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February 6, 2008
Idol Chatter: Atlanta is a real peach in the end

At last, the "American Idol" Season 7 auditions are over!

Last night's pitstop in Atlanta marked the end of the grueling process, which leaves us with more than 100 contestants going on to Hollywood next week.

And no, I cared not that host Ryan Seacrest's parents showed up. (Atlanta is his hometown.)

Anyway, I kept switching back and forth between Super Tuesday coverage on CNN and Channel 3, then over to Comcast Sports where the Sacramento High varsity guys were taking on Luther Burbank in a big-time game, which the Sac High Dragons won.

Ain't TV grand?

But, back on topic. Atlanta delivered 20 golden tickets, which seemed puny for such a huge city. But it felt like the viewing audience saw mostly really bad acts, including one - Eva Miller, 26 - whose performance was labeled "an act" by judge Simon Cowell because at one point Eva slipped and fell on her derriere.

"It's not a joke," Eva said. "I accidentally fell. I love you Simon, and this was a serious audition."

So, just in case anyone out there was watching election returns or Sac High, here's my recap of the final audition.

* Most forgotten guy from Season 4: There was J.P Tjelmeland, 20 (and a misplaced music major) who auditioned three seasons ago a couple of spots from eventual winner (and real singer) Carrie Underwood. "I didn't get to know her," says J.P. Nor pick up any performing points. J.P.'s Rascal Flats' song fell flat from the get go. It's hard to come back once you've hit the ground.

* Most likely to perform backward: Randy Jackson and Paula Abdul (minus Simon's blessing) let through Joshua Jones, 26, of Atlanta, who kept goofing up his Queen song because he had some demonic eye thing going. He ended up singing with his back to the judges. Simon quipped, "He can't go through and perform backward!"

* Most likely to have made us cry: Cynic that I am, I'm generally a leary of the contestants with major hard luck stories. But you'd have to be a robot not to feel something for Asia’h Epperson, 18, from Joplin, Missouri. Asia'h's dad died in a car accident a few days before the audition last fall. But she took on a big song, "How Do I Live?" and broke the judges' hearts. Simon: "That was tough. Your dad will be proud of you." Paula: "You're very brave to do this." (She had to leave and dry her eyes afterward.) Randy: "You worked it out."

* Most annoying crown wearer: UGH! That would have to be Brooke Helvie, 18, of West Palm Beach, who is the reigning Miss South Florida Fair. She kissed a pig and milked a cow to earn the title. Some talent. "I'm doing this for God, my mom and my dad and because Simon is such a lovable teddy bear!" she squeaked. I can't believe the judges let her through because everyone will pay dearly for this guffaw. Unfortunately, Brooke will be brining her "elegance" - and a Web site - to Hollywood.

* Most likely to knock 'em dead next week: Definitely teen crooner Alexandria Lushington, 16, whose extended family - including her 93-year-old great grandmother - came with her to the audition. Her bluesy "My Funny Valentine" evoked memories of Season 6 finalist Melinda Doolittle, who also sang the song. She should do well.

* Most likely to finally get out of his car: Josiah Leming, 18, came from Morristown, Tenn., with his home. That would be his car. He dropped out of school, but doesn't consider himself homeless, just "scared and lonely." Again, the old heartstrings were strung. Funny thing is, Josiah has a good voice, but he somehow morphs into a British accent when he sings. Simon thought it was weird but intriguing. And he said he usually doesn't like guys from Tennessee. But Josiah's own composition, "To Run," got him through to Hollywood.

OK, so tonight I'm mandating that everyone watch the Duke-North Carolina ACC matchup at 6 p.m. on ESPN. Then, you can switch to Fox (Channel 40) at 8 for the "Best of the Rest" show featuring weird auditions we didn't see, plus a recap of all the goofballs that got through to the judges.

Mercifully, "American Idol" moves to the Hollywood rounds next week. I'm personally holding Simon accountable for making sure talented singers keep singing.

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