You know you’re a big star when you don’t have to share a limousine.
The three judges of TV’s “American Idol” — Jennifer Lopez, Keith Urban and Harry Connick Jr. — arrived at the Kansas City Convention Center downtown on Thursday in separate rides to talk to the media about their two days in town to audition talent.
“I think we did find some future superstars,” said Lopez, wearing a sparkly black blouse with sparkly black shoes. “Yesterday morning, we had an amazing run. It was like one person after the other after the other. And it was like, ‘Oh my gosh, how many people did we put through in a row?’”
“At least seven in a row” received a coveted “golden ticket” to advance to the next round, added Connick, sporting skinny black hipster pants, a dark blue cardigan sweater and a three-day scruff. “We were pleasantly surprised with how many went through.”
“American Idol” is sending its three judges to 16 cities around the country. Kansas City is among 10 smaller “bus cities”: Producers traveled from Portland, Ore., to Tallahassee, Fla., for auditions. At the convention center, the judges saw 50 hopefuls on Wednesday and expected another 50 Thursday.
Urban, in slim black pants and a green T-shirt, said the panel really didn’t see any bad, delusional singers.
Often, he said, “You’ve got people from small towns whose only references have been family or friends who tell them, ‘You’re extraordinary!’ And they may be the best in their town. But it’s when they get to a bigger environment that they suddenly realize …
“We may be the first people who tried to shine a light on where they really are with their talent. But there’s different ways to do that. You can crush them, or gently let them know that this may not be their thing.”
With its 14th season set to air on Fox in January, “American Idol” set the standard for reality singing competitions. It enjoyed No. 1 ratings for years and produced such stars as Carrie Underwood, Kelly Clarkson and, closer to home, David Cook of Blue Springs.
Although viewership has declined, the show “hasn’t changed,” Lopez said. “It’s about the dream, about following your dreams. It never gets old. Finding new talent is always an exciting thing.”
“I think we all respect each other and love each other,” Connick said. “And we’re serious about this job. We just laugh and have a good time and treat everybody with respect and try to find the best talent we can.”
Respect and love is one thing. Having to sit between Urban and Connick is another.
“They’re amazing, honestly,” Lopez said. “And it’s my honor to be on the panel with them. But they do get a little ‘frat boy’ every once in a while. I told them I feel like their little sister. You know, ‘What are you talking about?’ Then Keith just goes around me and talks to Harry.”
Connick had nothing but kind words for the lone female judge.
Lopez “is distractingly beautiful,” he said. “One of the most beautiful women I’ve seen in my life. But what most people don’t get a chance to see is how brilliant she is, how soulful and talented.”
As for Urban?
“Keith is one of the greatest guys I know,” he said.
At that Urban looked embarrassed, pulled a fat money clip from a front pocket and handed it to Connick.
“That’s all I got,” he said.
After finishing his morning radio show, “Idol” host Ryan Seacrest made an appearance at the convention center, too. He praised the burnt ends and other barbecue he ate at Fiorella’s Jack Stack and remembered Cook, who won the seventh season of “Idol” in 2008.
“David had so many wonderful performances,” Seacrest said. “But there was that night when he sang one of the covers (Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean”), and it just blew people away. You could just stand at the side of the stage and see the star qualities that he has. So I think there is a lot of hope for this region of the country.”