Thursday, January 28, 2010

American Idol Season 9, Week 3: Shut Up and Sing

Back in the day, she was on "Barney & Friends"

What's the line Simon Cowell so loves to use when debating a contestant's merit? Oh yeah, I remember.

It's a SINGING competition.

With three excruciating weeks of American Idol auditions in the bag, it doesn't remotely feel like one.

Instead, it's Welfare Check Idol. Breeder Idol. Terminal Disease Idol.

Andrew Garcia, I don't care if your parents moved you out of Gang Land to give you a better life. Can you sing? (In this case he can, and would have advanced, sob story or not).

Christian Spear, I'm very sorry you got leukemia when you were 4. But the fact that you hung it around your neck actually turned me off from your performance. And you're a damned good singer too. Only 16 and you can sing Etta James like that?

Chris Golightly, it sucks that you were raised in two dozen different foster homes. But you're 25 now. Get over it.

"This is not a Lifetime Movie, sweetheart... you have to have talent," said Katy Perry as Golightly finished an unimpressive audition.

Thank God someone out there understands what I'm talking about.

Still, Foster-Care Boy is going to Hollywood. It'll really suck for him when he's cut and FOX is done exploiting his "story."

This week's episodes also made me remember why Idol tends to avoid Los Angeles on the audition tour: my city is full of desperate faker actors willing to do ANYTHING for a minute on national television. Anything.

Like the scary fag in the rubberized rugby shirt who screamed his way through a Cheap Trick song.

Like Mr. Creepypants Jason Greene who huffed and puffed his way through "I Touch Myself."

Like Neil, that scary fucking dude who raided Kathy Liebert's wardrobe for his audition outfit.

Thank God for the dominatrix chick who used to be on Barney & Friends or I might have just deleted all this dreck from my DVR straight away.

"If she doesn't make it to Hollywood, there's always the pole," said Pauly. "And she lives in Dallas. She's good-looking so maybe we'll see her at the Lodge."

The only reason I'm looking forward to next week? I hear everyone's favorite hippie orphan Rose Flack makes a return appearance at the Denver auditions.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

American Idol Season 9, Week 2: Glitter and Be Gay

Theo Glinton, ready for String Cheese tour

This week's double installment of American Idol auditions featured a black man covered in glitter, a chick who could flex her boobs, more sob stories and at least one arrest. You know, just another day at the office for Simon, Randy, Kara, and their rotating cast of guest judges. Those seats were filled by country songstress Shania Twain in the Chicago round and so-adorable-I-want-to-squeeze-her Broadway dynamo Kristin Chenoweth in Orlando.

Chicago wasn't too fruitful when it came to the talent. Only 13 Idol hopefuls earned a golden ticket and naturally, most of them had tragic pasts to go with their silken voices.

Poor little Katelyn Epperly's father left her and her Momma this summer. Momma always wanted Katelyn to audition for Idol and now that Daddy's gone, Momma's looking for a new meal ticket. After launching into a mini-therapy session with the judges, Katelyn tore up a Duffy song and made it through. Guess what, sugar. Your voice was good enough and you didn't need to take your Daddy issues national. OK?

Another one who didn't need the sob story? Paige Dechausse, who had an near-fatal asthma attack during a voice lesson at age 15. She sang Sam Cooke's "A Change is Gonna Come" better than I've ever heard a white girl do it and earned three votes with Simon as the lone naysayer. Again-- I don't care about your tragic past. Just fucking sing.

I'll also be watching out for 16-year old Charity Vance. The Arkansas teen works at the family hair salon. She even performs in the salon for the customers. Seriously, we're only one insulin attack and a grumpy dog away from Steel Magnolias here. But she can sing, and punched her ticket to Hollywood with a delicate soprano version of "Summertime."

The tragic stories didn't stop in Orlando. We met Seth Rollins, who has an autistic son. Oh, and money problems of course. Oh, and he's 28 so it's his last shot at this. As he talks to the camera the gloomy organ intro to Coldplay's overwrought ballad "Fix You" plays over his sob story. Once actually inside the audition room, he sang "Someone to Watch Over Me" and though Rollins can certainly carry a tune, he's no superstar. Despite his glaring lack of stage presence, he gets a unanimous vote into Hollywood (as the anthemic guitar-heavy bridge to "Fix You" plays in the b.g. Vomit.)

