The tears, the fighting, the triumphant joy — old hat for Hollywood. But this isn’t the movies. “American Idol” brings more melodrama to Tinseltown than even the campiest film. As the auditions heated up for the second episode in Hollywood, the competitors started to melt down. And a couple of the judges went along for the ride.
There’s something about group auditions that brings out the worst in everyone. Take nearly 100 pop stars in training and ask them to work with their competition, then just sit back and wait for the fireworks. Wednesday night did not disappoint.
At the top of the show Ryan Seacrest warned viewers that this is “the first time in the competition [contestants] have to cooperate with other people.” Given the trouble some are having, it appears to be the first time in their lives.
Matthew Meyers, Scott Salvo, and Danny Stewart, looking more like two dads and a creepy cousin than potential pop idols, didn’t respond well to being grouped together. Meyers and Stewart got along fine, but Salvo was MIA for much of their rehearsal time. Meyers dubbed Salvo, “Planet of the Ape Boy” due to his antisocial behavior, while Salvo promised he’d “go in there and BLAZE!” Somehow the trio managed to mend fences for their performance, and all but Meyers, who clutched a teddy bear during his song, got a nod from the judges.
Not content to let the contestants snag too much of the spotlight, Simon Cowell’s acerbic wit went head-to-head with Paula Abdul’s passable coherence. Following the group audition of Aaron Kelly, Timothy Sauer, and Lamar Jefferson, Paula called over the show's executive producer over to mediate a fight with her fellow judge.
During the tiff, she accused Simon of having convinced fellow judge Randy Jackson to change a "yes" vote to a "no" simply because he didn’t like one of the contestants (strangely enough, we’re never told which one). In the end, it was all much ado about nothing as she and Simon shared a hug. (Though he did get in a few stabbing gestures behind her back.)
Some singers had to contend with more than their own group; parents were a problem, too. Janay Castine’s mom and Gina McFadden’s dad thought they were members of a group themselves, acting as director and choreographer respectively. When Natalie Weiss asked the parents to scram, Janay’s mother snapped, “I’ll be back. I’m not leaving ‘cause of that.’
Jaclyn Crum almost missed her performance due to her mother's attack of food poisoning. She made it back to the competition just in time, and Faith Gatewood related the sob story to the judges before they passed the whole group through.
What’s my line?Cue cards would have helped some. For Elizabeth Pha, Carrie Zaruba, and Rachel Tanks, there was trouble from the start. Pha couldn’t remember her lyrics during rehearsal — a problem she encountered during the first Hollywood round — so her partners left her to her own devices while they practiced. Bemoaned Zaruba, “We have no shot in hell with this girl…It’s like singing with an elephant.” Things got colder between the women when Pha walked out of a pre-performance interview. Zaruba and Tanks managed decent performances, earning them a spot in the next round, but Pha’s stylized warbling didn’t form anything close to a lyric. After being dismissed, she held her tears until she left the stage.
John Zisa, JP Koehler, and Kurtis Parks were also among the lyrically impaired. Figuring a good night’s sleep was more important than rehearsing, they squeezed in a half-hearted practice before taking the stage to give one of the worst performances of the night. It seemed a sure bet that this group would be getting bus tickets home, but all three got another chance. An uncharacteristically sympathetic Simon cut them major slack, blaming their choice of a difficult song and ignoring their total ineptness.
In a hilarious montage of lyric-forgetters, viewers met Nicholas Kolbosky, who changed the lyrics to The Temptations “I Can’t Help Myself” to “I love myself and no one else.” Flub or not, it was the highlight of his performance.
Pass the Kleenex
Runny mascara and red puffy eyes were also in abundance this second evening in Hollywood. Some dismissed contestants held their tears until they left the stage, saving the waterworks for the post-audition interview. Natalie Weiss managed a weak smile when she learned she was the only one in her group who wouldn’t be staying on. Once outside, she pressed a cellphone to her cheek and sobbed out the words, “Brian I didn’t make it…”
Other contestants exploded on stage the moment Simon made his decree. Most notably among the emotional was JP of the aforementioned Early-to-Bed gang. Post-performance, he and his unrehearsed partners seemed resolute, fully expecting their imminent exit. As the mighty Simon granted them a “second chance,” JP threw his arms in the air and broke like the Hoover dam. While John and Kurtis whooped like Patriots fans, JP shrieked his gratitude, his eyes and nose gushing with equal ferocity.
But it was Elizabeth Pha, the girl who was dismissed by both her teammates and the judges, who personified Hollywood’s Boulevard of Broken Dreams. Before slumping off in the harsh Los Angels sun, she turned to the camera and told all of America, “I’m a very beautiful person and … I just think it’s been very unfair.”
Oh, if only being a very beautiful person by one’s own estimation was all it took to make it in Hollywood.
Ree Hines is a writer in Tampa, Florida.