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Toward Paula Abdul

Toward Paula Abdul


This week's anti-interesting American Idol auditions will make you question your commitment to watching strangers humiliate themselves on TV.

Did you know that in some parts of rural Greenland one in two teenagers have tried to commit suicide? I just read an article about it this week. I know I should be paying more attention to stuff like the inauguration (Beyonce -- I never know where to put the accent in her name, sorry -- sang "At Last" at the ball as if she'd read this recap last week and knew that I was hoping someone high-profile would trot it out again to remind us all that no one's performed it in public in the past five minutes, and honestly, it was lovely, so I sorta don't mind much) and that also I should be updating you on breaking news in the unfolding drama vortex that is my American Idol promotional gumball machine (This week? TOO MANY GUMBALLS DISPENSED AT THE SAME TIME!), but I'm mostly just fascinated by all these kids killing themselves. You'd think it would be kinda rad to live in Greenland where it's nice and cold all the time and there's lots of open space to do doughnuts on the ice in a car you borrowed from a stranger and that you're operating while somewhat intoxicated. But no, apparently the wide-open spaces feel isolating, and now that everyone has a TV satellite dish and the Internet and they get to watch bullshit shows like American Idol, they're all unhappy that they can't "go to Hollywood" and be famous. So if any of you Greenland kids are reading this, just please knock off the dying. Eventually you'll get older and you can leave your boring village and go do something awesome with your life. And if you do wind up coming to Hollywood, please understand that being famous is ridiculous and that the real reason to come here, the true appeal of this city, is the over 4,000 taco trucks that constantly drive around feeding people delicious foods. I've lived here for 10 years. You can trust these facts.

So they're auditioning in San Francisco and Louisville, Ky., this week. When I think of San Francisco, the city with much better weather (again, I like it a little colder than most folks) to the north of my home in Los Angeles, where the sun just tries to skin-cancer me all the time, I think of the following things:

1. Aquarius Records, from which I recently purchased an amazing cassette of this Italian band called Ovskum. You should listen to them because they're really good. And now I'd like to give the owner a personal greeting: Hey, Andee!

2. Mrs. Doubtfire

3. Adobe Books, a perfectly homelike used bookstore. Go buy a book there next time you visit. They get lonely just sitting there, unbought. Give one a home. Especially if it's my dumb book, for which you should feel especially sorry.

4. Super Seven, where there are tons of Japanese monster toys I need to own.

5. I rode a bike across the Golden Gate Bridge once.

6. My friend Mike's house where he has this crazy Richie Rich shower that has about 32 nozzles that spray you all over. You need to be a scientist to make it work.

"Who doesn't love San Francisco?" asks my new favorite judge, Kara DioGuardi. Um, lots of people, man. If memory serves, the Republicans used Sarah Palin as a mouthpiece to bash "San Francisco values" during the election. Naturally, Starship's "We Built This City on Rock and Roll" managed to escape Republican wrath. They just wanted a cute new way to hate homosexuals and get away with saying it.

OK, so. The people going through to Hollywood:

1. Tatiana Nicole del Toro, a straight-up mess of a PYT who's wearing a weird minidress tube with a long tulle-like train attached to the bottom. She's all pouty, head-tilty, terrifyingly giggly, kissy-facey, and longingly, hopefully, eyelid-fluttery desperate. In other words, she's excellent TV. Things she says:

  • "I know that I deserve to be the next American Idol more than anyone."
  • "I'm a full-time singer, musician, songwriter, writer, assistant director, model, film actor."
  • Referring to one of her friends, who is, it would seem, a brain-ray-zapping, Escape to Witch Mountain-level professional psychic: "She is one of the world's most powerful psychics. ... I just love her 'cuz I love her!"
  • "Heeheeheeheeheeheeheeheeheeheeheethat'sgreatIlovehavingawonderfulpersonalitythankyousomuch AmericanIdol
  • "It would make my heart complete to know that my album was out."
  • "I desire to be the American Idol more than anyone has ever wanted anything."
  • "If I have to outsing everyone, one by one, on the planet to get a record deal, I will. And I have."

