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Young and Restless: Tots With Head Shots

Eleven-year-old Kendra Carpentier of Boise, Idaho, was telling me about her budding modeling career when I noticed a line forming behind her at the Westin Bonaventure Hotel in downtown Los Angeles.

Several other children among the hundreds attending the “Hooray for Hollywood” convention, hosted by the International Modeling and Talent Assn., thought I was an agent or talent scout.

Is that what I look like?

Maybe I should hang a shingle. S. Lo’s Hollywood Connection.

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But these kids barely needed agents. They stood there with good posture and perfect smiles, not a bashful one in the bunch, waiting to hand me slick resumes and glossy head shots. Some of their parents looked my way too, hoping I might be the one to give their kids the break they needed.

(My own thinking is that the parents of children with studio head shots should be arrested on sight, but that’s just me).

Kendra told me she had just done an audition for a lip gloss commercial. I asked if she could recite her lines for me.

“Splash and go with new Lip Smackers by Bonne Bell,” Kendra began as her father, a Boise pharmacist, looked on with pride. “Moisture, shine and flavor,” Kendra continued flawlessly, “it drenches dry lips with a super wet gloss that softens and smooths all the flavor of being a girl.”

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Maybe Alexandra De Anda uses Lip Smackers. The 14-year-old blond, also of Boise, said it looked like she got a part on “Days of Our Lives.” She was apparently discovered after making the “soap opera finals” at the weeklong convention.

“This guy who plays Billy or Bobby or something on the show scouted me,” said De Anda, who was hoping to have the details finalized today, which is call-back day. “It’s a step up in the acting business, and I really want to become an actor. Or actress. Whatever.”

Aspiring actress Miranda Heiar of Chicago already has the shtick down cold. The blond teenager refused to give me her age.

Not so with Sonia Lasso of Chicago, who played a munchkin in the Glenview, Ill., Park District’s 2003 production of “The Wizard of Oz.”

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“I’m 9,” she said with a million-dollar smile.

Sonia had two big events coming up Thursday. The “I’m Ready for My Close-Up” extravaganza, in which the kids are handed a line to read as the camera zooms in. And the swimwear show.

(My own thinking is that the parents of children in swimwear competitions should be arrested on sight, but that’s just me).

All these kids, who ranged from roughly 4 to 18, had to have some training to get into the convention. But some were more focused than others.

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Arizona 6-year-old Devin Fowler was playing with sister Bailey, 5, and seemed to be considering a dive into the Bonaventure’s lobby fountain. Bailey, who has already graduated from an advanced acting course, was scheduled to be in the swimwear show later in the day.

(I won’t say it).

“I love Bailey and Mommy,” Devin wrote in a notebook, a scene sure to be remembered in an E! TV bio should either of them ever strike Hollywood gold.

Ian Ivkovich of Chicago, a lad of 6, already has six agents, according to his father, John. John said Ian would watch “Power Rangers” and mimic their moves in front of the TV set. His parents signed him up at the John Robert Powers agency, and Ian has already had two paydays.

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His little mug is going to be on some textbooks, and he’ll be in a print ad for a mop. Ian steps into a rain puddle in the ad, but it’s nothing the Nitty Gritty Mop can’t handle.

At one point I wandered into the California Ballroom, and a dozen or more kids were on stage.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” an announcer intoned, “welcome back to ‘I’m Ready for My Close-Up.’ ” Just then, a security man said I had to leave if I didn’t produce a convention I.D. badge.

Why so paranoid? I should have told him I was with S. Lo’s Hollywood Connection.

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George Chesteen, chief of the International Modeling and Talent Assn., told me the press had to be kept out or hordes of parents would bring their kids to the convention to be discovered.

I thought that was the whole point.

Back in the lobby, I was talking to an aspiring actress when another line formed. More kids with resumes and studio head shots were waiting to meet me.

“Help my daughter,” a Tampa, Fla., woman pleaded. She tugged on my arm and said her 16-year-old daughter, Anh Phan, didn’t want to be a doctor or an engineer, but an actress.

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I’d lock her in her room until she came to her senses.

Mitchel Smith, 9, also of Tampa, wasn’t quite as sold on acting, as his father tells it.

Joseph Smith heard an ad for an acting school and asked his boy if he wanted to be a thespian.

Mitchel’s response?

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“I said I would have to think about it.”

Who’s your favorite actor? I asked.

“Van Damme,” Mitchel said, meaning Jean-Claude. But he couldn’t remember any of Van Damme’s movies, a lapse that puts him in good company.

“Tell him,” his father cajoled.

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Mitchel threw his hands up and asked, “Didn’t he make ‘Hard to Kill?’ ”

“No,” said his father. “That was Steven Seagal.”

In Mitchel’s defense, I thought Seagal and Van Damme were the same person.

“Wasn’t Van Damme in one where a helicopter goes through the roof at a hockey game?” Joseph asked his son.

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“ ‘Sudden Death’!” Mitchel blurted, and I suspected I might be looking at the next action hero.

Steve Lopez writes Sunday, Wednesday and Friday. E-mail him at steve.lopez@latimes. com. To read previous columns, go to latimes.com/lopez.


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