We’re in the home stretch people. American Idol came to Los Angeles Wednesday night to find its next big superstar, and while I’m not sure if they found what they were looking for, at least we had one hilariously bizarre audition (or should I say, eccentric?), one near certain finalist, and one sweet singer who reduced Paula to a sobbing mess. All and all, a solid hour. However, I’m growing a little weary of the auditions, and I was a little annoyed to learn that we still have yet another city to visit next week. Plus, I’m kind of cranky because I finally saw Tuesday’s episode of House. I waited three weeks for THAT? UGH. Color me displeased.Anyway, as you’ve undoubtedly seen here at TVgasm (nudge nudge), American Idol traveled to Pasadena where “thousands” lined up at the Rose Bowl to audition. I say “thousands” because the producers never gave us a final tally. The line certainly looked big, but it was no Memphis or Birgmingham, with their 10,000+ hopefuls cramming for a shot at the title. What is it about the L.A. crowds? People here just don’t seem to care as much (case in point: Katharine McPhee’s pitiful viewing party).
Well, the numbers may have been slightly low (comparatively), but that just meant a whole bunch of suckers missed out on 2007′s most ubiquitous plasticine face: Olivia Newton John. Yes, fresh from appearing on that other talent competition just three nights prior, Olivia was now lending her tautly-pulled opinions to the wannabes at Idol. And in case anyone doubted her ability to fill the sass-shoes of one miss Carol Bayer Sager, Olivia sported a snappy little shirt that read, “It is what it is.” You go, girl! Treat your bad self to some more Botox! It is what it is!
Anyway, first up was a guy who turned out to be in retrospect the funniest auditioner in Los Angeles, possibly of the season so far (maybe we’ll make a list later on). His name was Martik Manoukian, but he preferred to go be “Eccentric.” (He probably spelled it like “Xentrik.”) Anyway, Martik wished ever so hard he could be black or latino or anything other than his obviously Armenian heritage. His degree of success depends on how deaf and blind you are. He informed us that “I’m very fiery. I’ve got fire equalling three men.” Note that he boasted about this in a completely non-fiery, listless, borderline catatonic voice.
Martik then promised us he’d get into nearly every performing art field from singing and dancing to directing and producing and choreographing and acting and architecture and marine biology and neuroscience and bus driving and philately. Well, maybe not those last few. However, he did inform us of one certainty: “I will get into modeling.” In fact, he’s set to appear on the cover of next month’s issue of “Manicured Goatee Quarterly.”
While all of Martik’s aspirations were certainly admirable, they paled next to his greatest talent: mimicking a panther. Yes, this was his ace in the hole. Martik knew the three important elements of being a panther. I couldn’t tell you what those elements were because I was too busy laughing, but rest assured that he displayed them all — being sure to growl like a big cat in the process.
Ultimately, he proclaimed that he was “the most exciting entertainer on planet Earth,” and I couldn’t disagree. I definitely felt a pure rush when he was on screen — a strong adrenaline boost that stemmed from my temporary panic that humanity as we knew it might be coming to an end with Martik.
Anyway, Martik entered the audition room silently and dramatically, flinging off his sunglasses, then dropping his jacket, and finally removing his shirt. Did I mention that he was still doing the panther thing. And by “thing,” I don’t mean simple growls. I mean getting on all fours and moseying up to the jduges’ table like a terrible yet wonderful reimagining of a Prince video. Amusingly, Paula totally stared him down, a look on her face that seemed to say, “I totally get him.”
Well, Simon eventually interrupted this excellent piece of performance art and requested to hear a song. Happy to oblige, Martik announced he’d be singing his self-penned song (written under the Eccentric name), “Sweetest Princess.”
I literally cannot describe this performance. To say his voice modulated would be an understatement. It was up and down, loud and quiet, human and panther. One thing was for sure: it was consistently awful.
When it was over, Simon gave his signature, “What the hell was that?” He could have been speaking for America. Sure enough the judges rejected Martik, despite his possession of thrice the fire of a normal man. Olivia Newton John tried to let him down easily, saying, “I think you’re very original, but not for American Idol.” She then added, “But let me refer you to my other show, You’re the One That I Want. You’ll be the most talented person there.”
Afterwards, Martik told us, “I might be blowing up as big as Michael Jackson.” He then told us that people get tears in their eyes when they hear him sing. Of course, those would be tears of pain and laughter, but that goes without saying… even though I just said it.
Next up was a guy named Sholandric Stallworth. He babbled on and on about how he was going to be romantic or sing romantically or bring romance back or something like that. He certainly picked a romantic song: “If Ever You’re In My Arms Again” — a favorite when I’m in the dentist’s chair. However, Sholandric kind of undermined its amorous effect by missing every single note. Yes, he was horrendous (shocker), and he served as the perfect segue into all sorts of wacky and terrible singers. There was Angela Mo, a girl we saw for about two seconds but in that time proved to us that she should be fitted with a muzzle STAT. There was Grace Pugal, a woman unafraid to rock the mid-90s 4 Non Blondes top hat (along with an inflatable donkey thing). And of course, there was Sophat Peou, an idiot twentysomething kid dressed like a banana who we actually interviewed here at TVgasm. Apparently, he didn’t like the way he was portrayed on TVgasm and has since complained on the IGN boards that Katie was a total bitch and unnecessarily cruel to him — especially since she outed him to be lacking a girlfriend. Clearly he forgot that he was DRESSED LIKE A FREAKIN’ BANANA. Poor kid. Bananas have feelings too. And hey, I think I know a sexy plantain I can hook him up with.