Honestly, I don't remember her outsinging me. Unless she came to my house one Sunday morning and drugged me and we had a "Mama Tried"-off. But even then I think I would have wiped the floor with her. Ain't nobody can match my Merle Haggard. Furthermore, I'd like to ask her up close if she really desires this more than, oh, say, those people who desired to exit East Berlin in the '80s, or as much as Milo and Otis wanted to get home, or as much as Shackleton wanted to get his boat unstuck from the South Pole, or more than Katie Holmes would like her old life back. But even so, I like this chick a whole lot. And though I realize that Vote for the Worst's power only extends so far and that most viewers are still calling and texting for the person they really love to hear sing, I just want to throw my support behind this woman going all the way in more and more skin-baring outfits. Maybe she and Bikini Girl can have a stripping match or a hair-pulling battle.

Paula says yes to Tatiana because kookoo-bananas loves its own reflection and might need help not-designing the outfits for Bratz 2: Brattier and Ya Know It. And then? When she leaves the audition room there are some older people there who hug her and who are willing to be seen doing that on camera. People actually know this woman.

2. Some clean-cut guy with kids. They send him through, not because of his voice, which is an odd I-swallowed-a-Neville-Brother sort of thing that reminds me of Horatio Sanz singing the "Cocoa Butter" song, but because of his kids. They think his kids are cute.

One of them hugs Simon. On the couch my husband says, "That guy's pants are really tight. You can totally see the baby-maker in there." I make TiVo go back. He's right.

3, 4, and 5. This one guy, this one woman, and this girl who looks like a model. And that's not me giving them short shrift. That's how fast they pass by the screen and how nameless the show makes them. Pop pop pop. Just like that. See you on Hollywood Week. Or maybe not.

7. Adam Wicked. His name is Adam and he's been in the Los Angeles cast of Wicked. I want to set fire to his hair. It's that messy, asymmetrical thing that works on Christian Siriano and certain women but almost no one else. It makes me face-punchingly angry. Am I wrong for feeling that way? I don't think I am. Anyway, he sings. He's good. The judges call him "theatrical." Translation: "How many dicks have you sucked today?" Paula calls him "diverse," which means nothing. And then the guy talks about how Paula was his first pop concert and then about "flying" and "blowing kisses in the wind." I have stopped understanding any words exiting his mouth.

8. A man named Kai. His mom has a seizure disorder. He takes care of her every day. This is milked for almost five minutes of screen time. Because if you aren't morbidly obese, frighteningly and/or flamingly gay, a first-year ESL student or off your I'm-crazy meds, then the best way to get on camera is to have a heartwarming parent story. I consulted with my new commentary guy, first season Idol top-tenner Jim Verraros, who told me about how he was the first contestant with a heartwarming parent story:

"They sent a staff member to us to have a mini-interview and asked me the question, 'What is something that most people don't know about you?' I told them my parents were both deaf and that I was fluent in sign language.

"I then got a call back and was told to sing for the judges. I had NO idea who Randy was, and very little about Simon for that matter; all I cared about was singing for Paula Abdul. As I went into the room, they mentioned that my parents were deaf and asked me to interpret the song I was going to sing through sign language, something I was totally unprepared to do. I'd say they knew exactly what they were doing, but so did I. Although I wasn't perfect, they thought it was a beautiful story, knowing that parents who could never hear their son sing would win viewers over. At the time, it really didn't hit me until well into the Hollywood auditions that it wasn't about singing so much as it was playing the part of the boy next door. So I gave them what they wanted, and they gave me airtime."

Well played, Verraros!

On to the go-home crew:

1. The plaid coat guy who makes crazy faces when he sings and, when confronted about his unusual hair color, tells the judges, "The carpet matches the drapes." Best EWWW moment of the show.

2. The guy who can solve a Rubik's Cube.

3. The girl who brings the anatomy chart printouts with her and mispronounces words like "larynx," "pharyngeal," and "trachea." She sings an original composition called "Make Sweet Love" in the way that early Mary J. Blige would if Mary J. Blige were a horrible singer. Then she talks about how she's singing from "the wrong rectum," how much she likes Paula for having "a very hit song in the early '80s" and about how the Simon and Randy tried to "irak-titate" her. I just can't bring myself to mock this person because she seems like she might have an actual disorder that extends way past her inability to read. It hurts to listen to her speak.

