GTR Editor Hopes to Become Maytag Repairman

Contributing Editor

STILL WAITING: David Jones sits by his phone waiting for the call from the Maytag headquarters in hopes of becoming the Maytag repairman. He is competing with 10,000 other people who have auditioned for the position.

GTR Newspapers photo

One never knows when some life-bending twist of fate may come along.

Mine may have come from a simple phone call from Greater Tulsa Reporter publisher Forrest Cameron. Auditions were being held at the Maytag Store at 4915 E. 41st St. for television’s new Maytag repairman. Why don’t I cover it? Better yet, why don’t I audition?

Auditions are going to close in an hour and I am driving down the street with my face gloriously unshaven. No time to go home to give the razor a quick swipe. Oh well, maybe Maytag is looking for the grizzled look.

So it’s on to the Maytag Store where a public relations person meets me and hands me a form to fill out. Seems Maytag’s first repairman was Jesse White, a wonderful character actor who introduced the hapless serviceman vainly waiting for the phone to ring because Maytags are so well built they rarely need a repairman. At least, that was the message.

Jesse died, to be replaced by Gordon Jump who many TV viewers remember from his role in the television series “WKRP in Cincinnati.” In time he, too, died.

Now Maytag was looking for an unknown and no one could be as unknown as the motley crew that showed up at the Maytag Store.

The only requirements were you had to be over 25 years of age. One contestant admitted to being 88. That’s how old Sylvester Stallone will be when he makes “Rocky XXIV.”

Most of my fellow thespians look to be 50 and above. The Tulsa store is the only one of 15 or so audition sites in Oklahoma so hopefuls have filed in from as far away as Oklahoma City and Norman, each hoping that however unlikely the possibility the brass ring will wind up in their palm.

Before the day is over, some 500 or so auditions will have taken place in owner Dave Bauer’s store alone.

Let’s see, 500 times fifteen other audition sites is 7,500 and figuring the big city auditions will draw still more than the Tulsa outlet that places my chances of success at roughly one in 10,000, all things being equal which they never are.

“Oh no,” says the public relations lady who hands me the release to sign, “I think you have the look they’re seeking. I’d put your odds at 50-50.”

She gives me a smile of dazzling insincerity. I decide to believe her.

The “studio” set up is a movie screen for a backdrop. You hold up a name board for the camera, making you feel not unlike someone about to accept the county’s hospitality for the night. Then for one minute – 60 seconds – you have a chance to make a spiel that may hurl you into fame and fortune beyond the wildest dreams of avarice.

I mumble something about having been typecast in community theater as aging English villains, never having gotten to kiss a girl onstage but managing to menace a few. Mindful of the needs of the Maytag role I assure the camera that I can adopt the look of a basset hound having a bad day. The red light goes off the camera. My moment passes. Another man replaces me. The name board is held up. The red light shows the camera is rolling. And so it goes.

For the most part, I’m told, auditions have been pretty tame. One man did try to entice the judges by doing a modest striptease. Another brought his guitar and sang about the glories of the indestructible Maytag machines.

All of the auditions will be bundled up and sent to Benton Harbor, Mich. There corporate employees and a consulting firm will review each and every one. Lets see! Ten thousand auditions. One thousand four hundred forty minutes a day. They’ll have to work in shifts.

It’s a crapshoot. I am going to have to hope that the group that sees my audition can see the dynamic tension, the dramatic possibilities, and the droll humor that I can squeeze into a few lines.

Let’s say it happens. Let’s say I become the next Maytag repairman. Wonderful careers can spring from television commercials. Drew Barrymore got her career turning gig in “Poltergeist!.” Bruce Willis became a superstar. I’m too old for romantic leads or action heroes but I can still do King Lear.

I assure Sharon Cameron, Forrest’s wife, that if I do advance to the fast lane of hotel suites, personal appearances and fabulous wealth I won’t forget the little people who were there for me at the beginning.

“Oh good,” she says, “I need a new refrigerator.”

Maybe I can get Maytag to give her a discount.

In the meantime I am sitting at my desk, looking forlornly at the telephone, waiting for it to ring.

Just like the Maytag repairman.

Updated 03-05-2007

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