Monday, May 31, 2010

S9: Finale - "Beautiful Day"

“Tickets to the American Idol finale are just about impossible to get,” the security/stage guy informed me during Top 6 rehearsals. Hm...

The road to LA, it’s a road I have now driven 4 times in 3 months. It’s a road I have come to know quite well. If there was one thing I was determined to do this season, it was attend that Finale. The day after Crystal & Lee were announced the final two, I checked my email just about every five minutes, all day -not sure how much work I actually produced. I never did get an email with the ticket vouchers, but thanks to a dear twitter friend, Caitlin, I did receive that link!

Her and her family would also be helping two others girls get to the finale, one from Arizona & the other originally from Chicago, an old friend of Lee DeWyze. [Actually, they helped a number of people get to the finale including some of Lee’s close friends].

[This is how small the world is ... the girl who got me the ticket, I met her sister & mom back at Top 8 guys rehearsal, while waiting in the stand-by line to get in for the taping (neither of us did). When I started following her (& vis-verse), we had no idea of the connection until a few weeks later.]

My friend, Donna, & I drove up to LA Tuesday afternoon. We decided it would be in our best interest to spend the evening in LA, so we could be well prepared for what Wednesday had waiting for us. Our music choice for our 2 1/2 hour drive? Why the Season 9 Top 36, well at least those songs I had purchased from iTunes, and of course, “Slumberland!”

Upon arriving, we took a stroll down to the Nokia Theatre to get the lay of the land. It just so happened that Crystal & Lee were performing at the same time we wandered the area. We paced around the Theatre as I read the Twitter feed off my phone. Too be so close to the actual event but have to relay on twitter to get the feel of the show..... :/

While eating dinner at The Yard House, I saw a tweet from Christine, Andrew’s girlfriend (who I met the following day), that the idols were currently outside in the media tent. We quickly finished up our food (I downed a martini), paid and rushed out the door.

The only remaining idols were the Top 6 girls (minus Crystal), but I nudged my way toward the front of the crowd, grabbed my permanent marker, the front page of The American Idol magazine, my camera & my phone. First up was Siobhan Magnus, though I barely missed her. I was not aggressive enough in my endeavors to receive her autograph but I was able to snap a quick photo before she was pulled away for another interview. Katie Stevens was so intrigued by everyone's cheers she came over to chat, but again, I just wasn’t aggressive enough. Though Donna did keep shoving my arm forward to get Katie’s attention. [Mind you this is my first experience at such things]. Paige Mills was next, this time my torn out page caught her attention & she signed it [1 down, 11 to go]. I was never close enough to even suggest getting a picture with any of them, but I didn’t mind snapping shots of others getting their chance. I feel like Didi Benami wasn’t too sure what was going on. I got a little video of her running back & forth because she couldn’t figure out where she was suppose to be -this interview or that one. She decided to mosey on over to us since it appeared she was waiting for Lacey to finish up. She grabbed right for my page! [2 down, 10 to go]. I was starting to get the hang of this! Lacey Brown had to by my favorite. She is just so beautiful, sweet & cheery. She was so excited to see the magazine and asked if I even read it, “Great stuff in there!” [3 down, 9 to go]. I took a few more snapshots of Siobhan talking to some cameras and decided it was time to head back to the hotel to catch American Idol, west coast time. We would be back Nokia...just wait!

I’m not really sure I was prepared for what was to come. What I do know is that I could not sleep. My brain was going a 1,000 mph and I literally had “I’m leaving. I’m leaving. But the fighter still remains“ looping through my brain all. night. long. Needless to say, it was a long night and I had a long day ahead of me. The unfortunate thing about the whole occasion is that I was still recovering from a cold I got the Thursday before. Since I has been chatting it up earlier, by the time we got to bed my voice sounded awful.

The morning of the finale, I got a tweet from one of the girls that they would be on Good Day LA, so I tuned in just in time to see Caitlin holding cupcakes with Lee’s face on them. Ha ha. Not too long after, the station showed a glimpse of the line [this line was for those with voucher, to pick up tickets for the show] ... it was LONG and it was only 9:30. Last call for tickets, if they were still available, was 2:00. We quickly finished getting ready, packed up our stuff and headed down to the Nokia. We got there shortly after 10:00 and the line was wrapped around the block. I would say at least 500 people or more were in front of us.

We didn’t wait too long before they started passing out tickets. It truly is completely random. There are about 3 people who pass them out. You walk up to one guy, give him your voucher [that has been checked once for validity and once crossed checked on their list of names] he calls out the number in your party and waits till one of the ticket holders calls out “I got two tickets.” Then you walk up, grab them and your on your way for the day until doors open at 3:00.

For as far back as we were, we got pretty decent tickets: Orchestra section (floor), Row AA (27 rows behind the judges) and seats 318/319 (dead center). This would normally be absolutely amazing seats had the the middle section not been taken out for the cameras. We could not see the far right of the stage and while sitting, Donna often had to lean in to see center stage. Either way though, they were great seats. I can’t complain.

As for the girls we got the tickets from, they were first in line. Caitlin’s mom got in line at 2:00am. It was definitely worth it, they got 4th row seats. They sat right behind Kris Allen’s family & were surrounded by Idol alumni. I know I was jealous! We did have Nigil Lythgoe (So You Think You Can Dance) in the row across from us.

I did get the opportunity to briefly meet the girls when they were waiting in line, but we had to get a place ourselves, so it was a quick “hello.”

At this point we had time to kill, but since we were checked out of our room (dressed and ready to go), we didn’t really have anywhere to go but hang around The Nokia. Most of the red carpet and barricades had been laid out. I saw one of the Texan ladies we met at Top 6 rehearsals hanging out in front of the TV Guide set up, so we wandered over to chat some. Standing on the red carpet is actually blinding. You need sunglasses when you stand on it. Eventually we got kicked off since we were not special nor had a pass. There were quite a few people standing around the barricades so we decided that if we wanted prime spots, we needed to hunt them out & claim them now. Mind you, it was only a little past 11:00 and the red carpet wasn’t opened till 3:00. That’s four hours of waiting...

