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Unfortunately, the quickest way to the judges' hearts is still not the stylish presentation of a spinning hubcap rim worn as a necklace.

There's only one thing left to say about Paula Abdul's wriggly, frantic, desperate performance of her new "song" at the Super Bowl. And that's that she didn't stumble listlessly through it. She threw herself headlong and leglong into the burning ring of fire and left the stage standing up. Meanwhile, in another stadium filmed sometime late last summer, Seacrest is making me want to lay him out flat for continuing the abomination-combination of peaked-lapel blazer over hideous "graphic" T-shirt. I can't read what the goth-lite lettering on the shirt says. And I don't care. I just want someone to set fire to it. If he still happens to be wearing it when that happens, I can't be held responsible.

I'm grateful that auditions are over after this week. I'm bone-tired of the put-underpants-on-your-head-and-sing-and-then-stand-there-while-Simon-says-something-mean-ha-ha formula. And I've watched all of the good singers they've deigned to put on camera and I have to say that none of them are Fantasia or Kelly, the only two former winners I'd ever consider paying to hear sing. I maintain that The Boogie needs his own variety show where he's allowed to run amok, but otherwise, I got my two favorites. I say this aloud to friends who've joined me for watching and Xtreem Aaron (oh, and by the way, some new readers have been asking me where that name came from and the only answer I have is the one XA gave me himself: "Call me that from now on") looks at me and says, "There will never be another Fantasia, Dave. Hey, put Life is Not a Fairy Tale: The Fantasia Barrino Story back in TiVo's wish list so we can watch it again."

So they're in Atlanta. Some little kid says, "Welcome to Ee-lanta" and it's cute and whatever. "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" plays behind Seacrest's narration. I don't need to spell that one out for you. Some gay throws his arms around while singing a snippet of "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going." He gets five words out of his mouth before screeching, "WHAT!! I DON'T THINK THEY READY!!"

Seacrest is from Atlanta and his parents show up on camera. He gives his dad the bro-hug and his mom a kiss. I just read recently that Seacrest got the flu and still showed up on time for a photo shoot he had to be at. You have to wonder what sort of parents these people were and how they managed to instill the rocket-fuel-powered work ethic their candle-at-both-ends son lives on a daily basis. "You know, son, that paper route is fine, but shouldn't you also be mowing lawns and cleaning pools and scooping ice cream at Baskin-Robbins and stocking Target from midnight to 6 in the morning before school?" And then when he's done his father's like, "Hmm. Not quite good enough yet." He's like Donna Summer in the "She Works Hard for the Money" video, going from job to job, mopping up after people. He probably sells Shaklee on the side and his friends dread seeing him coming their way, all, "Hey anybody low on Basic-G?" The host and his folks playfully goof on the auditioning guy who's wearing the spinning rim as a necklace. It's important to do things together as a family.

Oh, and on Wednesday night they weren't anywhere. The episode was a collection of some of the best and some of the worst from all over, so I'm just going to throw them all in here in a big pile.

The INs:

1. The sideburns + soul patch + crazy eyes guy. He's got really good '70s hair, though. I'm kind of turned on by his hair. Not interested in his singing. He's got a lot of skinny hipster friends, all of whom seem to have the same muttonchop sideburns.

2. The girl whose father died two days before the audition. WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS?! How do you even go to an audition two days after one of your parents is struck down in a car accident? I'm not judging her. I'm just confused. I mean I know, I know, he would have wanted her to blah blah blah dreams blah. But dang. So she sings. It's good. They love her. And then she's gone. "Gotta motor if I'm gonna make that funeral," she says. Not really. Anyway, the judges are in a big contest to see who can be the most poignant by way of response. Paula breaks down and cries. Seacrest wins, though, by dragging it out and getting the young woman to talk about it more and more. And then some more. See? He works for it harder than anyone.

