Two socialites and a Winnebago

Potential host families sparse for 'Simple Life 2'

Pop Culture

February 29, 2004|By Aline Mendelsohn | Aline Mendelsohn,Orlando Sentinel

KISSIMMEE -- Steven Shaver is describing himself as a Pentecostal married man who allows no R-rated movies in his St. Cloud home.

And yet here he is, in a meeting room at Osceola Heritage Park, volunteering to host a pair of party girls -- one of whom was involved in a notorious X-rated sex-tape scandal. Shaver is presenting his down-home credentials at a casting call for The Simple Life 2, the second incarnation of the Fox reality show that places coddled Los Angeles socialites Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie in a rural, small-town setting.

It's a Saturday afternoon, and, so far, casting directors Laura Korkoian and Kasha Foster haven't exactly been inundated with offers to tutor Hilton and Richie in the ways of the workin' and farmin' world.

"What do you think of the girls?" Korkoian asks Shaver.

"I think they endeavor to be respectful," he says.

Obviously, he missed the episode last season in which Richie lost her purse at a bar and, in a huff, tore open a supply closet, snatched a bottle of bleach and dumped it on the pool table.

Because of such fiascoes, the show was a hit and spawned season No. 2, in which Hilton and Richie will drive through the country in a Winnebago. They must earn food and gas money as they work weeklong jobs and stay with fun-lovin' country folk.

Yee-haw.

At this, one of several casting calls in far-flung bastions of the bucolic life, Korkoian and Foster are looking for families with a good sense of humor and pride in their way of life, families who can teach the rich girls something about the world beyond Los Angeles and New York. They've promoted the casting calls through radio, TV, newspaper ads and some fliers.

Familiarity with Paris and what's-her-name is not a prerequisite. In fact, it's better if auditioners know nothing at all about the spoiled socialites, so they can see beyond the celebrity hype.

For those of you behind on your E! watching, Hilton, 23, is the heiress to the Hilton Hotel fortune who was involved in a sex-tape scandal. Richie, 22, is the daughter of singer Lionel Richie. They were total B-listers -- though rich ones -- until The Simple Life made them household names.

Depending on your household, of course.

Prospective families fill out an application describing their home lives. One question asks them to describe the unusual aspects of their lives.

Sandy Sullivan of Kissimmee and her family whoop over that one.

"I can't narrow it down," she says. Joining her at the casting call are her husband, Richard, grandson Ryan, daughter Shelly, and Shelly's fiance, Jim Kingsbury.

Like a lot of auditioners, Sullivan and her family are doing this for 15 minutes of fun, if not fame.

"He thinks there's nothing like Paris Hilton," says Sandy Sullivan of her grandson. Ryan smiles shyly, revealing a mouthful of braces.

"So what do you think it would be like to live with Paris and Nicole?" Korkoian asks.

"A lot of fun and a living hell at the same time," Kingsbury replies.

Korkoian and Foster spend much of Saturday waiting around for families to show up. Only a handful trickle in to the sterile room, which is bare save for a 4H flag and rows of padded chairs. The setting resembles the bureau of motor vehicles -- except there's no need to take a number.

Foster tries to wrangle some families at the nearby Osceola County Fair.

She returns to the room with popcorn to share -- but no prospects. Describing the scene as "grim," she reports that there were lots of "no, thank-yous" and "I don't watch TVs" and one "absolutely not."

Apparently, folks worry that the glitzy L.A. girls will poke fun at their country-cozy way of life.

Perhaps they got that impression from the promos for the show, which feature the pair standing in a smug "American Gothic" pose, with Richie, dressed in overalls with a pink bra underneath, clutching a pitchfork.

But late in the afternoon, a man strolls into the room wearing a black cowboy hat, silver-buckled belt and cowboy boots. His name is Tyson Barnes, though he's better known as "Bud," because "in the country, everyone has a nickname," he says.

He's a ranch manager in Kenansville, the perfect place to show the girls the "cowboy way of life."

"No girlfriend?" Korkoian asks.

"Not if this happens," Barnes says with a laugh.

The Orlando Sentinel is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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