Donna went to get food while I scouted out for a spot. Security was ruthless. They wouldn’t let us stand or sit anywhere. I stood calmly a slight distance away and was never bothered. We switched out and I went to grab food. I got tea & 2 slices of banana bread, in which I ended up only eating half of one. Something about this excitement left me unable to eat. We ended up sitting outside of Starbucks for a while. It appeared useless to wait near the carpet since they kept kicking us out. We met a family who comes to the show every year. They were 2nd in line, arriving around 5:00 & got Row 8. Not too shabby.

Eventually I got impatient just sitting around, it was nearly one and I wanted a prime spot near that carpet! People had gathered where we had been earlier, apparently the security guard gave up on pushing people away. Psh. The only problem now was that they started putting the final touches of the red carpet up and that included an 8-foot wall right where we had access. Really? The area beside the media tent was getting setup for a winding line for us regular folks to enter the theatre come time for the doors to open (we had to be inside no later than 4:30) so that put a large gap between us and the red carpet which was about to be lined with media.

I noticed in the distance a small group of people lined up by a couple of barricades to the right of the front of the red carpet. We headed over there and staked our claim. It looked to be out best bet. Of course, one of the suited security guards insisted that we make are way across the street to the Staples center to watch from there because we would soon be kicked out by security. No, that was not going to be the case for me, I would wait to be kicked out. This became our focus for about 30 of us standing firm in our spots for the next 2+ hours.

Security eventually came but those to the left of the pillar were allowed to stay, those to the right had to go. We were on the left and I was at the front of the barricade. Bring it on! It was the best spot possible for viewers. The media LOVED us. I’m pretty sure my face graced numerous TV stations and cameras. My hair even made the actual American idol website! Ha. The coke girls came over and spoiled us with cokes & water.

While we waited, the group often erupted in “Lee” and “Crystal” chants. It became a battle of the idols...and Lee kept winning. :)

A few times, the suited security guy kept telling us that we would still have to leave eventually, but we stayed anyways. We were a rather stubborn group of people. This one lady seemed frustrated that she couldn’t get a better spot for a picture. Who was the lady? It was Momma Bowersox, and I don’t mean ‘Mamasox’ herself, but Crystal’s mom, and her brother Timmy. They didn’t get access to the red carpet and she really wanted a picture of Crystal walking the carpet. I ended up giving her my spot so she would have a better shot. Except, she was too impatient to wait and left hoping another lady with a professional camera would be able to snap one and send it her way. Her and her two kids ended up switching spots with Crystal’s mom. So much for my prime spot but I was still in a good spot with a great view.

Until....the sign! I swear the suited security guy had it out for us. He purposely placed the sign “This area is closed for a private event” directly in our view. He refused to move it or turn it. So what did we do? We started chanting “Move the sign. Move the sign. Move the sign.” Yes, we did. All the media were set, ready to go but stopped to stare at us. Eventually some nice guy came and turned it in such a way, we could see again. The suited security guy was not happy. He kept giving us the evil eye and he would walk past the sign in such a way he taunted us. I’m not lying. He did not like that we were there even though all the other security people said we were perfectly fine where we were. He would talk into his headset (which we all deemed was fake) and would just stare us down.

A little after 3:00, when some celebrities started arriving, other security came over and insisted we move. Not one of us turned to look at them. We had been standing there for 2 hours, told we were fine by numerous people, and we were not about to make a move and having someone else take our spots. We formed a solid union. And as one lady said, “You can’t change the rules of Poker in the middle of the game.’ After much failed instruction to get us to move, they gave up and let us be! We prevailed!

Some of the first to arrive on scene were Matt Giraud (S8), Michael Sarver (S8) & Scott MacIntyre (S8). Justin Guarini (S1) & Kimberly Caldwell (S2) were on site at the TV Guide area doing interviews. Most of the early arrivals were people no one recognized. They would come out of the nice cars and wave, yet nobody cheered for them. We noticed a lot of limos kept on driving by. My guess is they contained some surprise celebrities that would appear on the show. The Bee Gees, Hall & Oats & Alice Cooper all arrived on the red carpet around the same time. About this time the first celebrity/idol alumni - Michael Sarver (S8) came over to us to sign some autographs. I just missed getting his autograph, but we did chat a bit while he was signing the girl in front of me’s sign. I told him I enjoyed his new single “Ferris Wheel” and he asked if I had seen the video yet. “Yes! It is absolute beautiful.” I new he really wanted to sign my page but he was getting pulled away to go back to the media line.

In a rather large group and from the opposite side of the entrance came a slew of Idols, Kris Allen and his wife Katy, Allison Iraheta, Anoop Desia, Lil Rounds (all S8) and David Archuleta (S7). Allison caught wind of us and really wanted to come over but they would not let her. Those that broke that barrier... Constantine Maroulis (S4), Michael Johns (S7), and Bo Bice (S4). The only of the three’s autographs I got was Constantine before they were all pulled away from us again. Carly Smithson, Elliot Yamin & Blake Lewis (S7) tagged along with the idol alumni.

We were paying attention to those coming from the cars b/c few people were coming from our left, since it wasn’t really an entrance. Though Megan Joy & Norman Gentle (S8) slipped by us almost without notice. One former idol did not! In the corner of my eye, walking right in front of us, I saw this purple jacket & a head with a slight mullet.
Yes, I actually screamed it! Ha ha... He turned and look, and yes, it was! Alex Lambert, the one who should have been Top 12 this season! As soon as the crowed noticed him, they went crazy. He came over and signed my page, purposely over Ellen’s face, and I let him know how much I love his voice & music he has put out on “If I Can Dream.” He is one down-to-earth guy! He probably spent the most time with the fans out of anyone that stopped by.

Some other celebrities that we saw arrive were Chilli (formerly from TLC), Andrew Lloyd Webber, Dr. Drew, Lori Loughlin (Full House) & Nigil Lythgoe. Will Young & Janice Dickenson came over to say hi, they were the only 2 none American Idol to greet the fans waiting on the side.

One of the biggest reactions from the crowd was when General Larry Platt got out of the car, along with William Hung. Everyone broke out in some “Pants on the Ground,” as Platt showed of his new belt.

