On March 9, 2006 at 4:00 am, a blonde Trump Corp wannabe named Farrah Evagues stole through the dark with her blanket, mittens and foldable lounge chair, staking out a first-in-line position at the Globe Theatre inside Los Angeles' Universal Studios.
Farrah was not the only rebel who pooh-poohed the rules on the NBC website that stated: "Arrive no earlier than 6:00 am." Twenty other daredevils braved the biting, 45-degree air with Farrah until two or three hours later when the bulk of applicants arrived. All hoped to be chosen as contestants for The Apprentice and to meet Donald Trump in person.
Los Angeles provided the backdrop for the first casting call; the show would be recruiting candidates in 16 other cities, including Chicago, New York, Honolulu and Phoenix.
I weaved through the long line of freezing people, inquiring about jobs, qualifications and reasons for wanting to work for "The Donald." Few applicants wore winter coats, yet many were cloaked with paranoia.
My questioning began: "What do you do for a living?" Most people were tight-lipped.
"I'm not going to tell you. I might get disqualified," said one.
Another replied, "I have my answer, but I'm not going to tell you what it is."
A woman, whom I later learned was the former Miss Yugoslavia, gave me an impolite, cold stare. No words. Maybe she feared I'd steal her identity and blurt out, "Great idea. I'll be the former Miss Yugoslavia, too."
Perhaps The Apprentice hopefuls thought I had the power to vote them off the island. They were clearly "island" experts. I overheard conversations about Survivor, Deal or No Deal, America's Top Model, and other reality shows.
The only seemingly honest answers I got were:
"I'm a demolition derby manager,"
"I'm a professional reality show contestant. I've tried out for The Apprentice three times."
"I'm a teacher."
In fact, three applicants told me they were teachers, including 58-year old Lancaster resident Bill Newyear who appeared to be the oldest in line. He told me how his generation comprises 25% of the population.
"It makes good TV to have an older Everyman," Bill said. "If I get selected, it would show Trump's commitment to people like me, that we are not ready to go out to pasture yet."
My second question: "Why do you want to be the Apprentice?"
Again, most applicants were not forthcoming, but two answered, "I love golf" and "I need formal grooming to make me into the perfect candidate for the workplace."
As an employment recruiter, Orange County resident Diana London didn't care if she was chosen. She was there to pick up clients from what she deemed an educated pool of candidates and to sneak a manila envelope to Trump, which revealed details about an invention she hoped would prove profitable for them both.
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