Line 'Em Up, Head ' Em Out! Before we get started on the first article of the second season, why don't you all take a look upstairs at my new photo? Dynamite, isn't it?!? Like most stylish men, I like to update my look every season. As a sneak peek for the next season, keep an eye out for pleats and italics.
Anyway, let's move on. I was sitting around the office, reading fan mail, fulfilling autograph requests and writing a bunch of hilarious jokes for the second season of AMERICAN IDOL when I got a call. They said I was going on a three-city tour to cover the AMERICAN IDOL auditions. Well, I live in one of the audition cities, so it was really a two-city tour. For the record, I asked to go to all six auditions, they sent me to three. So I guess I'm not as great as I've been making myself out to be after all. Anyway, this is about those precocious, fame-hungry kids and not me, so let's see what happened.
NEW YORK Here's my main observation from New York City. It was cold. Now, ordinarily I'm tougher than an Irish orphan. But it was damn cold down on Wall Street. All I could think about was getting a tall triple lo-fat hazelnut mochaccino and curling up in front of a fire with a romance novel. And I hate all of those things. That's how cold I was.
When we arrived down on the scene, crispy and clean, Sunday night, those starry-eyed scamps had nowhere to go and nothing to do but freeze. Of course, they were free to go home whenever they felt like it. But that didn't stop them from complaining. I guess I could see their point. They were sleeping on the streets of Manhattan next to steaming manhole covers, it was about 40 degrees out, and their chances of winning AMERICAN IDOL were statistically about the same as the people sound asleep in their Gramercy brownstones. Also, judging from the trash bags piled high on the sidewalks, New York was in the midst of a six-week sanitation strike.
The next morning came and so did my continental breakfast. It was the best $17 omelette I ever ate. Of course, there isn't much competition in that category, but it still won handily. After breakfast, we joined the straphanger brigade and headed back downtown to Wall St. The weather was still extra chilly, and I was still extra whiny about it. But the kids were too excited about finally getting inside to listen to my problems. They were especially uninterested in listening to me complain about how big my omelette was and how I had to throw half of it out. Not when a Pop Tart crust was a three-course meal for them at this point. By the way, how much omelette humor can one column have? This must be some sort of record.
The highlight of the morning came when Michael Jackson cruised by the audition line in a limo and dangled one of his kids out of the window. The crowd went nuts for that. And if I'm doing Michael Jackson jokes, you can assume I'm officially tapped out. Up next, jokes about the East German women's Olympic team. I think they're men!
Once everybody got inside and started enjoying the warm, circulating air, nothing really happened. Nobody was wearing any really wild outfits, except for one girl who was wearing leggings on her arms. I cracked myself up by calling them "armings," but that was about the extent of my day. I was beginning to think this trip was a waste, although I did get to see FAO Schwartz. Also, I got to eat a cart dog. The lukewarm, dirty water makes them more delicious than regular hot dogs. I guess you're so busy thinking about what's in the water, you forget about what's in the dog. Somehow the double nastiness cancels out and creates a salty delight. Bless your special alchemy, cart dog man!
NASHVILLE I was really excited to go to the Motor City. Then I found out Nashville is known as the Music City. I suppose that makes more sense. Anyway, when we arrived at the Nashville Municipal Auditorium the night before the auditions started, we were greeted by a scene that resembled a refugee camp more than a contest to become a glamorous superstar. Tents, flannel shirts and drizzling rain as far as the eye could see. The difference between a real refugee camp and this bunch is that they would be clearing out in a couple of days to make way for the rodeo. And if you think that's an unfair stereotype, your beef is with the marquee guy, not me. I didn't hang that sign up.
After bravely foraging through Tent Town, I ran into a cute blonde girl who knew who I was, becoming only the second person ever to join that club. She thanked me for my helpful audition advice and admitted that money and/or kisses were owed for the great tips. I asked her which would be better for her, and she said she wanted the money. I patiently explained that no, no, I'm supposed to do the getting, not the giving. Realizing she may have to kiss me, she starting sobbing and made up a story about some boyfriend.
Moving on from that tragic defeat, I talked to another couple of hopefuls. I made fun of a guy's outfit, and he almost tossed me through a window. I quickly realized that it's much easier and safer to make fun of people sitting at my computer instead of standing in their faces, so we hightailed it back to the hotel. Before retiring for the night, we helped ourselves to a nice steak dinner. On the inside of the menu at the steakhouse, they had a list of all the celebrities that had eaten there. Luminaries such as George Jones, Dolly Parton, Roswell Bennett and others once dined in these very chairs. I asked our waiter for a pen, and when he wasn't looking, scribbled "jaded journalist" real small in one corner.
LOS ANGELES The last stop on the Audition Tour, both for myself and the show. All those incredibly talented people who somehow got turned away in other cities would only have one more shot at stardom. And since the citizens of Los Angeles hardly ever have a chance to become famous, you could expect them to turn out in full force as well. In short, we were looking at the largest crowd of any city.
And we got it. I showed up on Sunday night, one day before the auditions started. That put me only two days behind most people. If there's ever a time in your life when you need somebody to be honest with you, it's ten seconds before you walk out the door Friday night for a Monday audition. "Listen, Lisa, I have something to tell you. I've been lying to you all along. You're a terrible singer and you'll just be wasting your weekend. Now come back inside where it's warm and we'll watch Back to the Future 2."
Monday came and the temperatures went way up. It was an ideal Southern California day, in that girls everywhere were wearing small tops. I did see one guy with his shirt off, so the ladies were getting a little eye candy too. We're so loose here in California! The first 1500 kids got to go in front of the producers in groups of five. The remaining 2500 or so were herded between barricades and sent before various people involved with the show one at a time. It was like the world's longest checkout line. Overhearing the auditions, you start to realize that people have absolutely no idea how they sound when they sing. Mostly, the default setting is "awful," and every once in a while you get somebody tolerable. Meanwhile, I was starting to wilt in the sun, and the pressure of being hilarious on camera for two straight days was starting to wear on me. Now I know how Gallagher feels every Sunday.
STILL LOS ANGELES Maybe this part didn't need a heading. Anyway, after what must have been 50,000 hopeful singers, the show's producers were able to whittle the mass down to a more manageable number. Also, they were placed on suicide watch. Now it's up to Randy, Paula and Simon to pare that group down even further. And then you, the American people, will shave the group down to one! Your next AMERICAN IDOL! Oh, the idealism! It's just so peachy.
Lastly, keep an eye out for the video clips of my Audition Tour 2002! You'll get to see me wandering through the lines, pointing out to people what's wrong with them and other such hilarious things. The only thing you won't get to see is my face, which is too bad, because one girl in Los Angeles said I look like Matt Damon.