About 4:00 the current Top 12 finally arrived! Crystal Bowersox was pulled up in the Ford vehicle she designed, with Lee DeWyze trailing behind in his. The crowd over at the Staples Center, us, and all those around erupted in huge cheers as they existed. The crowd near the front of the carpet was so crowded it was hard to get glimpses of them. The remaining 10 followed after in various Idol designed Ford vehicles. Here are some photos of the Top 10 on the red carpet: Siobhan Magnus, Lacey Brown, Lee DeWyze, Lee DeWyze, and Casey James

By this time, it was necessary for us to get in line to enter the theatre, a line that was already wicked long. Try herding in 7,000 people at last minute because everyone was watching the celebrities come in. Despite my attempt to hide my camera & phone in my purse pockets, the lady seemed determine to find something in my purse reaching in every nook & cranny. :/ So I had to turn it in. Donna got hers through, as did MANY others. I didn’t plan on using them, I just didn’t want to deal with getting it back afterward.

Walking into the theatre was almost surreal. If you didn’t know, this would be my 4th American Idol taping/rehearsal this season. I saw two shows during semi-finals which are taped on a small circular stage surrounded by approx. 75 people. Very intimate. Then I saw Top 6 which is in the same studio but it was completely transformed with a large stage, massive staircases and seated approx. 450 people. Then to walk into the Nokia Theatre with 7,000 in attendance...I can’t imagine how the Idols felt after each transition.

I was very anxious. Perhaps it was a good thing there were no idols or celebrities within my surrounding area because I was hyped up. It was the finale! The last show! Tonight someone would be crowed the new American Idol! And then it would be over, but I couldn’t think about that...I had to think Lee or Crystal. I was nervous. I think a lot of it comes with the vicinity you are in, you can’t help but be involved.

With fifteen minutes till we were live, out comes the MC, Cory! Me and Cory? We have history. We go all the way back to the Top 20 result show where he mocked me all night and asked if I was putting on lip gloss to look good for “The Gokey.” We even go back to the Top 6 performance show were he gave me a personal shout-out in the studio & on twitter. Even that night I would get a simple shout-out at the end of the show, simple because I cheered. Let’s be friends, Cory, and hook my up next year!

Back to the finale, Corey gets the party pumping. We are up on our feet dancing in the aisles. He even brought on a few people to show off their dancing skills. He then introduced the judges, always in the same order: Kara, Randy, Ellen...and then usually with seconds to spare, (this time minutes) Simon. This would be Simon’s final entrance to American Idol. It was a bitter-sweet night. Ryan pops out and with that we are introduced to our Final 2: Crystal Bowersox and Lee DeWyze. The crowd goes W.I.L.D. Debbie hops on stage and gives them each a hug and then starts a 10 second countdown while Cory lets us know we have 1-minute till were live. Huh? What? “6-5-4,” why is Cory still talking, [I don’t think they are ready] “3-2....” never-mind. False alarm. Debbie scared herself, yes, Cory was right, we still has 1-minute to live. I think everyone was anxious.

“Look to the screen.” Here we go. This is it. Crystal, Lee & Ryan wait at the top of the stairs.
“This IS American Idol!”
Despite it being a 2-hour (and 7-minute) show, it went by very quickly yet very slowly. The show was amazing. I remember when the boys came out to sing their songs with Hall & Oats ... Lee started singing and I jumped up and yelled,
“He’s got some swagger!”
I was very much involved in the night of performances. I would stand when no one else was standing. I would yell when no one was yelling. You can actually hear me when Ryan announces Kris Allen, I would be that first “Woo” that you hear! :) I was grinning, ear-to-ear when that boy was singing! When a song would start, I would be up on my feet (especially when Crystal & Lee were on stage). I would also be the one cheering when Ryan announced that Janell Wheeler was in Toledo with Crystal’s fans.

One thing I found interesting, during the commercial breaks, Cory would go around and chat with people, give away phones & ipod touches to 8-year olds (why?) and always ask, “Who’d you vote for?” Every since person he asked said, “Lee DeWyze.” The girls beside me would sigh in anger (they were Crystal fans). I knew at that point that if Lee did not win, the crowd would not be too pleased.

There was an interesting moment during Dane Cook’s song that was apparently not so planned. When the Idol rejects came out, the strange guy with the fur, sleeveless jacket (we saw him on the red carpet and nobody knew why), stole the mic from Dane. While him and Tatiana were fighting over the mic I heard in the backgroundAmerican Idol music in the background...yep, they cut to commercial early. Smart move. That guy did not want to give up the mic or get off the stage. Then adds Cory,
“Got to love live TV!”
I allowed myself to be distracted by the “seat fillers” during commercials. They would jump up from their seat, wanderer around for a new seat or some director would be calling those from the “crap” seats to move somewhere else. American Idol does not want an empty seat on TV. For instance, when the idol alumni had to get up for their song, they needed fillers. Not sure that would be fun. You never know where or if you’ll have a seat.

There are three girls who sit behind the camera section (where the only empty seats are cause you can’t see anything) with laptops. It took me a while to figure it out but they are at constant work with the pictures from the show. You see picture cards being passed back and forth. That way they have shots ready to go the moment the show ends. Pretty cool, huh?

One of my favorite performances was the Idol Alumni song. I knew something was coming, I just wasn’t sure what BUT that was amazing! You could feel the energy and emotion fill the room. What a moment! Kelly, then Rueben; Fantasia, then Carrie...and look, I see David Archie, Matt Giraud, Kim Caldwell...Awe, here comes the current idols (minus our Top 2). Wow! I’ll admit I almost got a little teary watching it. It would have been cool to have Crystal & Lee up there, one of them would be joining that elite group of Idol winners.

Though it seemed like it went by so quickly, it felt like it would take an eternity for Ryan to announce the winner. At one point, Donna asked for the time, but I didn’t have my phone to check. But I had this feeling at one point we were coming to a close. Sure enough, one more commercial and this was it! Crystal & Lee come out on stage. They share a beautiful moment hugging each other. The rest of the top 12 huddle up on the side. Andrew looked anxious from the distance. I was on the edge of my seat and my legs were bouncing. I would be happy either way...Crystal is amazing, but Lee was my guy! To be honest, I was kind of hoping it would be a tie.

Debbie starts to count it down ... “3, 2, 1...” and we are back. Here we go, the crowd is on its feet. I start to feel Lee’s anxiety. Poor guy looks sick. My head is going from the stage to the screen ... back & forth, not wanting to miss the reaction but wanting to see it actually happen. Ryan flips the card open, a piece of me starts doubting, but no, he’s got this! I know it! I can see Crystal mouth “Lee,” (Crystal knew it, too).
‘And the winner of American Idol is ... (the pause from eternity) ... Lee DeWyze!”
The crowd went nuts and I mean ... CRAZY! I literally leaped in the air (and got some height). He won! Uh oh, I think he still might pass out. The crowd does not stop cheering and the screens are flashing “Lee wins!”

