A Hunk of Stardom

A new reality dating show comes to Tucson in search of meat.

Some 30 single male hotties lined up at a local tavern to audition for what was billed as a fantasy-themed reality program--supposedly from the people who brought you Joe Millionaire and Temptation Island.

The proposed Fox television show, Dream Date, was on the prowl for "rugged" men, ages 24 to 30, who wouldn't mind being whisked away with a bevy of available babes, according to casting director Amy Barber.

"This is a very high-budget show," she said. "It's Fox's biggest show of the year. It's actually the highest budget reality show ever. It's no elimiDATE."

According to Barber, a group of men and women will be sent to two top-secret destinations for three weeks in search of romance--and favorable TV ratings. The cast will be paid per diem for their time, she said.

The open casting call on July 25 at Maloney's Tavern, 213 N. Fourth Ave., attracted both curious bystanders and men on a mission. For every guy like 25-year-old Rich Gallup--who was asked to try out while he was munching on a chicken sandwich--there was someone like Carlos S. Negrete, searching for stardom.

"I've auditioned for several things in the past," said Negrete, 27. "I didn't win any, so I thought I'd give it a shot. I'm out of work and looking for a job."

Jeff Bilodeau, a strapping dark-haired fellow in a ribbed gray shirt, showed up for an ego boost.

"You get attention," said the 22-year-old. "People say. 'I saw you on TV.' (I want) to see if I look as good as I think I do."

Barber took applicants in groups of three to a dimly-lit corner table, where they were asked questions like:

Are fraternities big out here?

What's the biggest thing you've killed?

Do you meet women at the grocery store?

Have you ever seen a dead person?

And the big (some might say no-win) question: Why are you single?

Before the Tucson auditions, Barber and Jihyun Kang, producer for 93.7 KRQQ's "Johnjay and Rich in the Morning," went to dinners, bars, gyms and Pinnacle Peak Steakhouse, 6541 E. Tanque Verde Road, sniffing for studmuffins.

Barber said she's been scouring the country in search of the "rugged, real guy--the diamond in the rough." Past auditions were held in Ohio, Georgia, California, Idaho and Nevada. Scottsdale, Ariz., however, was among Barber's favorites.

"(Scottsdale had) a lot of beautiful guys," she said. "But they were all bartenders and servers."

While that's good news for Arizona's bargoers who enjoy a little eye candy with their cocktails, Barber said Dream Date is more interested in the blue-collar, lumberjack kind of guy. "Tall cowboys, ranchers and wranglers" are at the top of their list, she added.

Chad Stringfellow said he was driving with his roommate, Heather Doane, when a call for tall cowboys went out over the airwaves.

Stringfellow, a lean man with a shock of blonde hair covered by a 10-gallon hat, claimed the reason he was trying out was "to win." He said he's appeared on another reality show, NBC's Dog Eat Dog.

If cowboys had the inside track at the auditions, felons were the big loser of the evening. According to Barber, there will be an "extensive" background check, psychiatric evaluation and personality test to prevent surprises of the kind that struck others reality TV shows, such as American Idol.

"If the guy has a felony, he might as well not show up," said Barber.

She said not to fret if you missed the casting call; simply dial (323) 851-1060 and say you read this article. According to Barber, women are also welcome to audition, even though their group has already "been set up."

After the interview, Negrete said he felt pretty upbeat about his chances. He told Barber about his perfect date: a trip to a grassy area on Mount Lemmon.

"I'd have to clear off roadblocks," said Negrete. "Obviously, we'd have to find a place that's not burned."