The third two-hour audition episode of “America’s Got Talent” brought with it a few tear-jerkers, some jaw-droppers and at least one too many farm animals.
The crowd was again in full force, for better or worse, amping up the humiliation for some and strongly backing those who deserved it. But, as is the pattern with “Talent,” it started with the worst of the worst.
The first contestant in Dallas was “professional” line dancer Corky Duke, whom judge Piers Morgan called a “waste of time.” It was followed by another waste of time: the requisite montage of really bad auditions. This week’s included a cowboy who did flips off a horse, a tap-dancing banjo player and a hoola-hoop juggler who nearly took out the judges with an errant hoop.
Holly Hardin, a 19-year-old from Georgia, didn’t know how far her hometown was from Dallas. She played up the “golly-gee” factor — which got old about halfway through Kellie Pickler’s season on “American Idol” three years ago. Holly sang “These Boots Are Made for Walkin,’” and judge Sharon Osbourne didn’t care for her singing. Judge David Hasselhoff said he thought Holly would be great for a sitcom, but questioned her vocals as well. Later, Piers encouraged her to sing some Dolly Parton, which she did to the crowd’s delight. In the end, all three judges gave her a pass to Vegas.
Duo Genesis, a Cirque du Soleil-style couple, wowed the crowd and the judges with some amazing handstands and poses. Piers said Lewis Warren, Jr., and 11-year-old piano player, had talent pouring out of him. The Shaolin Warriors were a martial arts group whose big finish included a guy being propped up with a couple of spears poking into his chest.
The show hit a new low when a potbelly pig, Smithfield, came on stage to paint. His owner, Fran Martin, said the pig “paints abstract, but I’ve been told he always leaves an impression.” That line was on par with the quality of work her pig did on the canvas. It left Piers suggesting that Smithfield would be more useful in his bacon sandwich. A group of animal acts followed, and they were really bad. Paul West and his dog, Tucker, saved the night for the non-humans in the auditions with their acrobatic Frisbee routine that had the crowd going nuts.
Paul Salos, a 71-year-old Air-Force-veteran-turned-Frank-Sinatra-impersonator, brought the Chairman of the Board back to life with his rendition of “Fly Me to the Moon.” Piers said Salos got Sinatra absolutely great and added, “Frank Sinatra’s going back to Las Vegas.”
Dancing to avoid trouble
The auditions returned to Chicago, and first up there was a brother-and-sister salsa dancing team that started dancing as a way of staying out of trouble in what they called a tough neighborhood. Their intricate and fast-paced spins and twists and turns had the judges raving, with Piers calling them the best dance act he’d seen so far. Their journey from their rough neighborhood was continuing on to Las Vegas.
A husband-and-wife singing duo came out, dressed in matching yellow outfits, which didn’t appear to amuse Piers very much. Zane and Stephanie proceeded to get the crowd to rail against them the entire time, and capped their duet of “Unchained Melody” with a massive kiss that Sharon called “overly nice” and “dated.”
“George the Giant” wanted to get a ticket to Las Vegas to show his wife that it was OK to bet on the dreamer. He said his act was based on the old-time sideshows, and he promised to show the judges and the crowd something they’ve never seen before. He wrapped a tube around a volunteer from the crowd, stuck the tube into his nose and pulled it out of his mouth. He then proceeded to drink milk through the straw. Sharon said she was going to throw up, but Piers and The Hoff seemed oddly intrigued. Sharon was in no way amused, and voted no. But the two guys’ “yes” votes were enough to send George to Vegas.
Jessica Price, a 24-year-old factory worker and part-time musician, told a story of her dad leaving her family. She said he was her idol and she just wanted to make him proud. She said she wanted to be an example to young girls. She blew the crowd and the judges away with her rendition of Bonnie Raitt’s “I Can’t Make You Love Me.” She told Jerry backstage that she hoped her dad would be proud, and he promised he would be.
Revealing too much
The auditions moved on to Atlanta, The Hoff’s hometown, where the judges encountered Allister McQueen, who called himself “Smokin’ McQueen.” The scrawny guy, whose “talent” wasn’t immediately revealed, wound up revealing much more of himself than anyone was interested in seeing with a classic burlesque routine. The Hoff hid under the judges’ table, and Piers suggested that McQueen “pack it in, seriously.” He was followed by a series of male and female stripper and pole dancing routines, cleverly set to the ’80s hit single “We Don’t Have to Take Our Clothes Off” by Jermaine Stewart.
Busty Hart said no one else does what she does, and it’s probably best that way. The ample-chested woman said she was going to crush objects with her very large breasts. She smashed a batch of aluminum cans with her own ... oh, nevermind. David X’d her immediately, but said, “If you were on ‘Baywatch,’ we would’ve lasted another 11 years.”
The Southern Belles, a four-piece dance group of women, ages 15 to 31, salvaged the Atlanta auditions just as the judges were ready to give up hope. Their routine melded Michael Flatley’s “Riverdance” style with some southern flair and the crowd went absolutely berserk for what Piers called the best audition of the day. They were moved on to Vegas.
Dan Meyer, a 50-year-old sword swallower, said he was actually going to nudge his heart to the side with his swords. That doesn’t seem safe. The Hoff said it was very hard to watch, but that was after he nearly killed the poor guy by buzzing his “X” while the man had a sword down his throat. A shocked Jerry Springer shouted, “Are you crazy?” Meyer later told Jerry that he almost punctured his stomach when Hoff buzzed him. Sharon voted yes, The Hoff said no, but Piers gave him a ticket to the next round.
David Militello, 9, didn't begin speaking until the age of 3 and was diagnosed with autism. Singing was his first vocal exercise. His mother said he was singing before he even said, “Mom.” She cried while David silenced the crowd with his rendition of little Michael Jackson’s “Ben.” He got a standing ovation and seemed pretty pleased with himself. The Hoff told him he’d just won the hearts of America. He was right, and in the process, Militello might have stolen the “Little David” label away from “Idol’s” Little David Archuleta.
Victor Balta is a writer in Philadelphia.