Barry Saunders

Saunders: Can fake crowds rev up real enthusiasm?

Holding signs from left, first-time voter Shirley Garrett and friend and fellow voter Abijah Gattis marched with a group of over a hundred Durham area parents and their children on their long but colorful and spirited march Saturday morning, March 3, 2016, from the Durham Main Library on North Roxboro Street to the Durham Board of Elections offices. Saturday was the 7th annual Durham Families Party & Parade to the Polls on First Saturday of Early Voting. The celebration started in the Main Library where kids voted for candidates, made red, white and blue voting crafts, had a bilingual story time and then rallied outside to march to the Durham Board of Elections.
Holding signs from left, first-time voter Shirley Garrett and friend and fellow voter Abijah Gattis marched with a group of over a hundred Durham area parents and their children on their long but colorful and spirited march Saturday morning, March 3, 2016, from the Durham Main Library on North Roxboro Street to the Durham Board of Elections offices. Saturday was the 7th annual Durham Families Party & Parade to the Polls on First Saturday of Early Voting. The celebration started in the Main Library where kids voted for candidates, made red, white and blue voting crafts, had a bilingual story time and then rallied outside to march to the Durham Board of Elections. hlynch@newsobserver.com

Say, homes. Lemme have a couple of those brown ones, three white ones, two yellow ones, four pink ones with sprinkles, and whatever else you got lying around back there with jelly in ’em.

That was me at the Krispy Kreme counter before I went into training for the “Sanford & Son” marathon-watching Olympics.

It’s also – except for the sprinkles part – just about every politician seeking a racially, ethnically and gender- and age-diverse crowd to stand in back of him or her and cheer.

With the N.C. primaries next week, it’s going to be hard for Tar Heel residents to sling a slop jar out of the window without hitting a politician, by accident or on purpose. This week, we’ve been visited by Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, and Hillary Clinton is scheduled to be in Durham on Thursday. John Kasich and Marco Rubio are apparently eschewing campaigning here in favor of nursing their limping bids to an ego-salving, but otherwise meaningless, victory in their respective home states.

Even without them clogging up the roads, an entrepreneur could have made big bucks with a business supplying these visiting politicians with what they value most: a diverse crowd to gaze adoringly at the backs of their heads and scream spontaneously on cue at their well-rehearsed ad-libbed lines.

The next time you watch Hill or the Donald or Raphael on the tube pitching woo at you, notice how uniformly diverse their cheering sections are. There’ll be someone old, someone brown, someone black, someone fat, someone skinny, someone white, a fellow with a scraggly beard and a baseball cap looking like a refugee from a Bud Light casting call, and a hipster with an overly manicured beard and eyeglasses he’s wearing only because he saw Beckham wear that style on the red carpet.

The crowd will sometimes be book-ended by a couple of dudes furtively gazing across the multitudes at each other with that “You sure we’re getting paid for this?” look.

Donald Trump was outed by the Hollywood Reporter for hiring actors from a company called Extra Mile Casting to cheer for him when he announced his presidential bid last June. That was probably done just to prime the pump until the true believers arrived, because the last time Trump was in Raleigh, I saw – seated onstage and close enough to reach out and touch the hem of his ill-fitting-but-expensive suit – two former schoolmates of mine who would’ve never been a party to such deceit.

How, then, can one tell which crowd members are ardent supporters and which ones were shipped in from central casting or snatched off the street with the lure of $50 – which is what Trump reportedly paid – and a sandwich?

A somnolent-sounding secretary at Extra Mile Casting in New York said she had just started working there and thus couldn’t tell me how many politicians use the company’s service, and no one else was available to talk to me, she said.

One can surmise, though, that election time must be like Christmas for them, with their services in high demand.

Not that there seems to be a dearth of business for fake crowds when it isn’t election time. Among the services a similar company, Crowds for Rent, touts are the “celebrity shopping experience, the celebrity airport greeting experience and the celebrity fan experience, in which the company will hire photographers to follow you around snapping your picture, while fans – paid, of course – shout your name and treat you like a big deal.

“Have you ever wanted to experience how it felt to shop like an A-List Hollywood Celebrity?” the ad on the company’s online home page asked. “This package includes your very own personal entourage of paparazzi, security, and fans.”

Crowds for Rent also offers a “political campaign rally experience.”

Oy!

When the execrable movie “The Color Purple” was being filmed in Wadesboro, 18 miles from Rockingham, the casting company ran ads in local newspapers seeking “dark-skinned African Americans” for the roles of extras. As a poor-but-honest newspaper publisher who spent half the day dodging bill collectors, I was ticked off that I didn’t find out until it was too late that I could’ve made some money just for being me.

By the time I discovered how dreadful the movie was, though, I was almost glad I didn’t get cast. (“Almost” because I still had to pay Watt Long his rent.)

If Hillary, Donald or Ted needs someone with my particular attributes to stand behind her or him – for a small fee, mind you – call me: my number is below. I’ll even hold up a sign with your name on it.

Yelling is extra, though.

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