My American Idol Finale Trip — The Final Chapter

3 06 2011

Glicel and I retired to our room after the American Idol finale on Wednesday night. I had already received a phone call from my Twitter buddy, Robert Burnett, who is currently directing episodes of Femme Fatales on Cinemax. Having missed our dinner reservations for LA Market by Kerry Simon (a Gordon Ramsay restaurant, where Nona Sivley was now working, winner of Hell’s Kitchen Season 8), I had booked a reservation for 9 p.m. on May 25th after the Idol finale. Rob would meet us there.

After seeing that the menu did not have a dish with vegetables with nuts, I opted for the bricked organic chicken with organic farro, braised beet greens and citrus jus.

Chicken

My chicken dish.

Glicel had the special-recipe meatloaf with mashed potatoes.

Meatloaf

Secret recipe meatloaf

Rob had grilled beef tenderloin with Yukon au gratin, onion, smoked bacon and red wine jus.

Tenderloin

Beef tenderloin

Ryan was our server. We each gave a little sample of our dish. I was a little disappointed when I took some chicken off the bone and it was a big pile of fat. There was not much of the chicken, but when I did actually get the chicken, it did melt in my mouth. However, after tasting the beef tenderloin, I had wished I had ordered that.

Glicel has a S’mores fettish right now, so we indulged. We reached consensus that there was no beating the original.

Smores

Upscale S'mores

My friend’s son wanted to go into filmmaking (surprise to me because I thought he wanted to be a musician) and she asked Rob a lot of questions. Rob was kind enough to offer his advice. The time went by very quickly; he had an early morning call so we parted ways.

Rob Glicel and me

Rob Burnett, Glicel, and me.

Texas is hotter than Hades right now (reached 100 degrees today). Even with the heat on (yes we turned on the heater in our room), I was still cold so the hotel was kind enough to bring me up a blanket. I went to the business center to find it had closed but they had a few computers outside the actual room. I used the opportunity to post on Twitter and Facebook and to print out our boarding passes for our flight home. On the way back up the elevator, I met two radio station personalities from Houston. I was trying to find a few of these people during the trip, and here they are in my elevator. I took the opportunity to explain who I was and when the Idols came into town, if they were interviewing them, I would love the opportunity to ask them questions or just say hello. They gave me their business cards and told me to contact them. They seemed to know me, or at least know my name, which was odd, but I had done a lot of promotional marketing for our April Rock Autism event benefitting my son’s school, “Including Kids”, so it is possible they remembered it from an email I sent. Hope lives that I will get to meet James Durbin soon.

It was 2-3 a.m. once again before I fell asleep and was up at about 7 a.m. We decided to go back to LA Market for breakfast where we opted for the buffet. We inquired if Nona was working, but we were told she would not be in until the afternoon. After breakfast, I ran down to the business center to post on Twitter and Facebook and mail off some things to home that would exceed the liquid limits on the airplane ride home. I also stopped in the gift shop where my new friend was excited to share her news: She was able to go to the finale herself and she smuggled in a camera. Her pictures were fantastic. We left in our taxi around 10:15 or so for our 12:45 flight home. I expressed my exuberant thanks to the taxi driver for the more peaceful ride to the airport.

Tired campers

A Rob-Burnett-inspired photo

Hallway

I pictured a big wheel and two ghosts.

We went and checked out some areas of the hotel we had no time to explore.

Pool

And it was heated.

Nokia

Nokia from the pool-eye's view.