That was an amazing moment to experience. Had I not had these tickets, I would have been sitting on my coach with my laptop in my lap watching a live stream, 3 hrs before it aired in California....not the same experience!

I caught a glimpse of his brother with the biggest grin possible! I imagine his mother was the same. Lee was emotional, but I don't think the camera even captured the real emotion. The atmosphere and feel of the theatre is indescribable. To be there in that moment! The song, the confetti, the tears, the cheers...It surely was a "Beautiful Day!"

I think someone got a little confetti happy, for a few moments I thought it swallowed up Lee but then he appeared of nowhere, trying to make his way to the stage behind the judges. When the cameras were off, he still couldn’t believe it. He gave a brief speech thanking everyone over and over again. He even acknowledge Simon before the ushered him off to do his “I’m going to Disneyworld” advertisement. It appeared he tried to go hug his family first but they wouldn’t let him. I watched him tape the commercial about 3 times before he got it right.

And that was that.
Season 9 of American Idol was over.
Four months of my life ended with two words, “Lee DeWyze.” And that is just what I hoped for when he auditioned with “Ain’t No Sunshine” and I responded, “Hey, that’s Kris Allen’s song ... oh, but not too shabby!”

We walked out of the theatre and I went to pick up my phone & camera. [My phone battery was about dead because I did my best to keep my Twitter followers up-to-date with the red carpet happenings.] We walked out and a huge crowd was already over at the media tent waiting for the idols to come out to talk to the press. I insisted we sit down for a while, so I could catch up on my @replies before we headed home. My feet were killing me (4 blisters and wicked sunburn--> totally worth it). Not too long after we sat, I started to hear some screaming, “Casey! Tim! Siobhan!” I had no energy to head over there...but when I looked up I saw a familiar face!

Standing my the theatre entrance was Christine Conception, Andrew Garcia’s girlfriend. I couldn’t not say hi. So I walked up and introduced myself (using first name & twitter name, ha). She totally recognized who I was and we chatted briefly. She’s super nice and adorable! Glad I stopped and said “hi.” So though I have yet to meet Crystal, Lee or Andrew ... I have met and conversed with their family (Lee’s mom, Crystal’s mom & brother, Andrew’s GF).

We grabbed some Starbucks on our way out and then briefly stopped by the media tent just as Tim walked over to the crowd to sign some autographs. I tried snapping a few shots of the tent in general (you can see Siobhan, Big Mike, Casey and Tim) and got one of Tim Urban before my camera battery died.

So that would be it, except we first passed by Debbie and I told her “great show!” before we finally headed out and back to our car. The whole ride home (despite our 30 mins on the wrong freeway....) we kept bringing up miscellaneous moments from the past two days. Lee winning, the performances, Alex Lambert...! It was phenomenal! We played mostly Lee’s music on the way home, of course, in celebration of our new American Idol!

I only got three of the Top 12 autographs, but I got 2 of the most important for the time being (Lacey and Paige, seeing as they won’t be on tour). But I do plan to complete that during the tour! :)

That was the end to my Season 9 Idol adventures. Four great stories! So many memories! And approx. 860 miles of driving.... all worth it! Right? I’d say so!

All my pictures from  The American Idol finale can be found here.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

S9: Top 6 Rehearsal & Taping (unfinished)

This was my attempt at writing a recap from the Top 6 rehearsal & taping....I didn't get very far, so it is unfinished)

"It's a once in a lifetime opportunity, seeing American Idol live ... well, apparently not for you," commented my new pilot friend from Utah. Somehow in the midst of our laughters & idol enjoyment, we never did get each others names.

I thought the same thing back in March when I won the American Idol tickets for the Top 20 result show with Danny Gokey; however, yesterday I embarked on my third trip this season to see the show. I can't pass up a free concert, even if I have to drive 2.5 hours to get there.

On Friday, I got the email that I was less than expecting. Having already received tickets from last month (after I won tickets), I wasn't expecting to go again. It had taken a year the first time around, and I only registered the 2nd email a little over a month ago. But I was more than willing to go again.

My friend Melody and I (she went to the Top 8 Guys rehearsal with me) arrived at The Grove at 11am. We passed up getting lunch to make sure we were their early to get a good spot in line. Even two hours early, we were about 50th in line (the studio seats about 450).

One of my favorite things about the experience are the people you meet. One of the first questions always asked..."So who are you voting for?" Plus I'm a people watcher & I enjoy ease-dropping on conversations... What? People are entertaining and when you are standing outside for almost 2 hours, you need entertainment. It also makes for an easy transition to start up a conversation...

We met some Casey James fan (that, I am not). They are actually from his hometown in Texas and know his mother --> PTA connection, I believe it was. They were crazy ladies, but a ton of fun. I guess Kara isn't the only cougar fan out there.
Casey tidbit --> His family is selling t-shirts to help pay for all the trips out to Hollywood.
A little before 1pm they started checking tickets and herding us like cattle into the waiting area. Going through security, they took away my life line. No, not really, but they did confiscate my phone. I guess they don't trust me. Like I would spoil the show for anyone. Oh, wait... :)

The metal detector goes off Every. Single. Time. someone walks through it, yet they do nothing! What's the point...? I walked through & sat down next to the person who was in front of me. After a few good minutes I realized that the 'Lil Rounds look-a-like' was telling people where to sit (I never saw a pattern to their seating arrangements). With Melody's nudge, I got up to make sure we sat where we should have. She said we were fine where we were, so I went back & sat down. Not 30 seconds later, the 'Lil Rounds look-a-like' walks over to me and asks, "Well, did you guys want to stand in the pit?"
In the moment I excused myself to pretend like I was a twelve year old fan. I was really excited. We were moved two benches back to sit with the 'cool kids.' To our right, was the Utah pilot & his wife. (Who I originally thought was very attractive till I saw the ring on his finger. The cute ones are always married). :/ It was at this point we sat... and we sat... and we sat. People continued to walk through the security and the place was packed full. Chaos, I tell you.

Yet somehow in the midst of chaos, they have order. And that order meant our row (and side) went in first. Yes! Prime-time spot, right in front/next to the stage! Bring it, American Idol!

