The Naked Truth

Maria Genero passed the screen test; Hollywood flunked the spelling test

Maria Genero isn't this town's best-known weathercaster. But when Hollywood came a-knocking, top stormdogs Bryan Norcross and Don Noe were nowhere to be seen; it was the perky WTVJ-TV (Channel 6) weekend fill-in who answered the door. Genero landed a bit part in Striptease, the Demi Moore vehicle that was recently released to big hype -- especially in South Florida, home of Miami Herald columnist and best-selling author Carl Hiaasen, on whose novel the film is based.

The adaption is disappointingly tedious, but Genero appears like a ray of sunshine after a particularly grim downpour, in the climactic sugar-refinery scene. She plays a TV news reporter who has been vaguely tipped to a big story. Coming upon the tableau, which features three villains up to their necks in a pile of sugar and one aging, randy elected official (Burt Reynolds), she shouts, "Congressman, you called a news conference?!" Then, noticing that Reynolds is clad only in his underwear, Genero gets a chance to emote. "Holy shit!" she blurts.

But although you can't miss her cameo, you've really got to look hard to find Genero in the credits, where her name is misspelled.

"I don't care," the rookie actress says of the inadvertent garbling that rendered her Maria Gennaro. "I'm pleased they even asked me to do this. I wouldn't care if they omitted my name."

Genero was tapped for the role by producer Mike Lobell. "It was crazy," she recounts. "He called me." Back in the Eighties, Lobell had seen her when he was in Toronto filming The Freshman and she was in Buffalo forecasting the weather. "Our signal reached Toronto, and he saw me. Then when he came down here, he called me and said, 'Why not come and read for this?'"

The only genuine reporter to try out for the role, Genero had to beat out real actresses. She earned the privilege of shooting two takes over the course of three days on the set, located at a cement factory on South River Drive. "It was amazing, so different from TV. Things move so slowly," she marvels. "It was a ton of fun to watch how everything was done. And because of the scene I was in, everyone was there. I was trying to be professional and not gawk -- you know, you don't want to go up to them. But she came up to me afterward and said, 'Hi, I'm Demi.' And Reynolds was great -- he gave me an autographed photo and a T-shirt."

Genero also collected the standard wage of $500 per day and is now eligible for membership in the Screen Actors Guild. "It'll come in handy if I get canned tomorrow," she quips, only to reveal that her employers at WTVJ are about to announce that they've hired someone to replace her on the weekend shift.

Well, that's showbiz.

 
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