LOUISVILLE — The '80s rock band Journey once sang, “Some will win, some will lose, some were born to sing the blues.” Outside Freedom Hall at 12:30 p.m. Monday, there were a lot of “non-winners” and some blues singers standing around. The American Idol> preliminary audition round winners were nowhere to be found, however.
The first batch of auditioners who were released left Freedom Hall just after 10 a.m., and a steady stream has been walking out since. A few said that the people selected to move on in the competition have been moved to a side room to receive more instructions from the production crew.
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Kolton Norton, 17, of Sellersberg, Ind., said contestants were separated into two groups after singing.
“The people with the golden tickets were taken down a white tunnel,” he said of the auditioners invited to come back in September for an audition with the Idol> judges. “We went down a black tunnel. It was fun but I wouldn't do it again.”
A large group of people who didn't make it mingled with those still waiting outside Freedom Hall throughout the afternoon to discuss how auditions were going. Many said that it didn't seem like many people were making it through to the second round, which will be in early September at Churchill Downs.
The producers “said they were tight on slips this year,” Josh Wheeker, 19, of Dayton, Ohio, said after leaving Freedom Hall through a back entrance. He was not chosen to continue in the competition.
Producer Patrick Lynn said there is no set number of people the production staff will select, but some auditioners said it seemed as if they were taking fewer than in years past. Amanda Geisel, 18, who also did not make the cut, said she had been paying close attention to how many contestants had made it, and as of 1 p.m., it only looked like about 40 had been sent to the “winners” room.
“I have no idea what the judges are looking for,” she said.
First-time auditioner Kimarland Finnell, 22, of Cincinnati expressed frustration in the selection process, even though he hadn't actually auditioned yet.
“It's unbelievable how much talent they're letting go,” he said. “It's like, ‘How good do you have to be to be the American Idol?' They picked this guy in a turtle suit with white hair over people with real talent. This isn't America's Stupid Idol>.”
As of 2 p.m., contestants waiting said it looked like producers were about halfway done with the crowd.
10:30 a.m. Monday update
One American Idol> production assistant describes the scene as controlled chaos. A security guard suggests people in the screaming crowd might be delusional from a lack of sleep.
It's just after 5 a.m., and the line of people — about 20 wide and thousands long — waiting to audition for the Fox talent show already winds around the Kentucky Fair and Exposition Center. By the time the sun finally rises, it is estimated that at least 10,000 people will be there. People are still registering, even though doors to fill out paperwork opened early Saturday morning.
The hopefuls flocked to Freedom Hall in hopes of being chosen to compete during season 8 of American Idol>. Louisville was selected as one of eight cities to host auditions this year. Those selected at Monday's preliminary auditions to move on will come back for a second round in September. Producer Patrick Lynn said the preliminary auditions were to find those who have raw talent; the second round will help determine whether that talent comes across on camera.
“A lot of times, somebody good here at preliminary auditions might not be good in the next round,” he said.
Eventually, potential Idols will audition for on-air judges Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson. Despite a few signs professing love for these three, Monday is not the day to meet them.
Throughout the morning hours, groups singing popular songs including My Girl and Amazing Grace are overpowered by screams for one of the dozens of cameras around the area.
At 6:40 a.m., Lynn and other members of the production crew move a group of about 500 closer to the doors and begin filming promotional scenes for likely use in advertisements when the season begins in January. On top of a ladder with a megaphone, he directs a few girls to the front of the group to display their signs. One says: “My first name is Hollywood. I belong in Hollywood.”
As the line moves forward, people begin to stir. At 7:20, the first group of auditioners rushes the front doors to Freedom Hall and makes its way inside. As the line creeps along, Col. Bob Thompson, a spokesman for KFC dressed like company founder Col. Harland Sanders, high-fives contestants as they enter the building.
By 8:30, the final few stragglers run to the front doors. As a man in a blond wig and hot pink skirt says goodbye to a Nashville-based broadcast reporter and heads inside, Idol contestants can be heard screaming, once again, inside.
Midnight Sunday update
Despite a severe storm looming in the distance Sunday night, 17-year-old Dynasty Davidson and her sister Gaynesha Neal, 28, had no plans to leave their fold-up green chairs. Neal said it's an ideal location near where the line for American Idol auditions would begin forming in six hours at 5 a.m. They tried to get closer, but security guards told them to move.
“We just gotta tough it out,” Neal said. “We've got an umbrella if we need it.”
The two joined a group of at least 100 people waiting in the parking lot of Freedom Hall for preliminary auditions for the eighth season of the Fox reality show American Idol. Although producers told contestants that camping out would not be allowed, this group didn't seem to care.
“I'm here proudly repping the Lexington music scene,” Matthew Ward, 20, said while taking a break from playing his guitar and singing The Temptations' My Girl> for camera crews with the crowd. “It's dying and I'm here to help.”
Mike Ross, 23, planned to sleep in his car for a few hours before hearing from Idol producers whether he has any talent. Ross, who drove three hours from Eaton, Ohio, said he works in a steel factory and hopes Idol could be his big break from what he called a mundane job.
“I'd rather hear ‘No' than nothing at all,” he said. “I never thought I was good enough, but I've been playing for a few years. I gotta take a risk.”
Auditions were scheduled to begin about 8 a.m. Those selected by producers to continue will be invited back for secondary auditions at Churchill Downs in September. Louisville is one of eight cities hosting auditions, and thousands are expected to try out.