Marriott

The opposite corner's view

Our flight was just a few minutes late. Although my itinerary said Glicel and I were sitting together, the boarding passes indicated we were not. Instead, I got to sit to this inspiring 20-something-year-old named Donnell. He is a hip-hop music producer who had been in LA for a few months, and was just now returning home to Atlanta. We talked music for awhile and I let him listen to some of Houston’s local talent that I had on my IPod. Our discussions turned more philosophical and I was in awe at his wisdom, an old soul. I don’t think I ever did this in my life with someone I met on the plane, but I gave him my email address and asked him to keep in touch. I have met some wonderful people in my lifetime on a plane, even held the hand of a woman an entire flight who was going to her grandbaby’s funeral. The life stories I have heard have enriched my life. I normally thank them for sharing and wish them a wonderful life, but Donnell was different. He actually emailed me on Sunday and I was tickled. We plan to keep in touch. We had a very bumpy ride into and out of Phoenix, the kind of turbulence that makes your stomach drop. This turbulence was NOTHING compared to a flight from New Orleans to Houston when there were tornado warnings out in the area of the Houston airport. That was the scariest flight I ever took.

The next segment of our flight was both booked solid and late arriving (for us to even board). They asked people who were in loading zones 3, 4, and 5 for boarding to step forward and check their bags so they could get the plane boarded quickly so we could take off as soon as possible. Only five stepped forward. We were rewarded with an upgrade to zone 2 boarding. Because people did not listen to the airline personnel, when they tried to bring their luggage on board, it was packed, so they had to go back out of the plane to check their bags, causing a further delay in the flight. I let out a heavy sigh. If people do not cooperate voluntarily to a direction or suggestion that will ultimately make things better for all, everyone else suffers.

Glicel and I did sit together this flight, but our attention was directed to the young mother flying with her 2-month-old child. The baby was wonderful through the flight. She was on a one-way flight from Phoenix to Houston to live closer to home. As we were close to landing in Houston, she informed us of a family member serving in the armed forces and was stationed in Korea and also had had a baby. She was missing him. I thanked her for his service, noting that the families of those serving in the military deserve our gratitude as well. With Memorial Day around the corner, I shared that my father-in-law, would be turning 90 on that Saturday, had served in World War II on the naval vessel Daniel T. Griffin in the Pacific campaign. My father was in the Navy during the Korean War, but I believe he was stationed in Europe and did not see any actual fighting. Glicel and I helped her get out of her seat and get her baby fastened safely into stroller in the jetway. As we parted, I gave her a big hug. I do hug people all the time. It’s the only way I can let out all of the emotion I feel inside sometimes.

We arrived about an hour late, but Glicel’s husband was there to pick us up at baggage claim. Somebody in that area was having a serious flatus problem; I had to hold my breath until we got outside. When I got home, I realized the only one who missed me was my golden retriever.

What a whirlwind trip it was! We encountered a few hiccups, but overall I had the time of my life. The trip turned out exactly the way the trip was meant to turn out. Los Angeles’ weather was a glorious reprieve from the oppressive Texas heat. We left our sign for James Durbin at Nokia; I can always hope that someone may have given it to him, particularly because of the nature of the sign (with all the autism ribbons on it). The recorded Idol finale will never be erased from my DVR; all I have to do is replay it, and it will take me right there again.

Many thanks to be given: To Fox Broadcasting for not only developing the program, but for offering this as a prize within our group. To my local station, Fox 26 Houston, for the recommendation to be a part of this wonderful VIP program. To the JW Marriott LA Live staff. To Jessica and Scott who helped to make this adventure even more fun. To Rob for coming out to dinner with us even though he was likely tired. To US Airways for getting us from point A to point C in one piece and for the friendliness of their employees. To my friend, Glicel, who accompanied me. To my husband for working it out so I could go. To my sweet Patrick who did not give my husband any trouble while I was gone. To my friends for putting up with me during those weeks between winning and going. And to anybody whose name I did not catch, thank you as well.





American Idol Finale — Day 2, Part B: The Show

1 06 2011

Although the Nokia Theater in Los Angeles seats 7100, the theater seems very intimate with a good view from every chair. This was my ticket:

Ticket

My ticket for American Idol Finale

And I was seated about where I have the dot on the chart:

Nokia

Sat in the blue section, right side, where the dot is.

