Other Door

“American Idol” is back, and for someone who despises reality TV, I could hardly be happier. There’s nothing to make me appreciate my own normalcy quite like the parade of American idiots who line up every year to make Simon Cowell, and every other Brit on the planet, glad we won the Revolutionary War so they don’t have the likes of us on their hands.

I really do loathe reality shows, and up until last year I loathed “Idol” right along with “Survivor” and “Big Brother” and all the other programming that features fools in all their off-the-medication glory. Look, I worked retail for fifteen years: I don’t need my television to know what kind of whackjobs are out there, unrestrained, free to walk the streets — or worse, the mall. I used to see them every day. I fitted them with bathing suits (there’s not enough therapy available to get me over this), slathered them with lipstick, and finally withdrew far enough to just stick a book in their hands and scurry away. But “American Idol” brings nature’s own losers up close and personal again, some of them talented and others so unhinged you can smell the pharmaceuticals through the hi-def screen.

The auditions are just great.

They’re what got me last year, what enticed me into the sordid world of the show like the guy on the corner telling me the first hit’s free. I was flipping channels, looking for something, and stumbled across a zaftig platinum-blonde chick in a gold lame tent blouse and lipstick too red even for me, singing (?) “Don’t Cha.” No, I bet no one wishes his girlfriend was hot or anything else like you. I was fascinated like I hadn’t been since I came across a bird-eating spider on Animal Planet. And only marginally less frightened.

Stop! my better judgment tried to tell me, just as it had done with the spider. This is “American Idol”! You make fun of your best friend for watching this! You roll your eyes self-righteously when you hear other people talk about it! Keep going! Keep switching channels! Find something less embarrassing to watch — isn’t “Soul Plane” on?

But no. I was doomed. And worse, hooked. I think that audition episode aged me like those before-and-after-meth users photos, where you see a normal twenty-year-old and then you see her again at twenty-two, or maybe forty-five, with teeth like old leaning tombstones and burn sores on her lips. Because not only did I have to look at some of those people, which took me right back to the circle of hell that is retail, I had to listen to them sing.

Holy Mary, mother of God, save me from these people singing, and save them from themselves, I thought. Or at least let a bird-eating spider start wrapping them up in a little take-back-to-Australia spider doggie bag. I mean, some of these people… Look, my parents always told me when I was little that I could grow up to do anything I put my mind to, too. They meant well; they certainly didn’t intend to make a writer out of me, or they’d have told me something more motivating, like “work on those math grades.” But just because they said I could do anything didn’t mean I believed them. They were just preparing me for other Things People Say, like my boyfriend telling me I looked great in that dress and then two hours later mentioning that my slip had jumbled itself up so mightily beneath my skirt that I looked like I was hiding a less-than-vestigial tail.

I mean, some of those froot-loops go on “American Idol” because they have deep-seated issues that make them dress up like Princess Leia or Uncle Sam. Fine. I suppose they know what they’re doing, and that someone’s making sure they’re not hiding their pills under their tongues. But the ones who are wretchedly, soul-suckingly, Biz Markie bad and then start to cry when poor beleaguered Simon (yes, it’s come to this: I feel sorry for Simon Cowell, because his job is so much like mine) tells them they’re horrible: how can they not know it themselves? Surely they’ve listened to their own voices mangling the notes in the shower, right? God knows I have. I can sound worse than average singing the “Love Theme from Mystery Science Theater 3000,” which is an accomplishment that would get me featured on “American Idol” if I had exhibitionist tendencies and donned a Big Bird costume while I sang it. But there was a guy on there tonight who compared his singing to Paul Robeson’s — and he did have a pleasant speaking voice — and then bleated his way through “Go Down, Moses” as if someone had double-dog-dared him to ruin karaoke night for everybody. To his credit, Simon never even cracked a smile, although Randy and Paula nearly peed themselves. The guy left, disappointed. He said he’d be back next year with a more modern repertoire. Thanks for the warning, dude.

