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You've Won a NEW JOB! : Television: That's what a handful of women hope to hear as the game show 'The Price Is Right' auditions for a new model.

March 10, 1994|DAVID KRONKE | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Tandra Cromer has helped cheer the Dallas Cowboys to two Super Bowl championships but has had scant experience fawning over prizes on TV game shows. Nonetheless, she's introduced to her new co-star during a rehearsal for "The Price Is Right": a desk--or, as announcer Rod Roddy puts it, " an elegant desk! "

"Let's see what you do on your own," the disembodied voice of the program's director calls out through the public-address system, sounding very much like the hard-as-nails editor of a big-city paper talking to a cub reporter in some '40s movie.

As Roddy describes the desk in lavish, loving terms, Cromer flamboyantly lifts her arm and twists her wrist to introduce the article of furniture to the audience. She then walks from one side of the desk to the other and sits herself coyly upon it, sweeping her other arm luxuriantly across the desk top.

Wrong, wrong, wrong. The voice of the director booms in. "Start where you are now and stay there. When the doors open up, put your hands up quickly--you're a little slow with the opening gesture--after that, you don't really have to do much of anything." A stagehand rustles up a magazine for her to place in one of the desk's drawers--a bit of actorly business that Brando himself might have suggested.

Cromer, 23, is one of four novice models competing for a possible permanent gig on the popular CBS game show. March is "Barker's Beauties Month" on "The Price Is Right." The show has been auditioning professional models since September, when Diane Parkinson left the show and embarked upon a career as a Playboy Celebrity Centerfold model, and this month, winners of contests in Dallas, Los Angeles (Melissa Cortez), Detroit (Michelle Hunter) and Miami (Lisa Lopez) earnestly and provocatively display new cars and roll-on deodorants alike.

In Dallas, Cromer, who works in the Dallas Cowboys sales and promotion office in addition to her work as a cheerleader, beat out nearly 750 women. She describes the competition: "You had to walk across the stage and say your name and contestant number. Then they called back 50 girls and you had to do the same thing. Then they cut it to 10, and you had five minutes to answer questions from Rod Roddy."

No problem--she has had experience being charming beyond cheering for the Cowboys: "I've traveled all over the world, putting smiles on our U.S. troops' faces at Christmastime."

Bob Barker, the venerable host of the longest-running (at 22 years) game show on network TV today, says it takes more than a pretty face to get into the game-show model racket: "Many girls are beautiful, but this requires more than the average viewer realizes. She has to be bright. . . . To give a refrigerator glamour requires a certain amount of intelligence."

Cromer agrees. After receiving repeated corrections from the director during the rehearsal, she says, "It's harder than it looks. The models look so comfortable. It's something you have to work at."

To prepare for her on-air audition, Cromer crammed, watching weeks of "Price Is Right" videotapes. Her favorite prize-gesture tandem, she says, came with "the big stuff--the boats and cars and (hot) tubs. I like the big moves."

She puts her all into even the run-through, although the veteran models are more casual about their work: Holly Hallstrom thrusts her arms out over merchandise wearing jeans, clogs and sunglasses and munching an apple. Janice Pennington, who has been with the current series since its inception, and Kathleen Bradley, the relative rookie on the program with just four years' experience, also float through the rehearsal with comfortable insouciance.

Hallstrom calls "Barker's Beauties" "a gimmick we came up with recently--I've lost count of the number of girls who have been through here. We take Polaroids of them and write their names on them so we can remember who we're talking about." A final decision on Parkinson's replacement is expected to be made in April.

Taping begins, and Roddy--in a spangly green jacket and tie, apparently stitched together from old figure-skater costumes, along with a red shirt so glowing that meltdown seems imminent--calls the squealing contestants, including a guy sporting a homemade T-shirt reading "Paramedics Love 'The Price Is Right,' " to come on down. They leap frenziedly from the crowd and bounce around hyperkinetically as Barker enters.

Roddy introduces the first prize-- "a challenging pair of exercise bikes!" --and the doors of the set clatter open (you don't hear the noise on TV) to reveal Cromer and Hallstrom peddling away cheerfully, waving and winking cheerily at the camera.

Later, Barker introduces Cromer to the crowd; she blows a kiss to the camera and winks, like an old pro.

Cromer's big moment comes when she, encased in a prop called "The Clam," shows off some " unique Lucite trunks! " Beaming, she cocks her head, her hand gently caresses the edge of a trunk and, as Roddy announces that the prize comes with " a supply of cough and cold formula, " she brings a box of the product up close to her left cheek, lavishing more affection and adoration upon it than many couples do toward one another.

"It was fabulous, it was more than I expected," Cromer exults at the end. "It was fun and exciting. It wasn't as though I had it down by the end of the week, but I was learning."

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