We entered about 3:45 p.m. The production staff was on stage. I thought maybe Comfort from So You Think You Can Dance might have been one of the choreographers on the stage, too, but we were too far away for me to make a positive identification. I had forgotten binoculars! Those WERE allowed into the theater. Bicycles were practicing behind them, which immediately brought Arcade Fire’s Grammy performance to mind. To my right in the mezzanine section was a sign for one of the contestants with battery-operated lights. I immediately realized the poor choice I made in the color selection of the sign for James. The cameras would never see it. To our left in the LOGE section was a group of young ladies holding up individual-letter balloons that spelled out S C O T T Y. Very creative.

I got to meet some more Fox people who were sitting around us. Everyone was so wonderful. I hope my excitement did not get on their nerves.

Corey is the warm-up guy for American Idol and So You Think You Can Dance. He sounds like Ryan Seacrest. Before the show began, they introduced the judges: Randy Jackson, then Jennifer Lopez who was in a stunning gown, and then Steven Tyler. Then we were live.

Benefitting greatly from on-line voting this year, the vote for Scotty versus Lauren brought in a record 122 million votes. Decked-out in white, reminiscent of the David vs. David year, Lauren and Scotty took the stage. The group performed the Lady Gaga song, “Born This Way” and it sounded great in the theater.

During the commercial break, people were going in and out from the audience. Corey asked everyone to get up on their feet, especially towards the end of a song.

Coming into the theater on the orchestra level was a bald guy with a spiked costume. My friend was yelling to me that was James Durbin, but I was looking at the bald guy saying “no it’s not.” (She was looking in a different place). I had to ask Scott and Jessica with whom James was singing (Judas Priest)

Another thing I noticed when I watched it back on DVR was when they were making note of someone in the audience, like Adam Lambert or David Cook, it would not show up on the screens at Nokia (unless I totally missed it because there was so much going on).

Next up was Jacob Lusk with Gladys Knight and Kirk Franklin of Fort Worth, singing “I Smile.”

Casey Abrams and Jack Black were up next singing “Fat Bottomed Girls.” When they were head-to-head at the end of the song, I really expected Casey to kiss him, like his JLo move earlier in the season, although probably not as soft. What you missed on camera was Casey mauling Jack Black with a giant bear hug. I could see Casey pursuing a career in comedy (I mean that as a compliment).

The girls were up next with a medley of Beyonce songs. It sounded good in the audience; however, after I returned home and listened to it on DVR, it did not sound so wonderful. It gave me some perspective though on why the judges think everything sounds fantastic. Also the crowd was going bonkers, but on TV, the sound of the crowd was sort of muted. It reminded me of the voice-sensitive microphones they use for news broadcasts where you can hear the voice of the reporter, but the background noise is muffled out.

Houston-girl Beyonce looked and sounded fabulous. I remember saying that she must have been glued in tight for that dress and I worried for her for a wardrobe malfunction. Once she took center-stage, she was so awesome she made the girls look like amateurs.  Beyonce is a goddess.  That is all.

At this point, I was very surprised how slowly time was passing which was a good thing for me. I also felt sorry for my seat-neighbors hoping I hadn’t ruptured their eardrums with my high-octave screeching and apologize to anyone sitting behind me about my dancing. I was in the zone.

During the commercial breaks, Ryan or Corey (I really could not tell their voices apart) engaged the audience members, threw them T-shirts, and other things like that.

I was expecting Haley to sing with Lady Gaga, so I was very surprised to see Mr. Tony Bennett. Then TLC was up, but I did not recognize them at first either.

When “Live Like You’re Dying” was announced (misheard for the real song title “Like You Were Dying), I thought, “Cool, Scotty is going to be singing with Kris Allen.” Embarrassing how little country music I know. It was Tim McGraw.

Another commercial and then more bad singing which was then reprieved by Marc Anthony singing “Aguanile” by Hector Lavoe, with Jennifer Lopez dancing and Sheila E in the house. My friend Glicel later explained the song. It was about black magic and calling out the evil spirits, which would explain the JLo booty shaking.  