The studio is much smaller than it seems on TV. I said this during semi-finals (which it really is smaller), but it's crazy to see the transformation from a 75+ seating, Red Room & smaller circular stage to a 450+ seating, huge stage, and an orchestra overhead. Wow! It's awesome. And it was all right there in front of us.

Of course, Idol doesn't want to disappoint, so they do some rearranging. I told the people around me to "think pretty;" however, it seems the lady rearranged based on height? Yet she stuck 2 boys (who happened to be taller than us) in front. Come to found out, they have never even seen an episode of American Idol. Lame. We still had a great spot, but still...

While we waited for Ryan to show up with chatted with the security/stage guy on our side. He was super nice! He tried to get some tickets for his friends on, but couldn't figure it out. I guess not everyone connected to Idol has access to free tickets. Though, he does get Finale tickets for the performances (which I totally tried to get from him). He said tickets for the finale are IMPOSSIBLE to get. :/ This is why I have entered every contest that comes my way.

He mentioned something about a lunch break and I said how we skipped lunch to get in line early. He later shared his Nutter Butters with us! He even hopped on stage during a segment taping of us cheering to give them to me. Score! Yes, that one Nutter Butter cracker & the adrenaline rush held me over for 12 hours. The best part was trying to hide it when we were taping. :)

Debbie let us in on an interesting fact about the B.E.P performance,
Anyone notice that during the Black Eyed Peas Performance during IGB that the band was not quite complete until ... the middle of the song? Before cutting to the Pasadena Theatre, Ryan was told to stall because was not even in the theatre (This is when he walked over to the contestants & started chatting)!'s car had broken down & he had to run on foot to get to the show & arrived just in time to do his little dance thing.

Finally, Ryan arrives and we can get the rehearsal started. He seemed tamer than he was a few weeks ago when we visited a rehearsal, but he was definitely still Ryan (especially when it came to him introducing the Idols). As the Idols came out on stage, the crowd went c.r.a.z.y.

Lee definitely does not take these moments for granted & a smile beamed from his face. You could tell he was soaking it all in. Siobhan & Crystal were

During the intro to the show, as Ryan was 'reading' the prompter, he decided to have a little fun. Instead of "Paint Salesman," Lee apparently worked at a yogurt shop. As the crows chuckles, Lee's face was priceless. The speakers on the stage don't workgood and often the Idols can't hear what is being said into a mic.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

S9 Top 12

After an upsetting AI Top 16 Result Show (#BringAlexBack #LillyScott), the season 9 top 12 have been announced:

The Girls
Crystal Bowersox 5/26
Siobhan Magnus 4/28
Didi Benami 3/31
Lacey Brown 3/17
Katie Stevens 4/14
Paige Miles 3/24

The Boys
Lee DeWyze -winner!
Andrew Garcia 4/14
Michael Lynche 4/7 SAVED 5/12
Casey James 5/19
Aaron Kelly 5/5
Tim Urban 4/21 (IGB)

Note: Yes, they are listed in order of preference. But after last week's show, I don't know what to expect anymore....

Thursday, March 11, 2010

S9: Top 8 Guys Rehearsal

Ryan Seacrest joked around that there was probably an undercover reporter in the audience. Little did he know I was taking it all in to later share with the world. :)

What did I learn about Ryan tonight? He was not the same person that he was during the live taping last Thursday. Though, at first those around me agreed that he seemed 'fake & scripted,' he quickly proved to be a bit ... crazy?? Either he was pumped up on Red Bull or forgot to take his Ritalin this morning.

There is a whole different side of Idol that we don't get to see. Three sides, I think. 1) What we see on TV, 2) What the people in the live studio audience experience, and 3) Everyone's true colors: the rehearsal.

Last week I had the chance to see American Idol live during the result show. Awesome! This week, I got to attend the Top 8 Guys rehearsal. Next week ... I'll probably be tweeting live .. from my couch.

It's much more convenient getting dropped off by a Limo at the blue awning, taking a few simple steps around back and sitting with the family & friends. But, when you are one of the lucky few (more like 70+ people) who get picked from the waiting list, it's another story. We parked at The Grove & walked over to Genesse Ave. Waited for an hour, finally got walked back, only to wait in the cold wind for another 30 minutes or so. It was cold! Even then you were not guaranteed a seat. Don't be late either. Idol is strict on time and space.

Blackberry anonymous. That should be the group Ryan attends daily. When was he not on his phone, tweeting? Want proof? Check his Twitter account! He posted a picture from rehearsal (barely missed the shot).

I was excited last week to see them all live. Even more excited this week to see the boys perform LIVE! It may have only been a rehearsal, but it was good enough for me. The show takes an hour, with the talkative judges. The rehearsal took about an hour & a half, with no judge commentary. A lot goes on....

First up was Lee DeWyze (Vote Lee!) singing 'Fireflies.' I was hyped up about this performance. 1) I love this song, 2) Lee is my favorite. Watching it back, he sounds so much better live. I'm telling you guys, the TV does him no justice. It was practically flawless. I was ready to end the show there & declare a winner. The room practically floated with him as he sang. It's great to see him with a smirk in his eyes. He appears to be a deep thinker and I really think he's gaining the confidence to take this show on with full force & fight for his place.

LIE: I was always amazed how quickly they gathered footage to show during the 'recap' section at the end, especially with the last performance.
FACT: That footage is from the rehearsal!! Oh! That makes perfect sense!

Ryan dreams Idol. He won't be paying attention when the theme music starts to play, and no matter where he is, he is suddenly on the idol prowl. He jumps out of nowhere ready to ace the camera. He even demonstrated for us a night's sleep where he suddenly jerks awake and yells, "This IS American Idol."

Alex! Poor guy looked like a nervous wreck just standing there during the practice intro. Again, I wanted to yell, 'Alex, you rock!' but I didn't. To be honest, looking back at his rehearsal, I don't remember much, but I might have been on a Lee high... I do love his voice & I think he did better in the live performance. P.s. I want to give a shout out to Ellen for her bananas. Sometimes, she actually just makes sense.

Question: Do the judges attend the rehearsal? No. (Though I hear they sometimes sneak-a-peek.) Instead, the have 'fillers.' They don't get to talk much, they just help with giving some time estimates, but if they ever need a stand in, these guys know their characters (at least the 'Randy' & 'Kara' fillers). Too funny. 'Yo, Dawg, that was a bit pitchy, dawg.'

