Dreams shattered in just 20 seconds. All your plans of becoming the next Michael Jackson put by the wayside (OK, maybe a bad example). Back to your old job on Monday. All these thoughts popped into Ashburton Guardian reporter Matt Smith’s head as he walked out of the NZ Idol auditions a broken man. He shares his experience of the rigorous process.
It’s official – I’m just another statistic.
Despite my mother telling me for years I was unique, I became a number on Friday January 16 – number 2585 to be precise.
This was the first sign that I was entering the human equivalent of a freezing works yard – the South Island auditions of the NZ Idol competition.
This global phenomenon captured New Zealanders' imaginations when the American and Australian versions graced our television screens last year, and it was only a matter of time before young New Zealanders were warming their voices up for a New Zealand version of the competition.
The first step, which yours truly managed to complete, was filling out the entry form. Apparently they managed to cull around 17,000 hopefuls from that process, although it was hardly rocket science. Perhaps they weren’t accepting X as a signature?
With confidence high and fear low, I turned up at Christchurch’s Riccarton racecourse on that fateful Friday at 7:10am. Surrounded by other wannabe pop stars as about 1000 of us waited in line, I kept my thoughts to myself and focused on what life would be like living in hotel room after hotel room, having my choice of alcohol and women available to me at the click of my fingers.
Those around me were casually talking about what they had done in the past and warbling out a few notes, as though to test the other sheep to see if they could bleat as well as them.
The line moved forward at a pace even a snail would be ashamed of. After an hour and a half, we had moved around 60 metres, and the first of the hopefuls began trickling out from the audition process. I wasn’t there when the airship Hindenburg went down, but "Oh, the humanity" summed up the look on the faces of the failed aspirants as they headed back from whence they came. These sheep hadn’t been picked up for further verbal poking and prodding and were off home to baa themselves to sleep.
After four energy-sapping hours, I made it inside to register. Just another 15 minutes, I thought to myself.
However, it was through to the "holding room" – another sign that we were livestock waiting for the cull or the go-ahead.
Two more hours of twiddling my thumbs (actually, reading a book) passed before the next move on the singing star conveyor belt. A hush fell over the holding room every time New Zealand Idol officials came through to read out the next set of lambs to the slaughter.
My ears pricked, my throat went dry, and my brow suddenly experienced the type of moisture Mid Canterbury farmers have been crying out for.
But this did not mean I was about to make the first step towards stardom just yet. It simply meant a smaller, yet more intimate holding pen where a butter knife would have sufficed for cutting the tension. About 10 of us sat side-by-side muttering nervously and making small talk.
Just before I went in, a television camera was thrust into my face. I had to tell the cameraman - who was holding up well despite having probably done hundreds of these boring interviews by this stage - how I thought I would do, and whether I thought I could be the next New Zealand Idol. I played my cards close to my chest, saying I had to be in to win.
At 1:50pm it was time. I strode in purposefully, and waited for the judge, former Split Enz member Eddie Rayner, to tell me to go ahead. The first 20 seconds of "Ain’t That A Kick In The Head" by Dean Martin passed my lips before Mr Rayner politely told me that was enough.
I knew straight away that the dream was over.
"Your voice isn’t great. It’s OK, but it’s not great," Mr Rayner said.
I nodded and mumbled my thanks, and quickly left the room. As I opened the door, the same cameraman asked how I did. I feigned success before admitting that things hadn’t gone as well as I had hoped.
So after six and a half hours, this sheep had been moved throughout the works and come out not with my throat cut, but any chance of a recording contract severed.
I could take small solace from the fact I was not the only one, and I had not travelled anywhere near as far as some people.
Megan Armstrong, 22, had made the six-hour car journey from Alexandra to the auditions, and while her claim for fame was unsuccessful, she would make the trip again if there was another audition.
"I was always going to do it," Ms Armstrong said.
She was still not sure why she didn’t make it through to the next round, as the judge gave her no feedback. However, that didn’t really bother Ms Armstrong.
"I was happy with the way I performed."
Christchurch resident Amy Reid, 26, did not travel as far but was still a little disappointed.
She also received no feedback from the judge.
"I wanted to know why I didn’t get into the next round," Ms Reid said.
Ms Reid had no regrets about entering as she prepared for the jibes she would get from the children she taught as a primary school teacher.
However, some were not so keen to even see the competition go ahead. A couple of protesters gave the mainly-unemployed security guards something to do as they came to denounce the NZ Idol idea.
The pair brandished a sign bearing the rhetorical question: "Can someone tell me where True Bliss is? I can’t find them."
True Bliss was the world’s first reality TV-based band, created in New Zealand a few years ago.
The protesters had other signs that were a little more direct, but a little more blasphemous.
They were quickly shown the door, and the only sadness left was on the faces of my fellow failures as they trudged their way down the steps and out the gates it had taken them so long to enter.