On August 17, SF’s Cow Palace was invaded by thousands of aspiring Clarksons, Fantasias, and Underwoods — American Idol was holding cattle-call tryouts for its imminent fifth season, set to air in January. Among the fledgling divas was Sarah Eve, a 24-year-old recent Cal graduate (literature, music minor) searching for a musical project worthy of her talents (she also needs a place to live and a job). Sarah set up a MySpace page, “Sarah Is Your American Idol” (MySpace.com/SarahAmericanIdol ) to chronicle her efforts, and in a recent chat with Down in Front, she described the hopes, fears, setbacks, and aspirations related to her quest for stardom. This is her story:
Oh, god, I think the very first time I ever saw American Idol, oh, it must’ve been 2002, ’cause my friend auditioned. I would totally laugh at it. Then last season I watched the last, I don’t know, three weeks of it, and was just like, “This is amazing!” So awesome! You get so into these characters, I kinda fell in love with it. And this campy — it’s, like, who’s the guy who does Monty Python? You know? It’s so campy that you just have to love it. I just thought it was so cool.
The singing, it’s very emotional. I guess how seriously they take it. But I’m not laughing at them; I’m really into the fact that they’re getting so into it, even though I’m not into it. I’m into their emotion. Vicarious emotion.
Sarah and two friends decided to crash the SF auditions, but not without a great deal of planning.
It was at the Cow Palace. This kind of audition is called a cattle call, where people just line up and go boom boom boom boom boom and audition. So it was funny to be at a cattle call at the Cow Palace, like at the rodeo barn, basically.
We thought we were gonna have to spend the night, and we were getting all, like, psychologically pumped for it. We just got, like, lots of healthy portable food, and we just had sleeping bags, and scarves and beenies so that our necks and heads — so we wouldn’t get sick. And then we got there six in the morning the day before, and by nine in the morning they had given us wristbands that basically said “I was here first, I have first dibs tomorrow,” and we went back to our car to drive home and take a nap because we were exhausted.
By this time, Sarah had already selected her audition song.
It was “Faith” by George Michael. I did it with handclaps, and I was kinda like dancing, because I’m a percussionist, so I was like, “Shit, I’m just gonna show ’em everything I got,” so I was like, handclaps, singing, and kinda moving around, dancin’.
For me, the song, it’s actually, it’s kind of like religious, when he’s talking about having faith, no matter what it’s in, he sounds, like, very sincere. It’s like, It takes a strong man, but I’m showin’ you the door, I gotta have faith. He has faith in either fate or God or whatever he wants to call it that this new love is gonna come around, this love’s gonna come down. It’s not gonna be without devotion. I was just, like, all like singin’ it gospel style, and just like feelin’ the Lord. Singin’ I think it’d be nice if I could touch your body, but, like, knowing that it’s really serious shit.
I was singing in the shower all the time, just all the time, and I was just singing all day. I would go over the words in my head. Even if I wasn’t singing it, it was constantly going through my head, and then I would, like, sing it and, like, dance in front of the mirror, so I could make sure that what they were gonna see is what I wanted to present. It was just your typical eight-year-old girl rocking out in the mirror, except I’m a grown-up. Supposedly.
The girls showed up at 7:30 Thursday morning and sized up the competition.
It was probably, I don’t know, like, six thousand people auditioning and maybe like four thousand supporters, so maybe ten thousand people total. I was expecting, like, bajillions. There were lots of people with, like, very sweet smiles on their face. People were friendly, but they were kind of friendly with this “Look at me being friendly” kind of atmosphere. I think that’s just the scene, “I’m trying to present myself as, like, a nice American girl.” But even if they are that nice, the fact that they’re, like, conscious of the fact that they’re trying to present themselves as nice kind of, like, kills it. But not that much. They were still nice. I didn’t get, like, bad vibes from anyone. Nobody was glaring at me, and I wasn’t glaring at anyone else.
We show up, we get in line, there are lots of very done-up people, mostly girls. We fit in the Cow Palace, up in the bleachers, and then they just make us do lame summer camp stuff, like “Everyone stand up and sing! Everyone stand up and dance! Everyone say ‘We’ll be right back’! Everyone say ‘San Francisco rocks!’ Okay, now cheer, and look excited, ’cause we’re gonna do a pan shot with all of you guys in it!” They were basically just saying, “We want you to look like you’re having a great time. We want you to say ‘Simon, pick me, I’m your next American Idol,’ and look like you really mean it,” but they weren’t even ever telling us to really mean it. Reality? Questionable.
The moment of truth.
I was wearing a purple party dress and high heels, and, like, a maroon velvet jacket. You know, just a velvet jacket, the kind the hip kids wear. I knew it wasn’t very typical of what I had seen on the show ever, but I just loved the dress, and I was like, “If I’m just gonna go there and bring it and be me and, like, bring what I’ve got to the table, I’m gonna wear a party dress.”
So four of us would come up to a judge, stand in line next to each other, and he would go, “Okay, let’s start with you.’ She would sing for literally twenty seconds; he’d say, “Thank you, that’s enough.” He went through each one, said, ‘Thank you, that’s enough.’ With me, he stopped, and he was like, ‘Okay, can you sing me something where you’re not dancing?” So I just sang another song, “Summertime” from Porgy and Bess — that’s my favorite quiet song to sing. But I wasn’t really prepared well, like the other song was. All four of us sang, he looked at us all, and he said, ‘Thank you very much for coming: I’m not sending any of you guys on.” And it was just like that, boom.
Then you are straight kicked out of the Cow Palace. You have your, what’s it called, your wristband? They cut the wristband off, and they were like, “Please leave the Cow Palace.” Like, boom.
Sarah’s friends didn’t fare much better.
We all auditioned. None of us got through. And I can say, like, objectively, that my two friends were totally awesome.
Afterward, they discussed what’d gone wrong, what they lacked that the judges were looking for.
I almost wanna call it a certain eagerness to please, just in your demeanor. But maybe that’s just me making it up. I really couldn’t tell. We could see the people auditioning as we auditioned, and people with slammin’ voices who looked good, sounded good, carried themselves well, would not make it through. So we weren’t really sure what they wanted.
The whole “They let bad people through just to be funny” … they actually didn’t. They just let people through, not because they were so bad, but because they were so flamboyant — they were actually very good at playing a very funny, cheesy, bad character. Does that make sense? Lousy, but very strong personalities in whatever shape or form.
She’s taking the long view.
I’m definitely chalking it up to life experience, ’cause I went with two awesome people, and we were just supporting each other the whole way. If I had gone by myself, it might’ve been harder, to look at my friends and go, “You’re beautiful, and your songs are awesome” — it means that we’re all fine, we’re all just gonna go on and do things that cater more to us anyway, where we don’t have to fake it.
My take on it is, if they weren’t into me, then it’s not the right thing for me. Does that make sense? If they’re not looking at me and being like, “Damn, that girl’s a star,” then I’m just not in the right place. I need to be, you know, singing at a punk show in Oakland, for example. For now I’m just kinda throwing it out there, whenever I go to a show. I want, like, a project to fall in love with. I want something where I’m singing and playing percussion and there’s dancers. Who knows what? I want to put all my heart and soul into it. I just want to bring rock ‘n’ roll to more people who need it, however that may be, in the most true, honest form possible.
But I need some kind of job. Do you have a job for me at the East Bay Express?