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Friday, April 28, 2006

America's Next Top Model Series Six #4

This week's episode was indescribably brilliant, which may prove problematic, as I now have to spend the next eleven paragraphs describing it. I'll start with a title. Let's call it The Falling Over Episode.

The Gina vs. Jade potential hair-pulling fracas appears to be almost upon us. Every time one of them said something, the other would screw up their face in disgust. Difficult for Gina - how do you screw up a face that is constantly morphing in a state of screwing-up flux?

Gina the Crazy Korean seems to have latched onto Daniele the 'Gator-Skinned Ghetto Princess as her supportive saviour, not entirely to Daniele's delight. Daniele gives Gina some patient advice, tells her not to be so nervous, and to believe in herself, but then tries to gently extricate herself by announcing that she's off to have a shower. Gina confirms her stalker status by asking "Can I follow you? Can I watch you take a shower?". I'm sorry, but even in a consenting, adult marriage that's a creepy couple of questions. As Daniele said to camera (in her highly endearing Bronx vernacular), "Leave me alone. Don't be like, all up in my zone". Word, sister. Tellin' her old-school.

A Tyra-Mail (or Tyrant-Mail, as she is now called, thank you, Nessie) sends the girls off to Walking Class tutored by Miss Jay, resplendent in skin-tight black stuff. The modules are told to don high-heels and 'show what they've got' down a catwalk. Furonda is okay, although her left arm appears to be possessed by the ghost of an errant windmill. Leslie pokes her arse out in an uncomfortable-looking gibbon-on-heat stance, Sara stomps like she's in a marching band, and Gina, needless to say, seems unsure. Jade is still sporting her psycho-chic head-sarong, and Kari The Blow-Up Doll has a little stumble, most likely due to the massive top-heavy weight of her bulbous lips. Had enough girls? No fear. Let's do it again in long, puffy evening gowns! Kari, swathed in an alarming gingham doona-cover, has another quick trip, and Gina awkwards her way down the runway in a gigantic Korean meringue. Jade does quite well, and comments to camera that she's coming out of her shell, gesticulating insanely as if beckoning to some men in white coats. Shell? SHELL? If she comes out of her shell any further she'll turn herself inside out, and then the crazy will be on the outside. Daniele, dressed in a black and white candy-cane, becomes tangled in some dangles and almost comes a cropper.

The girls are starting to feel the pressure, and Kari cries to her parents on the 'phone, missing her hometown and all the other dolls in the toy-box.

Another Tyrant-Mail contains just two words: Gromphadorhina Portentosa, which prompts mass speculation and frantic Googling by our modules. What could it mean? Will we find out at the next challenge?

Challenge Time, and the girls meet Jared Gold, an avant-garde designer, who tells them they'll be strutting their stuff on a runway in a number of his freaky frocks, in front of a judging panel of 'fashion peers' who look like extras from a Roald Dahl-inspired Marilyn Manson clip. Make-up artists proceed to smear black eyes and rosy cheeks on our bevy of insane beauties, causing Kari to comment that she "looks like a hooker from... you know... old hooker times". Jay announces that the girls need some accessories (Is this it? Do we find out what those words mean?) and points to a ceramic goblet an assistant is holding. Daniele, coming through with the verbal goods again, says "So what, we're carrying a goblet down the runway? I can do dat. I can be a girl pimp like dat". But no. Inside the goblet is a number of Giant Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches which are distributed, one each, to the girls. These are special Fashion Cockroaches, though - they've had faux jewels glued onto them and each is reined into a special roach leash so they can't run away. The work-experience kid really had his work cut out for him this week.

Gina starts convulsing with entomological terror as soon as she sees the roaches, and says "I hate cockroaches. I'm so scared, I started to puke in my mouth a little". Jade gives her no end of grief for being, well, a bizarre twitching freak. Furonda is first, and she solves the windmill and cockroach dilemma by just holding the roach straight out in front of her. Smooth. Mollie-Sue (Hi, Mollie-Sue! Don't forget to bring home some milk!) walks the whole way with the roach on her back, and Jade struts out boldly, stopping at the end to kiss the cockroach. It's Gina's turn, and things are Not Good. Whenever a cockroach is brought anywhere near her, first she grimaces, then cries. Then shakes her head. Then screams and wails like a really, really upset banshee. In the end the exasperated designer just pushes her out onto the catwalk and hopes for the best.

Jade wins the Walking Challenge, and gets to take four friends (Nnenna, Daniele, Mollie-Sue and Leslie) to front-row seats in the VIP tent at Fashion Week. After the show, she gushes "I wanna walk there. I want people to see my talent". Only if they can scrape away your humility, pet.

