Sunday, September 09, 2007

Rot of the Juggernaut

Idol WannabesBy now, most everyone is over American Idol - including Simon Cowell. Strolling out of his limo at the various audition cities, the lumpy Brit now pushes past the ever-rolling Idol cameras with a accented grimace, late for a date with another pack of Kools. Seven seasons into the show that made him famous, he seems sick of the reality show role he helped pioneer. Either that or he’s genuinely pissed at the state of modern American songmanship. Quicker than ever to dismiss borderline talent, demand another smoke break or disparage Ryan Seacrest, he huffs and puffs through the protrcted audition process as if he's racked with constipation. Watching him roll his eyes at pop-star wannabes and producers alike, one gets the feeling he'd be a whole lot happier back in his English castle, mass-ironing his vast collection of undersized muscle shirts. I'd almost feel sorry for him, were he not pulling down such incredible bank. Overpaid or not though, Simon Cowell's infamous testiness is no act. He is, in truth, a douche bag. But you might be too if your job entailed weeks of dawdling in stateside convention centers, chewing on pencils and wishing for death as both the sincere and the psychotic go for their high note.
Thus begins my account of the American Idol Charleston auditions, a rambling report I can only dole out in pieces - lest I reveal any early season secrets that might throw the Earth off its axis.
The contestants still believe. Decked out in their micro-skirts/pink tuxedos/Goth robes/body paint, they fidget and pace under an American Idol placard, amping themselves up for the musical epiphany that's about to follow. Feet twitch, eyes dart , lyrics are recited. Amid this quiet clamor, a bored army of camera operators, soundmen, producers and assistants mill about, comparing wisecracks and favorite tattoos as the faint sound of a female(?) voice singing bleeds through the conventions center's retractable walls. By now, the faces behind the fanfare are familiar: the stylist with the designer swish, the short and swarthy cameraman with the dragon t-shirt and sculpted biceps, the harried production chick - the one clopping around in cowboy boots and clipboard. Wardrobe choices aside, they all wear earpieces which regularly causes them to jerk their heads in unison as they listen to an unseen Idol operative planted deeply in the celebrity judges chambers. "Heads Up!" Like a flock of birds taking off all at once, they swivel into place - pointing their lenses and attention to a well-lit wooden door. Suddenly it bursts open and the globe's most effeminate gang-banger bounds out, clutching a yellow piece with one hand and his crotch in one hand. "I'M GOING TO HOLLYWOOD!"
Despite the rhyming title, I'm certain the show will once again rule the national zeitgeist. Money, momentum and the mediocre hokum that passes for televised entertainment these days.
He rarely sits. Sure, he'll pause over that bank of monitors and put his headphones on - but only for a minute. When he does, a grin often breaks out across his perfectly manicured stubble, he'll laugh and nod at the verdicts playing out in the next room. Other times, you'll find him reading cheesy intro's off a field teleprompter as the four person crew from his gig at E! twist knobs and scrunch their L.A. brows. Mostly though, he can be spotted cavorting with anxious family members - hugging grandmas, high-fiving toddlers, interviewing any housepets that made the trip. All the while two camera crews cover his every move, rolling freely as he ad-libs segues and charms everyone in the room. Once, whiel interviewing a hopeful vocalist's hyperventilating mother, he reached out and demanded she spit out her gum. She did and he held the green glob in his hand as blathered on about her boy Paco's every hope and dream. Only when Paco exits with slumped shoulders and muttered curses does he hand the chewed-up gum to an assistant - at which time an LA based stylist swoops in and plucks at his spiky coifs. Rest in Peace, James Brown. Ryan Seacrest IS the hardest working man in show business. He's also a hell of a nice guy. His Southern-bred people skills almost make up for the placated jackholes behind Door Number Three.
I could go on, but I'll save it for the paperback edition. For now, just know that I volunteer for these Idol gigs for the constant reminder they provide that money, fame, even a hit single cannot purchase one's contentment. It can, however, buy you one hell of a pair of wrap-around shades...

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