The day began at five o'clock in the morning. The darkness of the night was pierced by the bright street lamps, as 20 people huddled in a parking lot, drinking Starbucks coffee and singing Brittany Spears songs. And as the streetlights dimmed and the day dawned, the numbers grew from 20 to 200, and as the doors opened to let the numbed and frozen crowd in, they had swelled to nearly half a thousand strong. Boys and girls, or men and women, poured through the doors like water through floodgates, into the Paramount Cinemas at Chinook Centre.
A bit early for a movie? Yes, but it's never too early to try out for the latest edition of Popstars.
This time, it's not a boy band, or a girl band, precisely. More like the Mamas and the Papas, with A.J. and Lance playing the proud papas, and maternal Brittany and Momma Spice. Yes, this time it's Popstars: Boy Meets Girl.
For those of you living under a rock, Popstars was the "reality" show that spawned Canada's latest super-g'rrls, Sugar Jones. Originally, it was the American band O-Town who took their casting to the airwaves, and making a contest out of being the next audio hot property.
This version of Popstars hit Calgary on Sept. 10, with open auditions for a place in their "band." What would it take to make it with Popstars? Well, no instruments are required, but you have to be able to sing, dance, and fit in with the public's image of what a hot new young band should look like.
Regardless, I joined the line at 5 a.m., becoming the tenth person to join the line. The first girl had been camping out in front of the cinema since ten the previous night. Most of the other people already in line were female, under 20-years-old, and wore tight clothing to emphasize what they had. The scattering of early-bird boys were likewise under the two decade mark, with big gelled hair, and that "five o'clock shadow" look that probably took them three weeks to grow. I might have stood out, at a touch over 20-years-old, with real whiskers on my chin and a few fewer hairs on the top of my head.
Not that those were my major stumbling blocks. I can't dance worth a lick, and my singing has been known to cause onlookers to scowl in that most unpleasant, tortured kind of way. But this was not an opportunity to pass up on, regardless of the hopelessness of my chances.
Once nine o'clock rolled around, the Popstar people began the careful and delicate process of dissecting a perfectly good line, and causing something just short of anarchy, and barely resembling order. Despite being tenth in line at the start of the morning, I found myself the victim of a Pen-Nazi organizer who caused me to find a spot midway through the next line.
This line was to bring us into the warmth of the building. Strangely, we seemed to have encountered a cold September morning, of all things, and after nearly half an hour of waiting, we finally gained access to the toasty warmth that is Paramount Cinemas.
Once inside, there were two more lines to contend with: the bathroom line, which no one could find at first, and the line to get into the line outside the theatre that would serve as the audition room.
Again, we waited. But to pass the time, I learned the stories of those who waited to be discovered and whisked away to a life of fame and wonder. There was the story of the girl who gave up all, including a fiancee, to take a shot at pop stardom. There were the people who traveled from Edmonton, Winnipeg, and beyond to get their 15 seconds of fame. And there were those who had attended the last Popstars audition, convinced that today was the day to right old wrongs.
For most, it wasn't. All the eager applicants were ushered (read herded) into a converted movie theatre, and plucked five at a time to stand at the front of the room, like naughty children, backs to the audience and faces to the cameras and judges. The judges were Mad Dog, of Calgary radio fame, and a representative of Lone Eagle Productions. This menacing duo chopped through the eager hopefuls like a musical hay thrashing machine, mercilessly removing the wheat from the chaff. I was cast aside, just before two o'clock in the afternoon. I had waited my turn though hundreds of renditions of Spears, Backstreet Boys, Joe, and Wave. There were also hundred of versions of Nelly Furtado's "I'm Like A Bird," of which mine was an uninspired drop in the bucket.
Now, don't cast me as a bitter reject of a merciless system. Popstars isn't much on warmth when it comes to the cutting floor, but there was fun to be had, interesting people to meet, and monotonous music that makes you wish for death after ten minutes. All in all, just slightly better than your last trip to a dance club, no?
Popstars will air sometime in March, and who knows, I might have made the first episode. Just look for the only guy with real facial hair.