3. The 18-year-old Miss South Florida Fair pageant queen whose talents include wearing a crown, draping a giant white snake around her neck, kissing pigs, milking cows ("and I got kicked by him... er...I guess it would be her"), and saying "doo-doo." Also finding Iraq on a map and such as. She's been in pageants since age 4. She likes to brush her own hair. Wants to hug Simon. She does. After she leaves Simon calls her the most annoying person he's ever met in his life. Los Angeles is going to be a perfect fit for this young lady. My favorite person in this entire exchange is the unnamed older woman in white who bounces and shakes her hips after Miss SFF gets her gold ticket.

4. The 16-year-old girl dressed in an old Boy Scout uniform who sings "My Funny Valentine" and brought her 93-year-old great-grandmother with her.

5. The biker nurse who sings Janis Joplin. Do we know that this isn't just Nikki McKibben? Can they locate her and make certain she's not trying to pull some kind of switcheroo?

6. The kid who lives in his car, self-raised on Britpop, who sings with a British accent because that's what happens when you belt it out alongside your favorite Snow Patrol records all day. You start to sound like you've actually lived in Glasgow for a while even if you've never been there. It's weird. Talks about how "scary and lonely" it is to live in his car. IT'S ALSO TOTALLY DANGEROUS, YOU LITTLE SHITHEAD. He's so happy with his gold ticket. Runs out to the car screaming, "THANKS, CAR! IT'S GONNA BE YOU AND ME! YOU ALWAYS BELIEVED IN ME!" The car does not respond with the voice of William Daniels. Bummer.

7. The guy who sings a Luther Vandross song, which prompts a discussion of the poor late Luther's gayness. The room seems not to be aware of that. I hang out with an odd posse of gays.

8. Fondue restaurant waitress. Sings a song from Dreamgirls. Somehow manages to make it through in spite of that.

9. The plus-size model. She describes her career as a plus-size model as "absolutely amazing." Shit, yeah, it is. YOU GET TO EAT WHATEVER YOU WANT! Sings a song by non-plus-size Celine Dion but fails to go the extra Celine mile of dedicating her performance to all the parents and all the children of the world. Seriously, it's called "Celine Dion Is Amazing." It's on YouTube. Go watch it. I know I told you to do that once before. But I bet you didn't.

10. The blond girl with the baby voice who squeals her way through "Surrender," another Celine Dion song. What is it with the kids and Celine Dion? Did they all start listening to her when I wasn't paying attention? I have to turn down the volume on my TV because I'm worried the screen is going to start cracking. Paula encourages her to go learn a new song and come back for a second chance. Simon thinks this is futile, but Paula believes. So off the blond girl goes. Someone finds her a video clip of Kenny and Dolly singing "Islands in the Stream." She comes back and uses her actual voice, one that sounds like a weird fusion of Claudine Longet, Melanie Griffith, Kahimi Karie, Dolly Parton, and Elmo. They send her through. After she leaves Simon says to Paula, "I hate to admit it, but you were right." Paula lets out a freak-show cackle and jumps into Simon's lap, yelling, "I LOVE IT! HE GOES, 'I HATE TO ADMIT IT BUT YOU WERE RIGHT!'" That's true, Paula. He did say that. We heard it too. It was on TV.

11. Yet another gay boy. When he says he's going to sing "Proud Mary," Randy chuckles and says, "Of course." The kid snaps his fingers and flaps his arms like he's about to flutter off to Planet Unicorn.

The OUTs:

1. Some nerd who sat next to Carrie Underwood during auditions in season 4. He kicks himself for not being psychic enough to predict her ensuing fame and fortune. Because, you know, they'd have been great friends and she'd have taken him along for the ride. All his friends tell him he's going to be famous. Because all his friends hate him. Even the spinning-rim guy thinks this guy's a joke. He sings a Rascal Flatts song that's completely free of consonants. When they tell him about how much he sucks, he says he's a vocal performance major in college but wants to sidestep that. Dear this guy's professors, if you don't make him stop, then you don't deserve tenure.

2. The montage of people singing Fergie's "Glamorous Life" and tripping over the nonword "flossy." I've more or less ignored this song until now, so I Google the words. Yes, it says "flossy" right there on my screen. Great. Now Fergie has contributed a new wrinkle to the field of socio-linguistics.

