Last night, America watched on televsion as Jermaine Sellers, John Park, Haeley Vaughn and Michelle Delamor were sent home on American Idol.
Gospel Soundcheck reader Brittany Keener, who is also the assistant editor and office manger for the Christian Examiner newspapers, won tickets to last night’s performance. She and her sister Karalee got a front row seat to the show – figuratively speaking – and give us a first person recap of what we saw – and didn’t get to see – last night on American Idol.
And there are a few surprises!

This is American Idol!
by Brittany Keener, assistant editor/office manager, Christian Examiner
Possibly one of the greatest days of my life…
BrittanyKeenerAmericanIdol.jpgFor those of you who do not know, I won Danny Gokey’s new CD from KSON 97.3 in San Diego. This last Monday I was placed in a drawing to win tickets to his appearance on American Idol that Thursday. Sure enough, Danny Gokey announced me as the winner! I received a limo ride to and from LA [photo right] and two tickets to sit in the audience during the result’s taping.
I will admit I spent most of the day with butterflies in my stomach and probably could have had an “Alex Lambert” moment. I was a bit anxious! So excuse these few moments while I pretend I am a 12 year-old teenager and not 24.
It is hard to put in words what last night was like. Oh, how I wish I had my camera to capture the moments that will soon fade. It was surreal and I woke up this morning wondering if I was really there, except my DVR reminds me that I was.

Arriving at the studio, we were noted as ‘Danny Gokey’s guest’ and were escorted to security, where I unwillingly gave up my cell phone & camera. We passed by all the ‘audience’ members and were left to wait outside with the Idol family & friends. We quickly pointed out Alex Lambert and John Parks’ families. It’s crazy to think how the lives of these families will change dramatically in the next 13 weeks.
Fortunately for us, we sat right next to Lee DeWyze’s mom!! Karalee wanted to ask her if she was who we thought she was, but I told her not to…than yes, just do it:
“Are you one of the contestant’s moms?”
“Are you Lee DeWyze’s mom?”
“You’re son is FANTASTIC! We love him!”
We talked for a bit. She is a sweetheart, very genuine. They flew out from Chicago just the other day to see him perform. Unfortunately, they can’t come often due to work & she struggles getting Wednesday nights off to see him on TV. She is very proud of her son (who is greatly talented). I admit I wanted to tell her that I would gladly marry her son., but I refrained.
Finally, we were let into the studio. Wow, it’s small, smaller than it appears. I would say about 75 people in the audience. We sat to the right of the couches, opposite of the band, second row, seats 5 and 6. I would say about 5 feet from the stage. Our seats were in the “Reserved Danny Gokey” section, causing the group in front of us to ask if we were family. To my dismay, no, we are not.
The couple sitting next to us was also a radio winner but from Chicago. In our row we had guests of Randy and Simon.
I did take note that they place the ‘pretty’ & colorful people in the front row. I saw some rearranging going on before everyone was set. It appears there is some ‘deal’ with UCLA students because they filled the section that is most viewed on TV (all those girls in the colorful dresses to the right of the stage). They made a big deal about it, “Oh, who’s here from UCLA this time?” Um, where can I sign up for this job??
I did have four girls sitting to my left, but by the end of the night I had a bodyguard & the eliminated idols. There are a lot of “filler” audience members that get rushed to some chairs off set throughout the show.
If you noticed, during the group song the seats to the right of the judges are filled with the audience. Later, you will find the contestants sitting there (first, the girls, then the guys). During one of the transitions, they switched it about 3 times before they decided the guy contestants should be there and not the ‘fillers’ … with 5 seconds to live feed. Whoops!
About 30 minutes before the show, the Idols came out into the ‘red room’ (later to be occupied by the family and friends). They were a hoot (yes, I said ‘hoot). Todrick and Jermaine must be the life of the party because they were getting their groove on the entire time. Todrick likes to work the audience. Though, I could tell from Crystal and Lee’s look that those boys were way too much up in their personal space.