My favorite Orlando Idol hopeful had to be Theo Glinton (pictured above). With dozens of tiny mirrors and feathers glued to the right side of his face and a black and silver cape this dude was totally ready for Sting Cheese tour. However, after growling his way through Pat Benatar's "Heartbreaker," he was tossed out of the room in tears.

Then, after a redneck was escorted out of the building in handcuffs for refusing to leave the audition room, an actual felon closed the show. Matt Lawrence robbed a bank with a BB gun and spent four years in jail. Now he wants to be the next American Idol. He turned in a decent cover of Ray LaMontagne's "Trouble"--nothing special really--but Simon Cowell dubbed him the frigging second coming of country music and he flew out of the room, golden ticket in hand. Now, make sure and call your parole officer before leaving the state for Hollywood Week. OK, Matt?

Next week, the Idol judges descend upon the City of Angels to pluck a few more troubled, talented faces from the crowd and from the previews, it looks like the guest judges will be Avril Lavigne and that chick who looks like Zooey Deschanel and sings the "I Kissed a Girl" song. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Otis vs. St. Francis Hospital

Last year, my mother had a heart attack. She didn't even know it was a heart attack while she was having it. She thought she had a respiratory infection and that's why she was having such trouble breathing.

My father called me that morning and told me she wasn't feeling well. He asked me to check in on her and bring her some lunch. The request raised a red flag for me. He wouldn't ask me to do something like that unless it was serious, so I picked up some food and drove across town.

What breathing my mother could accomplish that afternoon was pained and raspy. She could barely get the food down and eating isn't exactly something we have a problem doing in my family. I didn't know what was wrong with her but one thing was for sure. This was no freaking respiratory infection.

She and my father had thought about taking her to the Quick Care in West L.A. the night before, but knew the visit would cost them thousands of dollars with the shitty HMO coverage they had; the only plan she could get approved for after years of history with skin cancer.

I didn't give a shit. After offering to take her in myself and getting rejected, I implored her to have my father take her in when he came home from work. Then I got on the phone with him and told him the same thing.

24 hours later, my mother had a 95% blockage removed from her central coronary artery at UCLA hospital.

Almost a year later, they're still trying to pay for it all. Insurance covered some, but not all of the mid-five figures in costs they acquired. And insurance covers hardly any of the hundreds of dollars a month she has to fork out now for meds.

My parents do the right thing. If anything, they do the right thing too often. And Otis did the right thing too, almost exactingly so when he tried to pre-pay for his youngest son's birth in an act of fiscal responsibility my credit-rating challenged self can barely fathom.

Read Otis' story St. Francis Hospital: The Real Cost of Having a Baby and tell me you don't want to punch a bureaucrat by the end.

My country needs real health care reform, and badly. My mom needs to stop living in fear of losing the little health insurance she still has by getting sick again. And people like me and the estimated 25% of Americans who are freelancers, independent contractors, or part-time workers need access to the kind of coverage our corporate worker bee peers enjoy.

For the record, I have a lot of problems with the bill out there. Frankly, I don't think anyone should be forced to pad the insurance industry's already overflowing coffers by being required to purchase coverage from them (only to get denied for shit later, just like Otis and my mom).

But something needs to be done. Read Otis' post and see if you don't agree with me (and I'm sure you will tell me if you don't, comments are right down there).

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

PokerStars WBCOOP 2010

I'll be donking it up. Hope to see many of my scribbling brethren there!

Online Poker

I have registered to play in the PokerStars World Blogger Championship of Online Poker! This PokerStars tournament is a No Limit Texas Hold’em event exclusive to Bloggers, you too can take part by registering on WBCOOP

Registration code: 383794

Thursday, January 14, 2010

American Idol Season 9, Week 1: A Tale of Two Cities

Atlanta's "Guitar Girl"

Boston and Atlanta. Chowder and Hush Puppies. Italian mama's boys and country bumpkins. These two disparate locations were the first stops on American Idol's ninth annual nationwide audition tour, where the usual dish of humiliation and ridicule seasoned with just a dash of real talent was served up to the Fox-watching public.

