From TODAY producer Stephanie Becker
Even without a TV outlet in American, those surprisingly wonderful British talent contestants Susan Boyle and schoolboy Shaheen Jafargholi have become, if not household names, at least Internet sensations. You may recall that both Susan and Shaheen appeared on our program.
Among the judges on both the British version and NBC's U.S. version, "America's Got Talent," is Piers Morgan. He flew into Los Angeles on Tuesday night for a round of auditions. I had the impossible task of making him decide - Susan or Shaheen. Alas, he refused to pick a favorite and even suggested that there's a gal coming down the pike who might even be better than both.
I threatened torture to get what I wanted, although it won't lead to any memos from White House lawyers. While it might not have risen to the level of waterboarding, I thought I could force his hand by displaying a little of my own talent: singing. I must confess I did entertain the notion of breaking out into song even before I got to the interview. And just so you know, it's not as if I'm a total loser in the vocal category. I once had the lead in the school play, preparing for it by listening to the original cast album of "The Pajama Game" a world record 578 times. I can belt out those show tunes like a latter-day Ethel Merman. (EVERYTHING'S COMING UP ROSES!!)
But Piers was such a gentleman, having just flown from London, checked into the hotel and sat down for the interview with nary a complaint, I couldn't bring myself to test his patience. And I couldn't put the screws to him because he was so delightfully funny and just a little sexy. Or maybe it's just the accent. He won me over when he called Susan a "lassie."
I knew I was asking him way more questions than we'd ever use on air, just so I could hear him talk. Most of what didn't get on the air is now up on our Web site. My favorite is the story about someone leaving a framed picture of Susan Boyle in his room at the hotel. I also liked the fact that the difference between the British and the American versions of the show is that the British audience is like a sea of Simon Cowells and that Americans are much more gracious and forgiving .... until the act goes south.
He was so charming that I kept wondering if maybe I shouldn't just burst out in song. When our interview was over, he left. I followed a few minutes later and headed into the elevator. Now, if you've never been to the swanky Regent Beverly Wilshire, it has these terrifically posh elevators with little benches and fantastic acoustics. For a closet elevator-singer like me, it's heaven. Plunging down an octave of floors I could give Whitney Houston a run for her money. So there I was crooning my way down to the lobby, when the doors opened I was hitting my finale "ROSES FOR YOU AND FOR MEEEEEEEEEEE ." There stood Piers with the publicist. I went from sotto fortissimo to ... stage fright. I felt my face flush with embarrassment. I practically ran to the valet for my car.
Comedian Rob Schneider stymied my escape. I don't know if he's been in any slacker movies, but there he was in his Bermuda shorts, a Hawaiian shirt and brown fedora, slowly - painfully slowly it seemed to me - inching that ticket out of his pocket. He was creeping. I kept one eye out for Piers and one for my car. Finally, up came my old-lady gray Camry, while Rob Schneider, hanging with a stunning woman in a blood-red strapless form-fitting gown, would have to cool his heels. I'm sure he didn't mind waiting. And I ended up singing the praises of the valet.