 29, was one of roughly 150 hopefuls who arrived at the new Ulmerton Road bar as early as Saturday looking to land a spot on an upcoming season of the adventure-reality series.

Among them: a professional painter, a shark attack survivor and a retiree who canceled a mammogram.

First in line: Carolyn Smith, who drove all the way from Massachusetts to audition with her fiance, John Tarbox, 55. The pair arrived early Saturday and camped out until Monday morning auditions.

Sometime about 3 a.m. Monday, Smith, with a cheerful expression on her face despite the humid, bug-filled night, drew the attention of a club manager perched on a chair at the bar's front doors.

"Hon, do you mind telling me how old you are?" he asked. "You've been awake 90 percent of the time."

Swiveling in her blue beach chair, Smith lowered her voice and leaned over a little bit. "Don't tell anyone — I'm 70," she said.

Hopeful Nadine Brockway was younger, though not by much.

She said she was trying out to show that age is just a number. "I want to prove to the world at 65 your life is not over," the St. Petersburg mother of three said. She canceled a mammogram appointment to make the auditions.

Brockway prepared a poem about herself to catch the attention of show producers, who will review the audition tapes. Others winged it.

"I'm going to have a couple more of these Sex on the Beaches and go in there with a big chip on my shoulder and tell them exactly why I can do it," said Hope Newman, 37, holding court at the corner of the Venue's outdoor patio bar. "I'm arrogant; I'm a job foreman. My friends would refer to me as bossy, loud and a lot of fun."

Like Newman of New Port Richey, many said they relied on moxie, attitude and a few drinks to get them through the audition.

But Neil Ferrigno thinks he had the advantage: a shark in the Atlantic chewed a large hole on the back of his leg a few years back.

He figures that's worth a few points with the producers.

"This is a game of survival, so we brought that to their attention," said Ferrigno, 46, of South Tampa. "Hopefully, they'll just get to stop for a second and say hey, 'Let's take another look at this.' "

Those who spent the night in the parking lot tried to freshen up before their two minutes in front of the camera. "You got to do what you got to do," said Jenny Gill. Next to Gill, Brittanee Bernal, the self-proclaimed youngest girl in the crowd, got rid of the frizz that a night on a sidewalk will put in a your hair.

But don't the Survivor producers want people who look like they've spent two days in a parking lot?

Yes — and no.

Gill and Bernal answered together: "They want people who spent two days in a parking lot — and still look good."

Times staff writer Dominick Tao contributed to this report. Casey Cora can be reached at (813) 226-3386 or at ccora@sptimes.com.

'Survivor' hopefuls endure a 2-minute screen test 06/23/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 24, 2008 11:36am]
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