By Dan Renzi
I’m not sure if I’ll ever forgive North Carolina for what they put me through.
Going to the small-ish city of Greensboro was a gamble for American Idol;
usually these less-than-cosmopolitan places don’t produce the best
talent. (Remember the Detroit auditions from a few seasons ago? The
worst!) But North Carolina did produce Clay Aiken…and Fantasia,
which is relevant for the 14 of you who bought her album. So why not
just head to the state so stocked with such big success stories?
This is why not.
But wait! I’m getting ahead of myself.
The Greensboro episode started out as a weird homage to Miss America:
young women crying as they told devastatingly morose stories about
overcoming their unfortunate childhoods. After boo-hooing her way
through the tale of her mother abandoning her at the age of 2 and her
father serving time for drug-related crimes, Kelly Pickler wailed
through “Since You’ve Been Gone” (by her hero Kelly Clarkson!) with a
voice a little forced in volume, but lovely in tone. Good singer?
Yes. But it was when she confidently shrugged her shoulders and
queried “You want me to sing something else?” that she officially won
over America. The girl’s a PRO. And yes, they did want her to sing
something else. She got her golden ticket–to which she exclaimed “I
can’t wait to call my grandpa…and write to my dad!” As in, write to
her dad in jail, y’all. Bless her heart.
But that’s just the warm-up. Enter Kendra Wilson, 24 and a single
mother of three. You think you got problems, Kelly Pickler? Pickle
this, girlfriend! I was a ward of the court! As in, Kendra was an
orphan. That trumps “dad-in-jail” stories any day. Again, her
confident attitude made her shine, even though Simon didn’t groove on
her singing. He didn’t say it, but you could tell he thought she was
this season’s Vonzell Solomon: nice girl, nice voice, nothing special,
destined to sing dance remixes played at gay nightclubs. She got the
golden ticket anyway. But unlike all the other golden ticket
recipients who lose their minds and look like those women on Oprah
during the “My Favorite Things” episodes, she kept her cool. Kendra
just hugged her kids, stood up, and waved her ticket at them. ”That
means I’m leaving you,” she said. She was kidding. I hope.
But other than the Miss America clones, Greensboro was pretty much a
downhill slide into a pit of tragedy, as the judges bluntly informed
contestant after contestant that they should never sing again. And
the contestants were wrecked. Devastated. Rhonda Jones–the
self-proclaimed “cross between Carrie Underwood and Britney
Spears”–sounded like she was taking hits from a hidden tank of helium
somewhere, and they cut her with very little fanfare. But still she
persisted. ”Please!” she begged. “I want this more than a whole bag
of gummy bears!” These are the people who will kill you in your
sleep, you know, the girls with the hidden rage. The gummy bear girls
are the ones to watch out for.
We did see a familiar face in Greensboro: Tyra Juliette Schwartz, who seemed to
confuse the Idol auditions with being a guest of a daytime talk show,
and grabbed every opportunity to tell the world how hard her life is.
(“I took an 11-hour bus ride here! I caught my boyfriend cheating on
me while I was recovering from surgery!”) Apparently Tyra appeared on
Making The Band 3, but Diddy cut her when she couldn’t dance. She got
the golden ticket to Hollywood this time around, although just barely.
At least she is persistent. Perhaps she should drop the singing and
start selling AmWay. She’d make millions.
Much of the Greensboro auditions episode was devoted to seeing which
contestant could make Paula Abdul feel the most uncomfortable. Who
wins? Let’s see: there’s ventriloquist Richard Garland, who brought
his puppet “Scotty” as a sign of love “for Paula,” which made no
sense, but maybe I missed something. Scotty was the kind of puppet
that gives kids nightmares, as it chattered away in a Chucky-esque
voice. You could tell it almost made Miss Abdul reach into her purse
and grab at that emergency stash of pills. She couldn’t really
respond with anything other than “That’s so freaky.” Over and over.
No dice for Richard. Or Scotty.
But they weren’t as freaky as Steven David, Jr., who showed up to the
auditions whoring himself out in his military uniform like he was a
contestant on The Price Is Right (If it worked for Josh Gracin, it
can work for me!!) and insisted Paula dance with him while he sang.
Always looking for a chance to humiliate each other, Randy and Simon
literally pulled Paula around the table and shoved her into her
suitor’s arms, as he whined his way through “Let’s Get It On.” Decent
voice, but skeevy.
He did get the golden ticket, but more because he
will be good for ratings in the next few episodes before he is cut
because he can’t sing that well. Nevertheless, he picked up Paula and
carried her out the door, “Clan Of The Cave Bear” style, and paraded
her in front of his family. While utterly ignoring his wife. You can
tell he does that kind of crap all the time. I hope that guy gets the
“Can you believe she wanted me to drink from her? She can drink from ME!”
Oops! That slipped out. I can’t hold myself back! Hang on just a
little while longer–
A few other singers made it through, of course: We met Paris Bennett,
granddaughter of Ann Nesby, who was a member of the Grammy
award-winning gospel phenomenon Sounds Of Blackness. They’re awesome,
if you haven’t heard them before. And just like Grandma, Little Miss
Bennett can absolutely sing her ass off. Singing two songs and
switching from Dixie Chicks to Billie Holliday, her voice had a
haunting quality that will give you chills no matter what she wraps
her vocal cords around. Versatility is the key, it shows true
talent. I say she’s Top Ten for sure.
We also met Halicra Thompson, who auditioned with the theme song of “A
Different World,” which was almost odd, except she sounded fantastic.
And she was cool as hell. We’ll see her in Hollywood. If she doesn’t
make it, I want her to come be my next door neighbor so we can hang
But the bad auditions persisted. When Marcus Behling opened his
mouth, out of it came a sound I cannot fully explain. The judges
asked him where he learned how to sing; he meekishly replied “Paula
and Randy’s DVD,” which is titled “Learn To Sing Like A Star.” Randy
found it funny; Paula did not. Simon, of course, had an orgasm on the
spot, knowing no matter what happens for the rest of his life, he had
nothing to do with the DVD that taught Marcus Behling how to sing.
Marcus continued to plead for another chance, but the three judges
were much more interested in ridiculing each other to even remember
Marcus was still in the room. So Marcus went out into the parking lot
and smashed the DVD with a hammer.
And just as you’re wondering why you sat through TWO HOURS of this
garbage, this pointless mind-rot…you meet Rhonetta.
I can’t stop thinking about her. That sequined tube top, the blond
wig, those shoes. She is my new hero. After announcing to the world
she was the next superstar ready to bloom, she walked into the room
with the same unfounded confidence that inspires Jamacians to enter
the Olympic bobsled competition. To break the ice, she began mimicing
Britney Spears, and actually didn’t sound too bad; but when she
hunkered down for her actual singing, it was the boring/awful fare
typical of this whole audition process.
Politely rejected by all
three judges–really, they were surprisingly polite–she walked out
the door, and launched into a tirade saturated with censor-bleeps that
put her on VH1′s clip list for “Best Week Ever” for sure.
She was so flummoxed that she would be cut, to the point many of her
profanity-laden insults basically made no sense. But who cares?? It
was funny as hell.
Rhonetta back on the day job.
But she knows she will be more famous than any other Idol in history.
She knows this for a fact. How does she know this? She let us in on
her secret: “Because my motherf#&%ing Psychic Friends told me!” I
love Rhonetta so much.
It will be on the internet soon, no doubt. Watch for it.
Dan Renzi is a guest columnist for TVgasm. He’ll be back on TV yet
again in February as a host of some intro specials for the
never-ending Real World on MTV. His kick-ass blog is at