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American Idol Finale: A View From The Top (aka Mezzanine 3)

Lyndsey Parker
Reality Rocks

You know, everyone needs a mother figure to turn to in a time of crisis. A rock-solid mama to phone up at any time, even in the middle of the night, when the going gets rough. And that time for me lately has been Wednesday nights, around 10pm, when I hit the speed-dial button on my phone marked "MOM" and cry out to her over the line, "I can't believe Sanjaya made it through again!" Or "Omigod, Melinda just got voted off!"

Yes, if there's anyone that's a bigger American Idol freaky-geek than me, it's my mama--a woman who for the past six Idol seasons has spent her Tuesday nights on the phone repeatedly dialing the toll-free voting hotlines for her fave Idol contestants, and has spent her Wednesday nights repeatedly dialing me to bitch 'n dish about that week's results show. So when a coveted, very eBay-able pair of tickets to Idol's Blake-vs.-Jordin finale fell into my hot little hands this week, there was NO way I wasn't gonna ask Mom to be my date for the evening. I couldn't think of anyone else I'd rather go with...and besides, she'd probably disown me if I invited anyone else.

So my mother and I made our way to Hollywood's prestigious Kodak Theater (well, it's about as prestigious as a theater located inside a mall, next to a Wetzel's Pretzels, can be), Mom wearing her official-merchandise American Idol charm bracelet and a black leather blazer because, as she reasoned, "black leather equals rock." (I'm sure Gina Glocksen, Chris Daughtry, Constantine, and other leather-clad Idol rockers of the past would agree!) Hollywood Boulevard was already swarming with celebrities from lists A through D. Over in the TV Guide tent we spotted past champs Ruben "Velvet Reddy Bear" Studdard, Carrie Underwood, and a suprisingly svelte Taylor Hicks. Prowling the red carpet were various also-rans of seasons past (Jon Peter Lewis, one of my favorite-est finalists evah) and present (curly-topped Chris Sligh, inexplicably popular Sanjaya Malakar). Teri Hatcher was there, just 'cuz she's a fan, presumably--or maybe because she had some new movie/TV show/book/ProActiv skincare infommercial to promote. But, most excitingly, there in the probably nip-and-tucked flesh was the one and only DAVID HASSELHOFF (!!!), in one of his first public appearances since that embarrassing drunk-off-his-butt YouTube incident. Seeing the Hoff and Chris Sligh so near each other on the red carpet, I began to wonder if Chris's dream of making David Hasselhoff cry actually finally had a chance of coming true...

Alas, that was not meant to be. (Unless Chris was the one who leaked that YouTube video, which probably made the Hoff cry in a not-so-good way, but I sincerely doubt that was the case). Anyhoo, it was time to head inside. But not before indulging in some last-minute lookie-loo lobby loitering, which unfortch yielded only two minor celeb sightings. One was Herman's Hermits' Peter Noone (the mentor on the "British Invasion" episode), in a red velvet jacket and somewhat age-inappropriate leather pants, hanging out by the restrooms while text-messaging. I told Mom to go up to him and tell him the Hermits were one of her fave bands in college; "I don't want to make him feel ancient" was her sensible reply. The other sighting was Tyrese-handsome semi-finalist Jared Cotter, who was just wandering by himself up and down the stairs. So we made our way to our seats, which were so high up that I was seriously worried I was going to suffer from altitude sickness...but hey, I couldn't really complain. I mean, the Kodak Theater only holds 3,000 people max, so even a seat in the last row (which was, um, five rows behind me) was a WHOLE helluva closer to the finale than, say, watching it on my TV at home like a normal civilian.

Now, by the time you read this, most of you will have already seen the finale. Unless, of course, you live in a cave, but if that's the case your cave probably isn't equipped with DSL or even dial-up, and therefore you are almost surely not reading this in the first place. So, um, never mind. My point is, I don't really need to rehash in minute detail the finale's finest moments (Kelly Clarkson's uncanny channeling of Pat Benatar on the woman-scorned anthem "Never Again"; Taylor Hicks's superbly soulful stylings on the Beatles' "A Day In The Life"; that fiery Jordin Sparks/Ruben Studdard duet; class-act crooner Tony Bennett actually getting the screaming banshees inside the Kodak Theater to stay respectfully quiet for five minutes); or its just plain strangest moments (the return of fiftysomething Idol reject/possibly certifiable nutcase Margaret "Big Bird" Fowler, who recited a non-rhyming freestyle "poem" and seemed unmovable from the stage without the aid of a hook or trapdoor in the floor; Clive Davis's slightly snide dismissal of Taylor Hicks, which royally ticked me off since I'm a card-carrying member of the Soul Patrol; the puzzling yet ultimately entertaining beatboxing showdown between Sir Mixalot-endorsed finalist Blake Lewis and rap icon Doug E. Fresh; the credibility-killing appearance of rock god Joe Perry, playing backup guitar alongside Votefortheworst.com posterboy Sanjaya Malakar, who unjustly got to perform solo while truly talented finalists like Stephanie Edwards and LaKisha Jones didn't).

Phew. That was one long run-on sentence! But hey, it was one long run-on finale. I will tell you this: Seeing Idol up-close (OK, maybe not that up-close, given our nosebleed seats, but you know what I mean) is a whole lot more exciting than watching it on the old boob tube. (Well, duh.) And more suprisingly, everyone sounds better live in that theater. They say TV adds 10 pounds, but it also seems to subtract about 10 percent of everyone's talent, because even Sanjaya sounded a little less tuneless in the theater than he did in episodes I watched on television. And by the way, any haters out there who didn't think Blake deserved to make it to the finale, you can stop hatin' and start appreciatin', because after seeing him perform live I can tell you, the boy can sing like nobody's bizness.

Also, along with the actual televised show, being there live offers the added entertainment of all that awesome people-watching. And I'm not just talking about the David Hasselhoffs and Peter Noones of the world, either. No, I'm talking about the regular folks, the ones with the handmade cardboard signs (especially the girl carrying the Justin Guarini sign, showing up at the Kodak apparently five years too late); Jules, the dude in the red Rerun-from-What's Happening cap who convinced security to hand him the mic so he could sing "Happy Birthday" to his friend during a commercial break (and he wasn't bad, either); and the elderly woman with the hearing aid who insisted everyone within a 50-foot radius of her seat shut the eff up so she could hang upon Ryan Seacrest's every genius word. This is the shiz you don't always see on TV, but it's the stuff Idol is made of.

"My gawd, I'm so excited I can barely STAND it!" my mother squealed like a glitterglue-sign-toting Idol fanatic one-fifth her age when it came time, around the 1:59 mark, to finally announce this season's winner. I secretly hoped she'd remember this ecstatic moment when doing her Christmas shopping for me later this year. Or, say, when writing her will. Certainly there had been enough music from "her time" (Bette Midler, Tony Bennett, Gladys Knight, Smokey Robinson, Aerosmith's Joe Perry, an allstar Beatles medley...heck, even the one hip-hop performer, Doug E. Fresh, was old-school) to make Mom happy and keep me on her good side until at least A.I. season 7.

And when her favorite contestant and mine, Jordin, was crowned the Idol Queen amid a celebratory haze of pyro and confetti flakes, it was a true mommy-daughter bonding moment neither of us will soon forget.

Now excuse us while we go call up Dad to spoil the results for him and tell him who won...

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