April 24, 1998 at 04:00 AM EDT

Wanted: Kennedy, Part Deux. That was the gist of MTV’s announcement last month that it would hold two days of open tryouts to fill its next VJ slot. The audition/publicity stunt drew 4,000 hopefuls to New York City’s Times Square on April 13 and 14, every one confident he or she had what Dave Sirulnick, executive VP of MTV news and production, terms ”a combination of qualities I call watchable.” Well, not every one. Seeking journalistic hipness, EW‘s Kristen Baldwin attended the April 13 tryouts:

10 a.m.
Nothing glamorous yet, just paperwork. I note that by signing the eligibility release ”I understand that my participation…may involve engaging in hazardous activities.” Do I have to hang out with Downtown Julie Brown?

10:30 a.m.
The holding area, a.k.a. the lobby of MTV’s studio at 1515 Broadway. Two frazzled MTV employees thrust a microphone in my hand and snap a Polaroid. I’m jostled into makeup, where a woman haphazardly applies powder, then tells me I look ”great.”

11:00 a.m.
I scope out the competition. Among them: Andy Rallo, 22, a social worker who ditched work by telling his boss ”some lady got hit by a car, and I was helping her to the hospital,” and Fredrick Dubose, 23, who drove in from Cambridge, Mass., to pursue his VJ dreams. ”I have my personality going for me, and that’s pretty much it,” he notes.

11:05 a.m.
My turn. Before the camera, I breeze through the ”introduce yourself” segment, then move on to the talent part of the contest. MTV booker Donna Winnicki holds up a cue card: ”Puff Daddy’s ‘Been Around the World’ dropped to No. 3.” But I can’t read the cards and look at the camera. Suddenly, I’m sweating like Whitney Houston during an HBO concert. I hyperactively introduce Madonna’s ”Frozen” video. Winnicki says I was ”great.”

11:15 a.m.
The moment of truth. I corner Sirulnick. He praises my good use of ”inflection” but adds, ”Your nervousness came out.” Camera fright, he explains, is a drawback. But will I make the finals? Long pause. ”No,” he says. Maybe VH1 is hiring.

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