At least 10,000 other hopefuls and companions also turned out. I spoke with American's between the ages of 17 and 28 who had traveled from San Diego, Missouri, Houston, Atlanta, Jamaica and throughout Florida for the chance to sing for thirty seconds in front of one judge.
Twenty-four year old blond Carrie from Houston said, "Over 13,000 tried out in Dallas. I didn't make it there, but I won't give up."
Jason Cotter's brother Jared had previously made it into the top fourteen of contestants and Jason was determined to make it all the way. But the most confident one I spoke with was Mikel, who before the sun arose, was singing Green Day songs and jumping around like a hyper active toddler, or perhaps, just a 28 year old on amphetamines.
For three days in Miami, I walked on a tightrope over eggshells with KA, encouraging her to remain positive while throwing out the seeds of reality, for the American Idol audition is a crap shoot.
KA and I returned to the Arena as instructed at 6 AM on August 22nd, but the doors didn't open until 9 AM and the 'show' didn't begin until nearly 10. Maybe it was the shared misery of hours of waiting in the Miami sun, but a sense of community emerged in spite of the competition. All around me, I overheard strangers strike up conversations and they never failed to wish each other good luck and always good naturdely added, "But, not too much!"
I believe I was the only one in the crowd who has never seen even one American Idol show, but I do know who William Hung is. Nor did I know the crowd participation song, a Gloria Estefan number, for I am stuck in the music of the 60's and 70's and the artists from then.
After the producers were satisfied with the taping of commercial fillers, ten black clothed six foot tables were carried out onto the floor by the American Idol staff. The tables were only divided from the other, by a thin black curtain hung between ten foot poles. Four contestants at a time all sang at the same time in front of one of ten judges.
The very first optimistic youth who sang with her back to us, could be heard in the upper row of the cavernous arena. She was also the first one of very few who were picked to exit through the Bud Light Exit, which led them onto their next audition. Everyone who passed through the Bud Light Exit, received a thundering round of applause from the crowd.
Nearly an hour later, and after thousands had departed through the Budweiser Exit, KA's turn arrived. Only fifteen aspirants had passed the first round of the crap shoot by that time and all were females, except for two young men; one in a Superman costume and the other decked out in a purple pimp suit with a matching broad brimmed hat.
KA sang Melissa Etheridge's "I am the Only One," but she was not the only one to suffer the first major disappointment of her life. KA still hadn't cried by the time I left her off at the plush hotel in South Miami Beach, where three of her friends would be joining her for a commiseration party.
I drove the four hours home alone and shed a few tears, not just for KA, but for CJ who drove down the night before from Orlando and arrived at the American Airlines Arena at 3 AM where she camped out, but never slept. She and thousands of others had chased their dream alone, and young broken hearts mend quickest when thoughts are expressed.
KA phoned me from Miami Beach the next day and said, "I am OK now. I am having a great time with my friends and I am not going to let this get me down again. I learned a lot from the experience and I'll keep singing, but I am now thinking, that I am ready to give college another chance."
The American Idol crap shoot may just have been the best hand of cards, KA has ever been dealt.