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A moment like

A moment like


The Ghost of Kelly Clarkson Past comes to haunt the debut singles from Hicks and McPhee. He wins, of course.

It's pitch-black on stage or in the audience or wherever they are, but it's at least clear that Seacrest has been replaced this week by a hologram of Rod Serling, hands clasped, talking about how, for the Idols, this is "the most important night of their lives." Sez you, Rod Serling.

The audience is a celebreteria. The camera cuts to Mandy Moore, star of the Idol parody film American Dreamz, the one that tanked. Cut to Ben Stiller, whose job it is now to go from concert to concert just being filmed--he was in the audience for the Beastie Boys concert film called Awesome! I F***in' Shot That!--and likes to make weird jerking moves when the camera hits him. Seacrest decides to take an informal poll. "Who is the next American Idol?" he asks the giant crowd inside the Kodak Theater in Hollywood. Their answer is a clear and resounding, "WHOOOOOOOOOOOO!" and "AUUUUUUGGGGHHHH!" I suppose this means they're all for Hicks.

Look! Out in the crowd! There's Bucky! Daughtry! Constantine! (for the 30th time this season, so desperate is he for more camera adoration) Next to Constantine is the Skateboarding Bulldog! And next to him is a tortilla that resembles the Virgin Mary!

Three songs again tonight. Two repeats from each and then...their debut single. This is always my favorite part, the crappy debut single they shoehorn the singer into whether it fits them or not.

McPhee is first with a brand-new version of "Black Horse & The Cherry Tree." It's a new version because this time she stands up and dances instead of lumbering around on her knees like she did before. In the middle of the song she totally steals some of Hicks's monkey moves. Hope it tastes good when you bite his rhyme, Kat. Seacrest takes her to his side and she trots out the "McPhans" thing again and introduces everyone to the concept of "The Kat Pack." Apparently they exist. Do they like to add random McPhs to everything they say too?

Hicks revisits "Living for the City" in a jacket that had to come from the Fuck You I'm Taylor Hicks and I Wear Ugly Shirts line. It's shiny and purple and velvety. And it is exactly what he should be wearing. He introduces a new dance move tonight, one I like to call Fosse Steps, where he hops down stairs and then fakes you out a little at a time by backtracking. He's coming toward you! No! He's retreating! What will he do next? How wacky can one person be? "Come on, America!" he shouts in the middle of the song. My first instinct is to say, "No. I won't come on, Taylor Hicks. You aren't my boss." But I've gone through some radical Taylor Hicks shifts in my consciousness lately, and I may just be willing to come on with America.

More famousness: There's Taye Diggs, UPN's canceled Kevin Hill. Cut to Daughtry's wife, clutching his arm. How long before they get divorced, do you think, now that he's had a taste of the world outside domesticity?

McPhee slinks through "Over the Rainbow" again, not five minutes after finishing her first crack at it, it seems. At least Hicks reached back a little to Stevie Wonder week. I click my heels three times, but she doesn't disappear. The camera cuts to Leni Riefenstahl, who's cheering enthusiastically for McPhee. Oh, it's her grandma. My mistake. Another cut to McPhee's dad, crying of course. I'm glad this is almost over, because his weepy routine is starting to creep me out. It feels more and more "bad touch" every week.

Paula critique moment: This might be her best sentence of the season. I think she's been saving it. She says, "Katharine, it's no mistake that it's God-given talent that you are possessed with, that you are possessive of, father around this country is feeling the tears down their face as your father does every time the camera goes in on him and you've made everyone proud and every little girl proud who wants to dream and aspire to be you." Then she yells, "Arna!" like Jodie Foster in Nell.

Hicks returns to Elton John's "Levon." He starts off, "Levon bluhbluhbluhbluhbluhbluhbluhbluhbluh." I not only have no idea what he's singing, but it dawns on me that after hearing this song for years now since I was a child, I have no idea what it's about. Time to Google the lyrics like Clive Davis did last week. Here are some of them:

Levon wears his war wound like a crown He calls his child Jesus 'Cause he likes the name And he sends him to the finest school in town...

