If you saw the line of brightly-attired strangers loitering along Greene Street this morning and wondered when the Marriott booked the Body Glitter Convention, relax - it’s just day two of the American Idol auditions. The hopefuls arrived early. Before the sun even rose above the Gate City, they emerged from the mist - lacquered, coiffed, and more than a little starry-eyed. Who can really blame them? Just yesterday, they joined the Great Unwashed outside the Greensboro Coliseum, a giddy, warbling crowd of 85 hundred strong, yearning for a shot at fleeting fame. Today, they are part of the select few - one of only a couple hundred superstar-wannabes asked to return for a second crack at the same old song.
Those who made it to round two were strikingly diverse. Grown men in two shades of liner gabbed happily with street-tough ladies in tats and gold teeth. A tall lanky fellow in denim and a cowboy hat swapped tips and e-mail addresses with a squat fellow straight out of a video from The Cure. Shapely young women sporting cleavage, midriff and blonde ambitions batted their eyes at two young men who could double as Greek statues. Amid it all, I cruised the scene with my own average looks - pausing occasionally to let the seven hundredth consecutive person tell my camera “I AM the next American Idol!” Rather than argue with them, I merely nodded and smiled behind the viewfinder while I scanned the crowd for the forlorn and the photogenic.
Needless to say, it was a target rich environment. Just a few divas down, a young Air Force Sergeant fidgeted and squirmed, turning on his heels to pace back and forth until he wore a shoe-shined groove in the sidewalk. I tracked him with my lens and picked up on his misery. Honing my focus, I followed him on the tiny screen at the end of the eyecup, not sure whether he was about to burst into song, drop and pop off fifty push-ups or commandeer my new cell phone and call in an air strike. I’m happy to report that later in the afternoon, the good Sergeant made the cut, passing on to round three and keeping the Republic safe for at least another fortnight. Let’s just hope Paula, Simon and randy dig his stripes come Thursday. Otherwise, I’m digging that bomb shelter I’ve put off for so long.
A few feet away from Sergeant Hard-Rock, a smiley young lady from Saginaw Michigan bounced what may be the world’s cutest baby. With an accent straight out of the movie ‘Fargo’, she explained how her young daughter really didn’t mind spending the day in line. From the look on the baby’s face, Mom was right. Had I tried the same thing with my own daughters when they were that age, they would have surely spewed, levitated and scored their own reality show. Luckily for the child, Mom’s pipes eventually came up short and she was banished form the land of All things Idol. The last I saw of her, she was tearfully hugging a fellow contestant she’d bonded with in line, the adorable child sleeping mercifully under the crush of heaving bosoms.
Of course, those who expected a private audience with the celebrity judges got a surprise once they entered the Marriott. Thrust a copy of the lyrics from the song ‘Fame’, twenty-somethings in Idol Crew shirts encouraged all who would listen to learn the song. To help drive home that point, someone cranked up the Irene Cara hit to somewhere past eleven. By the fifteenth time it played over the loudspeaker, everyone within earshot was singing along - including a certain news shooter with literary aspirations. About that time, I lost full control of my senses, seeing only what passed through my viewfinder and hearing none of it. Before I knew it, fifteen hours had passed and I slouched back to the live truck for the last time, knowing I’d have plenty of time to tell you all about what happened inside the auditions when I returned on Wednesday to do the whole bloody thing over again. Don’t touch that dial...