Well, Sophat didn’t get anything more than a two second wedge in a montage, which was probably all we really needed to see of him anyway. We then moved onto Marianna Riccio, a girl who was born to a former singer and entertainer. I kind of missed her mom’s bio, but I saw that she had her photo taken with Dean Martin; so that’s gotta be worth something. Anyway, Marianna’s mom knew that her daughter was going to be the next Idol because “When she came out of my womb,” she explained, “she was wailing the entire time. It was like mmmm….mmmm…. mmmm….” So…. your daughter really likes the Crash Test Dummies? I don’t get it.
Okay, I kid. Of course her daughter was meant to be a singer. I mean, she wailed upon birthing. No child ever does that! I also heard that Marianna was destined to be a world class bungee jumper because she was born with a chord attached to her body. It’s fate!
Anyway, despite the potential she showed upon egress from the womb, Marianna was fairly bad. She was bland, flat, and annoying. She was so terrible, in fact, that she motivated Simon to brew up his most forced put down of the season: “You sounded like Cher after she’s been to the dentist.” Hahaha… wait, what? That made no sense, Simon.
Well, Marianna immediately dropped to her knees and pathetically begged and cried to go to Hollywood. “I’m on my knees. Please!” she said repeatedly. “I’m on my knees! I’m on my knees!” YES. WE CAN SEE.
Finally, Randy just laid it all out for her. “It’s definitely a thousand percent no for me,” he said. You’d think this would get through to Marianna, but instead, she fetched her mom, who entered the room and testified, “She really is good enough. She really is.” She then added, “In 1984, she released an album called ‘Wails from the Womb.’ It went platinum on the nanny circuit! You have to take her! Please!”
Eventually, Marianna’s mom realized that maybe her daughter might actually be a terrible singer. She comforted her child and left the room with her, leaving Simon to comment, “Mom is foxy!” Like the second coming of Peisha McPhee! Grrrrowl!
After a montage of similarly pathetic beggars, we then met Alaina Alexander, who received the sort of sad background music that only golden tickets are privileged to get. She had moved to Los Angeles to be an actor or singer or whatever, but Alaina soon discovered that “being a struggling performer in L.A. isn’t that much fun.” Yes, that’s because there’s THOUSANDS OF YOU. Anyway, she told us that this was her last shot at entertainment. If she didn’t get this golden ticket, she was giving up. Straw poll: who in America cares? Um… that would be no one.
Anyway, I was fairly turned off by this girl’s subtle mix of bitterness and entitlement (not to mention the fact that she was already giving up on her dream at only 24). Alaina sang a Michael Bublé song (although, J-Unit was quick to point out that it was in fact a Nina Simone tune). Her voice was pretty good, but dammit if she wasn’t totally boring. Simon called her “really, really really great,” and of course, she made it to Hollywood, but I think half that is because of her decent looks (let it be known that she was no Antonella).
Next was Phuong Pham, a sweet Asian girl whose mother had politely told her she was pretty, but “not quite ‘TV pretty.’” Aaand that will be five years of therapy for you, Ms. Pham. Cash or credit?
Anyway, Phuong was a big Taylor Hicks fan because he proved that Idols could be found in the kookiest of people. She was such a Soul Patrol follower that when she walked in the audition room and saw the giant banners in the background, she exclaimed, “Oh my gosh! There’s Taylor!” Please tell me she doesn’t say that every time she sees a photo of him.
Well, Phuong introduced herself to the judges, and rather obnoxiously, Simon repeatedly called her Pong. First time I thought maybe he had misheard, but the second time was so deliberate and unnecessary, that I actually felt badly for the girl. Luckily, she was so nervous and weird that she didn’t even notice Simon’s ethnocentric mockery.
Nevertheless, Phuong butchered her way through “Dancing in the Streets,” certainly living up to her mother’s biggest fears. She was swiftly rejected, and outside, Ryan Seacrest caught up with Phuong as she stood with her clearly shamed mother.
“Who knows?” Phuong said. “Might be back next year!” I kind of expected her mom to suddenly seethe, “NEVER! You have brought great shame to this family with your lack of TV-pretty features! SILENCE!”
Next we met our first good male singer of the night: Brandon Rogers. Like Melinda Doolittle, one of our favorites from last week, Brandon was a backup singer who got his start with Anastasia and has since toured with the likes of Christina Aguilera. Yeah, no need to even sing. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200. Go directly to Hollywood.
Sure enough, Brandon crooned his way through a rich and textured version of “Always On My Mind,” which ended with twin sighs from Paula and Olivia. Oooooh Brandon. So dreamy! Personally, I really want him and Melinda to have a backup singer duel of some sort. Then again, she’s got such low confidence that she’d probably rather hide behind a folding chair than go one on one.