A Fairy Tale Tyrant-Mail sends the modules to this week's photo shoot, where they're dressed as modern-day fairy-tale characters. Jay (with a straight face, amazingly) explains a basic modelling concept - that Models Must Look Pretty When They Are Falling Over. How to illustrate this in a photo shoot? Get them to fall off the top of a ladder onto a big cushion! Of course! Jade practices frantically in front of a mirror, and then does a fairly decent job of being a plummeting Red Riding Hood. I'd like to take a moment to say that there are few sights as consistently funny as watching dumb pretty girls fall off stuff. It's just the way things are. The editors of the show obviously agree, as each side-splittingly hilarious topple is shown two or three times, in freeze frame, in slo-mo, and even backwards. Bless 'em. Jay tries to help Furonda-as-Rapunzel find her motivation, asking "Now, why does Rapunzel have all this hair?". "T'get a man", she replies. Kari-as-Goldilocks is confused because "I don't know where to put my head". Mollie-Sue-as-Little-Boy-Blue frustrates Jay with her lack of expression, so he gets her to warm up by making her stand on one spot and scream. He's like Freud, that guy. Leslie-as-Big-Bad-Wolf does a good job despite having been given a brown nose by the make-up artists. I know a joke about brown-nosing would be suitable here, but to be honest, there's just too many rushing to my head all at once. Nnenna topples over like a gigantic Nigerian Sequoia, and Daniele-as-Snow-White/Black rocks it with the best photo of the lot. Gina-as-Sleeping-Beauty is distracted by evil Jade's nasty taunts, and Jay accuses her of 'thinking too much', which may not be a criticism she's familiar with.

Judgement time, and Tyrant re-introduces the judges, including Spunky Nigel, whom I now think about when I buy underwear. As a mini-challenge, the modules are given a pair of Vivienne Westwood shoes (yes, the same ones that toppled Naomi Campbell) which are taller than most flagpoles, and told to walk along a makeshift catwalk INCLUDING a couple of stairs. This will now be called Ankle-Snapping Afternoon. Kari is first, and makes it halfway before bending her ankles the wrong way and turning her lower half into a high-fashion pretzel of pain. She still manages to give some attitude with altitude, though. And then sort of stumbles again. And again. Most of the girls do a bit of a slip-n-slide here, a bit of a James Brown Shuffle there, but Joanie, thanks to her experience as preacher's-daughter-cum-pole-dancer, struts up and back without drama, even managing some saucy posturing. Nobody, however, could have prepared me for the Daniele Debacle. She makes it three-quarters of the way to the judging panel and then suddenly - and there's no other way of putting it - executes the Stack of the Century. Each ankle buckles in a different direction, and her arse hits the floor in a mess of flailing limbs. The judges first gasp, then try desperately to contain their explosive laughter behind their hands. Daniele gets up with a smile, turns gracefully, makes it to the end of the catwalk, and then BANG! She's down again, shin-bones not connected to the ankle bones, practically somersaulting down the last step, and, as she reported later, "my pinkie toe come right out and twisted". She surrenders and crawls out of the room on her hands and knees. The judges surrender also, and cack their daks with laughter. Cruel. Inhumane. Freakin' comedy GOLD. Why no bones were snapped is still a mystery.

The judges deliberate, mirthful tears still sparkling in their eyes, and the girls are called back in, 10 able-footed, and 1 on crutches. Modules' names are called out one by one until only Gina the Crazy Korean and Kari the Blow-Up Doll are left. They prepare for what has now become Tyrant's Self-Esteem Mangling Session, and she doesn't disappoint. Kari is told that her last photo was awful, that she's too short, and that she doesn't have model proportions. Gina is asked why she's smiling, and then why she's even here. Kari cries buckets, and Gina looks like a stunned guppy, until finally and incredibly, Kari The Blow-Up Doll is sent home. Ironically, she looks a little deflated. Bye, Kari! Don't walk into anything sharp on your way out.

Next week, we're promised Janice Dickinson's Posing Class, in which she tells someone to "Zip It, B*tch!", and a bit of a barney between Jade and Gina. Plastic Bits. Drastic Spits. Spastic Fits.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Bum Shot #4: Tim from Big Brother

A bit scary. If the flash hadn't've gone off, I'm pretty sure he was ready to drop 'em and smile vertically for the camera.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

America's Next Top Model Series Six #3

Like the seasons, death, taxes, and teenage Hollywood eating disorders, you can always rely on two things: an ANTM makeover episode, and a Model Goes Postal episode. And here they both are, in package form!

Gina hates Jade. Jade hates Gina. If I don't see a screaming, goggle-eyed, all-in b*tch fight soon, I'm cancelling my subscription.

Subtitle for this week's episode could be The Pink Fluffy Furonda Tiara episode. It seems whenever her head isn't needed for modelling purposes (which should be more often, let's be frank), there's a fluffy pink plastic bejewelled tiara perched on top of it. So Ghetto. I think we're supposed to get some kind of subtle sub-textual nuance about her being a princess, but I'm not sure. Whatever it is, it's compelling. I foresee a broken tiara and some kind of inarticulate hissy-fit.

After a quick Tyra mail, the modules are bussed off to the salon for the inevitable makeover - always top viewing. First, the girls are asked (or told) what their personal style is, and then Tyra tells them which 'do' they'll be getting. I love this bit. Models huddled together, anxious looks on their scrawny faces as they're picked off one by one. Jade makes it known that she wants long hair, because beggars CAN be choosers, apparently. Sara the Johanssen Look-alike is told she's edgy, and is given a platinum-blonde, very-short-at-the-sides, longer-and-floppy on top cut, the brunette version of which was made infamous by me at Davidson High School in 1988. It looks marginally better on Sara, even though she doesn't have the bubble skirt, cinch belt, and denim hat to really set it off. Brooke the Bruised is told she'll be given hair like Gisele Bundchen, so I assume they'll be giving it an accent and rubbing it up against Leonardo Di Caprio. Nnenna the Nigerian gets a buzz-cut, because she can handle it, and because she's going to win and come and be my flatmate. Furonda is given long extensions, which she's more than a little bit chuffed about, and Mollie Sue (my other flatmate) is given a Mia Farrow which emphasises a slightly masculine jaw, but otherwise rocks. Kari is given what Tyra calls a Bardot, but what I call Mid-West American Hooters Waitress. She's concerned she looks like Barbie. She WISHES. Bratz, maybe. Wendy from New Orleans is promised J-Lo, but becomes a bit Gloria Estefan (and I'm talking Miami Sound Machine). In a spot of comic relief, Miss Jay also has a makeover, and ends up looking disturbingly like a tall gay Condoleezza Rice. Is that a tautology?

