In the movie, Field of Dreams, a man believes that if he builds it, they will come. Most call him delusional, but a few believe in him. With help from the few, he builds it, and they come. In the LA story, those with a delusional belief in their talent have their few supporters, but their dreams do not come true. This story is a tragic comedy with a limited happy ending.
The first clue that the LA auditions will not be in the same league as the previous cities begins with the introductory package featuring golden ticket holders from those cities, who Ryan claims are “some of the best talent we’ve seen in our show’s ten seasons.” He stands on a helipad atop a skyscraper and, with an overview of downtown LA; he says he is confident the string will continue. But, then, it is his job to draw us into what will become an hour of insanity.
One interesting tidbit he dishes is that for the first time American Idol teamed up with myspace and held auditions online. Out of the 16,000 plus who auditioned in this manner, only a few were chosen to join the throngs of hopefuls in LA.
The judges try to represent the home city with their entrances. Randy bounces in wearing neon-gold shoes, which blind JLo; and JLo wears a pair of short shorts. Steven exits his limo holding a smoking cigar, wonders if it is all right to do that on TV so they do a re-take, but this time he exits puffing a smoking cigar. That’s Steven.
It might bode well as the background color is once again Party-Pink like they displayed in New Orleans – and the party was good there. One hopes, but hopes are shown to be as delusional as the majority of the contestants. More on that later, but first I thought I would highlight those who did garner praise and gold.
Streets Paved With Gold
Tim Halperin, 23, from Fort Worth, TX has had a crush on JLo since he was in elementary school. He sings directly to her, and a move into falsetto range brings a small smile to her face. Randy feels left out of the dynamic, but that isn’t the reason he says NO. I think that’s it, anyway, because Randy tells him he’s just not ready. Steven likes him and gives him a YES. With a YES from a somewhat reluctant JLo, we have our first ticket of the two day audition stint in LA.
The one myspace auditioner shown in the LA round is Karen Rodriguez, 21, from New York City. Praised for her voice and with ticket in hand, she tells us that she wants to be the first Latina American Idol.
Heidi Khzawn cha-cha-chings her hips straight to Hollywood. Once she stops undulating and starts singing, her nice voice and control win her a ticket. JLo, though, has to caution the boys to simmer down.
Mark and Aaron Guiterrez, 27 and 28, chest-bump their way in and proceed to delight the judges with a tight harmony to “Lean on Me.” JLo thinks it is beautiful, Steven thinks it is God-like – that it is just what the judges need after two days of nothing. The brothers each score a golden ticket on the duet alone – no solos needed.
There you have it; no extended back stories and no heart wrenching tales. Since Ryan didn’t give us the total number of tickets given out during their two day stint in LA, I guess we can count those we were shown – five.
Here we go…into the area of LA where the streets are not paved with gold, but with broken dreams.
Streets Paved With Potholed Asphalt
What is the essence of delusion – does it come accompanied by heavenly music? Victoria Garrett believes that God brought the auditions to LA just so they could hear her sing. She believes so much in her talent, that she is sure it is a sign. However, when she opens her mouth screeching bleats come out, and Steven sums up the panel’s winces by telling her, “That was so baaaad. It was a sweet and angelic voice like a little lambie.” As she leaves the building, Victoria holds onto belief in her talent and snarks, “Not everyone can sing like JLo.” Cue finale to the heavenly music.
Just before lunch break, JLo gets bleeped numerous times while trying to encourage a young man…I think it had to do with girding his loins, or something. Electricians brush past Ryan carrying a long pole, and caterers carry trays of food into the room for the panel’s dining delight. These highlights of the mundane complete the first morning.
The afternoon features two friends, Daniel Gomes, 18, and Isaac Rodriguez, 18, who are there to support each other. Daniel’s mother is in the holding room and he confides to Ryan that she doesn’t know he dropped out of college in order to go on American Idol. Of course, Ryan has to play this up by interviewing the mother about her good boy who is going to school, etc. We’ve got to have filler to make this interesting, because once they go into the audition room each is told to get a day job. That is not going to stop them, though, because it is what they do. Go back to school, Daniel.
