So You Wanna Be A TV Star? All It Takes Is a Little Cheese

For a crack at 15 seconds of fame on TV, some people will do anything.

Forget stage fright and rehearsing lines: Bostonians lured in off the street last week for a test as a cracker-commercial star were all spontaneity and puns, touting their succulent cracker combos and putting their best screen face forward.

The occasion was a Nabisco star search for the "Ultimate Cracker Snacker." Joy Osmanski, the winner from Massachusetts, received $500 and a free trip to Boise, Idaho, to compete with finalists from each of the 50 states. There the true cracker snacker will receive $25,000 and a spot in a Nabisco commercial.

Some people walked by the audition, too busy to be bothered with fame. But others, including business people, students, grandmothers, and children lined up to try their hand at acting.

"Someone's gotta win," said John Normile confidently. "It's $12,500 for me and $12,500 for you," he told Jamie Ribeiro, his teenage audition counterpart.

Inside Boston's Hard Rock Cafe, in a room turned film-studio for the day, Nabisco representatives sporting banana-yellow "Open a Box Make Up a Snack" T-shirts instructed the would-be actors and actresses to top their favorite Nabisco cracker with delectables such as kiwi, peanut butter, and chocolate kisses and then explain to the camera where and why they liked to eat it.

Boston University student Jon McGovern stole some hot sauce from one of the judge's lunches to complete his concoction, the "pre-romance snack." It included two Triscuits (the two being very important), cheese, onion, and a little bit of Cheese Whiz topped with hot sauce.

"My girlfriend and I both love it," he explained in an Alabaman drawl. "It sparks some romance, if you know what I mean."

Ms. Osmanski, a recent college graduate, said she heard about the audition from a friend and thought it sounded like fun. She played the part of a cracker connoisseur and arranged her cracker on a plate among some fern fronds she found on the buffet table. Her winning combination included a tomato, a wedge of cheddar, and a "dollop, not a glob" of cream cheese.

Although Osmanski is looking forward to meeting the other competitors in Boise, she's not concerned about the results.

"I'm just going to have fun, take it easy, and not worry about what happens," explained Osmanski.

People auditioned for a variety of reasons. "We're hams," Michael Corsey said. "That's why I've got the ham," he quipped, waving his ham and cheese cracker.

Four judges rated originality; the appeal of the snack submission and snacking location; and enthusiasm.

One judge, Nancy Doyle of Tighe and Doyle Casting, described the audition as a "typical" open call where some people are themselves and others try to perform for the judges.

A Nabisco representative did note that Bostonians may have been a bit more restrained than, say, New Yorkers. "In New York, people wore hats made of Ritz crackers, and one lady brought her bird in and tried to make it say 'Ritz,' " she said.

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