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Auto Show-Me State


A few years ago I wrote a column about the detailers at the Washington Auto Show. They spend their days in eternal buffitude: cleaning and recleaning the cars on the exhibit floor, banishing fingerprints (and worse). I don't know whether they hang out with the "product specialists" when the crowds leave. Somehow, I rather doubt it.

Product specialists -- or narrators, as they're sometimes called -- are the attractive women and men who stand on rotating platforms and sing their particular vehicle's praises. I spent a few hours yesterday wandering around the convention center watching them at work. (Be sure to check out Hank Stuever's great piece on the auto show.)

The auto show season is from October to April and as it approaches auditions are held around the country. It's a bit like an acting gig and actors, models and ex-pageant participants are among those who audition. I was talking to a woman who's been with Scion for six years. She had auditioned for a spot with Nissan but the agency said, "No, you're Scion." Scion is "edgy" and I guess she was too.

"When I tell my friends what I do they think I do this," she said, moving her arms as if she was presenting a bedroom suite on "The Price Is Right": Ta da! In reality, they have to know the vehicles inside and out. (And they have to call them "vehicles." There are no "cars" at an auto show. Everything is a "vehicle.")

Sometimes they memorize a script. Sometimes they are given bullet points to hit. Sometimes they team up with another narrator and do something approaching improv. Often they have to do it while standing on a rotating platform, as if performing on a huge lazy Susan.

These days most narrators have a little remote control they can use to stop the platform from spinning, but some seem to like taking their Sisyphean stroll, walking in place. (Tip: It's easier to remember a script if you're moving. If you're standing still you're more likely to forget it.) One girl from Dodge (they call each other "girl") told me she has motion sickness. I noticed that she always stood at the edge of the platform, where it didn't move.

Each has a uniform. There are plenty of black and gray slacks on the women, but a skirt ending at the knee and a pair of stiletto-heeled boots seems to be most common. They get to keep the boots, though after a seven- or eight-month auto show season they boots are usually pretty shot. Sometimes they get to keep the outfits too. (The picture above is of some of the Toyota product specialists. I think they look a little like superheroes.)

A woman named Margery Krevsky is credited with revolutionizing the auto show narrator world, insisting that they be knowledgeable about their brands. (There was a time when they were often referred to as "booth bimbos.") Krevsky has just published a book on the profession: "Sirens of Chrome: The Enduring Allure of Auto Show Models."

The Sirens, you will recall, were the sea nymphs who lured sailors to their doom in the Aegean. I suppose that's sort of what auto show models lure visitors to too -- or, if not doom, then a monthly car payment.

Pucker Up
Usually when you pay $135 to kiss a stranger you're breaking several laws. But on Valentine's Day you can do it for a good cause and enjoy dinner as well. I'll be among the judges for an attempt to break the Guinness world record for most kisses in a minute. It's happening Feb. 14 to raise money for The Wellness Community, a cancer support organization in Bethesda.

You can get more information on Kiss Cancer Goodbye by clicking here. And don't worry, you won't be kissing me. You'll be kissing someone named Deborah and only for 1 second. The current record is 102 kisses in a minute so you'll have to be quick.

BritNews RoundUp
I've been so busy this week that I didn't have much time to peruse Fleet Street's finest. But I hope you'll agree that what I lack in quantity I make up for in quality. I mean, how can you go wrong with a story headlined "Man caught smuggling pigeons in his trousers"? And it's complete with a great photograph. Don't try this at home, kids.

Talk to Him
It's Friday and you know what that means: You'll be goofing off all day with one eye on the clock. But it also means it's time for my weekly chat. Post a question now or join me at noon. See you then.

By John Kelly  |  February 6, 2009; 7:51 AM ET
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Signs of the Times? Plus: Remembering Jack Eden
Next: Oh Say, Can You Spell? (Probably Not)


Better not let anyone kiss Deborah for more than half of a second, or she'll fall woefully short of the record.

Posted by: staxowax | February 6, 2009 9:34 AM | Report abuse

Where is the picture of YOU with the product specialists, and/or Deborah?

Posted by: reddragon1 | February 6, 2009 10:03 AM | Report abuse

John you missed some great "wiilie stories" in the brit tabloids this week.

Posted by: mfromalexva | February 6, 2009 1:54 PM | Report abuse

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