The end of the first day has the judges bemoaning the lack of talent. But, wait there is hope (delusional) that day two will start out bright and continue to shine. On this day, as though to reflect their moods, Randy, Steven and JLo wear mostly black outfits.
Ryan does warn us that Los Angeles has lost its grip and the crazies have come out to play. Does this mean that we, too, are delusional in ignoring him and hoping for some bright spots on the platform?
This next audition has to rank right up there with the scariest of all time. Tynisha Roches, 25, from Hoboken, New Jersey enters the room wearing confidence and a fedora. Holding a hand mic as a prop, she tells them she is singing a tribute to Frank Sinatra. Please, Frank, hold steady in your grave. Once the NO faces appear on the panel, she launches into another – trying to do it her way – and closes her ears to their entreaties to stop. When she launches into her third attempt to sing, Randy gets up and walks behind the set flat thinking that by leaving the table she’ll get the message. Instead of gracefully bowing out, Ms. Roches chases Randy around the stage set and back in front of the judges’ table. Randy tries to wrest the mic from her hand, begging Steven to help him. Thinking she is finished with her shenanigans, he retakes his seat, but she starts to act up again and he calls for security to escort her out. Big, beefy security guy is successful with this and the panel breathes a sigh of relief, but, for how long? As she leaves the building, she shrugs and tips her hat.
Randy: This is the freakiest show, ever! I’ve never been chased by a contestant with a microphone.
Speaking of big and beefy, Matthew “Big Stack” Frankel from West Hollywood takes the stage. He claims to be a freelance music producer and shows the panel a compilation CD he put together. He then raps about himself and, asked if he can sing, sort of gives it a try. That doesn’t stop him from pleading his case by saying that he needs to lubricate up a bit. When that doesn’t fly, he’s off making deals on his cell phone; but not before informing us that he and Randy have a beef.
Randy: Talk about delusional people.
Steven: Well, it is LA.
Here comes the parade: William Rogers shows off his off-key falsetto; Jeanette Manning can’t find a tuning fork; Daniel Hall forgets the words and declares that he is dead, Steven concurs; Anthony Granger drops his pants; Arista Pemberton cracks a tortured high note, but entertains them with a dance that ends with the splits.
Toward the end of day two, Ryan says that the LA auditions haven’t been completely successful (DUH!) but the judges haven’t given up hope – yet. Of course the producers then show a weary Steven declaring that they should see one more. It is one of those be careful what you wish for, or famous last word statements, because in walks the craziest of the bunch LA has to offer.
Cooper Robinson hails from the very, very backwoods of Arkansas and thinks he is 59 years old. It seems like the producers are looking for the elderly crowd pleaser that they can bring back on Finale night for comedy, but this one is a miss. Mr. Robinson struts in wearing a tricked out black suit and a straw hat stuffed with black and white feathers. He jingles and jangles when he walks, and fear crosses the judges’ faces. He tries to do a James Brown impression by stomping around the platform singing, “I Feel Good.” Because he had told them about all the critters in his neck of the woods, Steven feels the need to tell him that he won’t ever get bit by a snake. Mr. Robinson breaks out in a barking rant, then shuts up and awaits his fate. When greeted with stone-faced silence, he bows and takes his leave.
However, Mr. Robinson doesn’t quite leave the area before a scared JLo wants to go home and big, beefy security guard escorts her past him as he talks with Ryan. When he does leave it is to a jangling beat down the street and many declarations of his own greatness.
So ends LA and our lesson for today. And what is that you ask? Wear a fedora or a straw hat with feathers and strut your way into infamy, because your voice ain’t doin’ ya no favors.
The last audition is next Wednesday in San Francisco. After that, Hollywood Week begins…finally!