You got to see some personalities stand out while they waited. Lee often stood their staring into the set. He must be a deep thinker because he doesn’t show a lot on his face but you can see the emotion in his eyes. He was taking it all in. Andrew is pretty mellow, too, but he was doing some dance moves with Jermaine for a while. I swear Big Mike is bigger in person. Didi looked petrified. I think she believed it was her last night (No, Didi, you are top 12). My sister wanted to shout to her, “Didi, you are amazing! Don’t listen to the judges.” Crystal looked hyped and in great health! Sad to say, I didn’t notice some of the Idols … I forgot they were even there. It was a lot to take in at the moment. There was so much going on.
It was quite surreal in those moments. It’s like I was plucked from my couch and dropped in the middle of something I thought only existed on my TV screen. Yet, here it was, right in front of me. Living and breathing. One of these 20 people would be the next Kelly Clarkson, David Cook, Carrie Underwood, & Kris Allen (*cough* Lee DeWyze).
Note: If you haven’t noticed, I am a huge Lee DeWyze fan. Check out his pre-Idol CDs on iTunes and you, too, will become a fan!
Eventually, the “MC” of the evening came on. No, not Ryan! I believe his name was Chris. Chris and I will soon become BFF. He gets us pumped before, during and after the show. While the music is blaring, he gives us some info and starts working us vocally to get us excited for what is it come. Um, can he replace Ryan Seacrest? He’s funny, nice and quite entertaining. He had us get up and dance after bringing up three random audience members to show of their skills. It’s truly a party on the American Idol set! I imagine more so on a night where they are not losing four friends.
The great thing about Chris, if that is his name, is that he works the audience. He talks to us, hangs out with us and remembers us. This is where we became BFF thanks to Danny Gokey & KSON. He asked if anyone had bought Danny’s album yet. I ecstatically raise my hand and, once I have his attention, I point under my chair, “It’s in my purse!” He stops, “It’s in your purse? Um, Stalker … Can I get security over here, we have a stalker on set!” This results in a red and embarrassed face, covered in shame (No, not shame, I was just hoping I would get to meet him and I would be prepared). Our conversation would have continued if Kara didn’t walk in…
Be thankful that she was hidden behind a desk all night because her outfit was atrocious! She wore the tightest, shiniest leggings, from ankle to waist. It looked so wrong. Then, Randy comes out in over-sized high-tops from the 80s. Really, if this is fashion then I am glad I am not fashionable. Ellen joined the stage and showed off her dance skills. Simon, of course, arrives to his seat with seconds before we are live.
Chris quizzed us on if we voted. When our response wasn’t as big as he wanted, he replied, “This is Hollywood, you can lie!” He then went around asking who we voted for. I think Lee and Andrew won.
Later on, my conversation with Chris continued during commercial breaks. He learns that I won my CD and AI tickets from KSON. He rags me for reapplying my lip-gloss (which was actually chap stick) before Danny walked out, “Got to look good for the Gokey!” He questions if I have listened to the whole album, enjoyed it and have memorized his single “Best Days.” (Yes, yes & yes….) I even offered to sing it for him … ha, no. I was hoping that in the midst of this bonding that he would get Danny to come meet me, but no. You failed me, BFF.
Prior to the group performance, Debbie (you all met her on the show tonight when ‘live’ really becomes live), tries to pump up the Idol’s enthusiasm for their group performance. The audience was even disheartened by the looks of despair. You can see it on their faces as they lip-sync the performance. Yes, if you haven’t figured out already, they lip-sync the group performance. Surprised? Not really. Why must we suffer as they suffer? During the break, Debbie tried to encourage them with our response but Lilly knew it was … less than mediocre. Note to idol: Ditch the group performance! It’s torture to the Idols and audience!
So much happens on Idol when they are at commercial. Chris and Debbie take over and rock it! The judges disappear or are found hugging the eliminated, only to disappear and return seconds before we are live. Ryan reviews his ‘script.’ Couches come out of nowhere. The audience disappears and is replaced by contestants. Makeup artists attack (I was hoping I could get a touch up, but I guess not). Idols solemnly wonder the stage wondering their fate, ever so slightly interacting with audience. Family and friends are socializing up in the Red Room.
Danny Gokey came out about two minutes prior to his performance. He was greeted with at least one overly excited fan … me. (This is where Chris laughs at me) No, the crowd was great. He looks slimmer. Anybody else notice that? Ellen seemed excited to see him as well, as this was their first meeting. I could see Danny grooving with Ellen on her show. I loved this moment. He could not have been more excited to be there. He’s got great energy and those three minutes were awesome! Danny Gokey, you are spectacular. He was bombarded by the judges during the commercial, so the audience get neglected but still I was about 8 feet away from him… (teenage fan moment). My conclusion, if Danny was on this season, he would win … if it wasn’t for Lee DeWyze.
