'American Idol' San Francisco Auditions: 'Summertime' Singer Leaves Judges Speechless
Also among the hopefuls? A gassy Southern blonde, Transformer Guy and a singer with Tourette's Syndrome who was brave enough to take on judge Steven Tyler's "Dream On."
"Just because somebody farts, you let them finish singing."
And so began the San Francisco auditions, as a disgruntled Southern blonde stormed away from the judges in tears, disparaging their apparent intolerance of flatulating, tone deaf Idol wannabes.
The City by the Bay, however, didn't disappoint. If anything, tonight's round of contestants had some of the most moving backstories of any I've seen in previous seasons.
But first there was lovably delusional Inessa Lee, whose hot-pink track suit and disturbing footage of her in the shower crowned her Wednesday night's Creepiest Contestant. Shockingly, the Ukraine native's tonally curious take on Air Supply's "All Out of Love" didn't win over Steven Tyler, though he was amused.
"You're so cute and precious. I was so hoping you'd have the voice and pitch to go with it."
After a slew of other forgettables, Stefano Ligone, 21, almost single-handedly restored the judges' faith in humanity. The Kent, Wash., native was not only adorable -- think: a cleaner-cut Jersey Shore-type -- but he survived a near-fatal car wreck in May 2009 and had all the scars to prove it. Between his inspiring recovery and sweet demeanor -- not to mention killer performance with "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" -- he sailed through to Hollywood.
Karaoke DJ Clint Jun Gamboa of Long Beach, Calif., kicked off Day 2 in San Fran with a not-so-subtle take on Bruno Mars' "I want to be a Billionaire" -- personally I thought he stunk, but the judges were feeling lenient -- and was followed by my favorite moment of the show: Weston Lee Smith of Arizona singing so poorly, the end of the song was met with total silence.
Sensing his fate, he said, "I'm sorry guys," and graciously exited the room.
Then there was Transformer Guy -- aka Drew Beaumeier -- whose elaborate/insane Transformer costume and rendition of Steppenwolf's "Born to Be Wild" earned him laughs and the best exit line of the night (well, second best to gassy girl): "I don't want to be a car for the rest of my life."
And, we had oh-so-sweet Julie Zorilla, who turned 20 the day she wowed the judges with the most stirring version of "Summertime" since Fantasia brought down the Idol house. Her incredible story of fleeing Colombia amid guerilla rule was the cherry on top of a memorable performance that left the judges mostly speechless, but in a good way.
Oh, and she had on pretty gold shoes that had J.Lo swooning and Steven gushing. "You have a fabulous, beautiful star quality." Zorilla skipped out of the room screaming, "This is the best birthday present ever!"
After Sabrina Corbett -- yes, the one in the superhero costume/policewoman outfit -- had the panel wincing, in came sweet Emily Anne Reed, 26, of Arlington, Va., and wowed the judges with her survivor past (she lost everything in a house fire) and sweet, airy, almost nymph-like tone. "She has the most interesting voice from all eight cities," Lopez said. On to Hollywood she went.
The final contestant, James Durbin, 21, of Santa Cruz, Calif., pulled any as-yet-untagged heartstrings with his touching past -- his father O.D.'d when he was 9, he has Tourette's Syndrome -- and brave move to sing Tyler's own "Dream On."
Personally, I think he barely passed muster, but his chutzpah, passion and adorable wife-son cheering section will no doubt make him a favorite during Hollywood Week. Dream on indeed!