For those of you coming over to this column after reading the first one, congratulations. You should consider entering yourself in some sort of endurance contest. I know my editor hates me right now. Personally and professionally. Now, where were we? Oh yes, the show is just about to start. And here we go! Seacrest's voice welcomes us to the MGM Grand Garden Arena and also welcomes us to Las Vegas. How nice.
I always say that every good show should start off with a montage, and this one certainly does. We see the cast of cute kids making their way through Las Vegas. Hey! I was on Fremont Street once! Wow! Ryan Starr and Nikki rip down the Strip on motorcycles being pulled by a truck. Ryan looks ridiculously hot tonight. The primal part of my brain begins wrestling with the sensible part that likes good conversation. I think I already know who will win.
The kids run into the MGM Grand, through the casino and into the arena! There they are! Your American Idols! And twenty other people, too. The kids hurtle down the aisles, up onto the stage and give it their all. For some, that's not very much. Big finish and...pyro! Boom! Nobody got hurt, so that was a good pyro effect.
Sitting on the steps like a casual guy, Seacrest introduces Kelly's new song, "Before Your Love." She rides an elevator platform up to the top of the stage. I bet that was fun. And dangerous. However, she immediately begins to walk down the steps. Did she get off at the wrong floor? But forget all that. Look at Kelly's hair! It's huge. She must've spent some time back in Texas recently.
Interlaced with Kelly's performance tonight are clips from her music video. She looks damn hot in the video. Unlike, say, me. Kelly's fake video boyfriend surprises her on her birthday with a kegger. $5 for a red plastic cup, all you can drink.
Over with our resident happy boys, Kelly says she shot the video in Los Angeles before coming to Las Vegas. What a jetsetter! Kelly also professes her love for the video's director, Ente. Anti? Auntie? I don't know how to spell it, but I'm sure he has a soul patch and yellow sunglasses. I also know that if he's a one-name music video director, you can expect a horrible action movie from this guy sometime in the next five years. It'll star Joshua Jackson and be called something like "Death Bomb!"
Time for "California Dreamin'." All the leaves are brown, and we've heard this song before, heard this song beforrrrrrre. I zip through my mental Rolodex, desperately trying to figure out who's who. Roberta? No, Rodesia! That's her! And look! There's...uh...that guy. On another note, somebody should inform Kristin Holt that the top of head ponytail went out with Bananrama.
Back from the break, and we go straight into a medley featuring the girls from the finals. The show isn't wasting any time tonight with witty banter or forced insults. We're just going right into the songs. During the girls' number, there is a ton of exposed belly on stage. And absolutely zero interest in me. Damn! Out to meet the girls come the boys. There's little Jimmy Verraros, wearing another sleeveless shirt and making his little Jimmy Verraros faces. And EJay has apparently borrowed Justin's hair in an attempt to boost his popularity.
A.J. punctuates his solo with a big hip grind. Huh. I noticed that Justin's hair is going more down than out at this point. He's starting to look like Richie Sambora. I have to admit I have no idea why he's so popular with the ladies. Maybe this is why I'm so bad with them. I don't know what they want. Here's the extent of my female-based knowledge. They like Justin and they don't like me. But where's that get me?
Christina takes her turn and belts out a big voice. Where's she been hiding that? Maybe she can sing better now that her belt is around her hips instead of her waist. It was holding her back before, I guess. EJay takes his place, and again he's got some kind of rope-like thing hanging from his waist. Can't any of these kids just wear a nice, sensible brown belt? EJay gets a big cheer from the crowd. They love his voice. Unfortunately, they hate his face. Hey! Here come the other twenty! We missed you guys! At this moment, something disturbing happens. Jimmy Verraros freshly winks to the crowd. Who in the world was that to? I can't imagine that making anybody swoon.
Okay, it's time to clear out all those non vote-getting suckas to make some room for Justin. He'll be doing "For Once In My Life." Again. Justin's dad is in town, so I expect to see about ten shots of him in the crowd singing along. Justin starts off on the platform, like Kelly did, and walks down the steps, like Kelly did. Why are they even sending them up there?
Now it's time for some taped fun. All of the girls are out in the middle of the desert. I look for Snoopy's brother, Spike, but he's nowhere to be found. However, I do find King Solomon's harem. Where did these outfits come from? I'm waiting for the girls to be attacked by a giant, irradiated scorpion. Hopefully Raquel Welch will save them.
