Minutes before showtime on the set of Deal or No Deal, Wendi San George, the program's chief stylist, is trying to head off a crisis.
Jenelle Moreno, the bearer of briefcase No. 17, is just back from a beach vacation, and her tan is gleaming under the lights. "Can we just put some powder on her chest?" San George whispers frantically into her walkie-talkie as two of the show's 14 makeup artists scurry across the stage.
"And where is Anya?"
The reply crackles back over the radio: "Wardrobe malfunction." Soon enough Anya Monzikova, holding briefcase No. 10, rushes onstage pulling at the upper portion of her red sequined halter dress, trying to keep what little fabric there is covering at least a portion of her left breast.
For the 26 women who take the stage each week on the NBC hit game show, life is not all glamor, sequins and witty repartee with host Howie Mandel. At this taping in mid January, there was the 14-hour workday, 81/2 hours of which involved some or all of the models standing on an Arctic-like soundstage in short, short sleeveless dresses and 4-inch heels.
The models are a popular part of this game show that "has no trivia, no stunts, no skill," as Mandel put it.
The models are a diverse group. Stacey Gardner, the usual holder of briefcase No. 2, graduated from law school and says she passed the California Bar exam in 2005. Pilar Lastra, No. 14, was Playboy's Miss August 2004. Alike Boggan, No. 20, interprets services for the hearing-impaired at her church. Aubrie Lemon, who usually carries No. 23 but who was No. 6 at a recent taping, plays the harp and says she passed the qualifying exam for Mensa.
More than half of the models have been with the show since its beginning, but there is turnover and demand for new talent. While several of the models said they could live just on what they earn from the show, it shoots only two or three days every three weeks. That leaves plenty of time for them to pursue other modeling jobs.
The models themselves dismiss the notion that they are little more than eye candy.
"I would be very upset if someone said that to me," said Lindsay Clubine, bearer of briefcase No. 26. "The girls here are not like Lindsay Lohan or Paris Hilton, They are pretty, but they have good heads on their shoulders."
'Deal or No Deal'
The game show airs at 8 tonight on WFLA-Ch. 8.