Actors Queue Up for Chance at TV Stardom

Times Staff Writer

The middle-aged woman with short dark hair scrunched up her nose and shook her head for emphasis.

"I'm a real good bitch," she said.

Not a great beauty, the woman was doing her best Saturday to make sure that Samuel Warren, a San Diego casting director, would remember her from among more than 200 aspiring actors and actresses who flocked to an "open casting call" at a small office building in Mission Valley.

Wearing business suits and jeans, some looking dumpy but many nearly glamorous, the men and women queued up in hopes of landing a part in a pilot show for a proposed soap opera that will be based in San Diego.

Warren said a local production company--he won't reveal which one--is planning a saga revolving around an insensitive military man with a wealthy wife, wholesome daughter and "New Wave" son who takes drugs and gets in trouble with the police. Also on the show is a man Warren calls the "hunk" and a married, "Tom Selleck-type" whose preoccupation is bed-hopping.

"It's almost like a 'Dynasty' but without millionaires," Warren said.

But few of the people who came to the casting call knew or cared about those details. They concentrated on making their best impression with Warren, who spent at most a few minutes with everyone in line. There were no auditions or readings, only time enough for Warren to look at each face, study a few pictures and perhaps exchange a few words.

"You want to be the one out of the crowd they choose," said Lynette Marie Berry, a 20-year-old psychiatric technician from La Mesa. She tried to catch Warren's eye with an open red jacket, revealing tube-top blouse, tight jeans and white spike shoes.

"Even though it is one minute, that one minute means so much," she explained. "It's the first look, the first glance, the first time you speak . . . What I'm trying to do right now is show that I have a figure, instead of covering it up."

Like a good-will ambassador gone crazy, Warren shook hands, called the women "honey," and made the vague kind of promises that teases people with an unstated promise.

"I wish you were here yesterday! I could have used you in that Xerox commercial," Warren cooed to a man in glasses and a blue business suit. To Jeff Fitch of Lakeside, Warren peered into his face and declared: "You have that neutral, saleable look, so I can pull you in as a young guy, a young father."

The comment sent Fitch, who acts and also works on a commercial strawberry farm, away happy. "That means there might be a call back, and if you get a call back, you get a second call back. . . .

"You hit all the auditions," said Fitch. "You meet the right people and just hope your time comes up."

Gene Anselmo, a 62-year-old retired Sears appliance salesman from Clairemont, wanted his chance too, and he was one of the first in line to see Warren and hand over a picture.

Anselmo said he has been acting since he was a teen-ager, and most recently has had small parts in the Jack Lemmon movie "Mass Appeal" (he's sitting in the church choir), in the recent film tribute to the late University of Alabama football coach Paul (Bear) Bryant (he's an assistant football coach) and the made-for-television move "The Seduction of Gina" (he's the one playing cards next to star Valerie Bertinelli).

Anselmo's latest part was as an immigration agent in a Korean film, Deep Blue Night, which he thinks is now showing in Seoul.

"It's filmed at a junk yard in Compton," he said. "A car comes barreling down at me. I'm holding a walkie-talkie."

One woman at the back of the line said she had been planning on coming to the call for a week. A man standing behind her carrying a backpack said he just heard about the gathering of actors.

"I read about it 15 minutes ago, grabbed a cab and came down here," said Daniel Thomas, 34, a literature student at UCSD who came from a library in Normal Heights.

"First you've got to figure out if you're what the guy wants. If you are, then you try to make him remember you. I'm unusual," said Thomas, who believes he once earned a bit part in an opera in Washington, D.C., because during the call he sat on the floor in a lotus position, while others waited in chairs.

Warren started the call at 12:30 p.m. and finished three hours later, accumulating a stack of photographs and resumes. He said he will now scour the 45 local theater groups looking for "talent," and get in touch with the agents he knows.

Eventually, he will pick five possibilities for each of the 12 roles in the proposed soap opera, while sifting through the glossies for others who will fit some up-coming car commercials.

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