Monday, April 21, 2008

Humor Me: The lost Kit Kat opportunity


Just about all of us regret a time when we played it safe. The time
we didn't pursue the exciting, but risky, career. The time we
didn't ask someone out for fear of rejection. The time we decided not
to sing the Kit Kat "Gimme a Break" song at a commercial audition.

Actually, that last "we" should be an "I." It was I who turned down
a brush with fame that may have rivaled my friend's appearance on
The Price is Right, during which he won a set of bedroom furniture
for identifying that Downy fabric softener cost more than Bounce
dryer sheets.

His price was right in 1991, and I thought my timing was right in
1996. That's when Kit Kat filmed a commercial at the Arizona Daily
, where I was a sports writer. The premise of the commercial was
to show journalists hard at work until they stopped to enjoy some
"enticing chocolatey fingers," as Nestlé refers to Kit Kats.

The best part: Employees of the newspaper, not actors, would be the
stars of the commercial.

The newsroom was buzzing when the casting crew began taking
Polaroids of potential Kit Kat stars. I grinned for the camera in my typically
unphotogenic way, yet in a way that I thought reflected, "I am Everyman, and I will sell your Kit Kats."

The next day, I was asked to audition. Actually, pretty much everyone was asked, but I felt special enough to entertain some ridiculous thoughts.

What if I'm so good in the commercial that Kit Kat hires me for another one? Could a commanding Kit Kat performance earn me more acting work? Would I someday be McChicken Eater No. 2 in a McDonald's commercial, announce that my heart burns for Pepcid AC, or describe how Snickers really satisfies?

I was out of control. But my acting fantasy didn't last long. It was over as soon as I learned what I would be doing in the audition.

"We'll just ask you to sing the Kit Kat song and dance a little," the Kit Kat representative said.

Sing and dance? Somehow I thought this commercial would be different from the other Kit Kat ads. I thought it would be different because, of all the strange things I have seen in a newsroom, I have never witnessed a reporter dancing with a Kit Kat.

A reporter banging on a vending machine that wouldn't drop a Kit Kat, yes. But a reporter busting out dance moves, even under the influence of enticing chocolatey fingers?


So I turned down the audition. And I was pretty comfortable with my decision until the day of taping.

On that day, the stars of the commercial got the royal treatment. They grazed at a buffet set up for them. They sat in special chairs where crew members briefed them between takes. They were pampered and powdered while the rest of us -- the newspaper employees either unwilling or unable to pull off the Kit Kat shuffle-and-sing --
watched in amazement.

One of the stars of the commercial was a fellow sports writer who, like most sports writers, was not known for his fashion sense. But the day of the Kit Kat shoot, his hair was perfect and his clothes were dynamite. He looked nothing like the guy a day earlier who covered a college basketball game with a ketchup stain on his shirt.

He was also wearing so much makeup that I thought he had signed to do a Maybelline ad after his Kit Kat duties.

Still, I was jealous as I saw, for the first and only time, a reporter dance around a newsroom with a Kit Kat.

"Gimme a break ... gimme a break ... break me off a piece of that Kit Kat bar!" my friend sang, dancing much like Sammy Davis Jr., if Sammy had put his shoes on the wrong feet.

My friend sure looked stupid, but I sure felt stupid for passing up the chance to look the same. Maybe it was because, even if he looked like an idiot, he was brave enough to accept the challenge. Maybe it was because the Kit Kat commercial was a sensational show-and-tell for his children. Maybe it was because the commercial aired for a year and my friend was more than willing to tell me about the royalty checks.

He made thousands of dollars. Seriously.

I think the main reason I felt stupid was my cowardice. When I had a chance to step into the spotlight, fear kept me in the dark. I played it safe and missed an opportunity that I'm sure I will never have again.

As it turns out, enticing chocolatey fingers don't come around often in life.

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