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‘Idol’ wannabes descend on Birmingham

Champions Taylor Hicks and Ruben Studdard both call it ‘Sweet Home’
/ Source: The Associated Press

After failing to advance at the “American Idol” auditions in New Jersey earlier this month, Priscilya Hawkes decided it couldn’t hurt to give it another go in a city that’s produced two winners and two runners-up.

The 24-year-old from Egg Harbor Township, N.J., said she hoped her shirt that read, “STOP!!! Don’t Disqualify Me — I’m the Next American Idol!” would help her stand out from the thousands who also waited hours Monday for a chance to get on the hit show.

“This time around I have my shirt, which I hope will call more attention to myself,” said Hawkes, who also wore earrings that said “STAR.” “My approach this time is to be more outgoing and maybe they’ll read my shirt and pick me!”

A crowd of more than 8,000 descended on the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Center for the show’s third stop since auditions began Aug. 8 in Pasadena, Calif.

Taylor Hicks, who won the competition in May is from the Birmingham suburb of Hoover and season two winner Ruben Studdard is from Birmingham. Season four runner-up Bo Bice is from the Birmingham suburb of Helena and Diana DeGarmo, the runner-up in season 3, was born in Birmingham and moved away as a child.

Something in the water?Matthew Paul Bryant, 28, said he took some comfort in the “Idol” success Birmingham has had and hopes he can extend the city’s hold on the competition.

“It gave me a little incentive considering this is the hometown of not one, not two, but three guys who’ve done really well on ‘American Idol’,” the Auburn resident said. “I would say that gave me just a little bit of inspiration.”

Observers have speculated that the city’s “Idol” success has to do with its size, while others say there must be something in the water. Others have suggested it’s because of the Birmingham bar scene’s reputation for developing young musical talent.

Show host Ryan Seacrest said he aims to get to the bottom of the mystery while the auditions are in town.

“We don’t know the answer to that so we’re here to find out in person,” he told the Associated Press after talking with fans and thrilling the crowd by posing for pictures. “Without Birmingham, ‘American Idol’ would have been a completely different series. It was an easy decision to bring the auditions here to Birmingham.”

Season-six auditions have also taken place in San Antonio and East Rutherford, N.J., with stops scheduled for Memphis, Minneapolis and Seattle.

Coordinating producer Patrick Lynn said the Birmingham stop launches what show executives hope will be a tradition of holding auditions in the hometown of each season’s winner.

Those auditioning for American Idol have usually worn wacky costumes with hopes of making it past producers, but save for an auditioner in a band costume and one sporting a sombrero trimmed with red feathers, the show’s hopefuls were noticeably conservative in dress.

“They don’t need to dress crazy in Birmingham, Lynn said. “Birmingham brings us talent.”