Kansas Citians looking for love, or least a shot at ‘Bachelor,’ audition

07/12/2014 7:00 AM

07/12/2014 8:10 PM

Cathy’s a little nervous.

Not for herself, but for daughter Sandi. They drove in from Manhattan, Kan., for the Thursday auditions for season 19 of “The Bachelor.”

“It was my idea,” Cathy conceded. “She’s very adventurous, and I thought it would be good for her.”

Producers said 270 young men and women showed up at the auditions. They didn’t say how many mothers. Due to the show’s rules, those interviewed could only use their first names.

Nikki Ferrell of Kearney won Juan Pablo’s heart on season 18. This might have unleashed parental encouragement and some out-right pushing Thursday night. After all, if one Missourian found love on “The Bachelor,” perhaps the heartland has more to offer.

Valita admitted to signing up daughter Katie. The show isn’t for everyone, she added. Rejection can be hard for some girls.

“You have to be secure in who you are,” she explained. “This cannot be the thing that makes you who you are. You have to know that first. And if she wasn’t well-balanced and secure in who she is, I would have never signed her up.

“And you have to wonder, what if you really can find love?”

The area’s eligible bachelorettes and bachelors were asking themselves that very question. Gathered at the Courtyard by Marriott in Briarcliff, they filled out applications with questions about relationships, hobbies and talents — even their favorite drink.

“We’ve had so many great girls from here,” casting producer Sunny Willebrand said.

Candidates will be flown to Los Angeles if they get a callback. At that point they go deeper under the veil of secrecy.

Bobbie drove from Clinton after winning a front-of-the-line pass on the radio. Her friend, Brooke Stieb, tagged along for support and snarky commentary.

Twenty-three-year-old Bobbie knows how people expect a bachelorette to look.

“I’m different,” she asserted. Her bright red Mohawk amplified bright blue eyes. She wasn’t particularly dressed up, either. A thick gold chain hung around her neck above the tattoo on her sternum. She’s been homeless, she’s been jobless.

But, like many here, she was looking for love.

Her one stipulation: the Bachelor has to be tough, like her. A cage fighter, she has had eight fights, won three belts.

Bobbie gestured toward a group of girls.

“They look like Miss America. Perfect teeth, perfect everything …,” she trailed off. “It’s reality TV, you might as well be real. This is me, and I’m going to be me.”

After the paperwork came the mug shot. It resembled a back-to-school photo line as girls helped each other with quick hair fixes, and guys straightened sport coats.

“Do all girls do that hand-on-the-hip thing?” asked Mike, one of the men there for an audition. The 41-year-old IT consultant admitted he partly came just to check out the girls. At more than 200 to 40, his odds were good.

And like others, his mom wanted him to come. “I’m the epitome of a ‘Bachelor.’ Never been married, never had kids.”

He knows the odds of finding love on a TV show are astronomical. But still.

“I’m going to be the exception,” he said, confidently. “I’m a lot smarter now. A lot more educated on love and relationships.… Love is not a feeling. Love is an action. After cloud nine is over you have to put in the work.”

“The Bachelor” doesn’t have a great reputation with happily ever after.

“If you find love, well, it’s a one in a million chance, so why not take it? I just wanted a new experience,” said Amanda, before heading to a videotaped interview.

The Marriott’s front desk clerk, Benjamin Howell, had a couple of insights. Some women are rude to staff, but turn around for auditions and become the nicest person. And there’s the grip of the show.

“It’s hard to measure people’s intentions,” Howell said. “But every time you watch the show, you want it to be true love, and not just for the show. You want them to really fall in love and for it to be real.”

Season 13 “Bachelor” alumna Shannon Bair (now Gibbons) and Kari Fajen (now Kimmis) stopped to visit and recall their experiences.

“We wanted to support everyone,” Gibbons said. “To some girls, we talked about the experience. But there’s nothing you can prepare for.”

Kimmis holds her 3-month-old who’s sporting a onesie emblazoned with “The Cutest Bachelor.” There’s a rose on it, of course.

KC has a good “Bachelor” family, Gibbons said. She and Ferrell, the last winner, hang out on occasion. They still watch the show.

“It’s kind of code that whenever you’re in the ‘Bachelor’ family, you respect one another,” Gibbons said. “Because no one else understands it. No one else can get it.”

To reach Linley Sanders, call 816-234-4297 or send email to lsanders@kcstar.com.

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