Jade the Arrogant is given a short blonde curly crop. She is, as a gross understatement, unhappy, but she knows why this dastardly wrong has been done. "They're trying to test me", she concludes, quite convinced that they have to make her look bad just so she's not so obvious a choice for the winner. I love this girl. Deluded, catty, and loving the sound of her own voice - this is what this show's all about. Love her. Want to stab her with a hot chisel, but LOVE HER.

Back at the Model Mansion, Furonda, true to her stupid and ever-present tiara, announces that it's "time to hand out my rules". My chin dropped with a bizarre mixture of horror and delight as she HANDED OUT PHOTOCOPIED PIECES OF PAPER that had her 'rules' printed on it. Rules like 'I'm the best person to discuss me with', and 'Stay out of my personal business unless I invite you in'. PHOTOCOPIED PAPER. I'm still choking on incredulous bile. I'd feel like handing her a sheet of my own rules, like 'Walk slowly up to the edge of a cliff with me behind you', or 'Grasp desperately for reality, you hoity fruitcake'. The other modules were less than impressed, and filed the rules away in suitable places. Like the pool.

Back on the bus again to a fashion show featuring up-and-coming (cheap) designers, at which the modules are challenged to pick outfits that match the personal style they were told they have. After the show, the girls are let loose on the clothes racks, and meet Rachel Zoe, a stylist, who announces that the girls have fifteen minutes to do their hair, make-up and wardrobe, and need to best articulate their style. Naima, the winner of series 3, pops in to give some styling tips, obviously not on her way to a pressing modelling engagement in the whirlwind life that isn't that of America's Third-To-Last Top Model. Jade looks like a Bohemian/Gladiator hybrid, Sara looks more than a bit like a middle-range pole-dancer in bra and hot-pants, Mollie-Sue looks brilliant in easily the funkiest outfit of the lot, and Furonda just tells everyone "I'm dressed great". Nnenna, in a simple frock, wins the style challenge (because she and I are probably going for coffee soon), and gets to share a five thousand dollar shopping spree with two 'friends'. She picks Jade and Gina, hoping they'll find a way to get along. Whatever. There's free clothes at stake. Who gives a stuff about rapport?

And now - my favourite bit. I've always talked a lot about how enjoyable it is to watch celebrities plummet into the Pit of Insanity at some stage of their careers - Tom Cruise, Michael Jackson, Moira - and wannabe models are no exception. It's night-time at the Model Mansion, and Wendy is on the phone to her mum (discussing the family's recovery after Hurricane Katrina - you know, trivial stuff), when Jade, wrapped in the Standard Nutjob Uniform of underpants with a sarong around her head, busts impatiently into the room and demands that she has a turn on the phone, complaining that "I haven't talked to my family since my makeover!". Somehow, and to the intense and mirthful enjoyment of the rest of the modules, this triggers an insane rant by Jade of padded-wall proportions, including choice phrases such as:
(pointing to the ANTM sign on the wall) "This is NOT America's Next Top Best Friend!"
"I'm the undiscovered supermodel!"
"I've lived in New York, man! The belly of the beast!"
"I'm a soldier sister!"
And my favourite: "Yeah, I'm out here in my panties, and I look goooooood!"
She finally gets to speak to her mother, and complains "These girls are horrible - they're trying to corrupt me". Bless you, my crazy friend. Bless you, and get yourself off to a clinic of some sort, quicksticks.

PHOTO SHOOT: The modules are up for a mock magazine cover shoot this week, in a set made from blocks of ice in a gigantic coolroom. To add to the discomfort of the freezing cold, the girls are given pretty much the ugliest make-up I've ever seen. I think they were going for a dripping-in-ice-crystals look, but it sort of comes off as an I've-just-woken-up-and-now-look-at-all-my-crusty-dried-up-eye-snot kind of thing. The girls from warmer climates are supremely uncomfortable, and Jade blames her make-up for her inability to look pretty. I've decided I can't look at Kari and her big exaggerated everything any more. I just feel like I could pop her with a sharp pin.

JUDGEMENT: The girls file in to the judgement room and are reminded of the judges' names. Spunky Nigel smiles a suggestive smile as he says hello, and the girls smile and say hello back, to the sound of twelve pairs of undies being soiled inappropriately all at once. The girls are shown their photos and each have a quick chat to the panel. The judges don't like Wendy's hair, so they call in a crew member to douse her with water. Gina's photo is all crossed eyes and bony angles, while Nnenna the Nigerian looks unfortunately like a masculine basketball-playing popsicle. Jade blames the other girls for her aggression, and her make-up for her dreadful photo, and Spunky Nigel, who may soon feature somewhere near my mattress, basically tells her to stop b*tching and shut it.