He was born a pauper to a pawn on a Christmas Day When The New York Times said God is dead And the wars begun...

And he shall be Levon And he shall be a good man And he shall be Levon In tradition with the family plan...

Levon sells cartoon balloons in town His family business thrives...

And Jesus he wants to go to Venus Leaving Levon far behind Take a balloon and go sailing...

So there you have it. Levon is about balloon animals. Cut to several discarded contestants from this season whose identities I've already forgotten. Randy says it was pitchy. Paula, on a roll, says, "Pitchy to you is the essence of who Taylor is."

Simon responds with, "It doesn't make any sense what you just said."

Cut to Constantine. His face says, "You want my look? You want my signature Constantine look? Yeah, you do! Here it is! My signature look!" Then he arches one eyebrow and continues looking as weird as he ever did.

Now it's time for McPhee's single, called "My Destiny." Ever since Kelly sang "A Moment Like This," the Idol producers have tried desperately to recapture the thrill of that few minutes of television. From that point on every single winner and runner-up have been saddled with a thematically similar song, a love song that doubles as a contest winner's testimonial, one seemingly composed by the same Fox lot-sequestered manatees that write Family Guy. Here is the theme: "Holy shit! It's happening! It's happening to me! Can you believe it?! Now! Right here! To ME!! You all love ME!! I'm FAMOUS!!!"

But McPhee gets it all wrong. She hits about six really sour notes and you can see the panic spread across her face, even as she smiles broadly. Then the choir lurches in. Cut to McPhee's mother with her hands to her face. I can't tell if she's thrilled or if she's freaked out and wondering who this gang of robe-clad people are who've come to kill or, worse, upstage her golden child. The song over, I wonder how hard the judges will be on her. I wish right now that Pick Pickler was a judge, so she could go, "You butchered eee-yit!" Randy, Paula, and Simon are gentle with her, of course. Simon tells people to vote and to remember "Over the Rainbow." It's his gift to her, that comment, heaving one last gasping attempt to stave off Hicks's inevitable win.

Hicks is next. His song is called "Do I Make You Proud." He starts off shakily as the camera pans across the judges to reveal that Simon and Paula are not paying attention at all. They're having a playful little push-fight. And aside from his luck at being given a marginally less shitty song, Hicks is just flat-out better, happier, and more confident than McPhee. Technically she's the superior singer, but he's has been a bar belter for years now, dealing with drunks and wet T-shirt contests and having to play gross street fairs. So he knows how to work a crowd. He knows how to entertain. And while McPhee seemed scared of the choir, Hicks is emboldened by them. He is excess. If they'd said, "Yeah, we're going to get Cirque du Soleil out here to turn themselves inside out and display their glittery internal organs for the entire country and then some specially trained dancing kangaroos are going to be let loose in the audience," Hicks would just go, "All right! WHOOO! Soul Patrol!" You can see how happy he is to be there. I haven't voted for a single person all season, not even Paris or Elliott, who were my personal favorites, but I may vote for The Gork tonight.

Simon says, "You have just won American Idol," which sets off a series of blood-curdling shrieks from Paula. Both she and Randy go ape-shit, wanting credit for seeing Hicks's talent early on. The audience is deafening. The clouds have parted and the trumpets sound. The Rapture is taking place. Pickler begins speaking several languages and inventing new laws of physics. Oh, how I wish for a camera to cut to McPhee right now, mewling, "That's not McPhair! It's not my McPhault!" before finally whispering a tearful "Kat Pack..."

It's time to stand on opposite sides of Seacrest for what will be the final plea for votes. And here's what a major dude of gallantry Hicks has turned out to be. He reaches across Seacrest to hold McPhee's hand. To quote Kelly Clarkson, "I can't believe it's happening to me," but I am now officially 100% on The Gork's side.

