Local Lifestyle

Thursday, Sep 06 2012 07:30 PM

HERB BENHAM: Wardrobe malfunction makes 6 o'clock news

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    Rachelle Murcia and Alissa Carlson wore the same outfit during their 6 p.m. Tuesday broadcast. A bemused Jim Scott also was part of the broadcast.

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By Herb Benham

Guys don't care. If two monkeys came to work wearing the same pair of khakis, nobody would notice and even if they did have a rare bout of awareness, they'd probably give each other a double fist bump.

However, two women wearing the same dress can be a different story.

Ask Rachelle Murcia and Alissa Carlson. Murcia is an anchor/reporter for KGET-TV, Channel 17, and Carlson is the chief meteorologist for the same station. From their picture -- blond flowing locks, gym-toned figures, million-dollar smiles -- it looked to me like they were twins. Last Tuesday, they almost were.

Murcia was working on a story about a Vietnam vet who lost his home in an auction. She had been in an editing bay touching up the piece and didn't come out until shortly before her live report that afternoon. Murcia picks up the action from there:

"I went into the dressing room for hair and makeup. ... I walked around the corner and saw Alissa, and she screamed," Murcia said.

A bloodcurdling scream that sent co-anchor Jim Scott running into the hallway for an eyewitness report in case he had a homicide right there in the newsroom that he'd have to report on for the evening news.

Why did Carlson scream? When she looked at Murcia, she realized they were wearing the same dress.

I know what you're thinking, at least if you're a man: Slow news day. Two women from Channel 17 were wearing the same dress. Is that all you've got?

Two monkeys in khakis are a non-event, but women caught wearing the same outfit constitutes a crime with two victims.

"A woman's worst fear is to walk into a dressy event and have another woman wearing your outfit," Carlson said.

And this dress was a beauty: A sleeveless violet number, with lots of ruffles, mid-knee in length. The only difference? Murcia was wearing a black leather patent belt and black pumps, while Carlson went beltless and chose gray pumps.

On Sunday, unbeknownst to both of them, they'd gone to the same store -- Murcia in the morning and Carlson in the afternoon -- fallen in love with the same dress and walked out with it. Then came Tuesday and the showdown on L Street.

What to do?

"I had no backup," said Murcia, who has been in Bakersfield for a year after a job in Seattle. "She had other dresses. We laughed and decided to go with it."

Wardrobe and makeup are big deals for TV people. Especially weather people. Carlson, who arrived at KGET five years ago from Jacksonville, Fla., estimates she receives 50 comments or calls a month about what she is wearing or should be wearing.

"Viewers critique your wardrobe constantly," Carlson said. "I knew people would talk about it. We decided to rock it."

Anchor Scott was game. Seated between the two women on the newscast, he made a point of checking his glasses to make sure he wasn't seeing double. He told the production people to cue up the Foreigner song "Double Vision."

"They giggled all the way through the show," Scott said.

I called Tracy Walker Kiser, owner of the clothing store H. Walker, and asked if this had ever happened to her. It had, and she chose the same high road trod by Murcia and Carlson.

"I showed up at a Junior League event and three women were wearing the same blouse," she said. "There was a moment of anxiety before we let it go. We all knew where we had gotten it."

The question becomes: What do Carlson and Murcia do about the dress now that they know each owns it? Do they mothball it or bring it out once a year in a greatest hits parade?

"I plan to wear it again," Murcia said. "However, I will have backups at the station."

My prediction? That dress is going deep in the closet. The next time it sees the glare of the TV lights will be when one of them is doing news in a bigger, brighter market.

But, then, what do I know? I wear khakis. Just like every fist-bumping monkey.

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