AMERICAN INDIVIDUAL: APRIL WALSH DISHES ABOUT IDOL
Every now and then I, as an American Idol commentator, have to dislodge my foot from my mouth when I say unkind things about contestants. A month or so back, contestant April Walsh found her way to this blog and posted a comment on this post. I called her over-rated, and she took issue with that, quite rightly as it turned out.
Idol barely had her rated at all, which she quite readily pointed out to me. Still, she has a great sense of humor, and definitely some talent, because how else would she have made it to the Top 40? She just missed the cut for the Top 24, and we are all left to wonder as we stare at the likes of Kellie Pickler, just what we might be missing because of it!
So to prove that Musical Ramblings is not above an apology, and also to discover more about April, I sat down and asked her some questions, and she has graciously responded with more information than I could have asked for. As it turns out, April is quite a multi-faceted person with her spoon in many different kettles, and she's quite ready to talk about just about any and everything at great length. Here's what she had to say!
J.D.: So what made you decide to try out for Idol?
April: The reason I said when they gave me that question on stage on my first day in Hollywood was that I want a drag following and a few mild-mannered stalkers. That hasn't really changed, actually. As far as me actually trying for Idol, it took a lot to even decide to do it. I was always a rabid watcher. Once I knew they raised the age limit, I thought I'd try for the heck of it. I had no real expectations. I was even partially afraid of getting further. I have a theater degree and thought that people that do reality shows have little cred. But that taboo's lifted nowadays, especially in L.A. I half thought of throwing on a Liza Minelli wig and doing it as her just to see if it made TV. In the end, I wore my favorite dress--that only I like--and did myself up and decided to try that song everyone always asks me to do at karaoke. I knew it would be over-the-top, but I had fun. Never expected to get so far.
J.D.: Early on there were rumors flying around that you were linked to Television Without Pity. TWoP, aside from having really funny recaps of the show, has also been known for trying to infiltrate the show's cast. What's your affiliation with them?
April: I'm a poster at TWoP, nothing else. I got into it the first time I found an X-files recap by Jessica. It made me laugh so hard, I started reading recaps on other shows. Most of my posts are still in X-files, but Shack's Idol recaps hooked me. I didn't post much in the Idol forums until just before I auditioned, trying to get stories from others like me. The mods very nicely deleted my posts later, though that didn't stop things from getting out. That's the extent of my TWoP link. I read and post there just for fun. I think the stuff about TWopers infiltrating is mostly a joke. One recapper went just to recap the early audition process once, but that's about all the conspiracy.
J.D.: Obviously you have some singing talent or you wouldn't have made it into the Top 44. Why do you think you were cut?
April: It just wasn't my time- or my type's time. In the chair, I told Simon that my differences from the other girls--weight, choice of style, song-preference, etc.--might go heavily for or heavily against me. He agreed and said it didn't go my way. I was fine. At that point, I was happy just to have been shown on TV. And I'm glad they showed me taking it like a pro. I saw the judges later at a couple of results shows (I'm local). They were all very sweet, especially Paula. I think their cutting me was a matter of type. Simon himself said something about this year being a cast of characters. Chubby girls that love showtunes aren't exactly the norm. But they could get a few more in later. Crooners used to be rare. Now there's a few every season because Stevens opened a door for them. Maybe I opened one for a girl like me.
J.D.: About all we got to see of you was an edited version of your audition, which as I remember wasn't your first. What happened with you during the competition that we didn't get to see?
April: Well, I sang "Only the Lonely" by the Motels in my audition for the judges for contrast. I realize they didn't have time to show that. I'm surprised they showed me at all, with Zachary [the boy who looked like a girl] on deck. In round one, I, like Dave Hoover, sang "Bat Out of Hell." Unlike Hoover, I sang it straight. I think that, without having belted that one out, I would've been cut the first day. The judges all liked it, even Simon. It carried me through as my group performance--done with Ashley Jackson and Megan Bobo, who were great fun--was not that special. I was extremely hoarse, but sang over it. In round three, I did "Fever," the fun little Romeo and Juliet verse, with tongue firmly in cheek. I like to find the humor in a song and me doing sexy ballads is just... incongruent.
J.D.: Does it bother you that almost all that Idol showed of you was you trying to walk up the down escalator and a very few other random shots?
April: Not really. It did at first. They could have scrapped everything I did on camera, but some got in and that's more than most people got. I realize that they have lots of footage and limited time. If you want to know what off-stage bits you missed, I did some tasteless Liza and Judy pill jokes and some impersonations at my first audition. During the Hollywood tour, I, being local, was the "guide" and I made snarky comments about our stops. I'd hoped that would get in. I even had fantasies about Liza sending me cease and desist letters, but there were Brittenums to be dealt with. If I was given the choice between their drama and me being silly, I'd pick them. Unintentional humor trumps intentional every time. To explain the escalator: I was very tired and overexcited at the time. And it was on the right. In America (and parts of Europe), we go on the right. I just didn't notice it was going down until I'd already made an idiot of myself.
J.D.: During the Top 24 elimination show, we saw you and Heather Cox roll your eyes in disgust as Becky O'Donohue was celebrating her advancement to the Top 24. Is there a story behind that?
April: Not really. I think it was an editing mistake. I wasn't in the room when Becky came out. Heather and I were great friends during the competition, having met in Denver and on the boards at the official site. We'd spent a lot of the day shaking our heads and bemoaning the number of spots left. That was probably what you saw. Becky and I were also friends. I spent some time hanging with her and Jessie over Hollywood week. We have TV shows in common. They're a lot of fun. The first thing I did, on seeing that cut, was call Bobby Bennett to tell him to tell her I wasn't evil.
