By JENNETTE BARNES, Standard-Times staff writer FOXBORO --
"American Idol" started a new season of famously brutal auditions yesterday with a massive cattle call at Gillette Stadium. Hundreds of aspiring pop stars emerged disappointed, even angry, from the stadium's metal gates.
Miranda Tozier-Robbins of Fitchburg was one of the few contestants to leave waving the coveted blue paper -- instructions for today's callback at the Seaport Hotel in Boston. "I'm nervous, very nervous," the 22-year-old said.
As the Emmy-nominated Fox talent show enters its fifth season, throngs of young people are scrambling to follow in the footsteps of previous winners, who have won recording contracts and instant -- if perhaps temporary -- fame.
Ms. Tozier-Robbins wants another crack at judges Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson, but first she will have to pass the second audition. She sang for them last year in Orlando. This time around, she performed snippets of songs by Christina Aguilera and Britney Spears. She wore basic white clothes that highlighted her multi-ethnic look: she is black, Mexican and Comanche Indian.
Everyone who was rejected yesterday had a theory about what the screeners were looking for. "I thought this was a talent contest!" shouted 22-year-old Laurie Chmielewski of Springfield, wearing a funky red cap on her stick-straight blond hair. She drew a crowd of media by bashing the show after her failed audition. "If they feel like it, they'll pass you," she said. "I really don't think it was about talent." She sang a few bars of Stevie Wonder's "Living for the City" for the news cameras and then shouted, "I think that was pretty good!"
Damon Whitehurst, a clean-cut gospel singer and administrative assistant who traveled from Elizabeth, N.J., for the audition, said he was too good to get on "American Idol." "I think they're looking for the average," he said, "somebody they could work with, as opposed to somebody that knows what they're doing."
Not everyone had sharp words for the show. Dighton college student Justine Guay, 19, said she was happy to have the experience. She sings karaoke when she is not commuting to the Gibbs College medical assistant program in Cranston, R.I. Auditioners said the screeners directed them to stand in groups of four. In one group, all four made the cut. Joanna Janetakis, 20, of St. James, Long Island, N.Y., was one of them. "I think it paid to be early," she said. "I think maybe after the judges hear a lot of people sing, their ears get tired."
Others said being early hurt them. Ms. Janetakis camped out Monday night at the stadium to get an audition pass on Tuesday. Her mother couldn't stomach the rain, so she got a hotel room and bought her daughter a Winnie the Pooh tent. "Thank goodness," her daughter said, "because there was seriously like a monsoon."
Other singers who made the first cut included Omar Ortiz of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., who was born in Boston and sang two country songs for the audition, and Rance Wright, a Boston Conservatory opera singer who said he was shocked at his success because "I ain't nobody's pop singer." Curt Doble of Danvers drew stares with his elaborate armor costume made of duct tape. He wore boots, a belt, gloves, shoulder armor, and a full mask and helmet, all with large spikes. He said he calls it his "Gwar" outfit because of the growling noise he makes. "I just wanted to be funny," he said. And perhaps get on TV.
This story appeared on Page A1 of The Standard-Times on September 1, 2005.