You’re not going to make me tell you about the pasty fat guy who got his chest hair waxed and tried to sing “Don’t Cha,” right? Or the girl who really was in a Princess Leia costume? I can’t make this stuff up, and with the writers’ strike going on, neither can anybody working for Fox.

So I gave up. It’s How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Me Some Freaks. In a way, “American Idol” is almost good for people like me, who are trying to find jobs that no longer bring us into contact with the general public. It’s motivating as hell, in fact, to make me get up in the morning and charm my way through every employment agency in a three-county radius, because if I don’t I’ll end up behind a cash register again, watching the equivalent of the audition crowd schlep past on the other side of the counter, all of them with more spending money than me. I don’t think I can take that again. And unlike Simon, I won’t be getting paid enough to try.

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19 Responses to “Other Door”

  1. Hi my name is Shawn, (Everyone says, “Hi Shawn.”) and I’m an American Idol fan.
    I got hooked at the begining of the last season. So many times I’ve shouted at the TV, “Make it stop!”

    It finally worried me enough to make me record my own voice to make sure I didn’t sound like a hoarse wolf having it’s tail pulled.

  2. Reading that was almost as funny as watching the show tonight.

  3. I don’t watch AI, why would I when AR is available? But this was funny, funny, funny….I especially loved the part about your parents not wanting to make a writer out of you, lol…

  4. I’m so glad to be back here with you. I’m happy we can snark the show rather than me having to skip your articles because they’re about football or politics. I miss you.

    That being said, how about that chick with the glitter all over her face, dropping f-bombs all over Simon when he was actually quite kind to her?

    I was so happy to watch this last night. I can’t wait for tonight. This is certainly the cure for cabin fever.

  5. I’ve even got my mom hooked on it now. She called me on her way home from work just to talk about the “Go Down, Moses” guy and the swearing crazy girl, who, by the way, was exactly like someone I once worked with, except quieter.
    They held auditions in Charleston, SC this year. Ten bucks says I see at least one person I know on that show.

  6. That would be too funny! I can’t wait for tonight. We’re going out to dinner and I want to hurry up to be home in time to get jammies on, first.

  7. Even funnier — I bet if I know someone, it’ll be a customer from my days in retail purgatory!

  8. I don’t get that channel.

  9. Was the guy who had to be led out by security one of your ex customers? 😛

  10. He was eerily like one! Seriously! We used to have a clueless dude we called Star Trek Bob, who had no friends (because he was, after all, Star Trek Bob) and would call the store to try to converse with someone who couldn’t tell him to piss off because technically he was a customer. Or he’d come in the store and do the same thing. He was a LOT like that guy.

    The screechy “Baby Love” girl and her boyfriend the model reminded me uncomfortably of a couple who used to live in the cafe, too.

  11. Dang, I’m missing this. Isn’t it on two or three times a week? I’ll have to play catch-up. I’ve seen it a couple of times, and I had the impression that the really bad people are there to “pull our leg” like the old gong show, but I guess not. I’ll have to watch again. I think Simon is hot.

  12. Oh, Vicky, Simon is MINE, baby. Even with that awful haircut.

    Yeah, during the auditions it’s on two nights a week. The auditions are not to be missed, believe me. It’s like Halloween, but scarier.

  13. pandemonic Says:

    I’m limiting my TV viewing to three channels, and that’s not one of them. I’m glad you’re enthused though!

  14. It’s about the only thing we watch.

  15. jojovtx1800 Says:

    Hey big ‘ol kitty! I only watch the first few episodes of Idol to see the really bad folks, then I lose interest. One another note, an old “friend” of mine is one the VH1 show “Rock of Love”. I will tune in to see how Peyton does.

  16. I watched part of the auditions one time. Not my cup of tea. But it must have at least one redeeming quality. I can’t think of it but there must be at least one.

  17. If you think of one, let me know. I’ve been trying since last year.

  18. It keeps people off the street?

  19. It probably inspires laughter in group homes?

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