They came for fame but most left rejected “American Idol” hopefuls converge on the Meadowlands for tryouts

Lauren DePino of Philadelphia was a vision in green and white tights offset by green pointy shoes.

She had just completed an odyssey in which she had driven up the New Jersey Turnpike, stood outside the Continental Airlines Arena at the Meadowlands sports complex for hours, and tried out with thousands of other people for a spot on the famed TV reality talent show “American Idol”, and had failed. But to DePino, a singer, one day’s failure didn’t matter. Undaunted, she would gladly try again.

“This could have been a quick way to get into the business,” she said. “I wanted to stand out, so I dressed up as a Christmas elf and sang ‘O Holy Night'”.

A cruel numbers game

DePino was one of literally thousands of auditioners who attempted to make the cut to get on America’s most popular television reality and talent show. According to “American Idol” staffers present at the Meadowlands tryout, over 20,000 people already auditioned in Los Angeles and San Antonio.

Auditions have yet to be held in Seattle. Memphis, Birmingham, Minneapolis and St. Paul. The Meadowlands tryouts, which began when registration started at 6 a.m. on August 12, are the only ones that will be held on the East Coast. New Jersey state police estimated that upwards of 16,000 people were lined up for the beginning of tryouts on August 14. This made the odds at the Meadowlands even more severe and the sense of frustration in the air even more acute.

“I would have liked to have three judges decide my fate instead of one woman,” said Danielle McTeer, 18, of Seaford, Delaware. “I sang for about 25 seconds. I guess it’s fair because there are so many people here, but still. I guess I’ll try again next year.”

Antonio Crawley, 22, of New Britain, Connecticut, had his own reasons for auditioning for “American Idol” besides the chance for televised glory.

“I’m trying to see Paula Abdul up close, man,” he said. “I would serenade her even if I had forgotten the words.”

Some succeed

Jennifer Onken, 27, of Philadelphia stood patiently waiting for her friend Vicki Brewer, 27, to emerge from the audition.

“I’m waiting for a winner,” she said. “I saw her get the golden ticket,” signifying that she had successfully moved on to the next round of auditions to be held in the immediate following days. “Everybody has been trying to get her to try out for years and years, and now she did it.”

Although she believes in her friends’ talent, Onken generally had no idea what it took to get to the next round.

“As soon as I thought I had it figured out, I didn’t,” she said. “Rumor had it that only 100 to 200 people made it through today.”

Fred Johnson, 18, from Maryland, embodied proof of this theory. Although “American Idol’ producers told successful candidates for the next audition round not to talk to the press, Johnson was more than happy to talk about his act.

“I was Alvin the Chipmunk,” said Johnson, dressed up in a matching red and yellow ensemble with a large yellow A on his sweatshirt and hat. “I was just being myself. I really don’t care about anything.”

Mark Torosi, 23, of Doylestown, Pennsylvania, was another successful candidate candidate. Despite the 80-degree heat, he was wearing the same astronaut suit that he had worn during the audition. When asked if the spacesuit had sent him up to possibly be with the stars, Torosi demurred.

“It was my awesome voice,” he said.

Better luck next time

Those who did not make it to the next round looked forward with a combination of disappointment and determination. Lauren DePino had some doubts about the entire “American Idol” tryout process.

“I think I did really well today, but it guess it just wasn’t what they were looking for,” she said. “Sometimes the show annoys me because they pick people purposely who are bad, but I know that I’m good.”

Taking a quick glance back at her green elfin shoes, DePino thought about taking a different road to fame the next time before she headed back down the Turnpike.

“Maybe I’d use a different costume,” she said. “But I’d try again.”


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