One more thing. I was wrong about being finally emancipated from the hideous, barfy "Bad Day" song. The guy who sings it is going to perform it live. They couldn't get Kenny Rogers back out there? The You're All Dead reel of losers plays and whoever cut it together has an evil sense of humor. Interspersed with the final 12--heavy emphasis on Daughtry's stunned kicked-off face--are snippets of the serious lunatics from early auditions. It's a bitter narrative in which Daughtry and Elliott come off weighing exactly the same as that freak with the matching plaid shirt, shorts, and hat from the first round of auditions.

The Last Chop and Final Screw...

But first it's time for LIVE FROM THE RED CARPET OF THE KODAK THEATER ON BEAUTIFUL HOLLYWOOD BOULEVARD!! I am writing this recap as it happens and because I live about 10 minutes away from this place I can hear the helicopters buzzing all over the city. It's Day of the Locust about three miles to the east of me. I'm on the couch in my pajamas eating an Otter Pop. Lime.

I don't know what version of this other people in the country saw, but the local L.A. Fox people, including Jillian Barberie, the only person I know by name out of the whole bunch, wrangle various Idol-related personalities for mini-chats on the red carpet. Bucky, Ace, Elliott, and Pickler stop by. Pickler has on a tight red dress and soccer mom short hair, looking like she just picked up her four kids from an after-school play date. Carrie Underwood takes two minutes out of her boring career to be boring for Jillian Barberie. Hicks and McPhee make an appearance. McPhee says she's "at peace" with whatever happens tonight, then adds, in a smiley but pissed-off way, "Simon did say he's the winner, so..."

Bo Derek shows up--someone I haven't spent a second thinking about in years--to talk about her confusing new fall TV show called Secret Obsessions: Fashion House. Daughtry pops by with his gabby, microphone-hogging wife, and then McPhee's parents rave about how everyone wants to work with their daughter. "She has such a huge celebrity right now..." says the mom.

And on to the show. It's a night of tiny little clumps of activity, most of it filler with no real meaning or through-line, unless you count the overarching story of "Wow, We, the American Idol Finalists, Have Worked Hard at Being Talent Show Contestants, and It's Like We Just Fought a War or Something and Have Emerged Braver and Stronger, Deserving of Celebrity." Add to the activity clumps one entirely hermetically sealed celebrity cameo, a.k.a. "Prince Deigns to Show Up After All the Speculation, Negotiation, Hateration, and Holleration." So what follows is a list of discrete items that make up the finale.

1. Underwood, McPhee and Hicks come out dressed in white, doing "I Made It Through the Rain." They're joined by all the discards for a group sing. Barry Manilow's longtime companion settles in for an evening of online shopping.

2. Seacrest and all the judges are wearing black and white and it looks like they've all tagged their chairs with "East Side Locos."

3. Cut to Ben Stiller and Heather Locklear. All celebrities are friends. Except for Heather and Denise Richards, who are not.

4. Seacrest asks the crowd a second time who's going to win. Because that was so effective last night.

5. The judges each get a reel showcasing their specific personality tics. We see endless loops of Randy attempting to create a catchphrase, Paula slapping people, freaking out, and crying, and Simon fondling himself.

6. Cut to Birmingham, Ala. A crowd of people scream for Hicks. Some former Idol discard whom I recognize but whose name I forget is the emcee.

7. Cut to Universal Studios City Walk, which is basically a dumb touristy mall over near Burbank, and a crowd of people who happen to wander past season 1 discard Tamyra Gray all feign interest in McPhee so they can be on camera and throw gang signs.

8. Paris sings "We're in This Love Together" with Al Jarreau. It's like what would happen if a Bratz doll had a grandfather and they performed a creepy love duet. Al is wearing a knit cap because you start to get really, really cold when you reach 80.

9. Commercial for Coke, the first of 30 during this broadcast. A friend just showed me the new hot book The Omnivore's Dilemma last night and we had a very interesting chat about high fructose corn syrup, which for me is The New Terrorism. I'm obsessed with hunting it down and avoiding it. I want to live to be Al Jarreau's age.