I brought my friend Melody with me (FYI, she hasn't watched this season at all) and guess who her favorite was?? Tim Urban. Let me tell you about the 'gasp' that was heard around CBS studio. 'Tim Urban is up next singing 'Hallelujah,' GASP.....
Not a closed mouth in the audience. Tim just turns around rocking his head with a smirk on his face. My thought, 'Woah, he's got to have a lot gut to pull this off.' And wow, was I surprised. I walked out of the studio feeling like I had the world's biggest secret in hand. Just wait, just wait till they hear him sing this! Way to fight for your right to ... stay on Idol. With his solid fan base that has saved him the last two weeks and the angels singing with him tonight...he just might crack the Top 12.

Random note: The girls joined the audience, as they do on the show, but one was missing! Katelyn was nowhere to be found. Some girl from the audience got to sit in her place. Um, Miss .. if you get the privilege to sit next to Siobhan Magnus put a smile on your face! Don't look so angry and bored. Maybe she was mad that she didn't get to sit by her friend, but really, you are surrounded by the future of the music industry. Katelyn later rejoined and Lilly went missing (what goes on behind the Idol stage, I so want to know!!). She eventually returned so the girl was rescued to her friend behind me.

I had this idea on Monday: How great would it be if one of the guys sang Christina Aguilera's "Genie In a Bottle?' Andrew could break it down. Now imagine me sitting in the audience when Ryan says, 'Andrew's gonna take on Christina..' Woah. I love Andrew and I wish the world wasn't so hard on him. He is not a one-hit wonder. One thing I did noticed during the rehearsal, he had this hesitation about his performance. He wasn't too sure about it. I liked it. The judges didn't. (I almost wanted to break out into my Jr. High dance moves to the song...) Back to the live taping, anyone notice him stumbling the first line? Eek. Ellen: 'The Genie came out of the bottle too late.' Agreed. Someone mentioned that they preferred the end of the song over anything else.

Ryan: "So far in this competition, Andrew has covered ... Richard Simmons."
Andrew: Looks up, confusion & panic shadow his face.

The difference between the live show & rehearsal. 1) Interaction 2) Excitement 3) My BFF, the MC. Walking into the live show, the music was blaring, the lights were on, the people were excited. Walking into the rehearsal, the lights were dim, there was no music, and everyone kept to a whisper or silence. It took a while for Ryan to warm up, though Debbie was having a blast bossing him around. I love Debbie (stage manager). She's awesome.

If you want to guarantee your way into the live taping from the rehearsal, aim to be sat in the section to the left of the stairs. Of course, you have no power when it comes to this, but a little persuasion never hurt, right? It's the 'money spot'-if you sit here, you will be on TV. And apparently, they ask you to stay for the taping, too. Rats! So those folks sitting there tonight, most of them were at the rehearsal.

Casey...Casey...Casey. You could hear a pin drop during his rehearsal. It looked like it took effort for people to get up and applaud his performance. I kind of spaced out, oops. I was reviewing the line up and/or staring off into Lee's direction, maybe. Melody's opinion ... The guitar was fantastic. Watching it back, yeah, still not a fan. Didn't they almost give him a big 'No' during auditions? Simon said no, Kara & Posh lusted, and Randy ... Let the girls have this one. Why, Randy, why??

The guys didn't interact with the audience as much as the taping. I figure it was nerves. Instead of hanging out on the 'fence' of the Red Room, they huddled on the couches till it was their turn to sing or watch the performances. Even on the stage they seemed to be wondering like a 'lost duck.' Then there is Todrick flashing his moves ever chance he gets.

Oops, during rehearsal Casey tried running off the stage with the stool. I think Aaron needed that. That was just the first mishap during Aaron's practice. He was cut off in the middle of the song by Debbie. I guess there were some sound problems. I thought she was just waving him off the stage at first. I didn't think he sounded that bad. Melody pointed out that he had tangled up some of his words. Surprised? No. At least he is finding filler words unlike Hollywood weel. I like Aaron. He's 16 and can sing. He definitely could have a future, but like Haeley he needs a year(s) of fine tuning. Wow, watching it back, he was MUCH better live. He's got an awkward stage presence, makes it uneasy to watch. Ryan likes to pick on him, of course, not on camera.

Crystal & Lilly seemed to have a blast watching the guys. They were doing some kind of leg stretches while waiting... Everyone else had this deep thoughtful expression. Worry, perhaps. If I were some of them, I would be worried, too. Ryan seems to have a good connection with them. That's nice. Speaking of Ryan, did I mention he's a goofball? Really, he is. He stole Debbie's headset and started doing the weather. He hit on older Asian lady... well, not quite, but it was funny. He tried to get her to vote for him.

Ha ha. I love Todrick. This guy is funny and very energetic. One of the guys sitting by me wanted him to do a flip on stage, "A flip? Who's paying?" Not sure if ya'll got a good look at his pants, but they had faces on them. Yes, faces. A little creepy. The best part, he sang to us. When he kneels down to sing to the audience, it was right where we were sitting. Woot! He seems like a nice, genuine type of guy. He loves life & he loves to entertain. He didn't do too bad tonight, not sure it will save him, but at least he just sang the song rather than re-make the song. Right? "1-800-Todrick."

Side note: If you ever attend an Idol taping, just ignore the dress code. 'No jeans, no heels, no white...' No, they don't care. We broke all those rules and got in. Well, not to the taping, but still.

Big Mike is 'pimping' it out tonight. Anyone notice that Lee & him switched spots from last week? Mike barely got into his first verse when Debbie stopped him. Ryan had to redo his part for the .. third time? Gestures, Ryan, gestures! Take two ... Ha ha, the mic stand went crazy during rehearsal. Big Mike has a lot of power. It almost flopped over. Wow, he can sing. Again, another one that was even better live. Can you imagine that? That was good, really good. Not sure I would cry over it. Really, Kara? Really?

During rehearsal, non-Ritalin Ryan jumps up on stage, "Did you choreograph those moves, Mike? Because you were like here, and then here. Here and then ..." Jumps on Mike's back! 'Vote for Michael. 1-800..... Whew.' Yes, he actually did jump on him during rehearsal. I think Ryan is overworked.

