"Come on, George, it won't hurt anything and just by participating we'll get to do a lot of traveling to places we've always talked about going to!"
George rubbed his chin and gazed at his still young-looking and pretty wife of 27 years. "I don't know," he said. "It's really not the kind of thing I'm into at all. In fact, I'm a little scared ... What if I win?"
Dorothy laughed heartily. "George, this is YOU we're talking about! Do you really believe you can win?"
George shook his head ruefully. "No, not really. You're right. Who in their right mind would choose me?"
And so George, at the behest of several friends and with the encouragement of his wife, signed the release forms that put him in the contest.
At first George didn't mind. Dorothy had been right. Just for being in the contest they were able to travel to all the places they had never been able to afford to go to because the contest paid for them. And while there were some issues that came up as part of being a contestant, George decided early on to 'go with the flow' – he responded to the challenges simply and succinctly. He never went the aggressive route almost all of the other contestants took.
For her part, Dorothy went along with George's decision to treat this as a lark. While she was offered all sorts of opportunities for glamorous fashions and exotic accessories (including a live white fox trained to rest on a woman's shoulders as a live stole), she dressed a little more expensively but only because the materials were more expensive. George liked her the way she was before he had entered the contest and she wanted him to still like her afterwards. They both still believed he had no shot at winning.
They were a little surprised, but not all that worried when they made the first cut.
Weeks went by. George and Dorothy were usually overlooked by the reporters following the contestants closely. One reporter sat down with them for an in-depth interview and left shaking his head. He never filed the story.
Meanwhile, the list of contestants gradually started to get smaller. It was still pretty early in the contest, but some of the participants dropped out due to the 'hardships' they came across. Interestingly enough, George and Dorothy never seemed to have any hardships. That could have been because they were stronger and smarter than the others, but it was more likely because they really weren't taking it seriously enough to have such things bother them. They were still enjoying it.
The contest had moved into the middle stages. Most of the remaining contestants were well established in the minds of the public and fans began appearing for several of them. While the numbers of participants had somewhat stabilized by this point, a couple more had dropped by the wayside. George and Dorothy were still around, though, and were more than willing to take on the challenges presented during this time. They still weren't taken seriously by the media, but to their surprise they began to have a small following of fans.
The following was very much grass roots in nature, since George was doing only the minimum amount of travel and appearances necessary to continue in the contest. When one of the reporters now following him deigned to ask George why he thought he had what was, to the reporter, a surprising band of followers, George shrugged his shoulders and smiled. "I have no idea, but I am really pleased as I didn't expect it at all!"
When the same reporter talked to one of the apparent organizers of the group, asking the same question, the reply was a simple, "He and his wife strike a chord with us. They are out there just being themselves, and they bring a smile to my face every time I see or hear them." The reporter, baffled at the lack of an issue-oriented diatribe that usually comes from the various backers and fan groups, went to other contestants to try and get something substantial to work into a major story, but when the others were asked about George and Dorothy they either shrugged their shoulders or sneered and went on to talk about themselves. None of them considered George a real contestant so they just ignored him.
The reporter ended up making the story a minor sidebar to an in-depth look at the two contestants that were considered the leaders in the contest at that point. None of the other media outlets picked up the sidebar, while the main story was run everywhere.
.... There is more of this story ...