Tyra seems to be wearing more make-up every week, giving the impression that her eyes are somehow connected to her lips by a big smudgy trail of shimmer. It's like she's dipped her head in a bucket of Christmas beetles.

The judges deliberate with some disturbing rhyming couplets (or are they singlets?) from Miss Jay and Spunky Nigel, including "Furonda should be Gone-da" and "Jade just needs to get laid". The girls re-enter the room and are told they're safe one by one, until it's just down to Jade the Arrogant and Wendy the Morose - Jade is told that she's full of excuses, and that the judges suspect her arrogance is just insecurity. I agree that there's a Crying Little Girl inside, but I think she might be carrying a hatchet. Wendy is told that she's beautiful in person, but a bit of a bow-wow in photos, and is given the boot. Bye, my sad little South American ruminant. Don't lose any more family members on the way out.

Next week, we have the obligatory walking class (I love that term), PLUS the obligatory photo-shoot with insects. Coaches. Approaches. Roaches. Can't wait.
Until then...

Bum Shot #3: Crazy Frog

Crazy Frog had a hard time turning around, but at least you can't see his disturbing little willy.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

America's Next Top Model Series Six #2

The insanity and inanity continue apace...
We start this week with a public speaking challenge, in which the girls are seated before a panel of 'industry professionals' in a mock press conference. In a stroke of genius by the potentially-narky-situaion-loving producers, the thirteen modules are all given one microphone to share. Gina the Crazy Korean (who has added bizarre facial contortions into her already crowded mix of oddities) admits that she's nervous because she can't 'speak well in public'. Or in private, honey. Or at all. The first words from the panel, obviously designed purely for our entertainment, are "I'd like to hear from the girl who feels she is the front-runner". After a minor scramble, Danielle (of the bumpless 'gator skin) makes a grab for the mike, but it soon ends up in the hands of Jade The Arrogant Diva Monster, who offers "I feel that I'm the undiscovered supermodel". When unimpressed noises come from her co-modules, she shouts at them to shut up. Janice Dickinson, a has-been American supermodel now 60% synthetic polymers, advises her that perhaps she could be a touch more polite.

Kathy the Redneck Hick is told she needs to work on her accent (perhaps a little more silver-spoon, a little less inbred, wheat-chewin' drawl), and Nnenna the Nigerian is eloquent and interesting, just as all insanely beautiful, dignified people should be. I love her a little bit. Gina the Crazy Korean is asked how being Asian may influence her modelling. After a confused expression and a couple of psychotic head-rolls, she says "I don't understand the question?". Jade the Arrogant lays into Gina, saying she needs to find out who she is and be strong. "I'm bi-racial myself", she offers. "My father is Indian, and my mother is a really exotic white woman". Yes. That's what white women are famous for. Being exotic. Nnenna wins the challenge because she's my new best friend, and the crappy prize gives her and three friends the chance to pick their beds first in The Model House.

The modules are taken to their new digs, and exercise what has become Standard Mansion Discovery Hysteria. Run girls, run! Scream! And in the case of Furonda, caress that wardrobe! In case any of the models become confused, in huge letters on one wall are the words 'ANTM HOUSE', and each room is themed - a Twiggy room, an Iman room, a Christie Brinkley room (I believe they serve white bread there), and a Janice Dickinson room, which I assume is mostly made of plastic, saline, and b*tchiness. Jade chooses the Janice room, because in her words, "I'm Janice". At 26, she's nearly old enough.

The girls go out to dinner, and before any of the other girls have clinked their champagne glasses, Gina has chugged hers and refilled. She continues, in between bouts of twitching and confusion, to drain glass after glass, and we're treated to our first drunken module, not two episodes in! Stumbling like convulsing spaghetti, she hugs the wall and is helped into a waiting limo.

Back at the house, it's Drunken Bimbo Spa Time! Before long there are floating norks-a-plenty, or as Cathy the Hick says (obviously educated at the Deliverance School of Anatomy), "Oh. I see boobies". $100 is offered to the first girl who dares to do a nude catwalk strut across the courtyard, and Nnenna is up for it until Jade, not wanting to be upstaged at any time, also volunteers. She changes her mind, perhaps due to the crying little girl we just know is trapped within, and brushes it off with "I'm worth more than that. I want a million, kitten". Unless I heard her incorrectly, and she actually wants a million kittens.

Tyra drops in, and screams like a deranged banshee, claiming "Y'all are the dopest 13", and then dances. She really shouldn't.

A Tyra Mail sends the girls off to a salon, where they excitedly expect a makeover, and are promptly told by Jay that they'll be going bald today. President Bush ain't the only one who can deliver shock and awe - over-bleached gay stylists can give it a red hot go, too. The jape's on the modules - they'll just be given skin caps to make them look bald, or, in the case of over a third of the girls, to make them look like mutated spooky beings from another world. Faux jewels are stuck on their faces and necks, and they each pose in a room full of bald, nude manneuqins (another hum-drum scene taken straight from everyday life). Cathy the Hick, who looks truly, truly, disturbing, comments that she looks like a penis with ears, and strangely emphasises her point by licking one of the mannequin's heads. Kari (she of the big lips and the man-voice) looks like a factory seconds blow-up doll, and Furonda, whilst practising her poses in a mirror, claims that she's "gonna rock it, because I'm the frontrunner". The struggle to take her seriously whilst she looks like a used novelty cond*m was almost more than I could bear. Gina has trouble with some strange hand movements whilst Jay tells her to "put a thought in your head", but we're all distracted by the gigantic bullet-hole shaped mole on her collarbone. Jade causes Jay to remark that "It's hard to work with a girl who already thinks she's a model. She's 26. Perhaps if she was going to be one, she would be by now?". We're all thinking it, sweetie.

