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Auditions: San Francisco - January 25

The Auditions Roadshow continues to two hours north of where I was born, San Francisco, California. If you go an hour east, you'll see Berkeley, where William Hung hangs his hat. Continue 15 minutes west, you'll reach the Pacific Ocean. We've been here three seasons running, but still, not one Idol has come from the city by the bay. Will this be the changing day? After all, this is the home turf of Latoya London (have her CD) and Nadia Turner (waiting for hers).

Randy says third time's the charm. Let's start this off with Heidi Fairbanks, Happy Heidi from Hawaii (22, Laie, HI). The Jessica Simpson-lookalike sings something from Verdi. Definitely a favorite on the opera circuit, but this is a pop music competition. She tries "I'm Loving Angels Instead" by Robbie Williams... the abysmal Jessica Simpson version. Made even more abysmal. She's good in one style, but has no versatility. It's on Randy... "I'm just so on the fence.... I gotta say no." So she's not going to Hollywood, but maybe we'll see her in Carnegie Hall one day.

Shawn Vasquez (18, Oakland) is a music major at college, taking opera lessons. He knows he can do it... He sings "Neither One of Us" by Gladys Knight. And the opera lessons aren't working. In a word... retching. Simon passes to Paula. Paula passes to Randy... It's loud... No. "It's almost nonhuman."

Midmorning in San Fran, and no one has gone to Hollywood... After a doo-wop performance, we turn to Jose "Sway" Penala (27, South San Francisco). He thinks he's a superstar. He sings "Superstar". And it's even better than Ruben. He's just dead on here. All three judges love it...


And he's not the only one

Lauren Weckerly (17, El Cajon): ALSO GOING TO HOLLYWOOD.

And more and more follow. San Fran's looking up. Matthew "Wolfie" Paulson (21, Elk Grove)... looks down. He thinks he's a little different from Clay Aiken... He's definitely going to Hollywood. He tries his "Measure of a Man". And he's trying my eardrums. Randy: "Dude, it was really terrible." Simon: "Hideous." But they like wolves, too.

John Williams (28, Sacramento) started vocal lessons six weeks ago, upon being discharged from the military. He sings Michael's "Human Nature." Pretty good for six weeks. Then he remixes into Billie Jean. Entertaining. Randy likes the remix, but doesn't dig the whole "act". Simon is equally puzzled. "It was a little bit over the top." It all rests on Randy again...

"I feel like it belongs in some theme park of circus. This place is weird.. It's wild... Welcome to Hollywood, Dawg!"


... and he wasn't the only one with a voice coach. The mother of all vocal coaches... Katharine McPhee's mom. She thinks Katherine (21, Sherman Oaks) is a 20 on a scale of 1 to 10. Simon thinks mom's a bit vicarious, but anyway, she sings "God Bless the Child". And I'd say mom's harping is working. She's very dead on pitchwise, tonewise, and holds back a bit. Kinda reminds me of a Norah Jones, without the pretentious act... Simon calls it absolutely fantastic. Randy calls it brilliant. Paula calls her beautiful. She's very much the natural. Needless to say...


No such luck for Eric Cornforth (18, San Francisco), but how about Shalicia Carlisle (25, Concord)? She's a poet who just learned that she could sing. Now she thinks that she's the next Idol. She quit her job to do this... She sounds like she has a good chance... well, she HAD a good chance. I said that, because she had it the first few bars.

But if this was Poet Idol, she'd fit right in.

Now her rendition of PCD... was downright scary. Mary J. Blige... even scarier. Another three-way pass, although Simon is willing to phone her work to get her job back. The good news... it worked.

Willits, CA is the home of 16-year-old Shauna White, whose dad was in a rock band. She sings something from Grease, and it's pretty good for a 16-year-old. Paula wants her to sound a little more contemporary. Shauna tries Alicia Keys' "Fallin'"... Paula likes it. Randy was impressed. Simon was annoyed. Randy says yes, so it's all on Paula... Yes.


Pay attention, because if you think Simon's a little more disagreeable than usual... you'd be right.

We have a quadruple threat, Marcus Phillips (23, San Jose). He's an "all-terrain entertainer." All except singing, because "This Little Light of Mine" just went out. Randy says no. The other two agree.

Jayne Santayana (19, Vallejo) delivers "Sweet Love" by Anita Baker, and how sweet it is. I haven't heard something this good today since... Well, Katharine earlier. Simon thought it was too big for her. After a bit of a leeway for the voice... It's still a no? I'm a bit taken aback. I mean, I had no problem with it. Randy didn't. Paula didn't. She still goes through, but not without causing a judge fight.

Jayne Santayana: GOING TO HOLLYWOOD.

Probably the king of all judge fights, as it spills over to any other audition that follows.

Next, Deborah Dawn Tilley (27, Ely, NV) has some big hair, and a big voice for rock music. She was in a band since she was 6... She oughta go back to that, because she was torrid. Paula: "Little bit much." Paula says yes. Randy disagrees. Simon says while she can sing, "she looks like someone's mother". Simon ends up, after an argument about Clay Aiken, outvoting Paula, 2-1.

And while Paula's still on the Clay argument, Simon walks out on the last audition. Randy & Paula think it's an act. It isn't. He's back in his hotel. Too bad, because he's going to miss Manuel Villamontes. He's named after his family's patron saint. He sings "Ribbon in the Sky" by Stevie Wonder. One last prayer... and he should've taken two. Randy still can't believe he's on the same planet as Manuel tries again... "It wasn't good the first time, it's not good the second time." Randy and Paula send him on his way.

And despite the drama today, 18 people made it through to Hollywood. Whatever you do, don't take Lombard St.

Next time, the Idol Roadshow heads to Vegas, and hopefully Simon is in a better mood, because only with the power of three will this Idol thing work.


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