So I am trying out for American Idol again this year. Monday I drove to Milwaukee to get my wristband. I got there really early (3:30 in the morning) and so I was among the first few hundred to get a ticket. When I left to get to my car, this was just a portion of the line that was still there waiting…
After much determination and some drama around getting the time off from work (the audition process was a Tuesday-Thursday thing), I flew to Orlando and met up with my lovely little sister (“Jade”) so we could try out together.
We went straight to the audition venue to get our tickets, and like with Boston, there wasn’t a line when we got there (about 11am on the first day of registration). The people registering us said there was a huge crowd in the morning, though. After that, Jade and I went to our hotel and settled in. Both of us worked all day, and then all of the next day, taking breaks to practice and watch the coverage of Michael Jackson’s services. It was really nice to just get to spend some one-on-one time with my sister, since it’s been ages since we’ve really been able to do that.
The morning of the auditions, Jade didn’t want to wake up (at 4:00ish), and we got into a fight. So, it really was like old times. She got up, we got everything ready, and left for the auditions. The set up in Orlando was different than in Boston; they had everyone sitting outside in cordoned off areas. Jade and I found a spot by a makeshift fence/wall to lean on, and Jade promptly smoked a cigarette and laid down to sleep on my bookbag, using my hoodie (the same one as Boston!) to cover up. There was coffee available outside, for which I was most grateful. There was some drizzle, but after Boston, rain wouldn’t have fazed me. We sat next to a lesbian couple who were quite sweet (and appeared to be a really unlikely couple, but it worked for them). People were playing guitars and singing, and generally enjoying the sunrise. At some point, they started lining people up in front of the arena, and everyone started crowding to get up there faster. The American Idol workers kept saying over megaphones that there was no need to crowd; everyone’s places inside were determined by their seat ticket. As such, Jade and I took our time.
Once we were all lined up, they did some crowd shots on the roaming golf cart. The people around us all had really bad attitudes, and were all way too cool to be there. I’m the kind of person who, if I’m doing something, want to do it, and do it with enthusiasm. It’s not like anyone MADE anyone get up and get tickets to come, and then made them get up at 4 in the morning to come audition. So, since everyone CHOSE to be there, even though a lot of the hoops to jump through are totally corny, it’s a lot more fun if you embrace it and just jump in. Yes, it can be lame, and it can make you feel like a total dork, but where is the fun in a bad attitude?
They changed the group song between when we registered and audition day–it was originally listed as Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face”, but changed to Pat Benatar’s “Heartbreaker”. Rumor was that Lady Gaga wouldn’t release the song, but I don’t know if that’s true.
Everyone got to their seats, and they began shooting crowd shots and rehearsing the group song. As the Orlando arena was indoors, there were a lot of the camera going around in circles, getting everyone. They had us say something about Disney, I think, and someone started the wave. Then they started the auditions, in much the same way. There were 12ish booths set up, and they lined people up in rows of four people to go to a booth of two producers.
I was sitting next to a woman and her 16 year old daughter, and I spent much of the day annoyed at them. The woman kept doing one of those super loud whistles through her fingers, and the daughter kept manic-depressively alternating between cackling and crying. There was a guy behind us who incessantly sang to Creed on his iPod, off key. A woman who we suspected was his mother was sitting next to him, but she was kind of pretending not to know him. It would have been annoying if it wasn’t hilarious.
I talked to Kullervo a couple of times throughout the day, and he was really sick and getting sicker and sicker. I warmed up my voice, talked to my other sister a couple of times on the phone, and just waited. Jade was still really tired and dozed a few times. We noticed that when people would get taken to the ‘we want to see more of you’ door (instead of the ‘enjoy the rest of your life’ door), awhile later, they would come back out, and were videoed sitting in the stands, watching the auditions. I assume that they video them ‘waiting to audition’ in case they get chosen to go forward, as they obviously can’t tape all 15,000 people waiting. I don’t think they were allowed to talk to anyone when they came back out.
Finally it was our turn, and we lined up to go. We walked to our spots, and watched the people in front of us audition. One guy started out by doing a crazy dance, and flubbed it. They let him start over, and it was still a crazy dance. There was a girl who was wearing a silver, sparkly dress that appeared to be way too big on her, mostly because I could see huge safety pins holding it taut in the back. Both of them made it through to the ‘we want to see more of you’ door.
