Thursday, February 1, 2007

Los Angeles: City of Angels and Fools

Idol went "home" to Los Angeles. Ah, home. It's where the heart is, isn't it? And Idol proved it with a very touching moment. We award the show a Golden Ticket for the season's best moment, featuring a very non-Idol-like Sherman Pore. Now if Sherman were, say, 24, instead of ummm, 64, he would have had the perfect backstory. It had guest judge Olivia Newton-John's eyes puddling up. It had Paula Abdul crying. It even seemed to touch crusty curmudgeon Simon Cowell.

Sherman didn't come to Idol for himself, he came for his lady, armed with a petition signed by more than 300 people asking the show to let him audition. Sherman's lady had cancer and he wanted to do something -- anything -- to keep her spirits up, so he decided he would try out for Idol. She loved the idea and worked with him on it to the end. Unfortuntely, Sherman's lady died two days shy of the audition date. There was a gasp when Sherman revealed this to the judges, but he told them he didn't want their sympathy, he just wanted to sing for his lady. So Simon told him they won't give him sympathy, but they would let him sing. And sing he did, a lovely rendition of The Duprees' "You Belong to Me."

Our only regret was that Simon didn't let him complete the song. For all the long, lousy auditions we've been forced to endure, this was one we would have gladly sat through. Afterward, Simon and Randy shook Sherman's hand and Simon told him he's a good man; Paula and Olivia embraced him. Outside the audition room, Sherman told the camera, and us, that he's won. We were -- and are still as we write this -- awash in tears. Yes, perhaps it was a contrived moment by the producers, but we still thank them for showing us a true American Idol.

Unfortunately, there were very few other good moments in Los Angeles, although overall it was a very mellow, if boring, show. The camaraderie between the three judges and guest judge Olivia Newton-John was obvious. Although she contributed little to the evening in terms of critiquing, they all seemed to like Newton-John very much, especially Paula and Simon.

Amazingly, we are told that a total of 40 people received Golden Tickets in L.A., but the night was dominated by the bad, the worse and the crazy. Quickly proving that he belonged in last category was panther boy and first auditioner Martik Manoukian, aka Eccentric. He told us, "I am a panther man. I’m the most exciting entertainer on planet Earth." He entered the audition room, stripped off some clothing, then went into his panther routine: clawing, crawling on all fours, growling, approaching the judges table then retreating, for what seemed like 5 minutes, until Simon irritably asked if they could just get on with the singing. Perhaps that was a mistake, it was even more annoying than what preceded it.

As bad and only slightly less delusional was Taylor Hicks-obsessed Phuong Pham, who received a bit of sympathy by telling the camera that her mother told her she wasn't pretty enough for TV and that she was no Katharine McPhee (thank god). However, the sympathy came to an abrupt halt when she told the judges she abandoned her music to please her family then went on to absolutely mutilate "Dancing in the Street." Her jerky body movements made Taylor's look graceful by comparison. She needs to be arrested by a Soul Patrolman. Quickly.

Sadder still was Marianna Riccio, whose mother had been one of Dean Martin's Golddiggers. Marianna is passionate about her singing, has been training her whole life and wants to carry on her family's show-biz tradition. There's only one problem: She stinks as a singer. When she performed "Should I Stay or Should I Go?" Simon told her they could answer that question. He said she sounds, and we agreed, like "Cher after she's gone to the dentist." In an utterly pathetic move, she got down on her knees and begged them to reconsider. It took forever to get her to leave, but then she returned to the audition room with her mom, who tried to vouch for her daughter's singing abilities. The saddest part of all occurred after the two finally left the room and Simon and Randy started talking about how foxy Marianna's mom is.

Further proving that Simon seemed to be on the prowl was Alaina Alexander, a struggling singer who weepily revealed that she was giving her career one last shot with Idol (yeah, yeah, wanna bet?). As far as Simon was concerned, she delivered with Michael Buble's "Feeling Good." We weren't so sure. As Randy would say, it was "aight," not great. In fact, Randy thought she was pitchy. But Simon thought was she great. She got four "yeses," though not overly enthusiastic ones, except from Simon, who told the others after she left that he really likes her. Or was it that tight tube top dress she wore that he really liked?