The next day, a Tyra Mail summons the girls to their first judgement panel. Judges are Tyra, Twiggy, Miss Jay, and Spunky Nigel Barker, who may or may not feature in some naughty dreams in my imminent future. The photos from the shoot are picked apart - Danielle is surprised she looks good, because she was worried about the dents in her head. Jade is accused of being arrogant (kind of like accusing Paris Hilton of being a little bit attracted to publicity), and in her own defence she goes on and on about how humble she is. Spunky Nigel reminds her that "part of being humble is being quiet". Furonda looks like a slightly melted roll-on deodorant, and Wendy resembles a melancholy tapir. Nnenna rocked it like a big rocking thing.

The judges deliberate, and Spunky Nigel, assuring his place in my list of Things To Do, suggests that "If conceited drag queen is ever in, Jade has a career". Rowr. Call me.

The girls are called back in, and with her usual ghetto intensity, Tyra calls out the 'safe' modules one by one. Eventually it comes down to Furonda and Cathy the Hick, and hence begins The Great April Self-Esteem Massacre. There's none of the customary supportive criticism here. Barely able to contain her malice, Tyra tells Furonda "You think you rocked it. You think you're the best. But all the judges think you had the worst photo ever. Cathy - we just don't think you have any potential" Ouch. She says "So who will it be? The girl with the worst photo, or the girl with no potential?". To the distant sound of banjo and whittlin', Cathy the Hick is told to pack her bags and go back to the swamp. Cathy sheds a tear and does a quick squat for the girls as a parting gesture. Bye, honey. Don't steal the cutlery on your way out.

I'm still picking Nnenna and Mollie Sue as the final two, probably with Sara, the other Scarlett Johansson look-alike, in there as well.
Next week - THE MAKEOVER EPISODE, and apparently also the Jade Goes Mental In A Sarong episode. Tears. Shears. Fears.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Bum Shot #2: Guy Sebastian

Sometimes you have to be quick. I said something like "Hi, Guy. Photo. There. Turn Around. Thank you!" - all done before he had a chance to say "Whaaa...?".

Monday, April 10, 2006

Bum Shot #1: Eskimo Joe

Aaah, the Bum Shot. No more front-on celebrity photos for me. No, sir.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

America's Next Top Model Series Six #1

I'm so very excited. It's gonna be a crazy ride. Usually the first audition episode of America's Next Top Model is a bit flat, but this was BRILLIANT.

I know what the requirements are for being a Top Module: a) You must express emotion only by crying or squealing. b) Your eyes must be three metres apart. c) You must have a name that nobody's ever heard before, most likely given to you by your acid-dropping illiterate parents. d) You must be absolutely, barkingly, pooh-eatingly insane.

We start with 32 girls, more than half of whom are either a bit plain, or just plain weird-looking. The first of many gasps escaped my mouth when we met Dani, who looks a tiny bit like a (more) boring version of Lindsay Lohan, and is racist enough to shoot for Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan as a career option. On the bus to the hotel, she moaned that "95% of the girls at my audition were black", to which all the black girls on the bus said "So?". Nice introduction, Miss Most Likely To Be Stabbed In Her Sleep. On Dani's audition tape, she mentions that she's an "uber-conservative hardcore republican Baptist", and that she doesn't like gay people. Lucky she's after a job in the fashion industry. Nobody gay there.

After lots and lots of screaming, Jay (photo stylist) and Miss Jay (catwalk trainer) give the girls their first challenge - they're to put together an ensemble from their own clothes, and walk down a red carpet evoking "Sultry Sexy", "Sophisticated Lady", or "Young and Virginal". Quite a stretch of the acting skills on all counts. When the Jays shout "GO!", one of the girls (whose name I didn't catch, so for now she'll be known as The Hillbilly Redneck), drops her daks straight away, not leaving time for the Jays to point to the indoor change rooms. A 27-year-old doctor wins the challenge, seemingly due to her interpretation of 'Virginal' as 'Flapping Your Jacket Around Like You're Trying To Disperse Some Body Odour'.

More screaming at breakfast as the girls are shown a video of Tyra giving them a gee-up. A good moment when the videotaped Tyra asks a question, and 32 girls shout and scream their answer at the screen. Absolute maniacal hysteria when Ms Banks herself walks out from behind a curtain. Like, shaking, crying, and hand-flapping. The works. We're reacquainted with Tyra's wacky, homegirl-made-good display for another year, as she does a demo catwalk including a Beyonce-esque bootay shake. The woman gets wobblier and crazier every series, and I would like to hit her quite hard on the face.

