Inqlings | 'Idol' stars at secret audition

Posted: August 16, 2007

Look all you want later this month when American Idol comes to town to conduct auditions, but Paula Abdul, Randy Jackson and Simon Cowell will not be in the house.

The expected thousands of auditioners Aug. 27 will warble at the Wachovia Center for a team of producers, who will pick the best (and point out the worst). Those who move on in the competition - and that's anywhere from 150 to 400 people - will entertain executive producers. The better ones from that screening will sing here for Abdul, Jackson and Cowell at a secret session later that week. That's where Jackson will say such things as, "You're going to Hollywood, dawg!" Typically, between 15 to 30 people from each audition city get tickets to LAX.

Rules and sign-up info are at www.americanidol.com.

TV news news

Fox29 morning anchor George Mallet has given notice after 11 years, bound for Milwaukee. His last day has not been announced. Fox29, whose chief Mike Renda said he'd "miss his passion and enthusiasm for the news," has not named a successor. Lips are sealed about Mallet's destination station, but I know it's WTMJ, Milwaukee's NBC station. Once the solid No. 1 in town, WTMJ is trying to restore its luster; this week, it changed general managers. Queried yesterday if Mallet was coming aboard, news director Bill Berra told me: "I can't say." Mallet, who turns 47 next month, didn't return messages.

The University of the Arts has taken over management of the Merriam Theater, which it owns. It's temporary, says interim UArts president William Mea. In June, Live Nation - which oversaw operations under the name "Theatre League of Philadelphia" - chose to pull out. Mea says a new partnership will be in place soon. Meanwhile, UArts has booked a comedy called Whatever She Wants, starring Vivica A. Fox, Boris Kodjoe and Richard Roundtree, for a run Sept. 11 through 16. Info through www.merriamtheater.org.

Field of dreams

A $1 million makeover of Frankford's Billy Gambrell Recreation Center will be chronicled this fall on a new Fox Sports Net series, tentatively called Home Field Advantage, hosted by Eagles alum Vince Papale and FSN anchor Laura Okmin. (The premiere date has not been announced.) Executive producers Phil Tuckett and Rick Horrow got such organizations as Comcast-Spectacor and subsidiary Global Spectrum, the Eagles, Ernest Bock & Sons, AstroTurf, and Pop Warner Little Scholars to lead the restoration, completed with volunteer union labor. The city's Mural Arts Program will put up a mural, themed to the old Frankford Yellow Jackets and current Frankford Chargers teams; unveiling will be noon Saturday at Gambrell Rec, at Wakeling and Ditman Streets.

Fan encounters

This is devotion: Keith Urban's national fan club put out a call for videos to be part of a tribute shown at the singer's concerts when he performs "Days Go By." Seven local fans, who paid a videographer $200, posed at the Art Museum steps with a banner reading "The City of Brotherly Love Loves Keith Urban." The video was chosen and will be shown at Urban's show Saturday at Wachovia Center. "Yes, we're crazy," said Lisa Cocuzza, 38, of Mount Holly, calling in from the road. She and her friends are following Urban on his East Coast swing.

Backstage before the Beyoncé show last week at Wachovia Center, model/talker Tyra Banks ran into Timmy Kelly, the blind teen who's made a name for himself as a national-anthem singer. Banks praised Timmy's sunglasses and struck up a chat. When she asked if he was excited to meet Beyoncé, he calmly replied: "Yes. I am meeting her for the second time. I met her at the Grammys in Los Angeles." (A segment is expected on Banks' show.) Timmy gave Beyoncé a note in Braille, and later told her father, Matthew Knowles: "You did a great job raising your daughter."


Contact columnist Michael Klein at 215-854-5514 or mklein@phillynews.com. Read his recent work at http://go.philly.com/michaelklein.

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