Other than that stuff, the highlights of the Tuesday night episode are when Seacrest explains what the Summer of Love was while they show stock footage of a bunch of people who probably all went on to become advertising executives or to give LSD to their pre-school-aged children and be coolly dissected by Joan Didion in Slouching Towards Bethlehem. The best part is hearing Seacrest describe a lazy lifestyle that is antithetical to everything he's about.

The other great thing is the mascara commercial with Linda Evangelista looking like an extremely digital robot of prettiness as she endorses the virtues of something called "beauty tubes." It seems that these beauty tubes attach themselves like tiny snakes to the ends of your eyelashes. Dear lady readers, please go try this stuff and tell me how it works.

Then on Wednesday night they're in Louisville and the banjos are playing and the upper arm fat is jiggling and everybody's havin' a good ol' dentistry-shunning time.

Yes to:

1. The teen runaway who was once signed to A&M and got dropped. So she's the Carly they'll cop to. Mrs. Smithson has opened the door to "I got shat out by the music industry" being a legitimate story line to which people will respond. Two problems I have with her: She botches the lyrics to Pat Benatar's "We Belong" (To the NIGHT, honey. The NIGHT) and she's got some majorly whorey nails. Tighten up that brand right now or you're done.

2. A blond guy who sings sort of countryish.

3. The hyperventilating guy who says he's a "dueling pianist."

4. The stay-at-home mom who sings "Dr. Feelgood" VERY VERY VERY LOUDLY. Kara tells her to go home and have sex. Somehow, in spite of that stuff the episode is so boring that my husband's telling me about the reissue of Tone Loc's Loc'd After Dark and I'm way more excited about it than any of this.

5. And then suddenly a girl walks in who might actually be too good for all of it. Her name is Leneshe Young. She's adorable. Been in and out of homeless shelters. She sings well. She wrote her own song and it's not awful. I feel an almost-emotion for her prospects on this show, but I'm going to keep it in check. I've been hurt too much ... Carly ... Melinda Doolittle ... I still feel all of it. I can't love a contestant who's not Fantasia or Kelly. They just get the heave-ho and then I spend the rest of the time annoyed by Blake Lewis. As she leaves Seacrest says, "Every cloud has a silver lining." Unless, of course, it doesn't.

The ones who get sent home:

1. A montage of people who are just there to be funny on TV.

2. A hick who's a descendant of the doctor who mended John Wilkes Booth's leg. He's got a scary Deliverance face, and then, because of that and because there's nothing else going on here and the editors were desperate to create some kind of drama and because he makes the grave mistake of exiting the audition room with the words "be careful," he is told that he's just threatened the judges. Paula even scolds him for saying something "not normal" to them. (Think about that for a second, Paula Abdul telling you that you say weird things.) Except for there's this thing where all of those morons are wrong. Having spent a lot of time in the Southern half of the United States and having lived my entire life related to people with names like Etha Jo and male cousins and uncles who just dispense with everything but their initials -- I'm family to C.H., J.D., and H.D., and those are just the ones I can name off the top of my head -- I can state as a fact that "be careful" is just a thing that some people say sometimes, as in "Y'all be careful!" It ain't a threat, it's just Southern. Dumbasses.

3. A woman Simon compares to a donkey. Nice.

4. A guy with a badly made suit and crooked teeth. He's an after-school tutor. Sings a song by Jay and the Americans. Has an adult sippy cup.

5. A hyper guy who shouts "WHOOOOO!" and "I'M HERE TO WORK! THIS IS MY JOB!" You didn't know auditioning could be a full-time job, did you? That's because you don't live in Los Angeles.

6. The woman voted "Most Humorous" by her senior class in high school. Because she's an awful singer, Kara thinks it's all a joke. "Most Humorous," get it? The auditionee begins to cry. Kara feels bad. This is because Kara's new here and still feels human emotions.

Oh, yeah, check this out. I follow-up-question J.V. about the number of people who auditioned on his day way back in 2002. Here's his answer:

"I don't know ... couldn't tell you. Maybe ... 50 or so?"

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Dave White