The four of us went; I was last to go. When Jade went, she sang so quietly that the judges had a hard time hearing her, I think. Aside from that, she sounded really pretty. Then it was my turn, and I felt just kind of off. I was singing the Rolling Stones “Paint It, Black”. I didn’t miss any notes, but I wasn’t really on my game.
They called all of us forward, and sent us all home.
Jade drove me to the airport, and on the way I got a hold of Kullervo, who said that he was just doing really poorly. About the time I got to the airport, he told me that he needed to go to the hospital. He sounded totally out of it, so when we got off the phone for him to… I don’t know what… I called some good friends and asked if they could come watch the kids. I called Kullervo back and let him know people were on their way.
Kullervo went to the hospital and found out he had Lyme Disease (which, by the way, comes from deer ticks, no matter what Kullervo tells you). At about that time, I found out that my flight was delayed by two hours, and I’d be landing in Baltimore after the last trains would be able to take me home. I befriends a couple of guys who looked like a couple, but turned out to just be good friends who happened to also be gay. We all went in on getting a shuttle from the airport to the DC area, which was nice. Finally the plane landed, the shuttle drove (dropping me off last, I might add), and I got home.
The kids were both sick (Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease), and Kullervo was so sick it was terrifying. Everyone is better now, though, so all is right in the world.
And that pretty much covers my American Idol auditions. It’s kind of an abrupt ending, but it sort of felt abrupt at the time, too, and totally overshadowed by the enormity of Lyme Disease and how horrible it was for Kullervo while he was trying to study for the bar exam.
I woke up at 3:30, and immediately jumped out of bed and into the shower. I was too excited and nervous to be tired, and sang some scales in the shower, as well as my audition song a few times (“Both Sides Now” by Joni Mitchell). I sounded okay–my voice wasn’t doing bad for very little sleep.
I got dressed, packed my stuff, and headed out to the hall. It was four in the morning, and there were a ton of people running around. Some of them looked wet, all of them looked panicked. I gathered that it was pouring with rain. I, as usual, had no umbrella. I saw my friends as they were huddling into a taxi, and wished them good luck. The front desk was out of coffee, and I considered weeping a little, but realized it would mess up my makeup. So I just packed up and drove to the venue.
I arrived before 4:30, and the line was huge. It was all very organized, with people directing everyone to the end of the line. It was absolutely pouring with rain. And cold. It was June–mid-June–and it couldn’t have been 60*. I had a thin hoodie, but it was immediately soaked. There were two girls–twins, it turned out, who looked startlingly like the Sister, Sister sisters who shared their umbrella with me. They were really nice, and some of my line buddies. There were a bunch of people–a rather plain-faced girl and her husband, who it turned out were LDS and had driven down together from Maine, and had been sleeping in their car, a tall, skinny, beautiful blonde in heels, a chubby blonde girl with her mom, both of whom were careful to make sure their umbrellas didn’t cover anybody else (so as to sabotage any possible good hair by anyone but her, I guess?). Mostly, people were really nice.
The line periodically moved, and sometimes a golf cart would drive by with a camera and people would scream and throw up their hands and stuff. I tried to hide, so if you see bright red hair on TV hiding from the camera–that might be me. We played word games and movie games and trivia games. It was so cold and so rainy that I was shivering and shaking all morning. I began searching for bigger, bulkier guys who I could try to flirt to share an umbrella and body heat with. I found the perfect umbrella buddy after a bit–he was about my height, and kind of muscle-y, so I held the umbrella (that was my best offer–I’ll hold the umbrella if I can stand under it) and I stole as much warmth as I could.
They began letting people in at about 7 or 8 and security was checking people’s bags. The first thing that I did when I got through was get coffee. Best. Coffee. Ever. A day like that makes you wonder if the Word of Wisdom would really want to exclude “hot drinks” when they might be the only thing that sustains you on a freezing cold audition day.
