'Big Brother' Contestants Face Fame

Wednesday, June 21st 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

LOS ANGELES (AP) — ``Big Brother'' contestants, here's the bad news: While you're stuck in a house for three months with nine strangers and 28 cameras for the CBS series, booze will be strictly rationed.

The good news, however, is that surrendering your privacy could lead to pop stardom. Three European contestants have sold more than 3 million compact discs, the series' producers said Tuesday.

Unveiling the American ``Big Brother'' house newly built on a studio parking lot, CBS Television President Leslie Moonves and the Dutch producers said they are nearing selection of the 10 ``house guests'' and equal number of alternates.

``We are in the process of .... finding out which combination of persons will give us the most chance of interaction in the house,'' said executive producer Paul Romer.

The choices could be made within the next day, but the contestants' names will be closely guarded until the show debuts July 5.

``We really want their identities secret until the moment they enter the house,'' Romer said, thus allowing them to meet each other and be introduced to viewers at the same time.

Tracked by cameras and 60 microphones throughout the house — the bathroom is wired as well, although it will not be shown on the air — the contestants and TV audience will gradually expel nine contestants.

The last person left wins $500,000 but all, apparently, can expect a measure of fame. Contestants from the Dutch, German and Spanish shows have been mobbed as celebrities, with three Germans converting the attention into music careers, the producers said.

There are, however, no professional entertainers trying to use the American show as a platform, Moonves said.

``Nobody came with a ukulele this time,'' he quipped, referring to a contestant on the hit CBS show ``Survivor'' who was armed with the instrument.

Contestants will be denied access to radio, TV and newspapers and will face rationing of food and alcohol, with small amounts of beer and wine allowed — ``Not enough to get drunk,'' Romer said.

Besides the five-night-a-week show, contestants will be on display on the Internet. America Online will provide round-the-clock video feeds, as well as related chat rooms, message boards and polling.

Asked about criticism of the show as voyeuristic, Moonves replied: ``I guess it is voyeuristic TV and I don't think it's necessarily bad. There is a desire to see this kind of programming. ... There are 500 channels. You don't like it, change the channel.''