J.D.: Did you make friends with any of the other contestants? Any interesting stories you can tell?
April: I made some great friends. There was Heather Cox who I talked on the phone with a lot before Hollywood. Then there was Kinnik. We were roomies over Hollywood and got along great. We still talk. I roomed with Mandisa the second time I went up. Amazing, classy, centered kind of girl. I still talk to Bobby Bennett a lot. Megan Bobo moved here, and we hang out. Honestly, it's a long list. Some I'd talk to if I saw them, some I keep regular contact with. I do have one nice story. After making top 44, I went to dinner at a nice place in the hotel with Kinnik, Megan, Stevie Scott, and Crystal Stark. We were sitting next to a nice couple who were having the prime rib. They recommended it, so we all ordered it. We talked to them a lot and they pumped us about Idol a little. We joked around with them about what they'd do to us if we told details. They left when we were still eating. When we went to pay our bill, we found that they'd already paid. When we saw them in the bar section, we decided to thank them. We made up an impromptu song. I ended up talking while the other girls did "oohs" as I had no voice. They got a kick out of it. A good time was had by all.
J.D.: Did you make enemies with any of them? Juicy stories you care to share?
April: No enemies. I'm incapable of making enemies. I'm a people-pleaser. Besides that, everyone was nice to me.
J.D.: We've already heard rumors this year about Paula yelling at contestants and some bad judge behavior. What were the judges like?
April: I never experienced it. Everyone can have an off day, I'm sure. But I never witnessed a thing. Paula was especially nice to me when I saw her after. She even helped me out a little with an audition I might not have otherwise landed.
J.D.: How did you feel when you got cut?
April: Okay with it. I got some exposure. Even if it was of the silly variety, it aired. That helps. It was a toss up for me. I'd have loved to do "Goldfinger" or "Le Jazz Hot" in top 24 and show people some things they might not normally see on Idol. But getting further in would mean more commitment and less freedom to pursue theater. I'm not a singer first. I put acting and improv comedy before singing, in my mind. Singing is a great dream. But I could see myself in a Christopher Guest mockumentary before I could see myself with a record deal.
J.D.: What is up with this Kellie Pickler crap anyway? Is she really that bad in person?
April: She's sweet! Don't pick on Pickler.
J.D.: Who would you like to see go all the way this year?
April: Well, Mandisa just got cut, so my dreams are dashed. It's hard to be objective because there's not a person up there that I wouldn't want to see win on a personal level. If I step back and look at it like a fan, knowing the kind of performers I favored on Idol in the past, I'd be all over Paris and Taylor.
J.D.: So now that Idol is over with for you, what does the near future hold for April Walsh?
April: I don't know. I've been at this since college. Dinner theater? I did have an audition for Tracy in the new Hairspray movie musical. I got pretty far up! I was auditioning next to broadway's Carly Jibson. Smell me. I don't know if I'll get it. I'm far from sixteen. I sure want it. I'm just going to audition for every production I can and try to get my equity card. On the side, I just got an agent who might send me out for commercials and pilots. Maybe you'll see me as a sarcastic coworker or ditzy friend in an upcoming sitcom. I'm still going to get back into improv. I've written two trashy romance novels. I juggle everything I can to see what works out. I have a lot of balls in the air right now. We'll see what comes back down to me, if anything.
J.D.: I read that you had been auditioning for a few movie roles. Have you had any major offers that you can tell us about?
April: No offers. Apparently, Paula Abdul helped me out getting that Hairspray audition. I just want to put that out there so everyone knows that she really is a sweet and nurturing person. Besides the Hairspray thing, there were some indies. But nothing definite has come out of anything yet. It's been a busy month. If anyone was considering making me an offer, I'm all ears.
J.D.: Do you intend to keep pursuing a singing career?
April: Not especially. I'm going to pursue acting and comedy on the west coast. After a year, I'll try it on the east. Singing is more like icing than the whole cake for me.
J.D.: Can we find you performing anywhere these days?
April: Heh. Not really. I'm just not that cool. If you want to come to Prime Time Steaks and Sports in Lake Forest, I karaoke there semi-regularly. But that's all right now.
J.D.: Out of this whole thing, what is the most valuable lesson you feel you've learned?
April: Value your sleep. You never know how much you'll miss it until it's taken away. That and look where you're going. I don't know. I'm old. I've already learned most of the important lessons. This didn't teach me anything too new. I'm grateful for the experience and for my little fan base. And if any of them want to dress like me or do impersonations, I strongly encourage it. Go drag, people! Go drag!
J.D.: Any advice you'd like to give anyone who tries out next year?
April: Be yourself. I tried to dress trendy and sing pop the first time I tried out in San Fran. Got me nowhere. Suddenly, I go to Denver on a whim, throw on my 1938 taxi dancer costume, sing some Bjork with broadway flavah and BOOM. It was me and, even if it hadn't got me past judge one, it was still me. Not a regret.
J.D.: So, since I apologized for some of the ugly things I said earlier, do I get a little kiss on the cheek?
April: Sure. Mwah!
J.D.: True or false: Joe R. & Jacob > JD > Jaded Journalist. (wow that's a lot of J's.)
April: Hmmmm. Can I plead the fifth?
Well, I suppose I deserved that one. But thanks, April, for talking with me and for letting us all know a little bit more about you and your experience! Let us know how things are going. I want to keep updating on your career!
If there are any of you who'd like to read more about April, you can visit her myspace page.