Beauty is in the Ear of the Beholder…


So, I attended what I expect to be the first of many all day reality show auditions this past Sunday. What could I say to my 12-year old when she completed an online application for America’s Got Talent on her own and only texted me to ask if she could use my info as the authorization-giving parent?

To be honest, I dreaded the all day line thing waiting around with a bunch of Star Wars cantina denizens seeking 15 minutes of fame. But as the day approached, I took the opportunity to prepare my daughter in the best way I know how…outfit planning and purchase and song selection. Actually, one of my favorite things to do with my daughter is to take her clothes shopping where we talk about styles, what she “needs” and what does or doesn’t look good.

So, two weeks ago, we arrived at our standard Wet Seal at the Irvine Spectrum where most of the sales girls know us the only daddy-daughter duo to engage in this type of activity to the extent that we do. After a very short search, we found 4 tops that might do the trick, so I did what any dad would do . . . I made her go through the mental exercise of weighing the prices, the 2-for-1 deal and then deciding which two to keep . . . then bought all 4 of them anyway (the prices and deals were so good, it was no issue . . . I just wanted to see if she would exercise self-control and she did).

Then came the search for the perfect belt with “pop.” This was an arduous task with many internet searches and store walk-bys to no avail. With one day to go, I decided to ask my friend who not only had the perfect belt, but also the perfect bangles, ring, necklace and glitter dust applicator. The night before, my daughter settled on the best top to go with her black jeans and boots and tried everything on. We were good to go and it was time to hit the sack since we had to be up at 5 a.m. with the line starting at 6 a.m. (even though the doors opened at 8 a.m., I wanted the best chance to avoid an all-day affair).

We ended up being about 60th in line and I will go ahead and kill the suspense that we were out of there by 10:30 a.m. This wasn’t as crazy as American Idol looks on t.v., but it was clear that the people who arrived later were in for a much longer day.

Anyway, there was plenty of time to meet people around us and my daughter quickly made friends with two other girls and they compared notes: “what are you singing?” “do you have a second song?” “did you see that weird guy on the show last season?” Meanwhile we parents talked about the sacrifices we make and I learned that my 5 hours of sleep stood up to other parents who came in from further away. It eventually turned into a singles group where these parents were sharing details of their exes and I thought to myself, “would it be rude if I just put my Beats headphones on at this point?” I didn’t and shared a few of my own tales. Then, of all things random, No. 63 (Aubrey was No. 62) was the daughter of an old colleague of mine from the Psych hospital days. It had been 20 years since we hung out in the Occupational Therapy room with a bunch of teens, and while we managed to be FB friends, it had still been 20 years. So we caught up (yes, we talked about our exes).

Now the tricky part here is that everyone loves their child, supports them with this kind of sacrifice and wants to believe they have what it takes. Fortunately, the handful of “friends” we made all had some degree of talent. Not so fortunately, many others around us did not.

And we had the whole rainbow of people:

  • -the 6’2″ transgender black guy dressed in a Katy Perry blue wig and Katy Perry-esque heels, and a dress of course. He became friends with the 3 girls for a brief stint in the hall and they were rooting for him/her to do well;
  • -the nerdy white kid in a black T and red pants who decided that emulating Michael Jackson while he sang was t.v. worthy;
  • -the introverted teen who sang half his song in spanish, which was unique enough -I thought- to get him a call back until he switched to English and he clearly lacked skills;
  • -the “something’s just not right about her” mom with the 7 year-old who sang the fastest version of  Wicked’s “Popular” that I’ve ever heard. Her mom was actually the spectacle. There’s always one and, well, she was in our sub-group of 10 while we waited for the previous group to finish with the lone producer. She tried to get everyone to do their song for her (so she could gauge the competition), but she did it in a faux-encouraging way. And she had a comment for everything, even when the producer’s instructions were crystal clear.  Her daughter will be great in musicals some day, but  nothing she did warranted the stream of tears from mom or the phone call after to, presumably, dad saying “she nailed it,” when she clearly did not.
  • -the 60-something year old man with minimal patience but a heart for performing. He wasn’t in our group but the 48 year old Harley-riding-looking dude with the big lungs was and as he belted out his song following 3 tiny 12-year old tweens, I couldn’t help but laugh at the contrast . . . or the way he was almost a good singer but for being completely a half-step off key the entire Ray Charles song I’d never heard of before (and without any gravelly voice).

Anyway, there was a nice mix of talent and spectacles. Just like you’d see in the audition portion of American Idol but reduced by what seemed to be about two-thirds. And now that I’d been through it, it occurred to me that I could have signed up alongside my daughter and we could have sung one after the other, or possibly as a duo (think Billy Ray and Miley . . . yes, I’d wear a mullet!).

But here’s the funny thing I took from this whole experience. If you could see the hope and desire and energy of these people, even the people who stunk, you couldn’t help but root for each and every one of them. I mean, my daughter is talented and I viewed this as a dry run for American Idol in 3 years. She is not perfect, but she is very good and she has the gift. So did 3 other girls in our small group of 10. Many of the others didn’t.  And it’s only by the sheer unconditional love of their parents that they are there, wasting their precious time for an experience that many were ill-prepared for (trust me on this as I checked out outfits, make-up, and camera presence like a good competitive father would do). And while the beauty of their tone was only in the ears of their unconditionally loving parent, God bless them for being out there.

We ended the day with a nice pancake, eggs, bacon and buttermilk spice muffin breakfast courtesy of Mimi’s Cafe off 17th and the 55. And I loved the opportunity to have one on one time planned by my daughter with the Mimi’s de-briefing session. It’s a day we will always remember.

And I really hope the mime-costumed dancer duo gets a call back . . .because that was true reality tv talent. And I’m not being sarcastic.

Happy unconditional loving,



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