American Idol auditions in Austin

Ryan Seacrest greets auditioners in Austin last summer. (FOX Photo)

Did everyone catch Oprah’s grilling of the American Idol judges Wednesday afternoon?

If not, here are the highlights.

Asked about criticism from fellow rockers for judging Idol, Steven Tyler said he couldn’t pass up an opportunity “to have fun and sit next to J-Lo.”

Randy Jackson said Simon will always be a friend but he thinks the new judging panel has ”great comradery.”

Jennifer Lopez said saying “no” to contestants was tough at first, but she’s decided honesty is the best policy.

Jennifer also said the judges invited Chris Medina’s fiancee into the audition room with no idea how bad her injuries had been.

Well, maybe the judges didn’t know, but the producers sure as heck did. And I’m sure it was their idea that she be invited into the room.

In perhaps the biggest revelation, Steven said the judges are seeing 100 contestants per city, 50 per day. After just four cities, 193 contestants are Hollywood-bound. That’s a success rate of about 50 percent.

And, in the funniest line of the interview, Randy compared judges leaving Idol to students graduating from high school and heading off to college.

Hmm, so what does that say about Randy? Ten years later, he’s not ready to graduate. Or perhaps he’s being held back for saying “dawg” t0o frequently.

OK, a grilling it wasn’t. More of a 10-minute commercial for the show, complete with clips to hype contestants Medina and 15-year-old Jaycee Badeaux (enough already).

Potential American Idol contestants compete for attention at the Austin auditions. (FOX Photo)And now we head to Austin, where tonight’s show is supposed to start with an apology about Steven’s behavior.

A tongue-planted-firmly-in-cheek apology is what I expect. Come on. This is Idol. That announcement by Ryan this morning about an apology was a publicity ploy.

We all know by now that if there was a serious issue to discuss — oh, say like the ouster of a Joanna Pacitti or Chris Golighty — silence, not an apology, is what we’d hear from Idol.

Now comes Austin, where we’re going to meet the cream of the crop in a one-hour episode.

Yeah, sure. Fact is, Idol has already failed to introduce us to lots of very talented contestants, which brings me to an in-blog commercial for Idol Chatter. Glance up, and you’ll see a tab in the top blue bar that says “contestants.” Click on it and you’ll find mini bios, photos and singing samples for many of the Hollywood-bound contestants.

Keep checking back. My goal is to have them all there eventually.

Yep. Told you it would be a tongue-in-cheek apology.

And here we go. New contestants. New back stories.

* Corey LeVoy: First up, a guy who didn’t meet his sister until he was 14 and she was 16, because of parental differences, though they lived just 15 minutes apart. He sings “I Can’t Make You Love Me.” His sister is invited to join the panel for the judging and proclaims him “amazing.” And Corey is heading to Hollywood. He’s a 21-year-old nursing assistant … with a J-Lo he proclaims as he does a twirl and shows us his backside.

* Hollie Cavanagh: Hollie, 17, sings “At Last” and breaks down in tears when it appears she’s not going to make it to Hollywood. J-Lo asks her to sing another song. The McKinney, Texas, student complies by singing — oh, no, say it ain’t so — “The Climb.” And she makes it this time. I’d love to tell you more about Hollie, but she’s scrubbed her Facebook and YouTube pages. Oh, well, now that she’s Hollywood bound, perhaps a fan page will show up. Meanwhile, if she struggles with stress in the audition room, how is she going to handle Hollywood?

* John Wayne Shultz: OK, no way we weren’t going to meet this guy tonight. I mean a guy named John Wayne, at the Austin auditions. And of course, he’s wearing a cowboy hat. And he says he works on the ranch. Maybe he does. But he’s also been singing a while. In fact, back when this 23-year-old was a teen, he released a CD called “Ropin’ Dreams.” You can still buy it at, for the bargain price of $4.90.

About that name, here’s what he told an interviewer back in 2002: “When people find out my name is John Wayne, they always ask if I was named after the movie star. Sometimes they think that it is just a stage name, but I have one uncle named John and another named Wayne, so I sometimes say I was named after them. But my dad really is a John Wayne fan.”

And John Wayne will join Hollie and Corey in Hollywood.

Contestants wait for a chance to audition for American idol in Austin. (FOX Photo)

* Courtney Penry: The segment with this 17-year-old crushing on Ryan Seacrest is the stupidest we’ve seen this season. She can do the chicken. She oversings horribly. She screams. She works the chicken into her victory dance. She’s going to be incredibly annoying if she gets much screen time. And, why, oh why, is she going to Hollywood?

* Here comes the Idol quick blitz, glimpses of three Hollywood-bound contestants, Shautel Campos, Alex Carr and Caleb Johnson, all of whom seem capable of belting out a tune.

* Jacqueline Dunford, 21, and Nick Fink, 19, enter the audition room together after another silly lead-in. Yes, they’re a couple. A couple with eyes on being American Idol’s first “power couple.” Jacqueline says Nick’s “me in boy form,” and she sounds like she means it. They both sing. Fairly well. And this season, fairly well is plenty good enough to get you to Hollywood. Can’t help but wonder what Simon would have said when he saw Jacqueline and Nick walk into the audition room, gushing over one another’s performances.

* Janelle Arthur: Hey, we might have found a singer, 49 minutes into the show. Finally, a contestant who doesn’t oversing. Janelle’s a country gal whose family has tried to get her to audition for five years. She says she’s finally up to “trying.” I’d say so. The best of the night, so far.

Get this, Dizzyfeet (that’s Nigel Lythgoe on Twitter) just chimed into the conversation, apparently irked by Tweets knocking tonight’s show. His message: “Wow, there is a huge lack of humor out there!! Hey you guys, don’t take things too seriously, especially my shows. Smile or “Go **** a duck”

Wonder if we’ll get an apology about that next week?

* Casey Abrams: This 19-year-old, clearly a fun-loving guy, ends the show with a spirited rendition of “I Don’t Need No Doctor.” He fears the judges will be too tired to judge him fairly. Instead, they welcome his enthusiasm. And, of course, the show can’t end with a no. So he’s Hollywood-bound, too.

Fifty more golden tickets in Austin. That brings us to about 250 contestants in Hollywood with two audition episodes left.

Wow, the competition in Hollywood is going to be fierce, especially among the gals.

Tonight’s Snarky Simon Awards …

#1: Randy Jackson: “It was just all kind of wrong for me.” I think he was talking to the girl in the armadillo costume. If so, she got off easy.

#2: Randy Jackson: A contestant sings the line “I’m dying inside.” It’s nowhere near on key. Randy’s response: “I am too.”

Stay tuned. I’ll try to deliver more on some of tonight’s top contestants soon.


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