Fame with some fizz, sizzle and 2 syllables: It's the Uh-Huh Girls

June 16, 1993|By Jean Marbella | Jean Marbella,Staff Writer

Is the sum really greater than the parts? Is it possible to find fame in fleeting, 1-minute bytes? Can you mouth two syllables and still make millions?

Uh-Huh!

"We still don't believe it ourselves," says Gretchen Palmer, one of the three model-slash-dancer-slash-singers who've parlayed those little syllables into an entire career.

The Uh-Huh Girls, the leggy threesome whose Diet Pepsi ads with Ray Charles have become one of those inexplicable cultural phenomena, brought their act to town yesterday, attracting hundreds of fans at three Baltimore-area F&M stores.

Wearing their trademark wigs and flaunting their impossibly slim figures in tight, black bell-bottom outfits, Gretchen Palmer, Meilani Paul and Darlene Dillinger giggled and smiled their way through a crush of fans, many of whom were reduced to near monosyllables themselves at the sight of The Girls in person.

You'll get to see more of The Girls -- much more -- tonight, when their new Diet Pepsi commercial airs during the NBA championship game. First, that Ray Charles guy won't be taking up precious screen space. And second, they're wearing white bikinis!

But fear not, the Uh-Huh Girls haven't become too big for their ol' pal Ray. "He helped start us off," Meilani says. "And Ray's still my favorite person to work with."

Ironically, their commercials seem to have done more for the spokespersons than the product. Sales through the first part of this year, according to a recent report, were down almost 4 percent.

Even the recent scare, in which syringes were found in Diet Pepsi cans in Washington state, has done little to take the bloom off The Girls' celebrity.

But here's what you really want to know:

* No, they're not sisters, although they've become almost as close after three years and 13 commercials together.

* And sorry, Meilani is married, but Gretchen and Darlene are single.

* Gretchen wears a size 2, and Darlene and Meilani wear 4s or 6s.

* They live in Los Angeles.

* No, you may not have their phone numbers.

"People think, when we're on the road and working, that afterward we go out and hit the town," Gretchen says. "We go back to the hotel and order room service!"

Although the wigs and similar clothes tend to blur the differences between them, their personalities are quite distinctive. The Girls and observers alike note that Meilani is considered the sexy one, Gretchen the bubbly one and Darlene the smooth one.

No one seems to be the Diana Ross one -- you know, the one who gets the big head and breaks up the act. They seem to genuinely like each other, bumping together in a tangle of long limbs and pocketbooks in the back of the limousine shuttling them to their Baltimore appearances and finishing one another's sentences.

"We've built this relationship -- we're kind of like sisters," Darlene says. "There are too many great things, why would we want to mess it up?"

Indeed. The Uh-Huh Girls have become big time. There's talk of a record deal, a movie deal, a TV series deal, just about every deal you can think of.

Although they knew of one another from "the circuit," that Hollywood modeling-actress-dancer-video circuit, it wasn't until the three twentysomethings were picked out of a crowd of 400 in an audition for the Diet Pepsi commercial that they became friends. And famous.

But not too famous for Gretchen not to be totally flummoxed upon meeting Michael Jackson at a collectibles store (among other things, she collects baseball and basketball cards and action figures). But she had a great opening line.

"I said, 'Hi, I'm one of the Diet Pepsi Uh-Huh Girls,' " Gretchen said. " 'And you know, we're both on Pepsi cans in Japan.' "

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