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Ahh, New York. As the song goes, if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere, and billions millions thousands of hopeful singers queued up for the opportunity to grab their fifteen minutes of fame. Some should have stayed home. After all, can anybody top season four’s Constantine, that combination of Noo-Yawk brashness and talent that set hearts throbbing and ears ringing? *said brightly* Well, people will try. Sigh.

Since New York is brimming with so much talent, Joan Collins Carole Bayer Sager joins the panel of judges. “Oh look, it’s Elizabeth Taylor” said my friend, who sat down just in time to catch Randy and Carole’s impromptu meeting, which improbably takes place in some back alley. “I didn’t know she could sing!” I didn’t know the human face could be stretched in so many ways without pulling apart at the seams.

Ms. Bayer Sager has had a long and varied career as a singer-songwriter, including writing “Groovy Kind of Love” for Phil Collins, and a nine year marriage to living fossil Burt Bachrach. So okay, she has credentials with the recording industry, but I never want to hear “That’s What Friends Are For” again in my lifetime, mkay?

Why, Why, Why?
The first auditioner of the day is trying to stretch his 15 minutes of fame beyond any semblance of decency. Yup, it’s Ian Bernardo, who was seen on last season’s So You Think You can Dance and has decided to make our lives a living hell for the next four minutes or so. Ian sports a chinchilla scarf, a “Flashdance” headband, and an attitude best described as bitchy. Since I can’t stand to re-watch his audition I’m relying strictly on my notes, which mostly contain phrases like “bloated sense of entitlement” and “looks like the serial killer from ‘Silence of the Lambs.’” And I’m telling you, I can spot a serial killer a mile away.

Ian does a speed-reading version of “Gloria” that has the judges laughing – at him, not with him. Simon and Ian clash, naturally, when Simon calls the effort “…not funny, not good, just rubbish.” Ian launches into a monologue against Brits and asks Simon if he has a work Visa to be in the United States. He’s quickly escorted out by security (yay). He tells Ryan that Hollywood is just New Jersey with celebrities, and he can buy his own plane ticket, thankyouverymuch. FOX must have Ian on payroll, but if I see this guy in Hollywood I’ll be checking the paper for serial killers on the loose.

Little Sarah lied to her parents and ran away to the big city to find her fame and fortune. She cries while telling her story to Ryan, cries before and after her audition in front of the judges, and cries afterward as she calls her dad to tell him she’s sorry for lying, but dammit, she wants to be famous. Fortunately for apple-cheeked Sarah her version of Blondie’s “Call Me” is good enough to get her a golden ticket to Hollywood. Simon calls her “not the best singer, but a tryer.” Paula calls her wonderful, and Carole Bayer Sager says blah-blah-blah. Randy has a soft spot for young emotional girls, so it’s unanimous. See dad, she can do this! But can she do it without sobbing? Because that’s the important thing.

Constantine Alert
26 year-old Fania is originally from Athens, Greece, and feels that America needs an ethnic Idol. Since she’s Greek she’s compared to Constantine (hereafter to be referred to as THE Constantine), whom I know you haven’t forgotten.

Fania says she did background dancing for “Greek Idol” and everyone told her if she’d been a contestant she would’ve won. She’s here today to claim her title with Toto’s “Africa”, a great song but not so much for Fania. Maybe they don’t have much competition in Greece. Simon quickly brands both her singing and dancing as appalling and I can breathe a sigh of relief that there will be no female version of THE Constantine this year.

Ashanti Johnson has made it to Hollywood twice. I don’t remember her from years past - either I have a bad memory or she just wasn’t featured. Whatever, she hopes the third time is the charm, so she’s back to sing Minnie Riperton’s “Loving You.” She doesn’t do a bad job of it, and has a great range to her voice. The judges aren’t impressed, however. Randy does his patented surprised-look when Ashanti goes for the high notes to the song, and sums her up as “old fashioned.” After the judges pass on the audition she begs. And begs, and begs. Her pleas are accompanied by heart rending music but it’s a no-go from Simon who ends her tirade with an abrupt “No. Get over it.” They’ve sent people with less talent through but I can sort of agree with them. Ashanti’s style does seem a little tired. Like Paula’s fashion sense. Seriously, is she channeling Dorothy or what?