Another shocking guest star appearance was Tom Jones after a medley of his superhits by the boys.  

After this I had what I’d like to call my Disney-overwhelm moment. To understand, back in the late 1990’s I went on another girls’ trip with a friend, her sister, and her friend to Disney. I had so many years at that point of caregiving and throwing myself into my son’s treatment program. I was working 40-60 hours a week for my employer, working 40-60 hours a week with him and running him to occupational therapy, physical therapy and speech therapy in between. The first night we were at Disneyworld, seeing the fireworks, hearing the music, not believing that I was actually having this fun time that I desperately needed with these wonderful friends, the flood gates to my emotions just opened up and I found myself sobbing. Having gotten only 6 hours of sleep between Monday and Wednesday, being there, hearing the music, getting a break from my son, my eyes began to well up with unexpected tears. Since I was not anticipating having this moment, I did not wear waterproof mascara. The fear of having raccoon eyes quickly quelled my emotional overload.

While the stage was being set up for Lady Gaga, Ford did their tribute with the teachers. Three cheers for them. Our teachers in this nation deserve some recognition. Not only did the school get money, but the teachers got a car. Then we learned Scotty and Lauren could have a Ford car of their choice and consensus around where we were sitting was that Scotty would get a pick-up truck–I’m thinking F-150.

Lady Gaga is a terrific performer, but the simulated sex and jumping off the edge of a cliff with Mark Kanemura (from So You Think You Can Dance) in the song “The Edge of Glory” were not something for young kids’ eyes. Although the age limit was no one under 6 allowed, there were some kids younger than 6 in that crowd. At home, you have the choice as a parent to turn off the television; attending a concert that you trust is family-friendly, she should have had the good sense to modify her act. When Adam Lambert was touring Indonesia, he was asked to tone down the concert and he respectfully did. It goes back to the age-old argument that yes, you have first amendment rights and a right to creative expression, but you have to use that right with responsibility. It was nice to see Clarence Clemmons, however.

Lauren sang a great duet with Carrie Underwood “Before He Cheats” and just like Beyonce, the star shined. However, I give her major props for trying to keep up especially with her vocal cords problem.

After more “youngest contestant” jokes, Beyonce performed yet again. I could never get enough Beyonce.

During the commercial, they emphasized to the audience to make sure the aisles were clear. The Spiderman performance required very precise movements and they wanted to ensure the safety of both the acrobats and the audience. When Bono and the Edge and Reeve Carney (the guy who sings in the play on Broadway) took the stage, I slapped my head and feigned fainting. When I got home and watched the performance on playback, wouldn’t you know that there was some idiot in the audience who thought the rules did not apply to her and tried to touch one of the acrobats when he came down into the audience.

After another commercial break, Steven Tyler came on and performed “Dream On.” It was too short; I was left wanting more.

Coming back from another commercial break, Scotty was named the winner. As he broke down and cried, my heart again welled up with tears. Scotty and Lauren were both very humble and very down-to-earth kids; if James could not win, then either of them would have been the next best thing.

There were congratulations to the band and then the crew with the show signing off. I wanted to stay in the audience as long as possible (until we were kicked out) but Glicel wanted to get t-shirts before they sold out, so out we went.

After obtaining t-shirts, we exited the Nokia and saw a bunch of lights and excitement over at the Fox tent, so we went to investigate. However, too many people were smoking, and I could not tolerate it, so we went back to the hotel.

Next up: The rest of Day 2 and Day 3





American Idol Top 12 — Haley Will Go Home

17 03 2011

Since there are only a few hours left, I’d better get my thoughts up about Wednesday night’s show. The theme was “songs from the year you were born.”

This week I was not cranky. Everyone was having an off night. When the earth shifts on its axis, you can bet that many other things in life are out of harmonious sync with each other.

