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Originally published September 20, 2006 at 12:00 AM | Page modified November 23, 2006 at 12:26 AM

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Braving rain, 9,000 try to shine at "American Idol" audition

A best friend will answer your call at 4 a.m. on a rainy Tuesday and meet you in the bathroom next to KeyArena with a baby-blue box full...

Seattle Times staff reporter

A best friend will answer your call at 4 a.m. on a rainy Tuesday and meet you in the bathroom next to KeyArena with a baby-blue box full of makeup. On the day of the "American Idol" auditions in Seattle, when you've been up all night with singing ringing in your ears, it seems that shimmery white eye shadow just might help.

"I'm a makeup artist, and we've been best friends for 13 years," said Tiffany Blake, 26, as she carefully groomed the brows of first-time auditioner Cole Crisanti, of Seattle. "She said, 'I'm trying out for "American Idol," ' and I said, 'I get to do your makeup.' "

Crisanti, 26, had been at KeyArena since midnight — securing a spot at the front of the line — and spent all night sitting in a chair.

"No one was allowed to line up [before 6 a.m. Tuesday]. So we stood right outside of where we were allowed to line up," she said. "People were singing all night."

Apparently, there is no sleep for those chasing a dream.

An estimated 9,000 "American Idol" hopefuls showed up at Seattle Center before dawn on a soggy Seattle morning to form a line that wove from KeyArena to McCaw Hall to the Fun Forest rides at Seattle Center, and at times all the way to the Monorail ticket booth. Krispy Kreme brought doughnuts — about 75 dozen. The radio station KUBE93-FM brought the infamously bad, yet beloved, former "Idol" contestant William Hung. Of course.

Perhaps the powers that be took pity on the rain-soaked masses huddled under umbrellas and blankets; doors opened shortly after 7 a.m., almost an hour ahead of schedule. Still, this wasn't the worst weather "American Idol" has seen. It rained harder in East Coast cities during last year's audition tour.

"It's a well-behaved crowd," observed Tra-Mi Callahan, a spokeswoman for Fox, the network that airs "Idol." "It's not as rambunctious ... maybe it's the weather."

Inside, contestants were packed into the arena and treated to an appearance by "Idol" host Ryan Seacrest before taking their turns on the floor. During this first round, they sang for the show's producers and music experts; judges Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell are expected in Seattle in early October. The sixth season of TV's most-watched program premieres in January.

"We've been thinking about coming back to Seattle for the last couple of seasons," said Patrick Lynn, a coordinating producer for "American Idol." "We had a great time the first season, and Seattle is a music city; it always has been. We like to move around a little bit. But no matter where we go, we expect good talent and interesting story lines, and it never seems to fail us."

Jesse Dyer, 27, of Seattle, made it past the first round after belting out two verses of Frank Sinatra's "That's Life," despite drawing what he deemed a "harsh" judge.

"He was waving everybody through, and he would say, 'You guys are not quite there yet,' " Dyer said. In fact, Dyer assumed he had been cut when the judge dismissed his entire group of auditioners.

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"He kind of pulled me off to the side and very quietly he said, 'I want to send you to the next round.' It was kind of sneaky, but it felt good."

Seattle was the seventh and final stop on a nationwide audition tour that drew thousands to cities including Minneapolis, East Rutherford, N.J., and Memphis. Still, those waiting in line here were as likely to be from North Carolina, Mississippi or Florida as Seattle or Spokane. Travelers spent hundreds of dollars on airfare, lodging and food — and umbrellas, probably — and then up to $20 to park in the lots around Seattle Center.

There is no set number of auditioners who make it through to the second round; producers say they will accommodate as much talent as they deem worthy to advance. Those chosen yesterday will perform again this week at an undisclosed location before possibly moving on to face Cowell & Co. in round three.

Nicole "But-tah" Pearson of Richmond, Calif., knows the drill; she's made it to Hollywood twice on "American Idol" during the seasons that crowned Fantasia Barrino and Carrie Underwood. But as of yesterday morning, her experience in Seattle had been somewhat trying: She and friend Giovanni Alexander were kicked out of their hotel the night before for singing too loudly. So they went to local karaoke dive Ozzie's to warm up instead.

"I'm pretty old-school," said Pearson, 27, who planned to sing "The Weight" by Robbie Robertson and The Band. "Randy [Jackson] said I remind him of an old woman singing in a church choir."

Nearby, Allyson Prud'homme, 16, joined her mom in line after a bout of stage fright caused her to temporarily hide out in the bathroom.

"She's really nervous," said Harriet Prud'homme, who accompanied her daughter from Federal Way. Mom, meanwhile, was reveling in the line. It reminded her of the time she auditioned to be on "You Can Be A Star," a Nashville-based amateur talent television show that aired in the 1980s.

"I was on the standby list with Randy Travis. He made it, I didn't," she recalled. "This was, like, 20 years ago. ... It was just like this. You meet people in line and say, 'Hi, how're you doing?' "

Pamela Sitt: 206-464-2376 or psitt@seattletimes.com

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