And cue the lights … talk about a depressing show to sit in on. I mean, when Didi and Andrew’s fate was on the line, I was on the edge of my seat! Yes, I would be the one in the audience with my hands clasped near to my face…afraid of what might happen. Then, when they announce who’s leaving I wanted to cheer … for the one staying and going (but I refrained and silently clapped my heart out). Though I admit my mouth dropped open when it was John Park over Todrick … really? Sorry, Haeley, but you are not ready.
As the Idols were cast off the island (oh wait, wrong show, though I am in the CBS warehouse), the girls to my left disappeared, one by one. Eventually, it sat Mr. Security Guard, Michelle, Jermaine and John. I did get to have a quick chat with them.
Here is something you might not know: What are the two things John and Jermaine are most thankful for after being voted off? Sleeping in (they wake up at 4:30 AM every morning) and the group song.
Did anyone notice the cell phone in Jermaine’s hand prior to Danny’s performance? Hey, if I can’t have mine, he shouldn’t have his! It’s okay. He got busted! Well, he was still on it seconds before we were live and the camera was on him. The cameraman was practically peeling it from his ear and security later confiscated it. Ouch. I know you want to tell your family that you are ‘frustrated’ (with a British accent) but this is a live show!
Remember when Simon said he watched back the tape and changed his mind about complementing some of the Idols? The sound in that room is awesome, but it does sound so much different in person. Surprisingly, Haeley’s swan song sounded ‘okay’ in the studio but when I watched it back at home, I was glad when the recording ended mid-verse. Oh, John Park you deserved at least one more week to prove to us you are due your chances, but why did you wait until your swan song?!
One of my favorite moments during the night happened on/off set. Debbie had come over to John, Jermaine and Michelle to let them know when to walk on stage for the montage (again, I am right there). To the viewing eye, it almost appeared that Ryan was going to have Haeley sing before the montages…cue Debbie screaming to Ryan, on air. You all heard it. Funniest moment. During the video, she’s looking at us all guilty yet innocent, almost tearing off her headset because the production room was a bit heated in that moment. Yes, that was Debbie who then quickly joined Ryan onstage. Oh, to love a live show! When it is live, it is live!
Some random moments I remember that you did not see: Crystal ran up to the four eliminated Idols for a quick hug during their goodbye montage. Big Mike had to be the most enthused & supported person out there. He practically tackled Haeley. Kara gave a ‘pep’ talk to Michelle after she was dismissed from the show. Lacey and Haeley got stuck together when they hugged (oh, you might have seen that). The boys got some touch ups with makeup, you could see the excitement on Andrew’s face. Todrick showed off his dancing skills in the Red Room. Lee and Andrew had a discussion with some audience members about who they voted for. Ryan Seacrest acted a bit too scripted (anybody else notice this while watching it?)
There is this awkward feeling in the audience, as if you were intruding on a moment, as the Idols hug the eliminated idol after the camera is off. When the show is over, we have to sit and wait for the Idols and judges to exist before we are escorted out. I walked out thinking, ‘Wow, this was awesome but depressing at the same time.’
I didn’t get to meet Danny, though I was hoping we’d get to. If I would have known it was that fun, I would have skipped work on Tuesday to attend the rehearsal with the boys. It was my turn on the waiting list from On Camera Audiences (I signed up last March).
If you ever get a chance to go, do it! And wear bright colors because you just might get a TV spot.
You can follow me on Twitter @blkeener. I try to tweet ‘live’ during most of the shows. Though I am on the West Coast, I have an east coast live feed. And …. #VoteLeeDeWyze
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Thanks to Brittany for a fantastic recap!! If you missed any of the shows this week, you can check out my live blog posts:
American Idol season 9 Top 10 guys & Top 10 girls results – blogging live
American Idol Top 10 Guys perform tonight – blogging live!
American Idol Top 10 girls perform tonight (and why Crystal Bowersox was in the hospital) – blogging live
American Idol season 9 auditions and recaps – complete list of posts

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