Naima chose “What’s Love Got to Do with It” from 1984. It started the night off rocky. I assumed she took the criticism last week that she was pitchy but because the song was done so well, they were giving her a pass on the song being out of tune. This did not have a lot of dancing in it, but it, too, was out of tune. I was worried for her until…

Paul McDonald. He was feeling under the weather (so I think voters will be less harsh on him). “I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues” from 1984 was horrible. Paul’s father sang better in the interview.

Today happens to be my birthday (March 17), so when I heard that Thia was born in 1995, the same year as I son, I suddenly felt old. She sang a boring rendition of “Colors of the Wind” from Pocahontas that had way too much vibrato. I secretly smiled when JLo brought up the same issue.

Having recently undergone a makeup that debuted at the Paley Center, James Durbin chose “I’ll Be There For You” by Bon Jovi from 1989. It was a little off key, but at that point was the best song of the night. I like this new look for James. For what he lacked in his song he made up with his personality when he invited Steven Tyler to sing Aerosmith with him in the finale.

And then we had Haley who I predict is going home tonight. She chose a Whitney Houston song, “I’m Your Baby Tonight.” During the interview, she said, “I don’t know where I get my talent from.” I was shaking my head in agreement. I don’t know where the talent is either baby. The outfit, too, was horrible. She reminded me of that crazy girl from “The Stand.”

Stefano needs to stop looking up in the air and singing for himself. From 1989, he chose, “If You Don’t Know Me By Now” If I looked away and didn’t look at him singing, I enjoyed the vocals. Now he needs to make a connection to the audience. After I made the comment on Twitter, so did JLo. Can I have her job?

This week was not a good week for Pia Toscano. I believe, in fact, it was her worst Idol performance thus far and I’m a big Pia fan. She chose “Where Do Broken Hearts Go” that sounded like a disco in the background, but she remained trying to sing it like a ballad which made for a very awkward sound. She wasn’t getting up with the tempo. The pantsuit was horrible as well. She’ll be safe though.

When I saw the interview about Scotty doing Elvis impersonations and heard them, I shook my head and said, “This is going to be a disaster.” But he sang a country song instead. I can’t critique him. I don’t know country music.

Karen Rodriguez, also born in 1989, did “Love Will Lead You Back.” It needed to be better than Taylor Dayne’s version and it wasn’t, but it was much better than last week’s. Her outfit was funny. People on Twitter were comparing her to a cross between Uhura and Snooki.

Performing the first Nirvana song, Teen Spirit, from 1991, Casey was the only performer this evening who played with a musical instrument. It was for the most part wonderful, but even Casey was off. He needed to be a bit more serious when singing it though; I felt like he was doing something for some Halloween show where he was just goofing off. Wonderful talent though and he will be safe for next week.

Lauren Alaina has the flu and I can already tell you that will keep her safe this week. She decided to switch back to a little bit rock-and-roll and I liked the Melissa Etheridge song, “I’m The Only One.” Even with the flu, she sounded better than some of these contestants tonight.

Jacob Lusk (a.k.a. “Lusky”). He is another contestant that when I close my eyes and do not look, I like his singing a lot better. He did the most overused song in Idol history: Heart’s “Alone.” He, too, did well for the most part, but there were a few sharp notes in there but he did recover well.

My prediction is: Haley will go home.





American Idol Top 13

10 03 2011

American Idol Top 13

After having a medical procedure on Wednesday, I was tired and crabby. I maybe should not have watched American Idol tonight because I was critical of EVERYONE.

Tonight’s our Top 13 had to sing songs that were from their own personal idols’ collections. My personal idol is my son, so he would probably make me sing something like Hymn 43 by Jethro Tull. That is, by far, his favorite song, but his face lights up when I sing Katy Perry’s “Firework” (without any air-microphones or pretend microphones) and dance around him like I was giving him his own personal concert. Since he is nonverbal, I’m going to assume that he likes it versus him thinking his mother is off her rocker.

