While a hundred giddy hopefuls squirmed in their seats next door, the American Idol judges held one of the more vapid press conferences I've ever attended. Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson had barely been in the Piedmont twelve hours before they took a break from passing out tickets to Hollywood long enough to address the local press. The wacky morning guys from 98.7 Simon set the tone for this important news summit by warbling an off-key rendition of 'Happy Birthday' to their supposed namesake. "Thanks, fellows" said Cowell, who turns 46 on Friday, "but your voices are dreadful." Simon's quip sparked a few giggles amid the press pack, but after they died down, an uncomfortable silence fell over the overlit room.
Pulling back from the viewfinder, I looked around at the familiar faces gathered around my tripod. Hardened news faces from local print and broadcast outlets stared back at the celebrities, momentarily stunned that this triple-headed monster was indeed in the Gate City. Cowell, Abdul and Jackson stared back, uncertain what was about to follow. Mercifully, my colleague Shannon Smith broke the impasse with a harmless salvo. " So, what are you guys looking for in Greensboro?" Her question got the ball rolling nicely. The trio, who have a habit of speaking at the same time, told the scribes and lensmen how delighted they were to be holding auditions away froma major metro area, how they'd already seen more fresh faces and excited attitudes than the last big city they visited.
True or not, the journalists nodded and scribbled, as if these three showbiz oracles were revealing great truths nstead of pimping the upcoming season of a banal talent contest. About that time, Ryan Seachrest popped in and joined the panel, dashing all hopes of serious exchange against the shores of winking grab-ass. 'Hey, where's some of that good bar-b-cue?" asked Randy. "Lexington, Stamey's, Smokey Joe's," came the responses. I don't want to reveal my own culianry inclinations, but let's just say if an out-of-town limo pulls up outside Prissy Polly's in Kernersville tonight, someone owes me a check.
A few more questions and snarky answers followed, most centering on Simon's age, Paula's lovelife and Randy's vocabulary. I'd like to share the details with you, but between juggling lenses and fending off exhaustion, I soon lost interst in this most meaningless of media encampments. Truth is, I was just happy to be at the end of a very long week, ready to flush my mind of all this thwarted vocal ambition and focus on something I found infinitely more interesting: ConvergeSouth. See ya there...