We get to know our quarter-finalists one by one as they have individual chats with a panel of Tyra and the Jays. I loved this segment with all my heart and soul, and I think I might insist that they play a tape of it at my funeral. Some highlights:
Furonda the girl who used to work on a phone-sex hotline demonstrates her versatility by putting on her various phone-sex voices (for example "Big Black Momma", "Valley Girl", and "Dominatrix") and demonstrating her technique to the judges. Including moaning. And panting.
Kari looks for all the world like a blonde blow-up doll modelled after a fish, installed with the voicebox of a man.
Yvonne, our 27-year old emergency-room doctor, demonstrates her skill by performing the Heimlich Manoeuver on Miss Jay.
Wendy from New Orleans, whose eyes nearly meet at the back of her head, breaks down as she tells of her family's Hurricane Katrina ordeal. Her father is still missing. Seems like the perfect time to enter a modelling competition! One hug from Tyra and things seem all sunny again.
Jade, who I'm ready and waiting to hate like a sudden cockroach, is this season's I'm All That And A Bag Of Gorgeous Biscuits egomaniac. From the humble "People think I'm a b*tch just because I have this beautiful body" to the deluded "Tyra and the two Jays are like my team", she could Diva for her country.
The Crazy Korean (didn't catch the name) - babbles excitedly for 10 minutes, eyes wide and hands flapping, dribbling "I'm so proud to be Asian. I hate Asian guys. They're too short. I like white men. I'm the kind of girl who would strip naked if you asked me to. But I won't. My parents have a thing about it". We're gonna have a LOT of fun with this odd, odd girl.
Andrea has a beautiful face, but a body that looks like it's been made out of starving pipe-cleaners. On top of that, she's the biggest freakin' cry baby I've ever seen in my life. You're one of the finalists! WAAAAAAH! You'll have to spend time away from your family! WAAAAAH! Your eggs are ready! WAAAAAAAH! Every time a tear escapes her body you feel like she's going to collapse in an anorexic heap - she seriously can't afford any more fluid loss.
Dani the racist looks straight at our dusky Tyra and our two fudge-adoring Jays and tells them she doesn't like blacks or gays. "I just don't approve of your lifestyle". Nice move, Dani. Strategic. Joanie (snigger) from Beaver Falls (pfffffft!) is a preacher's daughter who spent a little time as a stripper. Praise the Lord.
Comment by the fairly non-descript Leslie: "My parents had a huge influence on how I was raised". You think?
Leah has a sick mother, but she'll be okay, because she has a thick skin. Or, in her words, "I gots 'gator skin without the bumps".
Nennia the Nigerian is insanely beautiful and will be in the final two with Mollie Sue the Scarlett Johansson lookalike. You heard it here first.

The girls are creatively culled down to 20 - they have to run into a room and open 20 make-up cases, each containing a photo of a girl who has made it into the next round. Much screaming, pushing, wailing and sprinting ensues, followed by air-punching, hoots and tears. Anorexic Andrea sheds a couple more tears despite getting through, and you can almost see her shrinking from the strain.

The 20 girls are given 10 minutes to whack some make-up on and line up for their first photo-shoot, a close-up beauty shot. Most of the girls do quite well, although an awful lot of them choose to drape one of their arms over their heads. As one girl commented, "You could have the prettiest armpits in the world - they still wouldn't look good in a photo". Word.

The judges go through the photos to decide upon the final 13, and Tyra gathers the girls together (Andrea throws in a few final sobs for good measure), and slowly and painfully announces the final 13 one by one. There's an excellent mix of beauty, poise, mental disturbance and 'tude. Andrea the Anorexic doesn't make it, but The Hillbilly Redneck does. Dani the racist is out, most likely due to some kind of conspiracy by some gay black agnostics. Here we go. I can't wait, I tells ya.

The teaser for next week includes a strange clip of Jay telling the girls they'll be 'going bald'. I might go into cryogenic hibernation just so the week goes quickly enough.
Bless their hillbilly diva hearts.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Road Trip To Quandialla #3

What a difference a day makes. I'm not sure, but I think I was woken by birdsong, sunbeams, the rustle of leaves, and essence of Bambi. I walked out into the brightness of Sarah's house, every surface dotted with art and glass, outside the windows kilometres of trees, grass, and ruminants, and I tried not to think about going back to an apartment on the corner of two main roads in Sydney. Perhaps if, from now on, I imagine that every tyre-screech followed by the sound of crumpling metal and breaking glass is actually just the tortured lowing of a birthing cow....

This was no billy-tea-in-an-enamel-cup country trip, neither. Before long Sarah had made us each an espresso coffee and some toast, and we were sitting outside in the morning sun, breakfasting and suppressing the instinctive weeping of the completely relaxed. Right on cue, a horsie appeared in the paddock at the edge of the yard. Sarah said if we gave it some hay it would come over and show some interest (we'd already tried giving it some "Hey!", to no avail), so we did. And it did. I don't know how horsies eat that dry, brittle stuff. Like, don't they want some dressing?

After showering (or in my case, wallowing in my own filth) and other ablutions, Sarah asked if we wanted to see her dogs, including some puppies. Kind of like asking Anthony Mundine if he'd like to mispronounce something. Yes. And often. Sarah and Trev keep working dogs, and also breed them for other farmers. We wandered across to the kennels, and were greeted enthusiastically by five or six or twenty GORGEOUS black and brown things - the actual number wasn't clear in the frenzied blur of tails, paws, tummies and excited strings of doggy spit. We patted, cooed, spoke in stupid baby voices, and welcomed each smeared paw-print upon our persons. Dogs just rock.

Sarah took us over to 'the big house' to have a look, and not only was it big, it was brilliant. This is the house that the term 'country house' was invented to describe. All creaky wooden verandahs, rustic furniture and heavy carpets, the kitchen still equipped with what was probably the original stove, and the hallway intersected by red velvet curtains and a hat rack. It was, and I use the term with full awareness of its uncool implications, delightful. And a bit spooky.

