Fair offers thrills and 30-second fame Would-be stars get TV tryouts

August 30, 1992|By Kerry O'Rourke | Kerry O'Rourke,Staff Writer

Crowds of people went to the Maryland State Fair yesterday to lick an ice-cream cone, twirl on the Ferris wheel or pet a Holstein, and 240 of them went because they want to be famous.

One was Strawberry, a 28-year-old Northwest Baltimore woman who had 30 seconds to prove herself as a comedienne during an audition for the TV show "Star Search," with Ed McMahon as host, which is seen locally on WNUV TV 54.

Sheila Gaskins -- who explained her stage name saying, "As in vanilla, chocolate and . . ." -- joked that she looked like Oprah Winfrey, then imitated the talk show host's laugh.

Thirty seconds isn't much time to get rolling.

"If this is the way to go, boy, is it hard," said Ms. Gaskins, who has performed at local comedy clubs for five years and teaches drama to children for the Baltimore City Housing Authority.

The aspiring stars, following the dream of seeing themselves on television, were given 30 seconds in front of a crowd and a camera, which was recording their acts for producers in Hollywood.

Mr. McMahon wasn't there. In his place was Gary Murphy, a disc jockey at Variety 104.3 FM.

"You're looking for technical skill and intangible star talent, and you can see that in a second," said Willard G. Tressel, "Star Search" special projects manager who is touring the country looking for standouts.

Mr. Tressel was careful not to say whether the Janet Jackson look-alike -- he sees one in every city -- or the four crowd-pleasing dancers in green neon outfits were good enough to make the show and a chance to win $100,000.

Winners will be notified sometime before December, he said.

"It's the greatest variety show you'll ever find," he added.

Lana Dandridge, a 25-year-old Baltimore paralegal, auditioned in the category of "spokesmodel" wearing a glittery mini halter dress, 3-inch heels and elbow-length white gloves.

She told the crowd she was 5 foot 10, weighed 112 pounds, measured 36-24-32 and had modeled swimsuits in New York. Then she sashayed across the stage once.

"This gives me an opportunity to be exposed," Ms. Dandridge said. "It was exciting."

David Gratz, 15, of Pikesville was experiencing another kind of thrill on the midway yesterday.

Three friends had talked him into riding the Zipper for the first time. They waited in line for 35 minutes as a man with a wrench tightened ball bearings.

Young Gratz gritted his teeth as he got into one of 12 small cages that went into the air and spun up, down and around.

"Rock the car, and you'll flip more," said 8-year-old Christopher Brierley, behind him in line.

Young Gratz was grateful to get off after the ride, which lasted a long five minutes.

"I kept on thinking of them fixing that thing," he said, adding, "I think I saw a dog flying through the air.

"I will never do that again."

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