Hundreds of aspiring singers, musicians and rappers took a shot at fame on Tuesday afternoon at Blueberry Hill, by auditioning for P. Diddy's latest reality TV show, StarMaker.
The prize for the winner of the show is a record deal with the Warner Music Group subsidiary (and P. Diddy label) Bad Boy Records. The reality show will keep with the formula of P. Diddy's other reality show, Making the Band. StarMaker's co-hosts will be P. Diddy and Mark Burnett, the British reality TV guru behind The Apprentice, The Restaurant, The Casino, Rock Star, Combat Missions, The Contender, Martha Stewart and Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?, among others.
A few of the StarMaker hopefuls shouted out their names, hyping themselves up to, well, everyone else in line, while others interviewed were surprised at the attention, viewing the publicity almost as an after-thought.
"I just take every opportunity I can, said Karlye Lapetina of Chicago, who after being asked by a reporter about her musical aspirations, admitted, "Oh yeah, publicity would be good." She sang an original song to the panel of three judges, and got through most of it, before they cut her off. After her audition, she was contemplating getting a hotel in hopes that she's called back on Wednesday.
"This is how I gamble, I gamble with my time and travel to audition," she said. "Some people go to Las Vegas and get high on roulette, I go to these auditions."
Most stood in line for hours before the auditions began at 8 a.m. Novice performers who had never auditioned for a show before mingled with more than a few American Idol try-out veterans in the crowd.
"I hope I do well and make it to the next level -- and make it to Bad Boy," says Stacey Kaid, 25, of St. Louis. She stood in line with her boyfriend, a young man who called himself Will Victory. "I'm just here to support my lady, man," he said, oozing cool.
About 11:15 a.m., near the back of a line that snaked down Westgate Avenue, first-time auditioner Josh Zuniga sipped on a steaming Starbucks coffee. From behind his wraparound sunglasses, the aspiring rapper said he had been waiting with this girlfriend, Veronica Suarez, for about two hours. The pair drove in Monday night from Chicago, getting a speeding ticket on the way.
A little farther up was a trio from Kansas City, Kansas. Steven Brown, 25, "did American Idol twice."
"You know how they are, they are kind of iffy, they pick who they want," Brown said matter-of-factly. His friends, who went by Jihad Williams and Irv Da Phenom, stood by his side.
Although reality shows continue to dominate both network and cable TV, many who were in line to audition for StarMaker seemed put-off by the notion of appearing in one. Instead, most people were there for the record deal, and were happy to talk with whoever would listen about their aspirations.
Near the front of the line just outside Blueberry Hill's doorway stood McCree neighborhood rappers Richard Shaw (a.k.a. "Daddy Rich") and a very loud hype man, Petey Roze. While D Rich was telling me where he had sent demos ("Sony, Def Jam") a voice came from inside door: "Next two, please," and in went the duo.
Applicants for StarMaker are asked a variety of personal questions on the five-page form, many ending with the phrase "and why." "What is your favorite style of music and why?"
"What is your level of education?"
"What do you do for a living?"
"Tells us about your family."
"How would a record deal with Bad Boy change your life?"
"How do you deal with harsh criticism?"
The makings of some very watchable TV are in those answers.
The call-backs will be held Wednesday at Blueberry Hill. From there, the StarMaker crew heads to New York on Friday, then Los Angeles on September 6 and Atlanta on September 9.