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January 31, 2008
Idol Chatter: Mad for Miami

Fox/Michael Becker

Hey, I actually enjoyed Wednesday night's "American Idol" auditions in Miami. Yes, there were the usual wack jobs, but they didn't seem quite so, well, out there.

OK, so Contestant No. 1, Shannon McGough, 18, of Okeechobee, Fla., looked promising and, my gosh, I really wanted to get her out of her family's meat-grinding business. I had high hopes she could sing as good as she could, well, belch. (Indeed, Shannon could peel paint with her burping!)

Unfortunately, her Janis Joplin performance was an upchuck. And judge Simon Cowell, who apparently experienced a late night the night before, crowed, "I feel worse after that. It sounded like a Hungarian Janis Joplin. It actually sounds like you're eating when you sing."

Yikes. Poor Shannon was just devastated, whining that "I've never been told I sing bad before!"

Thankfully, the overall crooning improved after the belching. If you missed the auditions, here's my recap:

* Most likely to marry Paula: The sparks flew between judge Paula Abdul and Venezuelan (now in Miami) heartthrob Ghaleb Emachah, 27. Still, Simon didn't take the bait. "I would like you if I was drunk. Sober, I don't like you." Randy Jackson pointed out that Ghaleb's heavy accent might be a problem, but he and Paula let him through, prompting a flurry of kisses - from Ghaleb to the producer, the security staff, even host Ryan Seacrest.

* Most likely to marry Simon and/or Randy: Oh mama, were best buds Corliss Smith and Brittany Wescott (pictured), both 20 of Jacksonville, a hoot or what? They seemed more interested in scoping out men than singing, but both of them have major pipes. Corliss opted for throwback jazz for Randy; Brittany serenaded Simon with "My Guy." Major hugs were exchanged and both women bolted through the double doors with golden tickets.

* Most talented gals (the guys were a screaming mess at this point): Props to Suzanne Toon, 21, of Clearwater, Fla., Ramiele Malubay, 19, of Miramar, Fla., and Syesha Mercardo, 20, of Miami. Simon liked Suzanne's "sultry sexiness." Randy said Ramiele, who hopes to become the first Asian American "Idol," had "a big voice for a small girl." Syesha got through on her "effort."

* Most likely to get beat up outside the audition room: Easy enough. I wanted to climb through the tube and throttle Julie Dubela, now 16. Four years ago, we learned she made the Top 20 on "American Juniors." "I'm not a quitter," Julie intoned. But, duh, why would she tackle another Joplin song, "Me and Bobby McGee?" Simon jumped on the performance quickly. "Are you precocious?" he asked. "What does that mean?" Julie responded. Then things pretty much fell apart. Julie whined, the judges said she was over dramatic. She complained she gave up singing at a Red Sox game to audition (this was last fall). Afterward, Julie told "America" to be sure not to watch "American Idol."

* Most ridiculous, most ludicrous: Brandon Black, 20, of Pompano Beach, Fla. Period. Biggest idiot verging on lunacy. I can't remember ever hearing Simon begging security to "Get him out, get him out."

Ultimately, only 17 tickets to Hollywood were doled out. Mercifully, there's only one more audition - Tuesday in Atlanta (Ryan's hometown) - before we finally get to La La Land.

Let's hang in there together!

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