‘American Idol’: The top 24 live it up. Then it’s back to work.


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I arrived at the American Idol Top 24 party around 7, and made a beeline for the restroom. The top 24 ‘Idol’ contestants had already pranced down the red carpet, and were awaiting their grand unveiling inside. The gathering was sponsored vigorously by Garnier Fructis, and held at The Day After, a Hollywood club that, according to people far cooler than myself, is actually a pretty hip spot right now. And judging by the $20 parking fee, they must be right. But I digress. I pressed past some shampoo-themed decorations and into the ladies room, where I waited behind a pint-sized brunette who was fixing herself in the mirror; frantically pinching, tucking, lifting, fluffing.

Eventually, she turned and asked me for help, motioning toward the clear plastic bra straps that she was struggling to remove. As I helped her unhook, I caught her reflection in the mirror and realized I was fighting with the bra straps of none other than Amy Jean Davis. Top 24 Amy Jean Davis -- she of the underwear photos that have already circulated the Internet.


I asked how things had been going so far. ‘Crazy,’ she answered, a response that I would hear more times than I could count as the night went on. Fun crazy or bad crazy, I inquired, as I handed her the clear straps. Amy hesitated. ‘New crazy,’ she answered.

Next I headed to the bar to schmooze with the giant of Idol lore, Justin Guarini, while he picked up a bottled water. We chatted about his work on the TV Guide Channel, his ‘American Idol’ blog and his third album. ‘So, are you sad that you’re not one of them?’ I asked, referring to the top 24. Justin looked at me like I was speaking another language and asked me to repeat the question. I repeated it twice before he finally answered. ‘I am one of them,’ he said. ‘I’ll always be one of them.’

At last, the Idols took the stage. All 24 Idols posed on display, but much of the audience only had eyes for relative unknown contestant, Luke Menard. ‘He’s cute,’ one girl announced to her girlfriend, pointing. ‘That one in the blue and black looks like Orlando Bloom,’ gasped another.

After the audience had applauded –- and had sufficient time to ogle Luke –- the Idol hopefuls raced back through the crowd to the VIP area. All but one, that is; Chikezie Eze opted to mingle with the mere mortals instead, sometimes laughing and joking with acquaintances and sometimes just dancing by himself. We got to talking, and Chikezie informed me that he had actually auditioned for ‘Idol’ four times. I asked why they didn’t reveal that on the show. ‘Maybe they didn’t want to make me look bad,’ he laughed.

I was hoping to chat with Danny Norriega, wonderboy, but he had forged an impenetrable alliance with Ramiele Malubay, and from what I saw, the two did not let go of one another all night. I tried to get acquainted with David Hernandez instead, but he just asked me where the bathroom was and walked away.

But my loss of David was no real loss, because at that moment, I located the most mysterious contestant of them all: Garrett Haley. With his elfin appearance and sparkling eyes, Garrett embodied all the fear and wonder of an utter newbie, navigating the complexities of success for the first time. When asked if he was having fun on the show, Garrett looked me in the eye and answered, ‘It was fun tonight.’ But before I could dig much deeper, Garrett was summoned by one of his handlers, who was ushering the contestants out the door at breakneck speed. And so Garrett followed, but not without embracing me before he sprinted away.


And in an instant, they were gone. It was just 9:13 p.m., and yet the celebration was over. The 24 headed back to the place from whence they came; a place where every best friend is also your worst enemy, where a night spent sleeping is rehearsal time wasted, and where Simon’s voice is always in the back of your head, reminding you just how ‘dreadful’ you are.

-- Stephanie Lysaght