Lauren Alaina was up first singing Any Man of Mine by Shania Twain. I wished she would have stayed a little bit rock-and-roll versus a little bit country. Every season needs a girl rocker. Since I dislike most country music, she gets demerits for that alone. Not knowing the song, it is hard to judge it, but I thought it was average.

I like Casey Abrams. He reminds me a little bit of David Cook with the goofiness. I wonder what he would look like without the beard. He tries to do “I Get By With A Little Help From My Friends” from Joe Cocker. I was not feeling it (it was only later in the evening that I figured out it might be me and not them).

Ashthon Jones needed to redeem herself for getting a place in the Top 13. It was sharp and out of tune quite a lot. There was no wow factor. I think she will be going home tonight.

Paul McDonald brings a unique voice to the group, but he vocally sounds like a young Rod Stewart and moves like Joe Cocker. I just don’t know what to make of that. He sang a Ryan Adams song, “Come Pick Me Up” that I was not familiar with either. I imagine he is safe though.

One does not pick a Celine Dion song without slaying it. Actually Pia Toscano picked an Eric Carmen song that was reinterpreted by Celine Dion. There was a part in the middle when she had to get that high note that she used all her breath control to get to the high not, but then could not sustain it. I liked it, however. It took moxey.

I ruminated last night about why I’m so hard on James Durbin. He sang a great rendition of “Baby I’m Amazed” by Paul McCartney. There are arguments going on within the autism community itself about whether or not he even HAS autism (not making a judgment here; just letting you know some people think he just suffers from Tourette’s). I want him to be better because I do not want people voting for him “because he’s the guy with autism.” I want them to vote for him because they like him and they like his singing.

Haley Reinhart decided to go a little bit country herself with “Blue” from Leann Rimes. The yodeling part was impressive. I was worried she was going to have a wardrobe malfunction because when they panned the camera to her back side there was a huge gap between the dress and her skin in the bra area.

Jacob Lusk needs new role models. Seriously, dude, R. Kelly? A pedophile as a role model is not going to get you votes. “I Believe I Can Fly” was the song but he was flying all over the place with that song. He was out of key most of the song. But when you are doing runs like that, some people cannot tell the difference between something in-tune and something that is over the top.

Having had an outstanding performance last week with “Out Here on My Own” I was looking for another song to set her apart from the group. “Smile” is a hard song to sing. You need either great acting skills or life experience. At Thia Meglia’s tender age, I’d have to say iffy on both. Backstage, even she knows she might be in trouble. She might be in the bottom, but Ashthon will go home.

I always find it funny when mentors point out the “don’t close your eyes” when you sing. We believe, as singers, when we close our eyes, it is emanating deep emotion. It was the same criticism Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber gave to David Archuleta a few seasons ago. Just like with David, you could see Stefano Langone fighting back closing his eyes to the entire song of “Lately” by Stevie Wonder. He wound up squinting. It looked weird.

Karen Rodriguez did not do herself any favors singing Selena’s I Could Fall In Love. She had a very difficult time in her lower register. But when she was in a good register, her voice sounded pretty. No one was making my night tonight.

Scotty McCreedy looks like he could share some ancestral tree with Clay Aiken. And Just like with Clay I never expect the voice that comes out of him to come out of him. I’m sure country music fans love him and his music. Singing Garth Brooks “The River”, for me he was just floating on an inner tube on that river as I waved to him from shore.

I was excited to hear what Naima Adedapo was going to come up with. As is tradition, the last song of the night is usually reserved for the best performance. Having barely made it into the Top 13, she had to make this night count. She was out of tune quite a lot during “Umbrella” but I liked the rapped part in the middle and it showed a different side of her. Goodbye lounge singer. Hello to someone who is more contemporary.

For me, no one stood out Wednesday night. I have not gotten goosebumps yet. I am looking forward to seeing Adam Lambert on Thursday night’s show. I predict the person going home will be Ashthon.

Who were your stand-out performances? Who missed the mark? Who failed to impress? Discuss.