South Florida X Factor auditions draw about 7,500 hopefuls, Gloria Estefan and lots of fame chasing
CORAL GABLES, Fla. - Watching a crowd of more than 7,500 hopefuls whipped into a frenzy before auditions for Simon Cowell's new talent show The X Factor this morning, I suddenly realized why these moments bother me so.
In the space of two hours, organizers pushed the auditioners to create the kind of scenes producers use to make each cattle call audition look like an event. Which meant egging them to scream while a helicopter filmed from above, urging them to welcome special guest Gloria Estefan with waves of applause and mugging for the cameras.
Eventually, the crowds would be herded into the BankUnited Center and seen by a group of 25 producers, winnowed down to a smaller group auditioning Friday and perhaps an even smaller group Saturday.
Cowell and the show's name judges -- only former record executive Antonio "L.A." Reid has been announced among the three remaining -- will return in a month or so to see those who survive that process.
But like Cowell's former show American Idol, X Factor will likely edit together the footage to make it seem as if all the auditions happened at once -- an essential dishonesty that starts each of these shows by misleading viewers.
I'm watching this unfold because I tagged along with a St. Petersburg girl, 15-year-old Amanda Puyot, and documented her experience in auditioning. Puyot, a singer who has won a host of other competitions, was an interesting change from most singers here -- rather than chase fame with a ferocity reserved for a Kardashian sister, she has a much more reserved approach. That story will appear in tomorrow newspaper.
But the experience also left me with a lot of observations which couldn't fit in a 21-inch story, noting that X Factor drew fewer auditioners than the 18,000 who showed up for the earlier Los Angeles auditions.
The auditions drew its share of oddballs and eccentrics, including an 86-year-old guy who rode a Sinatra tune into a callback. But X Factor didn't seem to put forward the same level of bad singers Idol often moves ahead as comedy relief, perhaps signaling a less abusive start.
When Cowell and the stars return, they will have auditioners perform before an audience of 5,000, which could also cut down on the awful people they can advance (it's no fun to watch a mob insult an obviously awful singer).
Estefan, who said hi to the crowd as a favor to Cowell after performing on Britain's version of the X Factor, said she wasn't in line to become a judge - "I think they're already filming now," she said in a bit of a slip -- but respected anyone willing to put their talent on the line.
"It took me 10 years to get comfortable with my band -- I can't imagine doing this," she said. "I probably wouldn't have gotten very far."