Build Me an Island

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The 'Pipe arrived early, of course, to check out the models. E!'s button-cute P.R. woman, Ilene Lieber, whisked the 'Pipe around but allowed just a minute or two in room 441, where the models were primping. Tailpipe learned that Johanna, a slinky, 23-year-model who lives in Miami but is originally from the Dominican Republic, was planning to stay focused. That was her strategy. Easier said than done.

In fact, none of the girls was prepared. Not nutritionally. Not aerobically. Not mentally. They got scouted in various locations in Miami, signed some papers, and here they were, wearing what looked like 1980s prom dresses with enough sparkles to blind a rusty auto part. They were all svelte, young amateurs, trying to catch a break in a cutthroat industry. How hard could it be to keep a hand on a blown-up, cardboard magazine cover for a few days?

The models strutted down the runway to pop music, each simulating "the look." They whipped hair back and forth. They swung Q-tip-thin arms. They tilted sideways and pouted. Finally, they were wrangled onto the stage and circled around the giant Marie Claire cover, featuring Nicole Kidman. But then, another hour of filming, as the style director of Marie Claire gave a little pep talk over and over for the cameras. The crowd dwindled.

The 'Pipe's feet were hurting, and the beginning — the actual competition — was nowhere in sight. So he did what every good reporter eventually does when there's no story. He went home.

Well, the touch-off lasted 30 hours, until 3:30 a.m. last Thursday. On the phone, Lieber said the would-be Last Models Standing were tempted and taunted and threatened with live snakes until all but one fell off. Lieber wouldn't say who won.

Thanks, E!. Next time, don't call.

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Edmund Newton