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America's confidence still high, according to Next Top Model casting call

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They say we're beaten down, beleaguered, ready to collectively empty our 401(k)s and slit our wrists with our sliced-in-half Visa cards. But if the several hundred high-heeled, high-smiled women standing in a line that stretched halfway around downtown Denver on Tuesday for an America's Next Top Model open casting call were any indication, then trust me: America still has the swagger of yesteryear. America is still bullish on itself. And mortgage crisis be damned, it appears we still possess the confidence to walk into a situation for which we are not remotely qualified and stake our futures to it.

For America does not run on Dunkin', people. It runs on delusion.

I arrived at Vinyl nightclub, the site of the Top Model roundup, at around five o'clock -- eighteen or so hours after the first reality-TV hopefuls started camping out. That's right: camping out. A young woman named Deja told me she spent Monday afternoon driving past the building to see if anyone else had claimed the first spot. Once the line started forming, she and her dream plopped down, for what was no doubt a nervous night's sleep.

This casting call was a little different than most. This time around, the CW is asking for girls 5-foot-7 and under -- virtual midgets by modeling standards. They must be doing a show about how even short girls can get modeling contracts -- especially short girls who win contrived reality shows in which the winner gets a modeling contract.

So, yeah, most of the girls were kind of short, which you would think would be cool for me, since I'm built like Dakota Fanning. But the women there seemed to doubt that Top Model's producers were seriously looking for short models, because they were all wearing heels the size of samurais. So, yes, even in a room full of women who were only in the room because they were short, I was pretty much the shortest person there.

Thanks again, Dad.

Oh, did I mention there were CW producers there? Because there weren't. The hundreds of people standing in line probably thought there were, because there were some important-looking people milling about with walkie-talkies. And when the girls were finally herded upstairs for their big moment, there were indeed some charming fellows armed with a laptop, a camera and a boom mic. But those were just the guys who make commercials for the local affiliate. At first I thought they must have drawn the longest straws at the office to get such a cool gig, which appeared to come with free beer. But when six o'clock rolled around and they'd only gone through a handful of girls, I realized they probably drew the shortest straws. Or maybe they were getting punished for dubbing a bunch of F-words into Drew Carey Show reruns. Who knows?

Anyway, I don't think the girls realized how powerless the men before them were. I guess it didn't even matter. The camera was there. The camera was who they needed to win over. But I do know this: Many of the aspiring reality-TV foils were very disappointed by the brevity of their face time. It was less than a minute, all told. They introduced themselves, explained why they were the next top model and did a little walk on the cat walk. Yeah, on the catwalk. On the catwalk. Yeah.

(Actually, it was just a floor with some tape on it. Yeah. With some ...)

After their fifteen minutes seconds were up, the girls walked off, still nervous, and huddled with each other to dissect their performances. "I screwed up," Deja told another girl, with whom she'd waited outside for hours.

They seemed to know their dream of making it big would have to wait. Now they'd have to go back to working their way up from the bottom, toiling behind the scenes and --

What's that? There's a casting call for So You Can Think You Can Dance on Thursday? The dream lives on!

I bailed after the first ten or so girls. Seen one attractive-but-not-really-Fashion-Week-material woman, seen 'em all. When I got outside, the line was even longer than before. (Our photographer tells me 1,200 people showed up in total, but only about 500 got on camera). I was walking toward the end of it with another girl -- nice enough looking, I guess, but more suited for America's Next Greek Diner Waitress -- when suddenly she stopped. She recognized someone in line.

"What are you doing here?" she asked.

Her friend shrugged: "Same thing as you."

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