Every year I wish for the audition episodes to be over with quickly and 2010 is no different. It's not so much the mentally challenged hot messes that are trotted in front of the cameras for their dose of nationwide humiliation, that I despise. There's a fast-forward button for that. It's the sob stories. You know someone's heading to Hollywood if their (a) sick grandparent (b) disabled sibling (c) triumph over disease or (d) perilous financial situation gets a featurette.

In Boston, we watched 16-year old Maddy Curtis turn in a sweet, if nervous rendition of Leonard Cohen's "Halleluljah," but only after we learned about her two brothers with Down's Syndrome. Katie Stevens ripped the hell out of "At Last" but not until we heard about how she takes care of her Althzheimers-ridden grandmother. Some dude who got cancer at age 20 did a cheesy rendition of the Michael Buble arrangement of "Feeling Good" and got his ticket stamped.

Plight/disease/hardship + passable voice = Golden Ticket.

Of course we also saw a parade of attractive girls with karaoke bar voices get put through in Boston, but here are the people I'll be watching:

- Tyler, the drummer who fell out of a tree and broke his hands. He has a huge soul voice and teenage girls will fawn over him.

- Amadeo, the enormous Italian dude who growled his way through a Muddy Waters tune. Pauly wasn't as convinced of his roots-rock potential.

"He could play the bar at the Mohegan Sun on Tuesday nights, but that's about it."

-Ashley Rodriguez, the so-commercial-it-hurts Rosario Dawson lookalike who demonstrated some serious technique on Alicia Keys' "If I Ain't Got You."

-Leah Laurenti, whose clear, jazzy rendition of "Blue Skies" was right up my alley.

In Atlanta, we met Keisha the buck-toothed beauty queen, a singing cop, and "Skiiboski," but the one tune we'll all be singing this morning was brought to us by a 62-year old black man who was given a courtesy audition so America could hear what is sure to be a YouTube smash-- "Pants on the Ground."


The only two I'm curious to follow from the Atlanta lot are Jermaine (who totally killed that Joan Osbourne song) and the above-pictured "Guitar Girl." I'd like to party with her in the lot of a Widespread Panic show.

Next week? Two more disparate locales. The frozen tundra of Chicago and Disney-fied Orlando.

UPDATE: Of course, a "Pants on the Ground" remix has already hit the internets. Check it out below. RSS readers, you'll have to click through.

UPDATE #2: Less than 24 hours after the show aired, some contestants' criminal pasts are already coming to light thanks to the ambulance-chasers at TMZ. Apparently our boy "Skiiboski" has five prior arrests in the state of Florida and five mug shots to go with them.

Check out the Skiboski mug shots here.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Team Conan

Jeff Zucker should be tarred and feathered in the middle of the intersection of Alameda and Olive for all of NBC to see. In Hollywood's latest gross example of failing upward, Zucker, by making a batshit-crazy TWO YEAR, "IRON-CLAD" commitment to having Jay Leno occupy five hours of primetime real estate, obliterated not only the 10 p.m. network television drama, but has ignited a late-night TV tornado that will leave nothing but broken contracts, and pricey eight-figure penalties in its path.

I'm on Team Conan. He's a smart, hard-working guy who uprooted not only his own family, but the families of his entire writing staff to make the journey west and helm the Tonight Show, an honor he had dreamed of for most of his life. Everyone in Hollywood knows what a colossal douchebag Jay Leno is. And even if Conan's jokes don't always soar, he deserves so much more than the bullshit NBC is giving him now.

"He actually respects the chair," Pauly said, referring to O'Brien's shot-across-the-bow letter to NBC.

O'Brien understands the roots and the history of the Tonight Show. He understands its place in the television continuum and doesn't want to see a mockery made of the show by greedy executives trying not to trigger contract penalties.

Check out Conan O'Brien's full statement here.

Oh and guess what? American Idol is back tonight. Though I've long lost the fanaticism I one had for the show, I still watch. And since this will be Simon Cowell (and thus, I imagine, the show's) final season, I guess I'll have to blog it. So stay tuned.