The stadium was a football stadium, and mostly outdoors, which meant that since they were filming, they wanted everyone in their seats, and most people didn’t want to go back into the rain. My seat was right next to a guy who sounded just like Rick Astley, and who, much to my delight, was actually going to audition with “Never Gonna Give You Up”. It was pure happiness. He also let me know that my hair dye was running, right down my face, so I kind of looked terrifying. Nevertheless, he shared his umbrella with me in our seats, and when my shivering got really bad he gave me his leather coat to wear. I might have loved him a bit then, although I can’t remember his name. There were two girls in front of us with T-shirts that said something like “I’m with stupid” each pointing to the other, and there were cameras walking around that filmed them doing absolutely ridiculous stuff. If you see that, I am right behind them.
There was a guy with a microphone who was teaching everyone the words to “When I Grow Up” by the Pussycat Dolls, which was the group song. Finally, they got cameras set up and began taping group shots. They had everyone say lame stuff like “Hello Boston!” and other equally inane things, and singing the group song. Some people got really annoyed in the crowd, but I figured that it was for TV and they have to do stuff that is going to seem lame–probably on TV too–but what do you do with 15,000 people? Seriously? The wave? (hahaha… look to the Orlando auditions for that…)
Ryan Seacrest showed up and welcomed everyone out and wished everyone luck. He stayed for a bit while they filmed the group stuff. The rumor was that he had just flown in from LA, and right after he left he was flying right back. Crazy.
While all of this was going on, people were setting up booth/tents on the other side of the stadium. They gave everyone the rundown on how the auditions would work, and began auditioning people. First up were the people who had won radio contests/Disney contests/etc. that made them more special. And then it was a first come-first serve, where the ‘first-come’ people were the people who had registered first.
After watching for awhile, I found my friends from the hotel and we wandered around, got more coffee and some food, sat around and shot the breeze, practiced for each other, and basically just enjoyed our company. Because I was planning on driving back as soon as I was done, and Liza had kind of hooked up with one of the guys, she traded seats with me so that I could go first. So, at about 4:00pm they called my (new) section, and we lined up to walk around the track to where the 12ish booths were set up, with two producers in each. We handed them the release forms (that give them permission to humiliate us all over the universe), and walked around. They had us line up in groups of four; my four included me and three other girls. One of them was a cute 16 year old (who thought that I was about 18, for which I loved her). When our line came to the front of the line, we walked to the booth we were directed to. There were two producers in each booth; ours had a woman and an older looking man.
When it was time for our group to audition, we all stepped forward, and then each auditioned individually. I was the third in our group to go. The audition materials had specified that we should prepare a 15-30 second audition piece; I shortened mine to about 45 seconds. I sang, and the man generally didn’t look at me, and the woman looked interested. When I finished what I had rehearsed, they hadn’t stopped me, so I kept singing (I should have stopped, I think). And, I missed the second note in that part. I recovered, but I knew then that it was over.
Sure enough, when all of us had gone, the judges whispered to each other for a minute, and then called us all forward and said something along the lines of, “Thank you all for coming out. Unfortunately, you are not what we are looking for this season of American Idol.” And we all walked out and went home.
I walked out with mixed feelings–first of all, I was still on a lack of sleep/lack of food/so cold all day/too much coffee adrenaline high that made me kind of jittery and feel out of sorts anyway. I had totally expected to not go any further, but of course I had hoped that more would come of it. So I was disappointed. Mostly I was freaking out because I couldn’t find my car and I wanted to go home to my babies. But then, I was also so proud of myself for doing it, for going all by myself to do something big and scary and difficult.
The high lasted for days. I was the girl singing in the grocery store because you know what? My voice is pretty good–could be great if I got lessons or whatever–and what do I care if people in Safeway think I’m weird? I was the talk of the water-cooler at my client for being ‘that auditor who tried out for American Idol’. Oh, also, I lost 5 pounds while I was gone–which I think was exclusively due to the cold.
I want my kids to grow up and try for things they want. I don’t want fear to hold me or them back from anything. It’s hard and it’s scary and it’s way easier to sit down and do nothing, and just dream about it and sing in the car and in the shower, but I don’t want to be that person. I want to be the person who wants something and tries. And when I fail, I can walk away knowing that I failed–not that I didn’t find out or try or ever know. I tried and it didn’t work out this time, and maybe it will next time.
And so, I decided to try out again.
I dropped the kids off in the late morning and was on the road by noon, headed towards Boston. My hair was bright red and I felt super cool. Every time I stopped at a rest stop, I received one of two reactions–either I got hit on and/or checked out, or I was avoided. Old ladies avoided me. It meant I didn’t have to wait in line for the bathroom, ever.
