article

08.05.09

Carrie Bradshaw and Me

When open auditions for Sex and the City 2 called for “fashion models, socialites, and soccer players,” The Daily Beast’s Rebecca Dana had to wonder: Did she have what it takes?

What does it take to land a non-speaking role as an anonymous party girl in the upcoming Sex and the City sequel?

Grit, determination, hours of free time on a weekday, and a high tolerance for pain.

“It’s not about what you say, it’s about how you look,” said a local TV news reporter stationed outside an open casting call for Sex and the City 2 in New York on Tuesday. The woman, dressed in a kicky red knit frock, practiced the line in front of her cameraman, over and over. “It’s not about what you say, it’s about how you look, for the hopefuls here…” And repeat.

“Those four women are my heroes,” one hopeful said. “If I could just get my one chance to do something, to be part of the history of making something that I could tell my kids about, I’d be happy.”

Behind her stood a few hundred of the hopefuls, myself included, corralled by metal police barricades into a dense mass, four tube-topped thirtysomethings thick. The line wrapped around a full city block. A sidewalk preacher stood by the entrance shouting “Repent or die!,” but otherwise, the atmosphere was friendly. There was an octogenarian carrying her headshot and two mothers hauling along antsy kids. Mostly, there were office workers on their lunch breaks and ladies from Long Island queued up for a shot at—well, not quite fame. The most we could hope for was just a more concentrated kind of obscurity…and a glimpse of Carrie Bradshaw!

June Prensky, 45, and her friend Gina Donaldson, 43, took the early train in from Laurel Hollow, New York. “We should have invented this series,” said Prensky, who is unmarried, goes by the nickname “Bug,” used to frequent Studio 54, and says that of the franchise’s four female archetypes, she’s “definitely a Carrie.” “Our lives are Sex and the City,” said Donaldson, whose nickname is “Charlotte.”

And that’s just the thing. How long does this franchise really have left before it has to pack up and join Bug and Charlotte in the suburbs? The first film, made in 2008, was a bona fide blockbuster, grossing more than $400 million worldwide. Producers quickly signed up Sarah Jessica Parker, Cynthia Nixon, Kristin Davis, Chris Noth and yes, even free-wheeling Kim Catrall, for part two, due in theaters in May 2010. (Katie Holmes has also reportedly been offered a role in the sequel.) But will the same droves of sobbing girls turn out again, now that Carrie’s safely entombed in her giant shoe closet uptown?

Little is known about the actual plot of the sequel, but between the recession and the looming onset of menopause, the four heroines are probably in for a more modest adventure this time around. In interviews, Sarah Jessica Parker has promised a “massive romp” while acknowledging that economic realities have given the writers and cast “a lot that we have to think about.” Last week came reports of another setback: The government of the United Arab Emirates is said to have nixed filming in Dubai, where the gals presumably would have poured petro dollars all over the local Louboutin boutique, because officials from the strict Muslim country objected to the word “sex” in the film’s title.

Of course, none of this mattered to the thousands of hopefuls Tuesday afternoon. Producers put out a call for “fashion models, celebrity types, upscale socialites, urban clubgoers, gays and lesbians, international types (Middle Eastern, Arabic, Asian, European, British), and professional soccer players.” Cops, expecting a crowd of 5,000 and highs in the mid-80s, were prepared for G-8 protest levels of mayhem. “Everyone’s been friendly so far,” said one police sergeant at 9 a.m. “I hope it stays that way.” He looked around. “We should all hope it stays that way.”

There’s already been some cattiness in the blogosphere about the general appearance of my fellow SATC 2 hopefuls, and it’s true: By and large, those of us who turned out were not “fashion models, celebrity types, upscale socialites…or professional soccer players.” But what the hell! What are a few hours teetering on four-inch heels in the blazing sun, when that’s all that stands between you and a chance to sneak up next to Samantha at the craft-services table and tell her how much you loved that swing coat she wore in season two and, OMG, when Jason Lewis’ Smith Jerrod shaved his head for her, how you cried for a week?

At the back of the line was Pompeii DellaRusso, a 48-year-old freelance chef and temporary grill-master at a Marriott hotel. He was not a small man and wore a giant summer-weight button-front shirt covered in pictures of vintage cars. “Those four women are my heroes,” he said. Because of his size and acting chops, he was hoping to be cast as a bouncer or bartender. “If I could just get my one chance to do something, to be part of the history of making something that I could tell my kids about, I’d be happy,” he said. He came with his cousin Gregory Cuffee, 52, who would like to be cast as “a partygoer fashionista type person.” Cuffee, a jazz musician who performs under the name GMoney, modeled a tan Armani blazer, which he’d paired, after consulting his mother, with black trousers and a yellow-and-white striped shirt. He admitted to crying during the first film.

My own relationship with Sex and the City is a little more fraught. I started watching the series as a wide-eyed Pittsburgh teenager and was quickly seduced by the whole fantasy. Carrie Bradshaw became a totem in my life, a lure to the bright lights and big city so powerful I’m now embarrassed to think about it. I watched every episode up to the grand finale, my senior year in college, and cried the whole way through even though—really?—suddenly Mikhail Baryshnikov’s Aleksander Petrovsky is a wife-beater and Chris Noth’s Mr. Big is really a good guy after all?

In time, the fantasy gave way to reality for me. I started work as writer in New York—at the very paper where Candace Bushnell wrote the column that became the series that became the religion. I lived in a predictably miniscule apartment and bought shoes that were predictably not Manolo Blahniks. Eventually, I stopped watching reruns and gave away the DVDs. I went to the movie last year for nostalgia’s sake and walked out before the end.

But the casting notice in the New York Daily News stirred something in my hardened heart. So with several thousand other people, I waited an hour in the sun Tuesday afternoon just to get inside the Metropolitan Pavilion, where I filled out a yellow half-sheet with my contact information, measurements and the location of any tattoos, then waited another hour to get into another room, where I waited another 15 minutes in a single-file line to have my picture taken. A woman came by and put a little blue dot on my sheet, which meant I got the special pleasure of being photographed twice: one headshot, one from the neck down. They were considering me for a particular scene, she said, although she wouldn’t specify what. At some point, dehydrated and delirious after standing for hours in this sweaty mob and listening to the umpteenth “Which Sex and the City girl are you?” conversation, a strange feeling crept over me. I’m none of the Sex and the City girls, thank god. But like Bug said outside in line, maybe it wouldn’t be so bad to be Charlotte’s sister, or Samantha’s business associate, or one of the other blurry people in the background.

Rebecca Dana is a culture correspondent for The Daily Beast. A former editor and reporter for The Wall Street Journal, she has also written for The New York Times, The New York Observer, Rolling Stone and Slate, among other publications.