By Jeremy Essig
By Jason Robinson
By Hans Morgenstern
By Joseph Hess
By Peter Gilstrap
By Julia Burch
By Jeremy Essig
By Nathan Smith
(Now imagine the worst telemarketer ever making his last pitch of an 18-hour day. This is the tone of our voice.)
RS: "It's time to ... OK ... It's time ... uh ... It's time to rock out now, so lock your parents in the basement, turn up the volume on the remote and check the guys from Korn, landing at No., um, 33, onTRL."
Then it's over, and we're told to return at 4 p.m. for the taping of Total Request Live, when they will announce the winners. (Yes, apparently they tape a show whose title contains the word "live.")
This, it turns out, is bullshit. They announce the winners, all right, but in the behind-the-scenes action to which no one at MTV will admit, during the 1,000-person cattle call, MTV has been cherry-picking the "best" of the lot, and these people have been ushered into second and third interviews. That's fine -- it makes sense. They couldn't possibly zip through 1,000 audition tapes in an hour-and-a-half. The problem: When asked about this rumor, MTV workers deny it.
"Certain people got a second interview," says an exasperated hopeful, Jennifer Chemayne, who has driven down from Chicago for this, "and everybody's lying about it, saying, 'We don't know anything about a second interview.' We see people go in one side of the car and then come out and go into the other side of the train. And it would be random people. But (MTV) was like, 'No, there's no second interview.'"
An MTV media contact feigns ignorance when asked, says she doesn't understand the question, then says, "Uh, let me get back to you on that. I can find out for you." She never does.
Jim Weggemann of St. Louis is picked for a second interview, which takes place just after his first: "They just pretty much asked you the same thing as they asked you before. I think they just had different people looking at you. Some of the guys got to see the actual veejays and things. They just gave me a different cue card. So that time, instead of introducing, like, Korn, they had me introduce Bizkit, like, 'Here comes Limp Bizkit.'"
Around 5:30 p.m., after R&B girl group Blaque has performed as part of Total Request "Live," all-American veejay hunk Carson Daly (rumored to be "totally making out" with some girl from the movie American Pie at a Laclede's Landing bar the night before) pumps the crowd, then introduces veejay Dave Holmes, himself a St. Louis native and runner-up in the search two years ago, and it is time. The long day -- the blood, the sweat, the tears -- is climaxing, and the crowd is giddy; most don't realize that those picked for the follow-up interviews are all standing near the front of the stage.
"They've been here all day. Let's just cut the crap and do it," shouts Holmes. "The first finalist is ... Jodi Rosenthal, from St. Louis! Come on up! Where is she? She's right here in front -- that's handy. Come on up here, sister. Ladies and gentlemen, meet Jodi Rosenthal!"
Immediately you can tell that Rosenthal is a natural. She doesn't seem nervous at all: "Oh my God, all you guys out there are my new best friends, because we slept out here all night long, freezing our thongs off all night long."
Winner No. 2: Raymond Munns of Fort Collins, Colo. He turns purple as he walks onstage -- there's no way in hell he's gonna win.
It's all over that fast, and people split, all disappointed that they've gotta go back to work at Taco Bell tomorrow. Behind the stage, though, the chosen two are immediately bathed in limelight. Cameras are snapping pictures, local TV-news geeks are interviewing them -- Roche Madden of KTVI (Channel 2) is there in a goddamn trenchcoat. Rosenthal, 23, who went to Webster University and now lives with her parents in Chesterfield, is having a blast. She's finally where she belongs, and she admits as much: "I love this. I love this. I try not to be vain at all, but I love being in front of the camera -- I don't know why."
It turns out she's a veteran of this stuff and has been chasing the dream for the last few years. "This is my second go at it. It's always been a dream of mine, and last year I won a radio-sponsored contest here in St. Louis, and they flew us to New York -- it was really rad -- but I didn't have to wait in line. But it didn't work out for me. Then when I heard MTV was coming to St. Louis this year, I was, like, 'Crazy. Hello, this is a sign from God. They're coming for me this year!'"
Send local tapes, tips, discs and detritus to "Radar Station," c/o The Riverfront Times, 6358 Delmar Blvd., Suite 200, St. Louis, MO 63130; or radarstation@ rftstl.com.