My fifteen year old daughter, Isabella, is blessed with an awesome voice. Having grown up on American Idol, she dreamed of auditioning. I promised to take her once she turned sixteen and then they changed the rules. Last year she auditioned for X-Factor and made it past the first round. Her confidence boomed, thinking this was her time.
American Idol was looking for talent in our hometown, Chicago. The first step was registration. We arrived at the United Center, home of the Blackhawks and Bulls, at 6am. We waited 2 1/2 hours for audition wristbands and tickets. Two days later we arrived promptly at 5am as cited in the instructions. Those who arrived late were allowed admittance without problems. The parking lot was sectioned off with yellow caution tape, making it look like a police scene. As time wore on, people broke off into groups and did what they do best-sing. The party atmosphere was infectious as young people beamed with hope of becoming a star. I sat back and enjoyed it despite knowing the hope would turn by the day’s end.
In the past, many Idol contestants dressed like weirdoes to get on the show. This year no one within eyesight bothered. The boys especially looked normal. The girls went overboard, easily passing for the streetwalkers who infamously stroll up and down Cicero Avenue in the deep hours of the night. Who knows, maybe that’s where they were headed once the singing thing didn’t work out. Spandex mini-skirts, neon hair, short shorts, bra-tops, corsets, and other kinds of boob shirts were painted on girls and women who were far too heavy to pull off the look. One woman in particular caught my attention. Besides looking like a skank, she brought her three year old daughter, claiming she couldn’t find a sitter. Despite the rules, she caught the attention of the cameras and shared her sob story of the struggles of single motherhood. By the way, her boobs were bigger than Dolly Parton’s and did not look authentic.
Ryan Seacrest came out to the parking lot and pumped up the crowd. After lots of camera footage of everyone cheering and waving, they finally opened the doors. Starving, we piled into a new line like cattle and gratefully ordered $6.00 hotdogs and $7.00 sodas then took our assigned seat from the ticket stub. Ryan Seacrest took the main floor of the arena and showed an American Idol summary flick of all the past winners. Then Haley Reinhardt, one of the finalists, walked out and said some words of encouragement. More waving, cheering, with flashing our cell phone cameras were added to the footage routine. Showtime. Eleven booths with curtain walls were set up. Voices boomed throughout the arena. Those who made it past the first round held gold pieces of paper for all to see while those who got cut had their wristbands clipped and forced to quickly exit. The first couple of hours many seemed to be making it through, then, as if they had enough people, they began cutting and cutting and cutting, with my daughter being one of them. Like a professional, she took it well. No tears, no regrets, and she’s only fifteen. Very proud mama.
As my daughter stood in the audition line, I was placed in the guardian playpen, awaiting her results. I talked with many other parents. Rumors were flying-no Randy, no J.Lo, and Tyler was iffy? Could it be the end of an empire? It was a great experience even though the ending wasn’t happy.