This is ‘American Idol’

Worshiping false idols? Moses, it's time to climb down that mountain once more: The real "Idols" are coming early next year.

But there has to be a starting point. And, in Philadelphia, where more than 1,776 — more like 17,776 — are expected to jam the Wachovia Center, "American Idol" — in its great run up to the series next season, a run-up so heightened even Rocky got a jump start from the top step of the Art Museum — is seeking its next champ right here, right now — actually, this coming Monday.

Going the distance from Havertown to Hollywood with a song in your heart? There may be a Ford in your future.

And all those post-Bar Mitzvah singing lessons that had the cantor about to commit death by dayenu because Harry can't carry a beat brings up this beat box brachah: Should post-Bar Mitzvah boychicks use their tallit as lassos to latch on to one of the top spots? Could this night really be different from all other nights?

Could happen. Look at Elliott Yamin; better yet, hear him: The musical mensch has his first solo CD out now.

But that's "Idol" chatter of two season back. "AI VII," the Super bowl of singers bowling over call-in voters — not to mention a pantheon of a panel made up of Simon, Paula and the Dawg — is waxing lyrical in Philadelphia.

Yes, Virginia, there really is a Simon Cowell. And if you can sing "Simon Cowell Is Coming to Town" — and even show a little bit of leg while you're at it — maybe the new American bandstand that is bouncing into town will be yours for a song.

And as a spectrum of auditioners accumulate outside the Wachovia — a chorus line of kids and crooners who recall Kelly, Ruben, Fantasia, Carrie, Taylor and Jordin and who are hoping to compete and complete the magnificent seven (if only Kurosawa were around to film it) — all hungry for recognition, the "AI" crew in this crapshoot for fame is ready to serve their dreams.

The Beat Goes on
Bagels and cream cheese, anyone? That schmear campaign "will be served the crew," kids Patrick Lynn, who has it all down pat — and well he should. As the series senior producer, he's spent all his idle time helping to assure that "AI" doesn't skip a beat as it beats everything out there tossed against it on those tumultuous Tuesday and Wednesday nights that have maybe even Brian Dunkelman dunking his donuts in coffee anxiously awaiting the final totals.

Ring that Liberty Bell — it's time for Philly to step forward. And after doing the Charleston — the city where Lynn and company were busy getting busy before salsa-ing down to Miami and then on to Philly — are they ready to see the locals Bristol stomp the competition for the crown? "We've been wanting to come here for a long time," says Lynn. "In fact, we almost made it down here last year. But I'm happy everything worked out well this year and the venue was available."

A moment like this is one well worth waiting for, he assures. And after days of crushing crowds — and crushed hope for those who don't stand out in one — Lynn likes Philly's chances for being the biggest. Pat's take on all this: "We've seen turnouts of 10,000 … 13,000 … but we expect to see even more in Philadelphia. We expect to see New York numbers."

We are No. 1! No, that title belongs to New York … Philly is actually number six, according to the latest census. But when it comes to consensus of heart and hell-giving, what's hotter — and, for that matter, more humid — than the streets of Philadelphia?

After all, where do all the hippies go … Peach Street? No, South Street. Speaking of which, with so many "AI" winners from the South, does Lynn think South Philadelphia has a natural edge?

"Well," he says, completely amused by the question, "you never know."

What he does know is that Simon Cowell doesn't cowl captive audiences; they're fascinated by him. Is there a Philly pretzel in Simon's future? Can the man cut the mustard? "I don't know if he's ever had one, but probably so, since he's been all over the world" and experienced just about everything.

But will he see oy-to-oy with locals? Will they add a dash of addi-dude before his dudeness? Lynn likes the city's chances. And he likes the city. "I've been here twice before; once, in 1986, when I was just paying a visit, and this time to scout it."

Be prepared for this, boo-birds: "It's one of those cities you like. It's a big slice of American pie. It's got the Phillies."

Ah, a homer. "As a matter of fact, when we came here [to scout], we were greeted by the Phillie Phanatic."

Think green? "We'd like to issue an open invitation for him to compete."

That would be a seventh-inning stretch of talent since he can't talk. But that tongue unfurled … not like the judges haven't gotten other things stuck in their faces when turning down wobbly wannabes.

Will Philly be the city of Claymates-cum-klezmermates? Is there a Jewish jukebox jivin' to rock and reel 'em in? Long pause. "Klezmer?" repeats Lynn, contemplating a new twist on the topic that not even Chubby Checker ever considered.

Sure, why not. If "Rumania, Rumania" is the ultimate country song, why not a klezmatic karaoke?

Hmmm, he says with a smile in his voice. "No, we've never thought of klezmer [as a category]. But, you know, we've used all kinds of [genres] so … "

Let those clarinets wail all they want in that wall of sound, they may have a shot after all. And to have-a-negillah of a chance, pitch that tune in Paula's direction. She's the lone Yiddishe momme on the judge's panel (although Cowell's grandparents were indeed Jewish, he just doesn't look like he'd enjoy "Bei Mir Bist du Schoen," which is a shame. One can only imagine him kvetching: "That is the worst 'Buy Me a Beer and Keep the Change' I have ever heard!' ")

All the FAQs …
But before they strike up the band, contestants should go broadband. Most important of all, at this point, says Lynn, is that hopefuls hop on over to www. and check out the FAQs.

But, first, a pregnant pause: In Texas, one auditioner started to have contractions and refused to drop out before dropping the baby.

She auditioned and went on to the next round … of labor, being taken to the hospital where she gave birth to the next generation of "AI" hopefuls.

Was such an experience a little like flying without wings? Talking contractions not contracts? "We always have EMT personnel available and they were there to help her," says Lynn.

And, with Philly the birthplace of the nation, who knows now what to expect after that first "AI" statistic that sang out "Stat!" (Actually, as those who have watched the series over its six seasons know, this wasn't the first crybaby contestant.)

"After we leave a city, we just look to the heavens and think, 'Now, we've seen it all.' "

Given the Texas birth, you never know. Which is why "Scene" suggests just three words of advice for what to have waiting as crowds fill the Philly scene:

Mohel on call. 



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