10. Daughtry gets to sing with Live and it's like Narcissus reaching out to touch the water. Goodbye annoying wife.

11. I had almost forgotten how dispiriting it is to watch Pick Pickler actually exist and react to the world, but they remind me with a segment called "Puck & Pickler," where Wolfgang Puck tries to get the willfully ignorant wretch to try new foods that she's never heard of and can't pronounce when written out for her on a menu. She tries on his glasses and says, "Do I look smart? Maybe people will take me seriously now!" I'm honestly surprised she knew to use the adverbial form of that word. She takes one bite of escargot and spits it out into her napkin. I'll say it for the last time, and hopefully someone will read it aloud to you, you problematic young woman. It's not cool to be stupid. It's not funny and it's not adorable. It's especially not cool, not to mention monumentally rude, to spit out food that Wolfgang Puck's team of cooking slaves has prepared for you. You're young. Go out and experience life; try new things without scrunching up your face; don't be the worst America has to offer.

12. Meat Loaf is here to sing "It's All Coming Back to Me Now." He has a red rag to wave around dramatically and probably also to mop up the buckets of sweat. Why they never let Ruben Studdard have his own sweat rag I'll never know. Mr. Loaf has officially lost his ability to sing live but that doesn't stop him from trying. When McPhee takes her part he stalks around the stage, glaring at her like a pro wrestler about to devour a 48-ounce rib eye. And then he moves in for the kill. She better watch out or he's going to start mauling her McBoobs. I do not want to imagine these two engaged in anything resembling the song's reference to "the flesh and the fantasy."

13. Comedy moments. Oh, good. I was just saying how that was what this show needed: "bits" from Seacrest. It's "The Golden Idol Awards." They trot out early-round audition freaks and mock them some more. So just remember, kids, when you try out for this show it's FOREVER. You might as well have done porn. One of the "winners" is some guy named Dave Hoover who makes Hicks at his wildest look like Perry Como after popping two Ambien.

14. More Coke commercials. This one for the Blak version, with coffee in it. Because America wanted more diarrhea.

15. Puck & Pickler, part 2. I boycott.

16. The guys all come out to sing a medley of songs that make no sense as a medley: "Takin' Care of Business," "Tobacco Road" (featuring Hicks on harmonica) and "Don't Stop." I'm happy when they do.

17. Next Coke commercial. A girl and guy on a bench. The guy is behaving weirdly, pretending his bottle of Coke is a cell phone. Then he hands it to her and she drinks it. Girls, here's a tip: NEVER DO THAT. EVER. Men are no damn good and will try anything to get you into bed, including putting knockout rape drugs in your delicious soft drink. Do not take a petite little swig of anything a stranger gives you, no matter how cute he is.

18. Final Ford commercial. Hicks and McPhee at the drive-in. They watch a blooper reel of old Ford commercials, basking in the glow of the screen and silently plotting to destroy each other.

19. Seacrest gives Hicks and McPhee their own Ford Mustangs. McPhee is pageant-happy. Hicks acts like he's been taking the bus to gigs and whoops it up.

20. More "Golden Idol Awards." Claudette, Elliott's mom, is given an award for being better than both of McPhee's parents with one hand tied behind her back.

21. Elliott sings U2's "One" with Mary J. Blige. He's out of his mind happy to be doing this, but who wouldn't be, really? He stands at one side of the stage and lets her rip it up, something she's incapable of not doing. I call a friend on the phone to talk about it and discover that someone I know and love is a Mary J. Blige hater. I'm going to seriously reconsider this friendship. I enjoy imagining Mary J. Blige at restaurants, singing her order for the waiter, or renewing her tags at the DMV and belting out her license and Social Security number, turning every moment of her life into a "Come to Jesus" altar call. When Elliott rejoins her toward the end of the song, she grabs him and holds up his arm like they're about to do a victory lap.

22. Bringing the room down, Carrie Underwood performs her latest single, a country music form letter that includes the following words: "Mama, Chevy, Bible, Mee-maw, Daddy, and Praying."And that's pretty much all you need to know.

23. Hicks performs "In the Ghetto" with Toni Braxton. Toni's parading around in her drawers, bumping and grinding and flipping her hair around and letting out little "whoo!" sounds. She thinks it's a song about being in the Sex Ghetto. She backs her ass up to Hicks like, "Hey, white boy, you're kinda meaty. Whatchoo got for me?" And then the song ends, once again stripped of all meaning.

