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CNN Today

Ed McMahon Searches for Stars Using Internet

Aired January 15, 2001 - 2:43 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

JOIE CHEN, CNN ANCHOR: If you've got an adorable and talented child in your family -- and who doesn't? -- mine, of course, is most adorable; our next guest is the man to see about that all-important lucky break.

Ed McMahon is taking his "Next Big Star" bus on the road in search of contestants for the world's largest international -- Internet, sorry, talent competition. He's here with more on his new search for the stars.

Ed, you have been involved in searching for stars before. Tell us about some of the people...

ED MCMAHON, ENTERTAINER: Well, I did 12 years of "Star Search"; but you said everything right -- it wasn't your fault -- it is international and it is the Internet.

CHEN: It is Internet.

MCMAHON: They're both combined. We'll get them from all over the world.

But I've done it for 12 years on "Star Search" and found some incredible people. Oddly enough, if you can believe it, I'm riding in a big tour bus now. It's the bus that was just used by Britney Spears; now is that full circle? I found her when she was 7 or 8 years old -- here, I'm riding in her bus, it's unbelievable.

CHEN: Well it was nice of her to let you do that.

MCMAHON: It was very nice of her to do that.

But a lot of stars, you know.

CHEN: But when you see somebody like that, at 6 or 7 years old, can you really tell, this one...

MCMAHON: Oh, you do. You see the fire; I call it a fire. There's a burning desire to please, to get that part of their act over to the audience.

When I saw LeAnn Rimes for the first time, she was like 7 years old -- she had that same lilt, that same quality, and she just knew where she was; she knew her place on the stage and she said, here I am, enjoy this, folks. And you feel that; it's a wonderful feeling when you see it.

CHEN: Now all of us,of course, look at our own children and think -- well, of course, my child is 10 months old. I'm sure he's very talented at something.

MCMAHON: She's probably dancing already.

CHEN: Can't even walk at this point.

But, you know, do families misunderstand that? I mean, do they bring their kids, and you look at the kid and say, oh, boy -- you know?

MCMAHON: Well, it's tough, you know. And I always -- I hate to encourage anybody. I always tell people that, you know, if the child doesn't have it, please don't force that on them.

You know, a lot of people wind up doing something their father wanted them to do, or their mother. That's -- they will have to want to do it themselves. So if they really do and they have the talent -- it's a tough business, as you know -- but if they have it, and they have that fire and they want to do it hard enough, they'll do it.

CHEN: Now, this is different from "Star Search" because this is nextbigstar.com. Tell us about the dot-com.

MCMAHON: Yes, you see a little puppy -- there's your little puppy...

CHEN: This is Next Big Star himself.

MCHAMON: Nextbigstar.com. That's the little puppy.

Anyway it's -- you enter on the Internet. You can download an application blank, you send us what you have. It can be film, Super 8 -- tape, of course -- and we encode it, digitize it, put it up on the Net.

You make the cut, people start voting on you and you go along a process: prelims, quarterfinals, semifinals, finals. I just taped a show down at Universal Studios down in Orlando and we found two people in several categories to compete with one another, then the audience votes.

It's so electronic now. Everybody has a little clicker. So it's instantaneous; vote for A, vote for B. They vote and I get the answer...

CHEN: So you're not doing the picking; I mean, we don't have to convince Ed that our child is the most talented?

MCMAHON: No, but if I did, boy, you'd be there -- in a heartbeat, you'd be there.

No, we have judges, we have people that decide who makes the cut, who's qualified, who's eligible. CHEN: So you can do this two ways; either on the Internet or you have...

MCMAHON: Well, I'm going, now, to an audition; when I leave you I'm going to a Toys 'R' Us right near here -- Douglasville, I think it is -- and I'm going to be doing an audition there. People come over and the actually audition, and we'll tape them. We have a crew ready to tape them and put them on the show; it's wonderful.

But grandma -- grandma can wake up at 4:00 in the morning, and the little 10-month-old you have, when they're ready, grandma can punch in on the Internet and see them. They're on there performing 24-seven.

CHEN: Now, of all the things you've done -- all the things that you have done: You've given away lots of money; you've done the "Star Search" thing and you've worked with Johnny. What do people most often ask you about?

MCMAHON: Where's their money.

Where's my -- one of funniest things that ever happened to me: I was down in Florida and I was walking along the street. And you talk about people that are so sharp, here's an ordinary citizen just walking along, never looked at me; just as she passed she said, I know, the check's in the mail.

(LAUGHTER)

CHEN: Well, I guess that's where my check is, too, today.

MCMAHON: Well, I'm looking at you, I think I saw your name on a ping-pong ball. You could be right up close to the top any second.

CHEN: Yes, well, I can't sing or dance; so I guess I better hope that you've got a check for me somewhere.

Ed McMahon...

MCMAHON: Thank you; this is very nice. I appreciate it.

CHEN: Thank you for being here with us.

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