Thursday, January 3, 2008

A star born and a legend made? Part 2

If this is your first time on my blog, check this out first.

If you missed part 1 of this post, click here, or, um, scroll down.

Sorry for the delay, but the Internet connection went down at work AND my apartment for a while (not a city-wide disaster, just bad luck for me). I'm just 2 posts in, and my blog is already rife with mistakes. My sister Lori was born to be a blog copy editor, and as my fabulous friend Natalie pointed out, I was last in New York in 2003, not 2004. Hey, I promised spelling accuracy, not historical accuracy. Anyway...

When we last left Jeff, it was 6:30 AM, Saturday, Dec. 1. He (well, I; I don't think I could pull off the third person thing, even if I wanted to) had just arrived at the Apollo for Amateur Night auditions, and saw that the line was already stretching around the block (auditions didn't start until 8:00). It was really, ridiculously cold (the first snow of the season came the next morning, so it could've been worse).

Within a few minutes, a few more would-be stars had joined the line, and I struck up a conversation with Sebastian, the guy directly behind me. He's 18, from Buffalo originally, but has been living in North Carolina and DC recently. He's a singer, been training for years, he told me. He was SO nervous--more nervous about whether or not we'd get to audition, I think, than about how he'd do on the audition itself.

As we talked, my ears perked up as I heard the word "Mormons". I had caught the end of a polygamy joke, I think, from the two comedians in line right behind Sebastian. I introduced myself as a Mormon to David and Joe, aka "Francis and Weiss", a comedy duo and therefore some of my direct competition in the auditions. They were already drinking. To stay warm, of course.

The four of us did our best to fend off the cold and keep some enthusiasm as the time slowly ticked away. It was the closest thing I've had to a missionary experience since I've been out here, as David kept asking me how a Mormon could be a comedian, since Mormons aren't allowed to laugh (he also asked a few more commonly asked questions about Mormons' views on topics like drugs, alcohol, and monogamy). At one point he mistakenly called me a Mer-man, and from time to time the rest of the day he called me Aquaman. I only saw him have one beer, but I have no idea what he did before he showed up at the theater. But he was definitely in a good mood.

We kept trying to estimate how many people were ahead of us in line, then trying to figure out how many of them were groups, how many were just there as cheering sections, etc. We figured we would get to audition but weren't sure. Finally, just after 8:00, the line started to move...slowly...very slowly...we finally made it into the building around 8:45. By that time, some people were already emerging with American Idol-style golden tickets (thanks, Lori!). We reached a room where we were given numbers (156! I was definitely going to audition!), filled out applications and had our pictures taken. Then we were sent to the balcony area of the theater to wait. And wait. And wait. And wait some more. They were taking 10 acts in at a time to audition; the first group taken after I reached the balcony was 41-50, and each auditioner was only allowed 90 seconds, but somehow 151-160 didn't get the call until just before 2:00.

Unfortunately, I've never been very good at taking naps, even when I'm really tired. Sebastian found a corner to warm up his voice, and Joe and David took frequent smoke breaks, so I spent the next few hours reviewing my routine in my head, listening to lots of bands and singers rehearse, and observing my fellow waiters get more and more anxious (some were extremely confident, a lot were pretty nervous, and most--me included--were just really antsy because of how long we had to wait). I wasn't nervous at all, because I never planned on having a successful audition; I just wanted to say I had done it.

Every few minutes, one of the Apollo employees would start yelling, and everyone would pay close attention, hoping they were calling out more numbers, but usually they were just getting people to stop leaning on the balcony railing (not because they're anal, but because it's not sturdy and the theater is steep--if you ever go to the Apollo, DO NOT lean on the brass railing). The employee that was most vocal was this really funny black lady who, when I looked at her, in some way that I can't describe, reminded me of Diane Romrell (definitely a compliment to this lady; Diane is a babe). She was constantly making fun of people who came up to her with their sob stories and asking if they could go audition now even though their number was 207 or something (I think they let around 230 acts audition, which means probably everyone in line got a chance), or she would make the less-talented bands stop practicing because she didn't want to listen to them. I was glad she wasn't auditioning, because she would've definitely taken one of the comedy spots.

By the way, this isn't the first time I've made unexplainable mental connections between people of different races (I used to post occasionally on Laugh Out Loud's on-again off-again blog). I also think of Brett Weber whenever I see the wrestler Chavo Guerrero.

Finally, mercifully, my group of 10 got the call. We went into a final holding room, where I saw someone reading an Orson Scott Card book, yet another random Mormon-Apollo connection. When we had been getting our numbers earlier, I had been in the bathroom, which allowed Sebastian, David and Joe to step ahead of me. But I was cool with that, because I got to see my line buddies audition.

After a few kid dancers that were pretty good and some so-so teenage gospel singers (and one weird, bad, super-intense poet, the only auditioner I saw get cut off before their 90 seconds were up), it was time for the comedy stylings of Weiss and Francis. I was surprised to see that David was wearing a sleeveless shirt beneath his winter coat. Kind of an odd look.

They, um, weren't funny. They got a small laugh from the judges' table on a joke about David being pregnant (he drinks beer at 7:00 in the morning, remember; hey, what's my excuse then? oh yeah, it's the cookies at 11:00 at night), but the room was pretty silent for the rest of their audition. But they made it! I didn't know if the judges just do their best to keep a straight face the whole time, or if they put them through for Hung-ian reasons. All I knew was Weiss and Francis had taken one of the spots I was going for; so props to them (plus, they're good guys who unlike me are actually trying to make a living with comedy; they gave me their business card, which has the address for their YouTube page on it, where you can see a video of the same stuff they used for their audition, but I'm not going to link to it because it's semi-raunchy and, well, it's not particularly funny. Sorry, guys.)

Then Sebastian was up. He poured his heart and soul into Stevie Wonder's "Signed, Sealed, Delivered", and the head judge pointed out that that was what had landed him an Amateur Night spot (he sounded pretty good at the beginning but faltered when he tried to hit a high note). I was unable to catch his eye to congratulate him as he gathered his stuff and left, but there wasn't much time left for anything like that anyway, because #156 was up next...

Coming soon...the thrilling conclusion! Will Jeff impress the judges? Will he decide at the last minute to skip stand-up and audition as a breakdancer? Will he ever keep a blog post under 1000 words?

Stay tuned!

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