Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Humor Me: When American Idol kicked me out

I haven't watched American Idol in several years, but I know it's still a pretty popular show. Not like back in the Simon Cowell days, but still watched by millions. Americans are suckers for shows with singing and/or dancing and/or train wrecks involving either.

Anyway, back in 2006, I went out to cover an American Idol audition at Texas Stadium. I was shooting a video of some of the participants for The Dallas Morning News, and despite having proper credentials, I got run out of there. I wrote a column about it back then, and now that another season of American Idol is finishing up, I thought I would post it.

Humor Me: When American Idol kicked me out

If I auditioned for an American Idol judge, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear “get out of here.” I might even be relieved, considering my last public singing performance was so long ago.

It’s been nearly 30 years, in fact, since my first-grade class performed a German song that included words such as “uber” and “spielen.” It was considered my best musical performance ever, but unfortunately, it was also considered horrible. Our teacher probably muttered some German obscenities when we finished.

So yes, I can understand turning me away if I wanted to try out with people who are either truly talented or truly delusional. But at Idol central last weekend at Texas Stadium, I was told to take a hike BEFORE singing even one off-key note of “Desperado” or “Dream Weaver” or “Play that Funky Music White Boy.”

The exact words of the American Idol security guard:

“I want you to leave.”

Yes, I was asked to leave. Very callous. Maybe I shouldn’t have said I was working on a story about how Simon Cowell intensifies his British accent to seem more snobbish.

Actually, I just wanted to get some video of Idol hopefuls as they signed up to audition. And for a while, that’s what I did, interviewing them and taping them as they sang. I met a bunch of nice people, some of whom traveled hundreds of miles to audition. All had dreams of being the next singing superstar, and some were really good. Others were, well, really nice people.

I met 17-year-old Brittany Konas of Fort Worth, whose voice has been compared to Shakira’s. She sang “All that Jazz” for the camera, and her mom said I reminded her of “that movie director guy with red hair.”

You mean Ron Howard?

“Yes!” she said.

That was nothing new. When I was a kid, I was called “Opie” because I looked like Ron Howard’s character on the Andy Griffith Show. As a teenager, I became Ron Howard’s “Richie Cunningham” from Happy Days.

Other red-headed men my age have shared similar experiences, which leads me to this public-service announcement:

We do not all look alike.

I don't think so, anyway.

I didn’t take offense, however. Brittany’s mom was very nice, and she seemed very proud of her daughter. She also didn’t look at me like I was some rogue reporter with a camera up to no good.

That’s how American Idol security looked at me. Apparently there was a miscommunication about when I would be at the audition registration area, so the Fox media contact wasn’t on site when I started recording singers. I was told to stop shooting video until the media contact arrived, and I did.

But as I was waiting, one contestant walked over to me and asked if I was recording more singers. I said I had to wait until the media contact arrived, so the contestant said she would wait. She then introduced herself and shook my hand, and suddenly, Mr. Security Leader was all over me again. I was being disruptive, he said, and I needed to leave.

Fortunately, the media contact arrived, told the security guard to heel and gave me a big sticker that said “media.” She even offered me a bottle of water and asked if I was wearing sunblock. (Yes, I buy it by the gallon).

Wow, tight security. Or uptight security, anyway. I guess when you’re such a popular show, you need to take precautions. But my favorite part was when a Fox producer told me she had to be sure that I wasn’t trying to “poach” talent.

Like for my next movie, I guess. Maybe they thought I was Ron Howard.