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Survival's The Real Game Now

Oct 5th, 2003

By Wayne Harada

"American Idol" judge Simon Cowell, known for his brutal comments, was practically mellow yesterday at the Sheraton Waikiki's Hano-hano Room, where he and celebrity judges Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson heard from about 65 contestants who had survived an Aloha Stadium cattle call for the hit TV show.

Still, Simon found something to complain about.

"It irritates me, looking out there; I'm stuck in here," said Cowell, glancing out the window at the surf below, looking casual in a black T-shirt and jeans. "I want to go out there. But this is a quick turn-around trip. I'm flying back to L.A. (tonight) and then to London, where I'm doing an English show."

Even Abdul found some room for sarcasm. The good news, she said, is that "no one has come in with an 'ukulele and no one's doing 'Tiny Bubbles'. "

Jackson was his usual, non-committal self. "So far, so good. Hawai'i people have done their thing," the recording industry Svengali said, looking rather staid in a striped white shirt worn over black trousers.

Footage for the show was taped at various Hawai'i locations, including the Hanohano Room.

Abdul, in a red halter top and wrap-around skirt, with faux flower in her hair, said judging was stricter this time around as the TV show preps for its third season. "We've all come a long way since (first "Idol" winner) Kelly Clarkson," she said.

Honolulu is the last stop for "American Idol" tryouts, which wind up today, and that brought hundreds of auditioners from out of state to the competition. About 25 of those Mainland auditioners got as far as the Hanohano Room, along with 40 or so Hawai'i competitors. "You ask where you from and they say, 'Alaska,' " Cowell said.

An estimated 2,000 wannabe idols lined up in the stadium parking lot Monday for a shot at the show. On Tuesday, producers winnowed down the field. There was another round of cuts Wednesday and Thursday.

On Thursday, one dejected candidate sobbed as friends hugged her after she was eliminated. "They told me I'm not unique," she said.

Yesterday, the judges came on board, to make the last call here in Hawai'i.

For these contestants, it's do-or-die time.

"I'm happy I made it this far," said Sonny Kapu, 21-year-old son of entertainer-deejay Sam Kapu Jr. "Genes alone won't carry me. ... I'd be happier if I made it to the top 32, like (last year's Hawai'i finalist) Jordan Segundo."

As they waited their turn to face the judges, Kapu's fellow contestants held on to their hopes.

"I think the wait's pretty calming," said Iowa college student Jon-Peter Lewis, 23, a native of Bakersfield, Calif., who decided to try his luck here instead of in San Francisco, the closest previous audition site.

"I'm staying with an aunt and uncle at Sunset Beach, and I went to bed at 9 p.m. last night to get up at 4:45 a.m. to get here," Lewis said. "But I've met a lot of friends, just standing in line."

Cowell said his gut feeling is that this will be a girls' year. "There are more girls than guys, and the girls are better than the guys," he said. "The first year, it was definitely girls (Clarkson won); the last one, boys (Ruben Studdard edged out Clay Aiken). The next season will be girls."

Paula Abdul singled out one girl in particular —though names won't be named until closer to the January launch of the third season. The 16-year-old, from Hawai'i, sang Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You" (a perennial favorite — and a risky choice).

"She was amazing," said Abdul.

And here's something outright nice from Cowell: "I think we have found one of the best (voices) in the entire competition here," he said.

Cowell said he pegs the popularity of "American Idol" on the drama of the contest.

"It's not about us," he said. "It's the talent, or the lack thereof. ... Since it's reality TV, no one knows what will happen. But trust me, I won't disappoint."

Cowell turns 44 Tuesday, and producers put on a party for him yesterday. Out of the media's view, Afatia Thompson, Nicole Thompson, Kuhio Yim and Shylynn Hall from Tihati Productions gave Cowell a lei greeting and sang "Happy Birthday," along with an Island-style rendering of "I Love You."

Filed under: American Idol


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