POSTED ON JUNE 4, 2008:
Serendipity, Synchronicity, and the Kitchen Sink
Local trio hopes to find reality-TV fame with music, fruit costumes and a little duct tape
Fruit of the Troupe. After contacting Smith, the three decided not to just come up with a jingle, but a full commercial in which they appeared in full costume as a banana, an orange and an apple, and sang the tune they'd concocted.
Although David Cook recently turned his allotted 15 minutes of fame into what will likely be lifelong celebrity, he isn't the only person from Tulsa to seek fame and fortune and everything that goes with it through the fickle roulette wheel of reality TV.
Three more Tulsans--Susan Dale, Michele Van Dusen and Billy Smith--might soon be joining the reality TV ranks this summer, having auditioned in Chicago last week for yet another show attempting to cash in on the success of "American Idol."
The show upon which the Tulsa trio have set their ambitions, though, is modeled after the ever-popular Idol, in that would-be contestants stood in line with hundreds of other hopefuls so they could risk national, televised humiliation. All this was in the hope of being deemed worthy by a panel of judges to join the chosen few, whose talent is to be judged by millions of viewers in the ensuing weeks as the group is whittled down via dial-in-voting to the final, winning team.
But, that's where the similarities with "Idol" end.
Along with the team effort aspect of the new show, they also (probably) won't get an album deal out of it.
And, they're not singing pop songs.
The show is called "Jingles" and, as the name indicates, they'll be singing . . . Yep. Jingles.
As in, the catchy and often annoying little tunes advertisers use to try to get us to buy detergent and hemorrhoid cream and various and sundry other products.
In the show, they'll be assigned products for which they're to come up with catchy little ditties to serve as soundtracks for future would-be advertisements. Then, based on what they come up with, viewers will decide who goes home and who stays and has their jingle used in an actual commercial.
That's the show.
And it's about time for a means to ending the drought of commercial product music. Madison Ave. has been mining the pop and rock era over the past few years often to the consternation of music fans who have drawn the line on use of great tunes to hawk everything from peanuts to hotel rooms.
An exception might be the current campaign for the Honda Odyssey, a very tastefully executed continuity using original bands' anthems with appropriate visuals.
Ad agencies, a dying breed, need new ideas. Turning off potential customers is not in their best interests. In an interesting twist, maybe it's ad agencies producing this latest of reality tripe.
While it might be a dubious premise for a successful TV show, the folks at CBS have green-lighted the program, and the first episode is due to air on July 27th, to run for six weeks.
And, a gig is a gig, and Dale, Van Dusen and Smith are bidding for it.
Dale, the spokeswoman for the trio, explained to UTW that she and Van Dusen are longtime friends.
She described herself as "blond, dyslexic, ADD and bi-racial": "I'm half white trash, half redneck," she said.
And Van Dusen, she said, "is a rejected nun, now married with four boys."
"So, we're quite the team," Dale added.
Van Dusen is a substitute teacher, and Dale waits tables at Abuelo's restaurant.
That's for their day jobs, anyway.
When they're not serving up knowledge and Mexican food, they comprise the Clean Freaks comedy duo that, Dale said, frequently performs for corporations, churches or any other business offering a gig, in town or out of town. They're also part of the Branson Comedy All Stars.
Dale, though, also has a fledgling solo career, and is no stranger to the reality TV scene.
"Last year, I was featured on Last Comic Standing," she told UTW.
"I wasn't actually picked for the house, but they picked my audition to show on Last Comic Standing, and featured two of my clips on the NBC website, which was kind of cool. Sometimes they make fun of you, obviously, but they really didn't," Dale explained.
More recently, an online advertisement for their comedy duo attracted the notice of Mark Burnett's production company.
Burnett is the mastermind behind "Survivor" (the CBS reality show, not the '80s rock band), and he also produced "The Apprentice," "The Restaurant," and "Are you Smarter than a 5th Grader?" among other reality shows.
But, unlike the majority of their opponents, the trio were initially approached by the show's creators, not vice-versa.
Someone from Burnett's production company noticed them on the internet, and e-mailed Dale about three weeks ago, asking if she and her partner would be interested in trying out for the show.
"You ladies are the funniest thing, and original," Dale said she was told by Burnett's casting producer.
They were then asked to come up with a jingle for a hypothetical product called "Fruit It Up," to be posted on YouTube for the producers' scrutiny, and they only had a few days to do it.
"We had one major dilemma: we don't write music and we don't sing," Dale said.
So, in their impromptu scramble to find some outside help, after asking friends, acquaintances and people from their network of contacts within the local entertainment scene, they were referred to Billy Smith.
For his day job he works for the Post Office, but he also does some jingle writing, singing and producing on the side.
As it turns out, unbeknownst to them at the time, Smith had been just outside Dale and Van Busen's social orbit anyway.
"We laugh because Michele and I have known his mother and his other brother for probably a year and a half, and we knew these two had another sibling named 'Billy,' but we had no clue, so it's like this was meant to be," Dale said.
So, after contacting Smith, the three decided not to just come up with a jingle, but a full commercial in which they appeared in full costume as a banana, an orange and an apple, and sang the tune they'd concocted.
In her interview with UTW, Dale insisted on "making a quick plug": Top Hat Donuts donated the banana outfit, and Tulsa Public Schools' nutritional department donated the apple.
"Without that, those two would have been naked," she said.
"And I made my orange costume out of duct tape and chicken wire, because that's how rednecks do it. I didn't need WD40, except to get me out of that sucker," she added.
Their contact in Burnett's production company called shortly after they posted their on-the-fly commercial on YouTube.
"She said she loved it," Dale recounted.
And so they made the "VIP list" for auditions in Chicago, shooting past the hundreds of people comprising what Dale called the "cattle call" of open call auditions.
She said she doesn't know how many people are in the VIP-category, but knows they're only auditioning within a two-hour window, so the prognosis is good for them to at least have their audition air, if not actually winning the "Jingles"-equivalent of a "golden ticket."
But, even if their "Jingles" run doesn't lead to them becoming America's favorite TV ad soundtrack writers, Dale said, "We all have the same idea that this could open the doors for something else."
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