24. The ladies take the stage for a Strong Woman medley. "Man, I Feel Like a Woman" and "Trouble" and "You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman," whatever that one is that goes W-O-M-A-N, I forget the title, and then "I'm Every Woman." The last one gives unrepentant homophobe Mandisa something to do besides hate gays for a moment. Why won't Donna Summer give this young woman a call and talk some sense into her head?

25. Another "Golden Idol" award. The freaky and gay-appearing Michael Sondecki, an early auditioner with no talent besides a mutant resemblance to Clay Aiken, takes the stage to sing "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me" and embarrass himself. Then Clay Aiken comes up behind him with a big surprise. That surprise is his hair. Clay Aiken is so rich now that he bought one of Andy Warhol's old wigs and dyed it red. Now it lives atop Clay's skull. They turn Sondecki's mike down to nothing, not that it matters. He's too busy exploding into tiny molecules of homoerotic ecstasy to keep singing. And why would you want to keep singing when you have CLAY AIKEN to serenade you with that bizarre Anthony Newley voice of his?

26. Time for a lengthy Burt Bacharach medley. It's the annual trick they play on the Idols, who always seem to have no idea who the man is. Then it's all, "Hey kids, try singing one of these difficult, complicated songs!" They struggle blindly through most of them but sound positively competent when Dionne Warwick joins them onstage. Her last note of the big finish sounds like a death rattle. She and Meat Loaf need a joint intervention.

27. A final "Golden Idol Award." And because the Clay Aiken and stalker moment wasn't gay enough, they pour more homo goo on everything. I like to think it's all for Mandisa's benefit. First up are some clips of Ace and Daughtry hugging each other. All this time I imagined a fierce rivalry between them (thanks for that, producers and editors) when in reality they could barely keep their loving hands off one another. Then we see the clip of Hicks and Seacrest lying on the floor together. And finally they trot out the Cowboy Trio of early auditioners, the Brokenote Cowboys. It's a bit they did early in the season and it wasn't funny then either. Then all three of them come out to sing "Mamas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Cowboys." If they'd had balls, they'd have done "Cowboys Are Frequently Secretly Fond of Each Other" instead.

28. Prince sings his new song. Prince dances with his two backup singers. Prince pouts and combs his hair and casts withering sex glances at America. Prince disappears from stage before Seacrest can catch him. Prince has won the battle of wills, getting his way and showing up without ever having to touch or see or talk to any of the contestants, Seacrest, or the judges. What you didn't see was the cleverly concealed tube of his own personal oxygen that doctors inserted directly into his lungs so he wouldn't have to breathe the same air as everyone else in the Kodak Theater.

29. Hicks and McPhee sing "I've Had the Time of My Life," a song that can take me from life-loving to shoot-myself-in-the-head suicidal in three minutes. Because it sucks more than almost any other song ever written. Like in the history of all sucky songs.

30. David Hasselhoff is crying. I watch this shot over and over. Actors are special people, so in touch with their emotions. And then Hicks wins it all. He yells "Soul Patrol!" and sings his "Do I Make You Proud" song while more explosions take place and everyone screams and the choir chimes in and joyful middlebrow delirium rains down from the skies. It's over. Now I have to go back to paying attention to how screwed up the country is and spend my summer catching up on Lost and Gilmore Girls episodes I missed so I could recap this dang show. And I don't know how this happened and it feels weird to say it, but somehow in the process of writing about it I have learned to enjoy the flavor of the Taylor Hicks Kool-Aid. My snooty music snob nature will never allow me to declare myself a member of the Soul Patrol, but I'm definitely putting his name on my TiVo wish list in hopes of seeing much more monkey-dancing from him in the years to come. Especially after he finally takes Kelly and Clay to lunch and finds out how they got out of their evil 19 Entertainment contracts so they could have real careers. He'll shake a major leg then.

30 Years of Out100Out / Advocate Magazine - Jonathan Groff & Wayne Brady

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