They do, in a sense, choreograph their steps. The camera has to know where to be, so much time is spent camera placing before they sing. Todrick: 'I'll be getting my groove on right here for ya'll.' And microphone stands... it appears they have a stand set and ready for each contestant. It's amazing what goes on right next to Ryan when he is talking into the camera. One moment the stage is clear, the next ... a stool, guitar and Casey. Out of nowhere. Don't be surprised to learn that Debbie might be standing to the left of Ryan while he is chatting up the camera. Props to everyone who works behind the scenes on Idol. They work hard!

The boys come back for one last plea for votes. Cue the pre-recorded videos. Hey, that's me! Totally made it on TV during the recaps .. Thank you, Alex & Todrick!

And it is over...

The girls run off, the boys make their way back to the Red Room & out. I've got my purse in hand, ready to fight for my spot at the tapping. Unfortunately, I forgot my plan in the midst of the rush, and it delayed me running over to the line. We were #21 & #22. After waiting, an hour, in the cold wind, with no jacket, they only took 13 people. Bummer. Just missed it. Next time.

Oh, and yes, I am sure there will be a next time. *Fingers crossed*

Friday, March 5, 2010

S9: Top 20 Result Show

Possibly one of the greatest days of my life…

For those of you who do not know, I won Danny Gokey’s new CD from KSON 97.3 in San Diego. This last Monday I was placed in a drawing to win tickets to his appearance on American Idol that Thursday. Sure enough, Danny Gokey announced me as the winner! I received a limo ride to and from LA and two tickets to sit in the audience during the result’s taping.

I will admit I spent most of the day with butterflies in my stomach and probably could have had an “Alex Lambert” moment. I was a bit anxious! So excuse these few moments while I pretend I am a 12 year-old teenager and not 24.

It is hard to put in words what last night was like. Oh, how I wish I had my camera to capture the moments that will soon fade. It was surreal and I woke up this morning wondering if I was really there, except my DVR reminds me that I was.

Arriving at the studio, we were noted as ‘Danny Gokey’s guest’ and were escorted to security, where I unwillingly gave up my cell phone & camera. We passed by all the ‘audience’ members and were left to wait outside with the Idol family & friends. We quickly pointed out Alex Lambert & John Parks families. It’s crazy to think how the lives of these families will change dramatically in the next 13 weeks.

Fortunate for us, we sat right next to Lee DeWyze’s mom!! Karalee wanted to ask her if she was who we thought she was, but I told her not to…than yes, just do it:
“Are you one of the contestant’s moms?”
“Are you Lee DeWyze’s mom?”
“You’re son is FANTASTIC! We love him!”

We talked for a bit. She is a sweetheart, very genuine. They flew out from Chicago just the other day to see him perform. Unfortunately, they can’t come often due to work & she struggles getting Wednesday nights off to see him on TV. She is very proud of her son (who is greatly talented). I admit I wanted to tell her that I would gladly marry her son., but I refrained.

Finally, we were let into the studio. Wow, it’s small, smaller than it appears. I would say about 75 people in the audience. We sat to the right of the couches, opposite of the band, second row, seats 5 & 6. I would say about 5 feet from the stage. Our seats were in the “Reserved Danny Gokey” section, causing the group in front of us to ask if we were family. To my dismay, no, we are not.

The couple sitting next to us was also a radio winner but from Chicago. In our row we had guests of Randy & Simon.

I did take note that they place the ‘pretty’ & colorful people in the front row. I saw some rearranging going on before everyone was set. It appears there is some ‘deal’ with UCLA students because they filled the section that is most viewed on TV (all those girls in the colorful dresses to the right of the stage). They made a big deal about it, “Oh, who’s here from UCLA this time?” Um, where can I sign up for this job??

I did have 4 girls sitting to my left, but by the end of the night I had a bodyguard & the eliminated idols. There are a lot of “filler” audience members that get rushed to some chairs off set throughout the show.

If you noticed, during the group song the seats to the right of the judges are filled with the audience. Later, you will find the contestants sitting there (first, the girls, then the guys). During one of the transitions, they switched it about 3 times before they decided the guy contestants should be there and not the ‘fillers’ … with 5 seconds to live feed. Whoops!

About 30 minutes before the show, the idols came out into the ‘red room’ (later to be occupied by the family & friends). They were a hoot (yes, I said ‘hoot). Todrick & Jermaine must be the life of the party because they were getting their groove on the entire time. Todrick likes to work the audience. Though, I could tell from Crystal & Lee’s look that those boys were way too much up in their personal space.

You got to see some personalities stand out while they waited. Lee often stood their staring into the set. He must be a deep thinker because he doesn’t show a lot on his face but you can see the emotion in his eyes. He was taking it all in. Andrew is pretty mellow, too, but he was doing some dance moves with Jermaine for a while. I swear Big Mike is bigger in person. Didi looked petrified. I think she believed it was her last night (No, Didi, you are top 12). My sister wanted to shout to her, “Didi, you are amazing! Don’t listen to the judges.” Crystal looked hyped and in great health! Sad to say, I didn’t notice some of the idols … I forgot they were even there. It was a lot to take in at the moment. There was so much going on.

It was quite surreal in those moments. It’s like I was plucked from my couch and dropped in the middle of something I thought only existed on my TV screen. Yet, here it was, right in front of me. Living & breathing. One of these 20 people would be the next Kelly Clarkson, David Cook, Carrie Underwood, & Kris Allen (*cough* LeeDeWyze).

Note: If you haven’t noticed, I am a huge Lee DeWyze fan. Check out his pre-idol CDs on iTunes and you, too, will become a fan!

Eventually, the “MC” of the evening came on. No, not Ryan! I believe his name was Chris. Chris & I will soon become BFF. He gets us pumped before, during & after the show. While the music is blaring, he gives us some info and starts working us vocally to get us excited for what is it come. Um, can he replace Ryan Seacrest? He’s funny, nice & quite entertaining. He had us get up & dance after bringing up three random audience members to show of their skills. It’s truly a party on the American Idol set! I imagine more so on a night where they are not losing four friends.

