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My Night With American Idolby C. Brian Devinney -- 09/04/2002
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By now, the songs have been sung and the results are being tabulated. Soon the envelope will be opened and the prize given. No, I'm not talking about tonight's revelation as to who is this first winner of American Idol -- I'm talking about the MTV Video Music Awards and my night with the cast of American Idol.
What most people don't realize about awards shows is that all award presenters and on-stage performers are assigned a "talent escort" that acts as their assistant for the day. From escorting the talent to their seat to ensuring their prompt delivery in the press room to arranging for their post show transportation to be waiting for them as they exit the stage door, it can be a rather demanding job that requires utmost attention, excellent people skills, and the tact to know when to step forward and take action and when to sit back and keep your mouth shut. This is the tale of my day with Paula Abdul, Kelly Clarkson, and Justin Guarini.
First and foremost, I know you are asking, where are Simon Cowell and Randy Jackson? Well, for those of you that watched the show, you are aware that the other two American Idol judges were present at the VMAs and were on hand with the rest of their castmates to present the award for Best New Artist. However, as they were assigned to their own talent escorts, I was unable to greet them or spend much, if any time with them. I can tell you that Simon looks as sunkissed in person as he does on TV. Additionally, he was quite pleasant as well greeting his fellow judges and the two finalists. Sadly, I can't say anything about Mr. Jackson beyond the fact that he was a very nice, gracious man. Of all five cast members, I did not detect any hint of competition, dissention, or dislike.
My day started at 8:00 AM with a briefing session as to what to expect. As the cast of American Idol was to arrive almost an hour after our meeting ended, I hooked up with my partner in crime, Bonnie (who was directly assigned to work with Justin and Kelly), and awaited the arrival of the cast at red carpet entrance. At that early hour, there was already a small crowd gathered across the street at the corner of West 51st and 6th Avenue that would vigorously cheer and applaud each performer or presenter as they arrived for rehearsal.
Just before 11:00 AM, the cast of American Idol arrived. First impressions -- Justin is TALL! He definitely tops six feet and is probably around six foot two. Kelly was just adorable in her outfit and in person, the highlights I made fun of the week before when talking with friends about the show actually looked fabulous. There is only one word to describe these two -- precious. They are taking this entire experience in stride and are absolutely amazed by the reception they are receiving.
Rehearsal was pretty much anticlimactic. The group read over their portion of the script for the first time and had the opportunity to practice it on stage. Kelly and Justin were asked to show off their vocal prowess on stage when presenting the award, however, I soon overheard that this idea was nixed. Most likely, in my opinion, due to the contracts the duo had signed which probably limits their singing to the Fox program.
While Justin and Kelly taped some segments for last night's episode of American Idol, I escorted Ms. Abdul to her car. While in transit, I thanked her for being the voice of positive reinforcement on American Idol -- giving constructive criticism while not destroying the dreams of the show's contestants. Having studied opera and taken voice lessons, I know what the phrase "bad song selection" means because I've done that on many occasions. We briefly discussed the difference between being a "singer" and being a "performer" and I came to realize that she may be called the "nice judge" of American Idol, but I think she's the shrewd judge -- she sees the potential in the contestants, not just the performance they give on a particular day.
What can I say about Ms. Abdul beyond the fact that she is utterly, totally, and completely one of the NICEST people you could ever meet? She is a total professional in every sense of the word and she leaves you so impressed by how well she is put together both mentally and emotionally. In person, she is very petite and absolutely stunning. And then there is that smile. Colgate? Crest? Where are the ad campaigns around this woman? Forget Mary Tyler Moore, this is the woman who can turn a world on with her smile!
With Ms. Abdul safely tucked in her car, I returned to assist Bonnie with the two finalists as they finished up some segments for last night's performance. You would never have known that they had taken the red eye in from California the night before and only had a few scant hours to rest given the amount of energy they were putting out in these segments.1 2 Next-->
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