The girls all look pretty uncomfortable in the blazing heat. Which probably explains why their lyrics have been sweetened to a remarkable degree. We cut to a new scene, and now instead of just standing around, the girls are riding through the desert in a Humvee. I know you can't do much quality singing while zipping through the desert in an open-topped car, but the lip-syncing here looks like a Japanese monster movie. "Oh no! Decahedron smashing girls in desert! Osaka next! Happy not! Ahhhhhhhhh!"
Kristin Holt gets a little solo time. It's 106 degrees out and she's sitting on a rock that even an iguana would avoid right now. I assume she's extremely irritated. But she still has that pleasant, "Hello, everything's super!" pageant smile on her face. Somebody reprogram this girl, please. Panning right from Kristin, we get Tanesha. Panning right from Tanesha, we get...Kristin again? Bwuh?
After all that fun outside in the heat, we get real with Tamyra's rendition of "A House is not a Home." She's so serious about this song. I feel like I'm being yelled at. Sexily yelled at. Tamyra is so into this performance, I wonder if she's had this conversation with a boyfriend before. If so, I'm sure he didn't leave her after hearing it. He probably apologized profusely and then bought her something.
Let's have a little dose of Ryan Starr now. Oh, look at that. Her belly is showing. There's a change of pace. I guess I shouldn't complain. I'm admiring it as much as anybody. Still, I feel a little like Rich Gere after too much time with Cindy Crawford. Yeah, you're hot, but enough already.
Ryan starts off her song peeking out from behind the oft-used stairs. Is she lost or just playing hide and seek? Her song is "Last Dance." In the crowd, three little extreme skater types go nuts at the sight of her. Ryan claims to design her own clothes. Although it seems to me that she just buys existing clothes, cuts them into pieces, then ties the scraps on various body parts. If I go out to eat, cut up my fish and put it on my bread plate, that doesn't make me a chef. And yes, my unrequited crush on Ryan has manifested into dislike. I know it, you know it, let's all move on.
And when we move on, let's party! With a disco medley! Celebrate good times! C'mon! Let's celebrate! During the medley, the guys have their turn out in the desert heat. Chris Badano and Khaleef Chiles give us very delicate solos. The very deep "Whoo hoo! Yeah!" we hear during "Celebration" is definitely not coming from one of the guys on the show. It's way too masculine. Badano accents his solo with a little pop and lock routine. Very little. Khaleef accents his by holding the microphone upside down. He's taking things to a whole new level.
This disco medley is beginning to look like a huge Hype Williams video. I'm waiting for Mase to pop out for his solo. The girls start singing "It's Raining Men," and two tall columns of steam shoot up every time they sing "men." Is that a metaphor? If so, it's a particularly dirty one. Hey! What did Natalie Burge just do? That is some serious hip grinding! She's only 17 for crying out loud! Kids these days! She's sticking it right in my face!
Brad Estrin gets a little screen time during the medley too. I've finally figured who he reminds me of. He's like the little buddy in a '50s street gang. He doesn't say much and he doesn't do much. His name is probably Jimmy and the bigger greasers protect him. He wears a hand-me-down newsie cap and has holes in the toes of his shoes. Then, in a big rumble, he gets stuck by a blade and dies, rallying the gang. "Let's get those punks! For Jimmy!" "Yeah! For Jimmy! Wait, which one was he?"
Toward the end of disco fever, the guys and gals pair off into couples. Verraros cuddles with Ryan Starr. The skater dudes yell at Jim not to touch her. One may have whipped his Code Red Dew at him. The kids are yelling vile, nasty things. Most of which are unprintable. Still, they raise a good point. I mean, look at Jim's collar.
After a big group performance like that, a nice, smooth solo would be a good change of pace. So for your listening enjoyment, here's Christina Christian. She apparently spent the last two weeks growing her hair, because it is very long tonight. Five seconds into her song, something goes wrong and she stops. Oops. You won't be seeing that on the show. It's a Jaded Journalist exclusive! During the break to fix whatever it was that went wrong, Dunkleman cracks that he's sweating "like R. Kelly on prom night." Is that a new bit? Or is he running "Best of Dunk" today? Okay, they get everything straightened out and we're back on.
Watching at home later, it's like nothing ever happened. The song starts and goes on without a hitch. The magic of editing! Christina, like everybody else, incorporates walking down the stairs into her performance. At this point, I start really hoping somebody later will sing while walking up the stairs, just to change things up. Christina looks exceptionally beautiful tonight, and is proudly wearing a necklace she bought at a roadside stand on the way back from that desert video shoot. Her song is going quite nicely when...oh no! The whitey clap attacks again! Somebody stop it! Please!