Then there was Eric Mueller, who had slitty blue eyes and said he had been training for idol for two years, even cutting off his social life (we're sure the females of America were grateful for that). He also said that people are going to hear his voice and think "I haven't heard anything like that in a long time." Yup, he was right. After telling the judges he had spent 4 to 5 hours a day teaching himself to sing, he went into a Hilary Duff song, and the voice issuing from his mouth might have been higher than Michael Jackson's. Simon thought it was a joke and asked him to sing in a lower pitch (as if that would help). Randy told him to sing in his own tone. In one of the night's funniest moments, Simon read Eric's background notes after he was dismissed and discovered, much to his delight, that Eric taught himself to sing with Paula's and Randy's "Ultimate Voice Coach" DVD. He ran out of the room to find Eric, trailed by Randy and Paula. Hilarity, as they say, ensued.

High on the "eeeeuwww" factor for us was overly affectionate couple Cavett "Sparkles" Carr and Darold Gray, who hail from Compton. Darold wore camouflage fatigues and sported a grill on his top teeth. OK, maybe we just don't get these things, but why would anyone want to put all that metal and bling in his mouth? Didn't "metal mouth" used to be a derogatory term? It just made us cring. But apparently grills don't get in the way of love. The way Sparkles and Darold were going at it, we wanted to scream, "Get a room."

Sparkles, up first, obviously had a thing for Simon. While outside Darold was telling Ryan how he and Sparkles were soul mates, inside she was licking her lips, winking and flirting with Simon, who actually seemed embarrassed. As we said, "eeeeuwww." Of course, Sparkles couldn't sing. After Darold finished his equally awful performance, Simon inquired, "Do you and your girlfriend sing together
at home?" When Darold responded affirmatively, Simon said, "Are the police ever called?" Darold answered, "It depends on what type of music we're listening to." Hmmmm.

Then there was Brian Miller, who also made it through last
year, but was eliminated during the Hollywood rounds. He sang "A Change Is Gonna Come" (nowhere as well as Taylor Hicks did during his Season 5 audition), and Simon told him, "Nice looking guy, nice voice, forgettable." When Brian asked if he'd improved since last year, Simon answered, "I can't remember you." But Randy liked his voice and Olivia liked his sweetness. He got through, with Simon saying "no." Anthony Adams, a cute guy who had no voice, actually agreed when Simon told him that not one note was in tune, an acknowledgment Simon seemed to appreciate. And Sholandric Stallworth, who said he wanted to bring back romance and love to music, and who was meant to remind us of Barry White, delivered an excruciatingly bad version of "If Ever You're in My Arms Again."

Best of the evening, which is not saying much, was
Brandon Rogers, a backup singer trying to move into the forefront. His sweet rendition of "Always on My Mind" left Paula and Olivia sighing. Simon said Brandon has a likeability and that he could see him moving into the finals. Perhaps, but we were surprised Simon didn't tell him that he sounded too old-fashioned. You can never tell with Cowell.

Next week the auditions finish up in San Antonio. Yee-ha!


In an AP interview, Season 5 finalist Chris Daughtry, who has Billboard's No. 1 album, discusses the first mini-scandal of his career, perpetuated by actress Melissa Joan Hart (“Sabrina, the Teenage Witch”). In a recent post on her page, an angry Hart claimed that Daughtry and his good friend, “Idol” also-ran Ace Young, were taking all the credit for writing “It’s Not Over.” Her husband, musician Mark Wilkerson, wrote an early draft of the song with producer Greg Wattenberg, who later asked Daughtry and Young to add a chorus.

“I’ve never met Melissa Joan Hart,” says Daughtry, who phoned Wilkerson, who was not aware of Hart’s rant, to smooth things over. “I don’t know her from Adam. If she’s mad at me for something that I don’t know about, that’s pretty funny actually! ... I was like, Sabrina’s mad at me? For WHAT?”

Hart has since removed the post, yet Daughtry remains bemused.

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