How to Deal, as an Adult, with Having Been on American Idol
A couple of summers ago, my friend Michelle and I attempted to convince all of our singer friends to try out for American Idol. It was Season 3 and it seemed really possible that some of our more talented friends might have a real shot at making it to Hollywood. None of these "so-called" friends took the bait. So, if we were going to root for anyone, it was going to be ourselves.
Round 1: The Javitz Center. On a hot summer morn, these two 22 yr-old, penniless, comedians, knee-deep in temp jobs, lined up to have a laugh and spend two August nights and three August days sleeping on the concrete driveway outside the Javitz Center in NYC with 10,000 nameless, melisma-shrieking, "Lean on Me"-belting, dance circle-forming strangers. We were geriatric by American Idol standards. A small child in front of us wearing head gear and carrying a rattle was turned away with her mother because she was one month too young.
After 4 hours in a slow moving line, not unlike cows trudging into the slaughter house, we were ushered to our sleeping spots. Most people had taken time out of summer vacation to travel with their beeeeeeeeeest frieeeeeeends to the Big Apple. Michelle and I had taken fake time out from our temp jobs and very short train rides from our apartments.. Next to us were a crew of theater dorks from some high school in Connecticut -- all overweight, all gay/bisexual nerdsluts, all in flowing velvet peasant shirts.
Three days we spent on Chex Mix beds outside the Javitz Center. One night, a drunk girl was making too much noise, which woke another girl up who started screaming, "I knooooooooooow youahhh not going to ruuuuuuuuuuin this opportuuuuunity for me!" and she went on like that for hours, waking up everyone else, and, thusly, ruining everybody else's opportunities.
It should be stated that Michelle has a decent voice and by the end of the second day, we were convinced that she would be a shoo-in to go to Hollywood. I, on the other hand, have been told that I have no trachea (thank you, Jules) so my real goal was to be an outtake. At one point, while Michelle was furiously practicing her song by a black man, she said tremulously, "I'm a little horse. I'm a little horse. Ahem. Can you hear that? I'm a little horse." To which, I replied, "neigh." So, on a field trip from the other refugees to the Duane Reade she bought me a little horse.
As the days passed, the concrete jungle of the Javitz Center became a fantastical summer camp. There were activities and t-shirts and even celebrities...Jared the Subway Guy. We tried to get in a commercial with him, but he seemed more interested in the Christina Aguilera and Justin Timberlakes of the crowd. When he moved away from us, Michelle retorted sweetly, "THANKS! THANKS A LOT ASSHOLE!! WHAT? ARE WE NOT PRETTY ENOUGH? Jared? Hello?" It was sad, we were both really prepared to tell him what our favorite subway sub was. Michelle loves Southwest Chicken and like Chicken and Bacon Ranch. At least I get to tell you all.
Finally, we got to try out. We stood in a sea of adolescents in Kangol hats guzzling honey. I decided to carry my little horse in with me and named him "Lucky." Everyone needs a good luck charm, however, he would become so much more important. We stood in front of the first round judges -- not Simon, Paula, and Randy -- in groups of three: me, Michelle, and a smaller Clay Aiken look-alike. Clay Jr. went first and sang the weirdest, gurgliest version of Staying Alive ever. Then Michelle went and she had more soul than Luther Vandross. And then, me: I whipped this horse out from behind my back and said like a moron, "you'll have to excuse me but I'm a little horse." Then, I proceeded to sing "Hello" by Lionel Richie in the shakiest baby voice. I realized how bad I sounded after three lines and stopped and said, "I quit." The judges laughed so hard at my pathetic performance that they put me through to the next round. Also, I think that Clay Jr., Michelle, and I were such a motley crew that they couldn't resist us and actually put all of us through.
Round 2: The Waldorf. I'll be honest, I didn't want to go. I had to quit my temp job and this joke was literally stretching out over a week. However, Michelle and my conscience wouldn't let me stop. I showed up with my hair in a bun and a nasty blue polo shirt. The judges from the first round made me promise to do exactly the same thing in the second round. Obviously, they were checking to see if I had the goods to be an outtake. So, I did exactly the same thing again for the judges and they said, "Why would you quit? No one quits American Idol." And I said, "I don't know." And they said, "Sing another song." But I had only prepared "Hello." So I tried to think of any other song that I knew the words for and the only one that came to mind was, "Sweet Child of Mine." You guys, my voice, especially my singing voice, is akin to that of a tiny bunny scream. Once I tried to be Axl Rose it was over, they told me that they could not let me through to the next round. Michelle did not make it either.
We both had avoided the cameras for most of the experience, because we were worried that our coworkers would see us. Not much of a worry for the 19 yr-olds of the crowd.
CUT TO 6 MONTHS LATER: After losing my temp job, I took a job at a Harlem public high school teaching math to the students who were at risk of not graduating because they could not pass the Math A Regents Exam.
Now, when you are a public high school teacher, you do anything it takes -- ANYTHING -- to keep your private life away from the ears of the students. I knew teachers who wouldn't reveal their first names much less whether or not they had girlfriends or boyfriends.
So, when you've had a long day at work, sculpting the minds of the youth, and you see yourself pop up on the screen as a "reject" of the most-watched television show in the country, your first thought is "What the eff am I going to do tomorrow? How the hell am I supposed to walk into that school?" My solution, I wore my reading glasses as a disguise, buuuuuuuuuuuuuuut apparently I am not Clark Kent and everyone could still see that it was me.
I was immediately surrounded in the hallway by a mob of students who screamed, "MISSSSSS!!! WHY YOU MAKE A FOOL OF YO'SELF?!!!!" and "MISSSSS!!! CAN YOU EVEN SING??? WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT?"
But, then, there was the other side. It was the first day that my entire class, plus some kids who were not enrolled, showed up. It takes something big to get perfect attendance in a math class for kids who hate math. At the end of the day, one girl asked me for an autograph. I left oddly with more respect from my students than I had before. I was relieved, everything was fine, all I had to do now was wait for the phone calls from my ritzier private student's parents.
And now, without further ado. Me on American Idol -- the worst pun in American Idol history, I believe.