BFF
Amanda and Antonella do everything together. They’ve been best friends since high school and do all the things best friends forever always do, like shopping, and going to the beach, and shopping.

As in many “best friends forever” relationships, one best friend seems to be superior to the other. In this case, it’s Amanda who is the shinier friend. When asked who the better singer is, Antonella quickly defers to Amanda since she’s had formal training. Amanda doesn’t deny her superiority but says Antonella is good, too. She does have to pick out all Antonella’s clothes, though, because Antonella has no taste.

Amanda is first to audition and is allowed to bring her BFF in. Simon grins “God, I’ll bet you’re popular” and it’s quickly established that Amanda is the BFF with the mostest. She sings “Crazy” but Simon is not crazy about her version. He calls Amanda generic and says he doesn’t care one way or another whether she’s through to the next round. The ayes have it though, so Amanda squeals as BFF’s do and runs to spread the good news to her parents.

Antonella is next, and *evil grin* she’s much better than the formally trained Amanda. She’s going to Hollywood with a piece of advice from Simon: “When someone’s down on the floor, kick them.” Ooh, can’t wait to see that!

Don’t Quit Your Day Job
Clifton Little from Delaware looks a little like everyman. He plays the harmonica and works in a bank, and feels like his life is a reality show. I really want to like Clifton, but his strained rendition of ZZTOP’s “Tush,” punctuated by off-beat foot stomping and clapping is so not good. Really, really not good, which is a surprise since he blows a great harmonica. It’s a no for Clifton, who hopefully didn’t quit his job in a fit of madness to audition.

27 year-old Kia has more luck with Aretha’s Ain’t No Way.” The judges agree that she over-sang the song but she’s good. Paula tells her that “Your soft voice is your magic.” I wish she’d say that to Simon; he brays like a jack-ass sometimes.

Day Two
Simon can’t seem to get out of bed this morning, so the auditions commence without him. Jenry, whose name is alternately pronounced as Henry or Awn-ree, is a 16 year-old who was adopted into a Bolivian household as an infant. His cute little Bolivian mom accompanies him to the tryouts where he wows a drooling Paula. Carole would drool, but her face is plastically motionless. She does call Awn-ree charismatic however, so maybe she’s drooling on the inside. He quickly gets a golden ticket.

Crying Time Again
If enthusiasm counted for anything Nakia would be the next American Idol hands down. Sorry Nakia, it didn’t work for Paris Benett either. Nakia’s version of “Dancing in the Streets” is, as Paula calls it, infectious, but she butchers the second song she is asked to sing. She begs to be passed through, as so many people want her to go to Hollywood. “You just get tired of being told no” she says outside. The large crowd waiting for her claps even though she won’t be going on. Sara, the next contestant, tries to pass a tissue to her, but Nakia doesn’t want her stinking tissue. That’s a good thing, because Sara will be needing it for herself.

Remember Bizarro World in the old Superman cartoons, a place where everything is backwards and nothing is as it seems? Sara hails from there. She has no talent but wants to be the next American Idol because they can train her. She loves to sing but knows she can’t, so they can teach her everything. Or some crap like that. After crying (again) and begging (again) and impassioned pleading (again) she carries on outside. She says she stood in line for three days and she heard the judges were out on the town last night, drinking until 3:00 a.m, and that’s just rude. Buh-bye Sara, and now we know why Simon isn’t in this morning. *giggle*

Simon does eventually stroll into the auditions just in time to see a 47 year-old Frank Sinatra wannabe, complete with pork-pie hat, warble “New York, New York.” Except it comes out as New Yor’ New Yor’ since he drops the last consonant of every word he sings. A bit of advice for Antonio: Speech lessons rock.