Just as predicted, Brandon got the golden ticket, as well as high praise from the judges, and then we met Sherman Pore, a sixty-three year old dude who had arrived at the auditions with a petition. Hey now. Sixty three is entirely too old. What gives?
We put that thought on pause as we then heard from Brian Miller, a contestant from season five who had made it to Hollywood, only to face tears and rejection (I so don’t remember him). Well, he was back, and more Ray Liotta-ish than ever. Brian belted, and I mean belted, out a song that earned him warm comments from Randy, Olivia, and Paula, but not Simon, who called him forgettable. (As usual, I agreed with Simon). Didn’t matter what the surly Brit had to say. He was in the minority, which meant Brian was going back to Hollywood! See you not in the semifinals!
Now back to Sherman. Ladies, get a tissue. Same goes for you, guys. Sherman had quite the back story. Recently, his “lady love” (I’d normally giggle, but this wasn’t a very giggle-worthy segment) of twenty years had become ill with cancer, and since the outlook was grim, Sherman came up with this strange but lovable idea of petitioning to be on American Idol for her. Every day, he rallied up signatures, and the more that accumulated, the happier Sherman’s lady love became. It brightened her day, and if you’re already feeling your lower lip quiver, you just wait.
Sherman walked into the audition room, and while at first the judges seemed to be raring up for some insults, they were quickly arrested when he mentioned that his wife had become stricken with cancer. He told the whole story about the petition and everything, and Paula was already near tears. Well, in a very sad twist, Sherman then revealed that his wife had pased away just two days before the audition. The panel let out a collective and sincere “Aww,” with Simon adding, “Wow, Sherman!” I couldn’t tell if it was patronizing or just oddly articulated emotion.
Anyway, Sherman then sang “You Belong To Me” and dedicated it to his wife, and dammit if I wasn’t getting misty eyed (even now, just typing about it is a little sad). Of course, I was nothing like Paula who had tears running down her cheeks, but hey, she was justified.
Afterwards, the judges gave Sherman a hearty applause, and Simon even stood up and asked if he could shake his hand. The women hugged him, and Randy shook his hand too, and by the time Sherman told us “I won. I am a winner,” I had a feeling that about 90% of the 35 million people watching this were probably sobbing. But not me. I AM A MAN, DAMMIT!
Well, Olivia and Paula shared an emotional post-Sherman hug, and with that, day one in Los Angeles came to an end. It would have been nice if the show could have finished on that moving note, but instead, we just moved onto a dumb couple from Compton who were both auditioning. They were Cavett Carr (the girl) and Darold Gray (the guy). These two were certainly ghetto fabulous, and Darold seemed prouder of his grill than than Flavor Flav. Cavett was just as big a fan, saying, “I love that flavor!” The two then talked about this frosty kisses and what not (on account of the ice), and then it was time for the auditions.
First up was Cavett, who also went by “Sparkles.” No need to beat around the bush. She was wretched. The judges gave her the big no, but she tried to turn them around by flirting heavily with Simon. I think she even flashed a blowjob gesture at one point.
Darold, who may or may not have been stoned, then stood before the judges, who informed him that his allegedly loyal girlfriend was being quite flirtatious with Simon. Whatevs. “I’m not jealous. Look at my teeth!” he replied, showcasing his grill once again. Well, if only his singing was as commanding as his dental jewelry. Darold was so awful, I’m not sure he was even hitting notes. No, not missing notes. Just simply not doing anything musical at all. Needless to say, this couple would not be consummating their love on the Kodak Theater stage.
Last but not least was Eric Mueller, a blonde oddball who’d been training for this moment for the past two years — even if that meant “basically cutting out my social life.” Sorry, World of Warcraft. MuelWizard69 was taking a break.
Anyway, Eric promised us “I think I’m going to be very big in my lifetime,” and this was immediately followed by the high pitched squeal of his voice, which was not unlike the sound of me scrubbing Windex on my mirror. At best he reminded me of Buster from Arrested Development. At worst, he reminded me of… Buster from Arrested Development.
After some general screwing around, the judges finally told him no, causing Eric to respond with the ever so formal, “Then I take my leave then.” Kind of an odd and underwhelming note to end the show on, but there was one amusing twist. Turned out Eric’s vocal teacher was none other than the cheesy DVD Randy and Paula produced for aspiring singers. This delighted Simon, and he went running out of the room, trying to track down Eric. The other two judges followed, laughter and good-natured pawing occurred out in the hallway, and Ryan and the rest of the spectators looked completely confused. It was all pretty amusing, but again, after Sherman, it was hard to even muster up the energy to finish off this episode.
Luckily, that was the end. Next stop: San Antonio. And then the Hollywood rounds begin. Stay tuned to TVgasm, folks. J-Unit and I have a very special Idol surprise that involves us singing… Great, I’m pretty sure I just overhyped the surprise by merely typing this sentence. You’ll just have to wait to see what it is (but I guarantee it’s nothing nearly as exciting as you might be thinking).
What did you think about the Los Angeles auditions? Who were your favorites? Who’ve been your favorites this season? Which has been the best audition city so far?