Is it in his kiss?

Appleton woman must weed gay from straight
Journal Sentinel TV critic
Posted: March 1, 2004

Appleton's Jackie Thomas sings in a choir, plays the piano and strums a guitar. She's proficient at yoga and ice-skating. As a magician's assistant for two summers in Minneapolis, she even mastered the art of being cut in thirds.

But none of these skills really mattered when Thomas taped "Playing It Straight," which will premiere March 12. For that, she needed one thing above all: finely tuned "gaydar."

If you've watched Fox even a few times in the past month, you've probably seen the promos featuring Thomas - who still looks like the homecoming queen she was at Appleton North High School four years ago - and some of the show's 14 bachelors. And you've heard the twist: While all the men will woo the slender, dark-haired 21-year-old, some of them will turn out to be gay.

If Thomas, after the usual dating-show round of fun, games and judicious amounts of smooching, selects one of the straight men as her beau, he and she each will win $500,000. But if she picks a gay man who's been, well, playing it straight, he'll take home $1 million.

The competition actually took place over three weeks last summer at a dude ranch in Elko, Nev. But Thomas, who's back in Appleton and working as a waitress, signed an agreement that swears her to secrecy until the show's April 30 finale.

"I can't tell you that!" she says with a laugh during a phone interview when asked if she won. She will say, however, that "there are a lot of gay men who don't fit the stereotype at all. Any stereotypes you (believe in) you have to throw out."

Like many reality show participants, Thomas auditioned for the series more for a yen to break into show business.

A former English major at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, she now plans to enroll in UW-Madison this fall. There, she hopes to take some acting classes.

Has she kept in touch with any of the men?

"I'm not allowed to have contact with them" before the show ends, she says. "But, yes, I made some friends."

And, maybe, half a million bucks.