The drive wasn’t that bad–I had hoped to make it up to Boston in the typical 7-8 hour time frame, go and get my wristband/admission ticket, and just go back and chill at the hotel. I had good music, my kids were in good hands, and my husband was gone with the National Guard, but all of his team was cheering me on from… wherever they were.
Once I realized the power my awesomely red hair had, I also realized that that combined with my incessant and sometimes wild dancing in the car made me totally irresistible. This guy kept looking at me:
It’s entirely possible that he was making fun of me the whole time that he was looking at me, but he also let me in front of him in traffic, saving me five minutes or so of trying to fight my way into the post-tollbooth crunch. So, whether it was lust or pity, I had no problems.
Some pictures of one of the bridges I went over (which, of course, I am now drawing a blank as to which one and too lazy to go look it up on Google). I love taking pictures of bridges.
I managed to time it just right to hit New York City at 5:00 on a Friday. As such, although the posted speed limit promised me this:
I was stuck driving at this speed instead:
However, going so slowly through New York made me realize something I don’t think I ever had before–or maybe I’ve just never taken 95 that far north. Anyway, all along 95 are enormous apartment complexes. Including right above it–there are what amount to bridges over 95 (or tunnels under the city?) that are home to hundreds of New Yorkers.
All I could think of while I waited to keep driving through was that I totally could have called someone in that building earlier and asked how traffic was, and they could have looked out their window and said, “Oh! It’s not moving!”… and then gone back to cooking their dinner.
I finally made it through, and the rest of the drive up to Boston was uneventful. I got my ticket and wristband and went to the hotel, which was clearly waiting for me.
Thank you, Holiday Inn. I appreciated it!
I had some drama getting my room–Boston is one of those rare places that actually has smoking rooms, and somehow I managed to get one. I went up to the room, and the smell was so strong that I couldn’t possibly stay there for two days and retain any semblance of a singing voice. Although the front desk had originally assured me there were no other rooms, when I explained that if they couldn’t find me a non-smoking room, I was going to have to find another hotel, suddenly a room became available. I moved my stuff into the non-smoking room and was much happier.
So, after too much time and much ado, after promises broken, after another busy season, after Lyme Disease and Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease, and during the middle of strep throat (or mono–we’ll see in a couple of days), after the bar exam, after Kullervo went to Annual Training and Puerto Rico, I am finally writing about American Idol auditions.
Part One revolves exclusively around my hair. While I am no stranger to dying my hair–I’ve been doing it since about the 8th grade–I did something during those two weeks in June that I had never done before. I bleached it. Not all of it, but I bleached a noticeable portion of my hair. And, because I’m always thinking about my loyal readers (if there are any left), I took lots of pictures to share!
I carefully sectioned off the hair that I wanted to dye, and added the bleach… and waited. I did this during a naptime, so I also said some prayers that the kids wouldn’t wake up early during this part. (And later sent up praises for naptime.)
I’ll admit that I was a little worried that the $10 box of hair dye was going to make my hair fall out, but reasonably certain that my husband would love me regardless and my kids would only have a little less hair to pull. It might have been awkward during business meetings when I went back to work after my two weeks off (“where did your hair go?”… “Oh, that’s a sad, sad story of failed hopes and dreams and a bottle of blue bleach… no, there was no alcohol involved, why would you ask?”).
So, here I am as a blonde:
It wasn’t the most professional looking job, but I was covering it up shortly.
And, finally… my American Idol look (at least for my hair), all finished:
I drove all day on Friday to the Boston auditions for the next season of American Idol. I will give a blow-by-blow later, but I’m still exhausted from the whirlwind trip, so suffice it to say for now that, at least right now, I am unlikely to be the next American Idol. There’s a cool story, including really cool people, Ryan Seacrest, someone getting kicked out of the stadium…
But I’m still tired, so I’m getting ready for bed.
I am about 95% certain that I will be driving to Boston next weekend to audition for American Idol.
Wish me luck! I’m quite certain that nothing will come of it, but I’m hoping that it will be fun. Barring that, I’ve never been to Boston. Barring that, I can jam in the car all the way up!