Ellen Gray | 'Idol's' coming to town

Posted: June 26, 2007

FIVE YEARS after it followed Doylestown's Justin Guarini home for a visit that included a rally outside Philadelphia's City Hall, Fox's "American Idol" has decided it's finally safe to return to the City of Brotherly Love.

And this time it's bringing Randy, Simon and Paula.

"We have always wanted to go to Philadelphia," "Idol" senior producer Patrick Lynn said yesterday, following Fox's announcement that TV's No. 1 show would conduct Season 7 auditions at the Wachovia Center Aug. 27, following stops in San Diego; Dallas; Omaha, Neb.; Atlanta; Charleston, S.C.; and Miami.

Executive producers Ken Warwick and Nigel Lythgoe - yep, they're British - "are big fans of Americana and getting the whole American experience," said Lynn, glossing over the part where a bunch of guys gathered in Philadelphia to declare our independence from the country that would later dispatch Simon Cowell to tell us we can't sing.

So what took "Idol" so long to get to the home of Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell?

"They wanted to go to Boston first," Lynn said, something the show did in Season 5.

"There's a lot of reasons why we go to certain cities," said the producer, who leads the team that helps scout audition locations.

"We can't always do New York, L.A., New York, L.A.," he added.

Or even East Rutherford, N.J., which is about as close as "Idol" has ever come to Philly.

"I remember when we did [Washington] D.C., a lot of people from Philadelphia came to D.C." to audition, he said, adding, "The movie 'National Treasure' possibly has a little bit to do" with the decision to come here.

Not to mention "Rocky."

"We all want to run up the steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum early in the morning and run around the Rocky statue," Lynn said.

Philadelphia in late August? Better make that really early in the morning.

Lynn's not concerned.

"We hold [most of] our auditions in August, for God's sake. I'm a lot more worried about going to Dallas, Texas, than I am going to Philadelphia," said the producer, whose first trip to the city since 1986 was made a couple of months ago when "it was really cold."

Three years ago, Houston "was incredibly hot," Lynn said.

"But the weather's going to be the weather," he added. "That's part of the city."

Before settling on the Wachovia Center, Lynn said, "Idol" scouts looked at Citizens Bank Park, and "basically it just came down to dates."

The Phillies' home, he said, "was the first stadium that was going to let us be on the field . . . I've dealt with a lot of greenskeepers in the last few years, and the one thing they don't want is you on the [grass] field," he said. By contrast, the Phillies "were very, very accommodating."

They even sent in the Phanatic.

"It was a great treat [but] . . . it scared the hell out of my line producer, because he didn't know what the Phillie Phanatic was. I said, 'Dude, it's the Phillie Phanatic.' "

So will we see the Phanatic on "Idol," come January?

"One never knows," Lynn said.

As for what fanatic "Idol" auditioners need to know, here's Lynn's advice for surviving the cattle-call round:

"Read the Web site [AmericanIdol.com]. The Web site has a lot of very valuable information," including what to bring. And not to bring. Contestants "just bring too much crap," he said.

"Don't get intimidated by the crowd . . . Believe me, if you'll stand out if you're right for the show." *

Send e-mail to graye@phillynews.com.

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