Back to 'the small house' for some audio-visual entertainment, firstly in the form of an extremely shaky, blinky video of various ratty COFA students being quirky, followed by a superbly edited DVD of Sarah's wedding. In the COFA video, Sarah (despite now only having one, natural hair colour and a belly full of human) looked almost exactly the same as she does now. Fiona commented that I hadn't changed a bit since then either, which was a bit disturbing - I think I look younger now, compared to the tired, stressed, frizzy-haired, leather-wearing tryhard on the screen. Nice arse, though.

Sarah's wedding DVD was lovely, and had been snappily edited with the non-attendee viewer in mind. The ceremony had been held on their property, under some trees, presided over by a Catholic priest with a strong Chinese accent and some freezing bridesmaids. I found myself actually getting a bit misty whilst watching footage of Sarah (apparently quite, quite drunk) waltzing with her father late in the night. The highlight though, without a skerrick of doubt, was found in the 'out-takes' during Sarah's dad's speech. He began thanking everyone, starting with Sarah's mum, and proudly told everyone she'd been "working like a nigger for weeks" to get the wedding up. The camera caught the bridal party's reaction behind him - a mixture of shock, horror, amusement, and disbelief, soundtracked by the crowd's nervous giggle. Brilliant. Play it again.

Lunchtime, and Sarah for some reason thought it was necessary to apologise for a huge pile of sandwiches, lasagna and cashews. Pah. I would've been happy to have been handed a jar of Vegemite and a straw. As nice as the lunch was, the end of it did mean it was our time to leave Quandialla. We said our goodbyes, booking a date (and a couple of beds) for next year's local Rodeo. Because like, apparently we hadn't had enough beer already. Sarah and Fiona dutifully waved until we were out of sight. Well, until we'd turned around. Well, they kind of got tired and went inside. Bless.

We stopped at Grenfell again on the way east, to buy petrol and squeegee an entire entomological ecosystem off the windscreen. Off we drove again, taking care to read and understand (as best we could - some things are different in the country) each road sign as we saw them. At different times, we were expecting large number 80s ahead, trays carrying big trucks, and various licorice allsorts by the side of the road. Hilarious.

Our second stop was in Cowra - there's no way we were going to drive past the Cowra Smokehouse without stopping. Outside, we posed for a comedy photo. Inside, we came upon a huge tank of live trout, and a very friendly, kind, informative man whose head was the wrong size for his body. He fed the trout for our entertainment (I Got Splashed At Cowra Smokehouse And All I Got Was This Wet T-Shirt), and gave us 'the tour', which consisted of him pointing at different doors and saying "Behind that door is the coolroom. Behind that door is the smoking room". It was the best tour of closed doors I think I've ever experienced. Milly and I stocked up greedily on smoked trout, salmon, chicken, feta, and pate, and our tour guide threw in bikkies and cooler bags at a discount, possibly because Milly told him she worked for The Land, which had recently featured the Smokehouse in a story.

The roadkill outside Bathurst turned out to be a wallaby. Just in case you thought we forgot to check.

Our third stop was Bathurst - we decided we'd visit the Family Hotel once more for a refreshing ale (Mily had a light, Constable), and a re-cap of the whole brilliant weekend. It had everything - reunions, beer, laughter, dogs, beer, smoked goods, made-up words, reminiscing and beer. And laughter. Pant-wetting, snorty, snot-bullet laughter.

Don't drive home from anywhere through the mountains on a Sunday afternoon. Milly and I had been joking about how much 'traffic' there had been in Quandialla and surrounds, and the Fairy of Ironic Retributive Justice brought down her wand with precision and gusto. By the time we had inched our way to Springwood and checked the train timetable, we decided that fitting in one last drink at the pub near the station was an apt farewelly thing to do. We gushed again about the quality, quality weekend, and I left on the train.

I'm a road-tripping, pub-staying, dust-raising convert. Who's coming on the next one?

Monday, April 03, 2006

Road Trip To Quandialla #2

Oh. Ow. Oh, Jeez.
Cold, leaden vise clamped firmly around my brain, I somehow managed to open my eyes on Saturday morning and drag my dinner-deprived, beer-flushed body into the shower, ignoring any temptation to look in the mirror. I already knew what I would have seen there. Pale Green Badness.

After about a year in the shower, I called Milly in her room to wake her up, got her voicemail, mentioned that I thought my hair was bloodshot, and sat down to try and figure out a clothing concept. Like how to put on my pants. I desperately wanted to slip back into a coma, but the Knickerbocker Hotel has a kind of Third Reich breakfast policy - we'd already paid for a cooked brekky, and, as we were informed with underlines and highlights - if you want breakfast at a minute past nine, bad freakin' luck mate.

Somehow we found ourselves in the Knickerbocker dining room, being served bacon and eggs by a go-getter probably known as 'Jude', and wrestling with a temperamental toaster probably known as 'Toast On Both Sides, You Piece of Sh*t'. Milly seemed to be in much better shape than I was, what with her ability to form actual sentences. She even managed to both listen earnestly to my babble and pull a hair out of the eggs in her mouth. We both hoped it was Milly's. It was a bit long to be one of Jude's.