3. The woman in the polka-dot sundress who sings Vanessa Carlton's "Thousand Miles" and falls flat on her ass. Literally on her ass. That's what happens when you watch White Girls over and over on cable. My husband/partner/whatever yells, "That's my joint!"

4. The 16-year-old who's currently repeating the ninth grade. Thinks he's wittier than most people repeating the ninth grade usually give themselves credit for being. Tries to insult the judges. Fails at this. Much like the way he failed the ninth grade.

5. The screaming fat guy in the giant white T-shirt. As a fat guy, I must say that men like him are the reason I can't get a plain old XXL T-shirt anywhere. They stopped making them. You wind up at the hip-hop big-and-tall store in Crenshaw Plaza Mall wearing a 5X Sean John no matter what. It's embarrassing.

6. The woman with very large boobs. Randy says, "Nice shoes" to her. Then he says, "I like the possibility of your vocals." Simon responds, "That's exactly what I was thinking." In addition to the fantasies of titty-fucking her. Or boob-snogging, as they say in the U.K.

7. The young African-American woman who believes that her voice came from God (although she doesn't seem to understand that it was Loki, the Norse god of mischief, the one featured prominently in the vintage Thor comics and the Jim Carrey movie The Mask) and who's been singing in church choir since she was a child. She says that the Holy Spirit told her to audition. This is because the Holy Spirit is a major kidder. Not that I disbelieve that she sings in her church choir. Because I know some things now about choirs in black churches that I'd never known before. It's a big secret and the media has conspired to keep it from just about everyone. And here it is: Not all choirs representing the Black Church are recording contract-ready. I know, shocker. It stunned me too. I blame The Color Purple mostly. Remember that part where Shug and Celie are at the juke joint and they get drowned out by the choir down the road and then Shug starts singing too and everyone goes crazy with love and forgiveness about how "God Is Tryin' to Tell You Something?" Well, that was a movie and now a Broadway show, but it ain't necessarily so. And I have firsthand evidence. See, last year this friend of mine died. Heart attack. Just like that. Very sad. He was way too young to go. Anyway, he was also African-American. So I go to the funeral service at his home church here in Los Angeles. And as the choir sang I wondered to myself if my dead friend was going to jump out from behind a pew with Ashton Kutcher and start shouting, "GOTCHA!" in my face, because this gang of people sing-yelling "His Eye Is on the Sparrow" were really emphasizing the latter half of the whole "joyful noise" thing. Anyway, this audition doesn't go well. God really is tryin' to tell you something, though. And that something is about how you are completely tone-deaf.

8. The girl with the (a) puppy and (b) unfortunate choice in Kelly Pickler material and (c) identical twin white-rapper boyfriends. Technically, only one of them is her boyfriend, but she's dated them both. I considered going down the homoerotic twins road with this one, but it's too porny and tired. And besides, didn't we already cover this scenario with Bucky Covington and his twin brother? Ducky? Shucky? I forget the other one's name. Anyway, just for the record, the spit-roasting jokes are flying around my living room right now. And I'm laughing because I've got the maturity of an 11-year-old. But I know better than to use them here. And the best part of this audition anyway is how the twins stand outside the room while she sings and tell the cameras what a horrible singer she is. When she's rejected by the judges she asks, "Is this Opposite Day?"

9. The guy who throws glitter and rose petals on the floor. The production assistants come in to sweep it up. Thanks for making more work for the hundred-dollar-a-day people, Rip Taylor. But then it becomes a bit. Simon and Seacrest and everyone get in on the sweeping action. SWEEPING THINGS! ISN'T IT HILARIOUS? Meanwhile the P.A.'s are silent, continuing to work, careful not to join in the menial mirth or get too familiar with the talent, beaten down by the daily torrents of abuse they receive from the producers. No, really, like whatever these really famous and really rich people tell me to do is OK. I get my hundred no matter what.

Next week: The weeding-out process begins. Beautiful dream balloons will be punctured, fall to the ground, get swept into the gutter, clog the sewer, drain into the Pacific, get tangled up with syringes, and choke dolphins.

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Fellow Travelers & Jamie Lee Curtis

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Dave White