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Sour Simon

‘American Idol’ judge has nothing but no's for Boston's auditioners
AMERICAN IDOL: L-R: Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson return for the fifth season of AMERICAN IDOL on FOX. CR: Ray Mickshaw / FOX 
© 2006 FOX
AMERICAN IDOL: L-R: Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson return for the fifth season of AMERICAN IDOL on FOX. CR: Ray Mickshaw / FOX © 2006 FOXFox
/ Source: contributor

More than 200 years ago, American colonists in Boston upset the British by dumping a cargo load of tea into the harbor. That helped to set the stage for the American Revolution, a war the colonists fought so the British couldn't tell them what to do.

If they could only see their descendants now.

A couple of centuries later, thousands of people lined up to sing and British judge Simon Cowell apparently had revenge on his mind. He couldn't wait to tell his country's former subjects where they could go.

It's possible that Simon voted in favor of at least one of the 28 at the audition who got through to the next round, but if so, it didn't make it onto the air. The four profiled contestants made it through despite his lack of endorsement, and there were a whole lot of rejects who needed Simon to push them into another line of work.

As always, the British judge obliged. But much like the colonists did in 1773, the downtrodden did not always accept their fate quietly.

‘I've got to pee’
Michael Sandecki could have used Simon out in the main hall of the audition site. It probably would have saved a lot of other contestants some headaches.

"If I have to stand next to this guy the whole time, I'm going to go insane," one fed-up contestant said as Sandecki gestured madly and talked nine miles a minute, but that didn't get him to calm down. Sandecki compared himself to Clay Aiken, but that would have been true only if Aiken was on speed and had lost most of his singing ability.

After showing a lot of confidence in the interview room and on his way in to face the judges, Sandecki struggled with "In the Still of the Night." But he had an excuse. "I'm just nervous as hell, and I've got to pee," he told the shellshocked judges.

Of course, they let him race to the bathroom, because that's just good television, especially in slow-mo to the "Chariots of Fire" theme. And of course, it did no good. Sandecki was just as dreadful the second time around, and got the boot.

Kenneth Maccarone at least got some career advice from the acerbic Brit, but he didn't appreciate the feedback.

Maccarone made the unwise decision to sing a Cher song in a falsetto, and then compounded it by also saying that he could do Judy Garland material as well. It was clear Simon was waiting eagerly to break out the appropriate metaphor to put the young American in his place.

Simon brought back the "become a female impersonator" plan which proved so offensive to candidates earlier in the audition round. Maccarone was predictably unreceptive to the idea of dressing as a woman, calling it "a poor career suggestion."

The discussion rapidly went downhill, with Maccarone stalking off saying, "I just want to stand up for myself and show you I'm not going to let you walk over me."

And so he did. But he also didn't get the ticket to Hollywood.

James Yokely Jr. began the competition with a rap/march, and the judges weren't impressed. Simon suggested another line of work.

"'Preciate the honesty. But I ain't gonna stop. I've been doing it for 10 years now," Yokely said.

Take that, Grandma
Of course, Boston did have some talent, and 28 people were successful in making it to the next round. Among them was a rarity; the contestant looking to win the competition in order to stick it to her grandmother.

Tatiana Ward came into the auditions determined to prove something to her grandmother, who she said disowned her mother for marrying a black man. She had personality and confidence to spare, but her voice wasn't anything special, and it looked like she was in trouble.

So she went to the oldest trick in the book: laying it on thick for Randy Jackson. First Ward complimented his sweater. Then, she said, "Paula [Abdul] is the sexiest, but you're the hottest."

Of course, that left Simon out of the equation entirely, but she figured that he was a lost cause anyway. She was right, and the Brit gave a strong no vote, but the "sexiest" judge and the "hottest" judge were in better moods, and now Ward's grandmother will presumably be upset to see her granddaughter so successful. Assuming, that is, she watches the show.

Ayla Brown looked like an "American Idol," though it's probably more likely she'll be a basketball idol instead. She has a scholarship to play basketball at Boston College next fall, and with that athletic background, along with a Massachusetts state senator father and television reporter mother, she didn't lack for storylines.

Brown didn't overwhelm the judges with her voice, but aced her interviews. "I'm an athlete, and I have to deal with positive and negative feedback all the time," she told Paula when asked if she would listen to constructive criticism in Hollywood.  She then got a harder question — would she pick playing basketball over touring with the "Idol" winners if she had the choice — and punted, saying that she liked both and didn't want to decide right now.

Simon voted no, but the other judges passed her through. Brown bought herself a ticket to the next round, and also a whole lot of taunting from rival fans when she plays in the ACC next season.

If nothing else, Brown will be able to get basketball advice from Rebecca O'Donahue in Holywood. O'Donahue, who said she played Division I basketball, has a twin who couldn't sing for medical reasons but was there to cheer her sister on.

Though O'Donahue was unspectacular — Paula said "You're absolutely beautiful, but your voice is not as beautiful as you are beautiful," a beautiful example of what happen when judges run out of things to say after a million auditions — she made it through on the 2-1 vote. Simon, of course, dissented.

Kevin Covais was the rare male to pass muster, despite both his youth and the fact that he became the nine millionth contestant to sing Josh Groban's "You Raise Me Up." He also got the closest thing to a compliment from Simon all night. Cowell said "You're a jolly nice young man, aren't you," but then called the teenager more suited to the 80-year-old audience demographic than the "Idol one."

Paula disagreed. "You don't look like the next American Idol would look like — but neither did Clay Aiken," she said, as she made him one of the last of the 175 auditioners in seven cities to make it to the Hollywood round.

It was a happy night for 28 lucky contestants, but one extra crabby British judge probably would have been happier to dump all the Boston contestants right into that famous Boston bay.

Craig Berman lives in Washington, D.C. and is a regular contributor to