We left Bathurst just after 9am, and headed west under an increasingly sunny and cloudless sky, through rolling hills and fields, on a smooth road punctuated with furry globs of roadkill. Milly had quite a talent for recognising what the globs were pre-semi-trailer, chanting "fox", "wallaby", "rabbit", and then finally "what the f*ck is that?!" when her talent ran out. We decided we'd check out the large, dark brown mound on the way back.

After a couple of hours we were both feeling almost human, and decided it was time to stop for a lemonade at the next town. The next town happened to be Grenfell, the birthplace of Henry Lawson, and a lovely spot. After taking a comedy photo of me outside the town's premier boutique, named Fashion Addict, we made a beeline for The Albion, one of those quintessential dark, cool country pubs, complete with three Stubbied locals at one end of the bar, and every sentence uttered by the barmaid ending in "love". We took our softies out to the beer garden, taking turns to visit the Ladies for a long overdue hangover ritual - dropping the kids off at the pool. Milly interacted briefly with one of the locals, who offered "This wind's a bastard, isn't it?", before moving along, and we agreed that if we had grown up in Grenfell, the Albion's beergarden would've been a tops place to have your 21st. We inspected Grenfell's main street, including the obligatory poke-around in a couple of second-handy, antiquey shops, where we tut-tutted at the obviously exorbitant mark-ups Sydney shops whack onto gorgeous rustic bits and pieces like this. Antique price comparisons. Very rock n' roll.

Refreshed and almost ready for a hair of the gigantic, slavering dog that mauled us, we completed the final leg of our inward journey, and pulled up outside Quandialla's Bland Hotel (it's a name, not an attitude) just after lunchtime. What a great pub. Front bar, ladies' lounge, dining room, beer garden. Cat. Bushy-bearded fellow perched at the end. Sarah had told us that one of the regulars at the Bland was a guy, named Brian, who had a hook for a hand. Milly and I tried to see if our hairy-faced companion was, in fact, Brian With The Iron, but he never really had his hands in view. Shy, perhaps.

Onward. We were still about fifteen minutes away from the baby shower at Sarah's parents' house via a dirt road, so we made our way with care, Milly commenting that, due to our impressive dust cloud/vapour trail, she felt like she was driving a plane. We made the appropriate noises and, at one stage, each stuck an arm out of the front windows, wing-style. We finally arrived at the picturesque homestead, got out of the car, dusted ouselves off, tiptoed our way across the cattle grid, walked up the path, realised we'd forgotten the present, turned back, did it all again. Stripy monkey and red baby jammies gripped tightly, we found Sarah, who, apart from the fact that she's now incubating a human, hasn't changed one bit. At the risk of diving straight into cliche, she really did exhibit that special pregnant lady glow, especially when she stood next to the comparative long-and-sodden-car-journey- pastiness of Milly and myself.

Sarah's mum welcomed us warmly with hugs and coldly with champers, and for the first ten minutes, Milly, Sarah and I had absolutely bugger all to say beyond the awkward "Well, isn't this nice! Hasn't it been a long time!". We soon relaxed as we started reminiscing about our art school days, who snogged who, who drank what, who made it big, who's in jail, and who should be. We met Sarah's excellent mate, Fiona, also from Sydney, and settled in for a lazy afternoon of sipping drinks and grazing on the astounding gastronomic offerings piled high on a couple of tables in the yard. It was a brilliant afternoon - I realised that I didn't have a romanticised memory of how much fun these two brilliant chicks are - we slipped very, very easily into our old sarcastic banter. It was like falling off a log. Into a vat of oil-paint and beer.

When most of the guests had dribbled off, Milly, Fiona and I helped pile Sarah's obscene pile of baby-loot (including the stripy monkey, which had been received with the appropriate hoots and clucks) into her car, and the four of us drove ten minutes to Sarah and Trev's house. There are two houses on the property, one belonging to Trev's mum (referred to as 'the big house'), and Sarah and Trev's adorable three-bedroom cottage (referred to as 'the small house'). People who do not live in Sydney can call a three-bedroom house 'small' without irony. Or sobbing.

Trev can only be described as an excellent bastard. No bullsh*t, funny as hell, down-to-earth, and the kind of bloke who you'd be sure has every size of bolt and drill-bit in easy reach, all of the time. We lounged around after a quick tour, collecting ourselves before the inevitable evening pub-visit. Sarah dragged out some old uni photos, so 'lounged around' turned into 'nearly regurgitated a lung laughing'. Milly did at one stage think she would actually throw up. Which we just thought was funny.

The four of us made our way to the Bland and settled in for the evening. Milly and I withheld our comments regarding the smallness of our beers for as long as we could, until Sarah enlightened us - apparently in the country you're given a middy unless you specify otherwise. Lesson learned, we specified with abandon from then on. It's been a long time since I've laughed that much, that often, with that high a risk of a nasal beer-spray. Brilliant. We moved into the dining room for an excellent pub meal, and the conversation turned, perhaps inappropriately, to horror hospital stories. Fiona told a startling Japanese three-pager, and Milly gave me schtick for having more ailments than most grandmothers. Sarah's foetus decided to join in the merriment, causing her to shout "Oh, Jethuth! Right in the bladder!". Bless.

Several beers and a couple of wines later, Cuzza was getting a bit weary, what with a tummy full of person and soft-drink, so we called it a night and headed back to the house. With the knowledge that, unlike the Knickerbocker, breakfast at The Small House would take place whenever we deemed it necessary, we all plummeted eagerly to sleep.