"Is there an 'I' in the word adventurous?" the man asked the table, a befuddled expression paining his face as he tapped a Westin Hotel pen against his skull. I wondered if it was somehow a trick question.
"Um, no..." I offered.
My new friend, an overly tanned and suit-clad twentysomething, was filling out his application to be on ABC's The Bachelor or The Bachelorette. Joined by hundreds of other eager applicants in Costa Mesa's Westin Hotel, we gathered to be seen — if only for a few minutes — by producers of the show.
I've been an avid viewer of The Bachelor franchise for the past couple of years. As a journalist and someone who tends to enjoy higher-brow television and film, ABC's dating show isn't necessarily the type of entertainment I'd want the world to know I watch, until now. Until I offered up myself as Bachelor tribute, willing to wade through hours of paperwork and crowded lines in the hopes of making it onto the show — or rather, revealing to Bustle's Bachelor-inclined readers what the audition process really entails.
So I made the hour-and-a-half drive from my East L.A. residence to the audition destination, a swanky hotel oozing overly done-up women in cocktail dresses and heels. I arrived at the hotel's parking garage and the attendant looked me up and down, asking: "Are you here for the thingy?"
"How could you tell?" I responded, letting out a sarcastic laugh and taking my $10 dollar parking ticket.
I parked my car and walked to the closest hotel entrance. Outside the doors of the hotel were about half a dozen or so nicely dressed men, neither employees from the network nor contestant hopefuls. These men were the clever — albeit sleazy — dudes who were waiting to latch onto women desperate for love. If the women inside couldn't find it as a contestant on The Bachelor, perhaps they could find it in the parking lot of a Bachelor casting call, or so these sharks hoped. I pulled my dress down as close to my knees as possible and kept my head lowered.
Entering the building, I followed the signs to the casting call. A trail of perfume and stiletto tracks in the carpet were the breadcrumbs to my destination. A table of women checked me in, scribbled a number on the back of a piece of paper and handed me a Q&A packet to fill out. I was directed into a large ballroom, where hundreds of other women, and under a dozen men, were meticulously filling out their own packets with personal information and anecdotes.
I took the first available seat at a table with four other women and three men — undoubtedly the highest guy-to-gal ratio in the room.
"Welcome to the cattle call," I said, trying to break the ice. "I'm Anna."
My table willingly introduced themselves, already on their best behavior in case an ABC executive or casting director might overhear our smalltalk. The women at my table were all friendly, good-looking, and, to my surprise, boasted "real jobs" (i.e. careers that earn a salary and don't end in the word "model"). One young woman at my table said she works for Red Bull.
"Oh cool! Do you get to ride around in the Red Bull car?" I asked, envisioning the scantily clad women who rode around my college campus and threw energy drinks from the windows of the bottle-shaped vehicle.
"No, I work in marketing," she said.
I instantly regretted the question, and was ashamed at my own stupidity. I'd spent years of my life fighting dumb blonde stereotypes, and I was no better than my offenders, making snap judgements about women I barely knew.
"Oh jeez, I'm so sorry, I didn't even think —" I started to say.
"No it's cool, I mean I wish that was my job, that would be a lot more fun," she said, easing me out of my embarrassment.
After some more small talk about this season of The Bachelorette and how awful Juan Pablo was (everyone did their best "Ees Okay" impression), I dove into my application. The questions were what you'd expect: What are you looking for in a partner? What are your hobbies? Do you have any special talents? Have you ever been arrested? Do you drink alcohol?
I filled out the application honestly, but couldn't help giggling at the fact that "Are you genuinely looking to get married & why?" was only allotted half a line for an answer, while contestants had three full lines to answer the question, "Do you have any tattoos?"
Having completed my application, I looked around the room and saw a sea of barrel curls, fake eyelashes and spray tans. One woman at my table, a former personal trailer, was dressed in workout gear. "I figured I'd just be me," she said — I mentally applauded her. There was a woman two tables over with a child.
"Somebody left a baby in the corner," a brunette at my table said.
I burst out laughing. "Oh, that wasn't a joke," I said, noticing a stroller parked in the corner of the room.
After what seemed like an eternity of waiting, I was eventually ushered to the other end of the room to take a photo. I wrote my name and phone number on a board and held it up. Three mugshots were snapped: A close up, a from-the-knees-up photo, and a full body shot. "Pose however you'd like," the photographer offered. I just stood there.
After the photos were taken, my name was called along with half a dozen others', including my Red Bull friend's. We took the elevator up several floors to where the on-camera interviews would be held. This is it, we all thought, our chance.
We arrived to find ourselves among even more waiting women and men than we experienced downstairs. This time, we were lined up against a wall and told to make our way into one of the four doors for an interview. Red Bull and I chose the line with the fewest people and had a seat.
Slowly the women and men made their way, one by one, into the rooms. They stayed behind closed doors for about five minutes before exiting. Five minutes to prove their Bachelor potential weighed against 3+ hours of waiting and hundreds of other applicants. After all, this was just one city out of many stops on ABC's casting tour, not counting the online and mail-in submissions that bring in applications from hopefuls across the country. The odds of any one of us making it past this first round of interviews was laughably pitiful. Nevertheless, we endured.
By the time it was my turn with the camera, I was mentally drained, starving, and desperately needed to pee. I was greeted by a man who led me to a room with little more than a chair and a videocamera. He gave me a mic to attach to my shirt and told me to have a seat. We did the same mugshot style introduction before poring into the questions. It felt like it was over before it even started. He asked me a handful of questions that appeared on my application, nothing outlandish or particularly difficult.
"Cool, you're good," he concluded, flipping the camera off. Before I left, he stopped me. "So you're a writer?" he asked. "Ever written a screenplay?"
Ironically — or perhaps serendipitously — I had just finished my first feature spec. "Yeah," I said, and offered my standard log line. The man behind the camera, as it turns out, didn't work for ABC or The Bachelor, but was operating the camera as a favor to a friend. His real work was in storytelling and script analysis.
While the audition process for The Bachelor was far less glamorous than being an actual contestant on the show appears (No roses were dispensed, nor were glasses of champagne offered), the experience was worth the two hour drive back home on the 101 freeway in rush hour. While I doubt I'll be called back for a second audition, at the end of the day, someone offered to read my script unsolicited, which as anyone in Hollywood knows … is no small feat.
Images: Anna Klassen ; Tumblr