Day And Night
Poised and polished are good words to describe Jory. A native Canadian, she met the Queen of England when she was eleven and has a picture to prove it. She’s also met several Prime Ministers, and it’s a sure bet Jory has never wanted for anything or been awkward or out of place in her entire young life. She’s good, singing a beautiful rendition of “Chains” that has Simon pronouncing her terrific. As she leaves he wants to know why all contestants can’t be like that.

The answer to his question lies Porcelena. Picture Christina Aguilara with dirty feet and an even cockier attitude. She’s been working out faithfully the past year in preparation for her big moment. Girlfriend should’ve been working on her voice instead of her glutes. She does a Mary J. Blige tune with a rough, growly voice that I’m not impressed with, but the judges think she’s different. Um, yeah, so is Donald Duck but I don’t want to hear him sing. Perhaps they’re just scared - Porcelena looks like she could knock heads if she doesn’t get her way. Paula brands her as awesome and Porcelena gets a group hug from everyone except Simon, who is possibly picturing Porcelena and Jory as roomies in Hollywood.

More Strange Auditions
Simon Has A Twin? Oh please God no. After a short montage of people with unpronounceable names (I guess we couldn’t live without that bit of filler), Christopher Henry tells us he’s always being compared to Simon Cowell and George Michael. *snort* Not that Simon and George look anything alike. He sings “A Moment Like This” and when I close my eyes for a moment I believe Kelly’s come home to American Idol. Great! It’s the funniest audition ever. He looks like Simon and sings like Kelly. Simon suggests Chris put on heels and a dress for his new career as a female impersonator. Paula interrupts to give Chris some constructive criticism and Simon warns they don’t have time for Paula to be touchy-feely. The fight is on, but since Paula is unarmed in a battle of wits it fizzles quickly. The sad thing is Chris sounded better than the last contestant.

Rachel can’t make up her mind whether she wants to be an opera singer or a rock star. She skipped school to audition, and sings three totally different tunes for the judges – “Eternal Life” by Jeff Buckley, “Get Here” and an operatic aria. I like this kid, and the judges pass her through.

After yet another montage – this time a combination African hoedown/All Night Long theme, Christopher Richardson does his impression of Donny Hathaway channeling Leon Russell’s “Song For You.” Both of their versions are excellent. Chris just sounds like he can’t find the right note. Naturally Paula thinks he’s Idol’s answer to Justin Timberlake. More likely she can’t get Justin to return her calls so she’ll settle for Chris. It works for him, so he’s off to Hollywood.

Nicholas Pedro made it through to Hollywood last year but quit when he couldn’t remember the words to “Build me up Buttercup.” Now I swear, how can anybody not remember the words to that song? I’ve only heard it oh, five thousand times, mostly in elevators, but still… Nick never thought of himself as a singer before his experience on Idol, but since the fateful day that Buttercup got the best of him he’s been haunted. He wants to redeem himself, and gets another chance at Hollywood with “Fly me To The Moon.”

Saving The Best For Last?
Cowgirl Isadora calls herself a clairvoyant. If so, I wonder why she didn’t see into the future and save herself the trouble of auditioning? Isadora compares herself to Stevie Nicks, Pat Benetar and Janis Joplin. Ah, another triple threat. She is different; I haven’t heard “Lady Marmalade” accompanied by tambourine before. Isadora is so awesomely bad that when she gives up singing and descends into moans and grunting noises I can’t help but guffaw loudly. The judges are shocked. Isadora is bundled swiftly out, and New York is history. 35 people made it through to Hollywood. Next week – Birmingham, where we’ll see more freaks and wannabes, and one weird contestant with hair down to their feet, which reduces Simon to muttering “I didn’t know I’d be judging Pet Idol.” Fun times.

Why can’t we have Pet Idol? Email me at Dinahann@fansofrealitytv.com