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Auditions: Los Angeles (or "The Shortest Distance Between You and Hollywood is a Golden Ticket") - January 31

For those that doubt the star-making power of Los Angeles, I have two words.. Katharine McPhee.

We're here at the Rose Bowl, where 7000 people are giving it their best shot.

And joining our intrepid judges is pop-star Olivia Newton-John, whose shirt says it all about the audition process: "it is what it is." And her first target: Martik Manoukian (24; Tujunga), aka Eccentric. He's an athlete, an model, a singer, a songwriter, a producer, and a panther. Rather than just singing, he throws stuff and goes into a horrid original song, "Who's That Princess".

Needless to say, Hollywood wouldn't be in his future.

What about Sholandric Stallworth (25), who wants to bring romance back? His hero: Julio Iglesias. He sings "If Ever You're In My Arms Again" by James Ingram... and we miss Barry White that much more. Romantic, it ain't.

It's 11am, and Los Angeles has yet to produce. And yes, apparently "Peanut Butter Jelly Time" is a valid audition. What about Marianna Riccio (20; West Hills), whose mother was one of Dean Martin's Gold Diggers? Surely talent runs deep in her family. She lacks a certain flavor on "Should I Stay or Should I Go." I think we all know the answer to that, as Simon compares it to Cher after she's been to the dentist. And we launch into a begging fit.

Someone who knows all about not taking no for an answer is Alaina Alexander (24; West Hollywood; no relation). She had no prior desire to do music again, so Idol is pretty much it for her. "Feeling Good" by Michael Buble. She doesn't sound like anyone we haven't heard before. But Simon thought it was really great. Randy likes her as well, but not as much. Randy says yes. Paula and Simon agree.

Alaina Alexander - GOING TO HOLLYWOOD

Next, Taylor's spirit lives on in Phong Pham (17; San Diego)... allegedly. Mom didn't want her in line, saying they focus on telegenic personalities. Could she prove her.. and us... wrong? She tries "Dancin in the Streets"... and yeah, it's rough. Just rough all around. Unfortunately it's a no all around as well.

Brandon Rogers (28; North Hollywood), though, thinks he's played backup for long enough. Four years, long enough. He's backed up Anastacia and Christina Aguilera. He sings "Always On My Mind" by Willie Nelson. One of the best renditions today. What do the judges say? the ladies love it. The guys call it... "by far the best."


Sherman Pore (64) has a petition of 330 saying he should audition. Didn't happen for Brian Miller (19; Placentia), who was cut in Hollywood last season. Could this be the turnaround with "A Change Is Gonna Come". Now we know why he made it last year, but is it enough to wow the judges this time? "Nice looking guy, nice voice, forgettable." But based on the voice....


But back to Sherman. His wife became ill, and that served as a motivating factor. "It smoothed her passing." But he is allowed to at least go at it. He sings "You Belong to Me"...

It's good... for a 64-year-old. And all he wanted was a chance... And he got it. He gets an applause from the panel. Well done. He calls himself a winner, and 21 others from day 1 would also be winners. But unlike him, they've got golden tickets.

Day 2 ascends, and the judges honestly believe it's time for LA to produce a winner. Could they be Cavett Carr and Darold Gray (both from Compton), a dating couple, both trying out). Cavett loves her man's grill. Cavett says to get ready for a wedding. Cavett (26) goes with "I'm Goin' Down"... And how apt is that. And Darold (20) with "I Wish It Would Rain"? Nasal and off-pitch. At least they have each other.

Day 2 has so far been a washout... and Anthony Adams (20; Pasadena) is not a help. How about Eric Mueller (23; West Covina), who's been training for American Idol for the last two years. His favorites are Robert Plant, Staind, and Michael Jackson. He invested himself in some programs to teach himself how to sing. And the result? An insanely high version of Ozzy's "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath". And even in the lower register, it's too nasal for a pass.

What really makes Simon's day, though, is what Eric used as a training guide... Randy & Paula's DVD. That prompts Simon to run after him... and Randy & Paula to run after HIM....

Well, that would do it for Los Angeles, and headed round the corner to the Orpheum are 19 more for a total of 40.

Next week, everything should be bigger in Texas as Idol heads to San Antonio.


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