We go to another break, and those of us in the audience get to hear Dunkleman now crack, "I'm sweating like Michael Jackson at a daycare center." He's 2 for 2! Can I get "I'm sweating like a priest on a field trip?"
Back from said break, and RJ is playing host now. Apparently he got punched in the chest before going onstage, because he's holding his pecs tightly. Playing through pain, he introduces Tamyra's solo. She sits on the edge of the stage for "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." The crowd cheers when they think the song is over, but there's a little bit left. That always cracks me up. I may be the only one, though.
One thing I don't think anybody expected out of tonight's show was a country medley. And yet here it is. Sort of. They have a fiddle, which is pretty country, but my rule is "no slide guitar, no country." Khaleef starts us off with a little hip hop MC country. The best part of the medley is watching RJ and Christina stare at each other when singing their duet. Either these two are fantastic actors, or they're ready to take each other on the spot. Such lust in their eyes! Speaking of RJ, remember that photo shoot a while back when he said he was a little shy about going sleeveless? And the photographer gave him a little pep talk? Since that moment, I haven't seen RJ in sleeves even once. That shutterbug should think about becoming a motivational speaker or something.
Two big questions come to mind toward the end of the country medley. Why "Footloose?" And why "Footloose" in a country medley? Those questions will have to remain unanswered for now, because these kids are dancing their little hearts out. Natalie Burge winds up for a huge pelvic thrust on "buh-bum," and the camera quickly cuts away before the letters start pouring in from Oklahoma. What's gotten into this girl?
After Honky Tonk Idol closes, we see a montage of Kelly's media flurry. She's really racking up the frequent flier miles. Which, of course, she doesn't need since she's rich. I just don't get why people keep hyping her as a former cocktail waitress. She was 20 when she did that. If they called everybody a former whatever they did when they were 20, we'd all be huge success stories. "And today, the CEO of Global Tech, a former babysitter, is an inspiration that we all can do it!"
I feel a big moment coming on. Sure enough, it's time for Kelly's duet with a special surprise guest. Which I ruined in the first part of the recap. Yes, it's Reba. By the way, tonight the hosts are redefining "extraneous."
This is a weird song Kelly and Reba are singing. They're arguing about which one a cheating man loves more. Meanwhile, the guy gets in no trouble. Who is this cat? Lorenzo Lamas? Reba is moving around a lot when she sings. Kelly, meanwhile, impersonates a totem pole. Different styles, I guess.
Back from another break, hopefully our last of the evening, and Ryan and Brian are with a little girl named Jenna in the audience. She says one line and effectively matches Dunk's output for the night.
So we've come this far, you've read so much, let's close things up with a nice, peppy Motown medley. The kids start off in the audience, so you know this will be fun. What definitely is fun is looking at EJay and A.J. in leather jackets. They look just like bikers. Notice I didn't say what kind of bikers. But A.J. looks like Adrian Zmed playing Danny Zuko in an Greenwich Village production of Grease.
During RJ's solo, little Jim Verraros is making the most unbelievable faces behind RJ. What the hell is he doing back there? Is this a prank? Nope, he's serious. He makes the same faces during his solo. He pulls out the wink too. I guess that's a part of his official repertoire now, just like holding the mic up high to his mouth and scrunching his shoulders and generally looking like a wanker.
Toward the end of the medley, the remaining twenty come on out. This must be enjoyable for them. Could you imagine if one of the twenty complained to the producers about stage time? "Hey, why can't we come out earlier?" "Well, the final ten are better than you and people want to see them more." "Oh. (long pause, single tear) I see." Humbling.
To almost close the show, it only makes sense to have a Kelly solo, right? She won, right? You didn't forget that, did you? They decide to blind the audience with floodlights to make the moment special. You know, this is a pretty sappy song. An angry guy like me enjoys it when people sing about heartbreak and car accidents. Not this, "You're the greatest ever! I love you! I need you! Incomplete without you!" stuff.
To actually close the show, the kids give a semi-stirring and not at all convincing rendition of "That's What Friends Are For." The twenty pariahs get to be out for the whole song this time. That's nice. To toughen up after the Motown medley, A.J. has changed into a prison shirt and one long, black glove. Thanks. That helps.
The song comes to a close, the lights come up and by now this article has probably put many of you to sleep. But the night isn't over yet for us AMERICAN IDOL party types. Whenever you put on a fabulous TV show like this, you need to celebrate with an afterparty. And they do. Somehow, I finagle my way into it. People probably just figured I was some intern or something. I have a feeling if the kids knew who I really was, I'd have been thrown out of the party and severely beaten by Nikki, the toughest one of the group. But I get to stay. And I saw things. Yeah, I saw a few things.