The great thing about Chris, if that is his name, is that he works the audience. He talks to us, hangs out with us & remembers us. This is where we became BFF thanks to Danny Gokey & KSON. He asked if anyone had bought Danny’s album yet. I ecstatically raise my hand and, once I have his attention, I point under my chair, “It’s in my purse!” He stops, “It’s in your purse? Um, Stalker … Can I get security over here, we have a stalker on set!” This results in a red and embarrassed face, covered in shame (No, not shame, I was just hoping I would get to meet him & I would be prepared). Our conversation would have continued if Kara didn’t walk in…

Be thankful that she was hidden behind a desk all night because her outfit was atrocious! She wore the tightest, shiniest leggings, from ankle to waist. It looked so wrong. Then, Randy comes out in over-sized high-tops from the 80s. Really, if this is fashion then I am glad I am not fashionable. Ellen joined the stage and showed off her dance skills. Simon, of course, arrives to his seat with seconds before we are live.

Chris quizzed us on if we voted. When our response wasn’t as big as he wanted, he replied, “This is Hollywood, you can lie!” He then went around asking who we voted for. I think Lee and Andrew won.

Later on, my conversation with Chris continued during commercial breaks. He learns that I won my CD & AI tickets from KSON. He rags me for reapplying my lip-gloss (which was actually chap stick) before Danny walked out, “Got to look good for the Gokey!” He questions if I have listened to the whole album, enjoyed it & have memorized his single “Best Days.” (Yes, yes & yes….) I even offered to sing it for him … ha, no. I was hoping that in the midst of this bonding that he would get Danny to come meet me, but no. You failed me, BFF.

Prior to the group performance, Debbie (you all met her on the show tonight when ‘live’ really becomes live), tries to pump up the idol’s enthusiasm for their group performance. The audience was even disheartened by the looks of despair. You can see it on their faces as they lip-sync the performance. Yes, if you haven’t figured out already, they lip-sync the group performance. Surprised? Not really. Why must we suffer as they suffer? During the break, Debbie tried to encourage them with our response but Lilly knew it was … less than mediocre. Note to idol: Ditch the group performance! It’s torture to the idols & audience!

So much happens on Idol when they are at commercial. Chris & Debbie take over and rock it! The judges disappear or are found hugging the eliminated, only to disappear and return seconds before we are live. Ryan reviews his ‘script.’ Couches come out of nowhere. The audience disappears and is replaced by contestants. Makeup artists attack (I was hoping I could get a touch up, but I guess not). Idols solemnly wonder the stage wondering their fate, ever so slightly interacting with audience. Family & friends are socializing up in the red room.

Danny Gokey came out about 2 minutes prior to his performance. He was greeted with at least one overly excited fan … me. (This is where Chris laughs at me) No, the crowd was great. He looks slimmer. Anybody else notice that? Ellen seemed excited to see him as well, as this was their first meeting. I could see Danny grooving with Ellen on her show. I loved this moment. He could not have been more excited to be there. He’s got great energy and those 3 minutes were awesome! Danny Gokey, you are spectacular. He was bombarded by the judges during the commercial, so the audience get neglected but still I was about 8 feet away from him… (teenage fan moment). My conclusion, if Danny was on this season, he would win … if it wasn’t for Lee DeWyze.

And cue the lights … talk about a depressing show to sit in on. I mean, when Didi & Andrew’s fate was on the line, I was on the edge of my seat! Yes, I would be the one in the audience with my hands clasped near to my face…afraid of what might happen. Then, when they announce who’s leaving I wanted to cheer … for the one staying and going (but I refrained and silently clapped my heart out). Though I admit my mouth dropped open when it was John Park over Todrick … really? Sorry, Haeley, but you are not ready.

As the idols were cast off the island (oh wait, wrong show, though I am in the CBS warehouse), the girls to my left disappeared, one by one. Eventually, it sat Mr. Security Guard, Michelle, Jermaine & John. I did get to have a quick chat with them.

Here is something you might not know: What are the two things John & Jermaine are most thankful for after being voted off? Sleeping in (they wake up at 4:30AM every morning) and the group song.

Did anyone notice the cell phone in Jermaine’s hand prior to Danny’s performance? Hey, if I can’t have mine, he shouldn’t have his! It’s okay. He got busted! Well, he was still on it seconds before we were live & the camera was on him. The cameraman was practically peeling it from his ear and security later confiscated it. Ouch. I know you want to tell your family that you are ‘frustrated’ (with a British accent) but this is a live show!

Remember when Simon said he watched back the tape and changed his mind about complementing some of the idols? The sound in that room is awesome, but it does sound so much different in person. Surprisingly, Haeley’s swan song sounded ‘okay’ in the studio but when I watched it back at home, I was glad when the recording ended mid-verse. Oh, John Park you deserved at least one more week to prove to us you are due your chances, but why did you wait until your swan song?!

One of my favorite moments during the night happened on/off set. Debbie had come over to John, Jermaine & Michelle to let them know when to walk on stage for the montage (again, I am right there). To the viewing eye, it almost appeared that Ryan was going to have Haley sing before the montages…cue Debbie screaming to Ryan, on air. You all heard it. Funniest moment. During the video, she’s looking at us all guilty yet innocent, almost tearing off her headset because the production room was a bit heated in that moment. Yes, that was Debbie who then quickly joined Ryan onstage. Oh, to love a live show! When it is live, it is live!

Some random moments I remember that you did not see: Crystal ran up to the four eliminated idols for a quick hug during their goodbye montage. Big Mike had to be the most enthused & supported person out there. He practically tackled Haeley. Kara gave a ‘pep’ talk to Michelle after she was dismissed from the show. Lacey & Haeley got stuck together when they hugged (oh, you might have seen that). The boys got some touch ups with makeup, you could see the excitement on Andrew’s face. Todrick showed off his dancing skills in the red room. Lee & Andrew had a discussion with some audience members about who they voted for. Ryan Seacrest acted a bit too scripted (anybody else notice this while watching it?)

There is this awkward feeling in the audience, as if you were intruding on a moment, as the idols hug the eliminated idol after the camera is off. When the show is over, we have to sit and wait for the idols & judges to exist before we are escorted out. I walked out thinking, ‘wow, this was awesome but depressing at the same time.’

I didn’t get to meet Danny, though I was hoping we’d get to. If I would have known it was that fun, I would have skipped work on Tuesday to attend the rehearsal with the boys. It was my turn on the waiting list from On Camera Audiences (I signed up last March).

If you ever get a chance to go, do it! And wear bright colors because you just might get a TV spot.

You can follow me on Twitter @blkeener, I try to tweet ‘live’ during most of the shows. Though I am on the West Coast, I have an east coast live feed. And …. #VoteLeeDeWyze