- The Washington Times - Monday, September 23, 2002

PIKEVILLE, Ky. (AP) Wanted: Extended family from deep in the Appalachian backwoods, unfamiliar with big-city life. Must be willing to load up the truck and move to Beverly.
Hills, that is.
Casting agents from the CBS reality series "The Real Beverly Hillbillies" plan to hold open auditions in eastern Kentucky next month as part of an effort across the rural South to find real-life counterparts of the fictional Clampett clan.
"We're looking for people who have country smarts, but maybe not so much sophistication," said casting agent Ken Billings, who has put Pikeville, Hazard and Harlan among the possible audition locales.
But don't expect a Clampett-like welcome, even in a region comfortable enough with its heritage to stage an annual Hillbilly Days Festival. Pure, bubblin' crude is what some locals already think of the show's premise, which takes simple mountain folk, drops them into a luxurious mansion and lets the cameras roll.
"They're just going to be relying on a tired, old, worn-out stereotype about life in the rural South," said Ewell Balltrip, head of the Kentucky Appalachian Commission. "The result will be to perpetuate this myth of the 'Beverly Hillbillies' image, which is not representative at all today."
E-mail petitions seeking to block the show are circulating, and teachers at some schools in the mountain region are having their students write protest letters to CBS.
"Don't represent us as stupid," pleaded Susie Davis, president of the Kentucky Black Lung Association, which helps coal miners apply for government benefits. "Don't make us out to be something we're not."
Nor are officials in Arkansas especially pleased. State economic director Jim Pickens last month complained the show "wouldn't help the image" of Arkansas in the business world.
Mr. Billings, among the casting agents scouring the hills of Arkansas, West Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee and Kentucky, said the reality series could be an effective way to dispel old stereotypes.
"We want to find families that are interesting and also smart," he said. "We're not looking for the Hollywood stereotype of a hillbilly. We don't want people who are barefoot and toothless. We're just looking for a family that loves each other, and that America will fall in love with."


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