The afterparty is at a restaurant in the MGM Grand that goes by "Olio." They have gelato there, so this should be a rocking good time. Our group grabs a corner table and stakes our claim. Suddenly I feel like Puff Daddy, except without the money, white suit and criminal record. I do start inventing new lyrics to popular '80s songs, however. Puffy style! Yeah! Unh!
One fun thing about glittery gatherings like this is that everything is free. I have slightly gluttonous tendencies, so I make a point of pulling a toothpick off of every single waitered tray that comes my way. I eat many different mini-foods and every time my beer manages to empty itself, a fresh one stops by the table. And look! The AMERICAN IDOL kids are starting to trickle in. Fun is on its way!
Each and every one of the thirty is in attendance, and I'm desperately hoping for a drunken brawl, makeout session or combination of the two that I can blow the lid off of. So far, nothing. I scan the room to see if I'm missing any action. Unfortunately, I'm not. These kids are more of the "sit around and try to look cool" variety, as opposed to the "stand on a table and remove clothing" variety. I do notice Ryan Starr trying to crawl into Adriel's pocket, however. Adriel is playing things very cool. Either he's completely socially inept and has no idea what Ryan is trying to get at, or he's the smoothest operator in the history of the universe. I know if I was sitting on a couch-type thing in dimly-lit bar, and Ryan purred up next to me and said "Hi," I'd quickly blurt out, "Hi! I love you! Marry me please! I started house shopping last week! We'll have two dogs and vacation in Orlando!" Adriel, on the other hand, seems to limit his responses to "Uh huh."
Chris Aaron is wearing a fedora and looking cool as always. RJ alternately looks very happy and very angry, which is about on par for him. Brad Estrin works the entire room looking for a job. I feel bad for the kid and ask if he wants to be my new assistant. He takes a pass when I tell him no, you won't be on camera. He decides to ask Inside Edition if they need a third alternate weekend field reporter. Jim Verraros is here and wearing another studded belt. How many of those things does he have. The answer should be "zero," but it seems to be around eleven. Nikki McKibbin is on the prowl and angry about something, which I know is a new look for her, so let's just avoid her for awhile, shall we?
About five beers and a whole lotta confidence later, I begin begging the publicity liaison I'm with to introduce the Jaded Journalist to Christina Christian. Yes, when drunk I refer to myself in the third person. It's really the best time to do such a thing. The liaison is a little iffy on the idea, and by "little iffy" I mean dead set against it.
"C'mon, man! Just go over and say, 'The Jaded Journalist' would like to meet you.' I'll watch from here and let's see what happens. It'll be a hoot. And anyway, where's that dude with the skewers?" Fearing that Christina will slap me in front of the party people over here and the party people over there, the liaison declines again. So, nothing happened. And realizing that nothing was going to happen that involved me keeping my job or not being arrested, I decided to gamely stumble into the casino floor.
I was up about $100 when I realized it was about 3:10am. Considering that I had to get up at 9:00am to catch a flight home, that's a touch late. But I wasn't tired. Casinos swear that they don't pump oxygen into the house to keep people awake. I swear that if I'm on my couch at home, I'm usually out before the local news. And I mean the 6:00 local news. So whatever it is, and I can't imagine it's the thrill of $5 poker with strangers, I'm wide awake.
Still, I decide it's time to pack it in. Just as I think, "Self, one more hand," to myself, I see EJay Day aimlessly wandering the floor. And here's where my brain checked out and went back to the room, leaving my sexy body behind. "Hey, let's play cards with EJay Day," I think. Should be great! "EJay! Come on over, man!" EJay sizes me up, figuring I'm just some derelict fan that loved his superstar turn on AMERICAN IDOL. This is one day after he saw me about 20 times, and two of those times I jammed a video camera in his face. I just cannot make an impression on these kids. The worst part, I could not care less if they like me, but it kills me when they don't remember me. What the hell is my problem?
So EJay and I get to talking about absolutely nothing, and I sort of notice, but not really, that my stack of chips is disintegrating. Also, I have no idea what the dealer had the past three hands. To finally end this meaningless tale, I end being up $0. So basically, I spent $100 to talk with EJay Day for fifteen minutes. Thanks for the luck, sport. Have fun on that tour. And make sure they put you on a different bus from everybody else.
So there you have it. No fear, no loathing, no jokes, no entertainment. Just a whole bunch of stuff that happened in Las Vegas.