The Idol gang swept into Oklahoma City, Oklahoma hoping that the next American Idol comes sweeping down the plain. Thousands of Sooner hopefuls lined up at the Devon Boathouse for their shot at Idol fame.
First up, was Missouri's own, Karl Skinner, who was fresh off the bus after being discovered during the Idol small town bus tour. Karl brought his ginger soul to "I Feel Good" by James Brown as well as an original composition. This guitar slinging, soul singing, dancing fool impressed the judges and won a ticket to Hollywood.
While the judges were hoping for a beautiful morning of musical masters, those hopes were dashed by a string of missed notes, musical mayhem, and a healthy dose of weird. But then the crappy singer clouds parted and we met twenty-four year old Nate Tao from Reston, Virginia.
Nate's an American Sign Language teacher who grew up with two deaf parents. He charmed the judges and impressed them with his version of Stevie Wonder's "For Once in My Life." Keith thought his singing was "effortless" and Randy liked the fact that Nate looks like an accountant. When he left the room, ticket in hand, his Dad gave him a big hug and taught Ryan to sign "superstar" in honor of his superstar son making it to Hollywood.
Uh, then, something really weird happened----our first ever, human / puppet duo. We met twenty-seven year old Haley Hilbert and her ten-year-old friend Oscar. For the sake of clarity, Haley is the human. First Haley sang "I Want To Be A Cowboy's Sweetheart" by Patsy Montana, but the judges were both impressed and put-off by Oscar's persistent yodeling. So, Haley ditched the dog and sang a solo version of "More Than Anyone" by Gavin DeGraw. Smart move Haley, you're going to Hollywood. Oscar, however, was last seen panhandling and dumpster-diving in OKC!
Uh, then, something even weirder than a ventriloquist duo act happened! People of planet Earth prepare for the invasion! Prepare to be amazed! Prepare, if you dare, for the crazy talkin', booty shakin', Tulsa thunderin', wonder known as Zoanette Johnson! Between her demure disposition, speaking to her imaginary friend Barack Obama, and singing the National Anthem, Francis Scott Off-key-style, the judges were pulled into her vortex and compelled to say Yes! She's going to Hollywood.
We came back to a montage of rejected contestant carnage and a crying jag that makes one of those very special Oprah specials look like a laugh-fest. One guy was sobbing uncontrollably even though he got a Yes! Dude, cry me a freakin' river! Hey, wait a minute. That would be a great song!
Even our next contestant, Anastacia Freeman, started out ballin' her eyes out with Ryan, who gallantly handed her a men's room napkin to dry her tears. But she pulled it together, fell off of her high-heeled shoes, and finally made it before the judges. Anastacia said she was compelled to audition after she had a vision of God (who looked suspiciously like a cloud of second-hand smoke) who told her that she was the next American Idol.
The twenty-five year old stay-at-home mom, uh, well, uh, maybe should have stayed home. Her version of Toni Braxton's "Unbreak My Heart" earned her a unanimous no. In the parking lot, Anastacia gave us a piece of her God-fearin' mind as she ripped up her contestant badge, noted that Nicki "worships the devil," and threatened not to come back next year. You see? This is why the Insider feels that the Supreme Being should stay out of showbiz!
And then we had a big ol' dose of perspective, thanks to sixteen year old, Kaden Stephenson, who is afflicted by Cystic Fibrosis, faces a shortened life, but damn does this cool kid dream and live big! Yes, the Insider is crying. Shut up, ya'll! This little charmer buttered up Mariah and sang his heart out on Stevie Wonder's "I Wish." Bam! This little, baby Bieber is going to Hollywood!
And finally, our last Oklahoma contestant, "Pepper" came on stage. The judges were a bit taken aback because (a) Pepper was clearly too old for the competition and (2) the lady looked like a dude. Former judge Steven Tyler, aka Pepper, stopped by to offer some impromptu best wishes and to moon our cameras as we said goodbye to OKC!
Forty-four contestants move on to Hollywood and that's exactly where the show is moving on next. It's Hollywood week, the Top 40, and our search for the next American Idol.