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'Idol' audition draws a crowd.

Byline: LEWIS TAYLOR The Register-Guard

OF THE 335 PEOPLE who packed into the Wild Duck Music Hall last week to see the final round of Eugene auditions for the "American Idol" television program, almost everyone was a regular viewer of the Fox show - with at least one glaring exception.

"I didn't watch the show," admitted Debra Arlyn, a 17-year-old high school senior from Philomath, who won the contest with her soaring version of the song ``Reflections'' by Christina Aguilera, from the soundtrack to the Disney film ``Mulan.''

"I saw the last show when Kelly (Clarkson) won."

Arlyn and nine other finalists competed for a paid trip to Los Angeles to try out for the second season of the popular TV show.

Each contestant sang an a cappella song and a karaoke tune of their choosing. They also endured some polite questioning from a panel of five judges, who seemed downright nice compared to the infamously cruel Simon Cowell from the real show.

"Do you feel nervous standing up there on stage?" asked KDUK radio host Valerie Steele, one of the celebrity judges.

"Actually, I kind of like it," Arlyn said, beaming after singing an a cappella version of "Amazing Grace."

KDUK was the primary organizer of the event, which was titled Eugene Idol. The station received 300 applications, selected 50 performers and held two qualifying rounds before last week's final.

"We're looking for the full-meal deal," Steele said before the competition.

"We're looking for someone with the look, attitude, presence, talent - we want someone that's going to go in there and make an impression, someone that you see once and you can't forget."

In an effort to grab the attention of the judges, contestants rolled out a variety of songs ranging from rock (``Black'' by Pearl Jam) to country (``There's Your Trouble'' by the Dixie Chicks).

One woman offered a fast- twirling Ukrainian folk dancing demonstration, and another performer did his best to suck up to the judges.

"How you doing, judges?" he grinned, before performing a soulful version of "I'll Be" by Edwin McCain.

Amy Taylor, 19, a member of the University of Oregon women's basketball team, performed an a cappella song that she wrote herself. And the contest's youngest competitor, Zsuzsanna Ward, 16, sang "I've Been Loving You Too Long" by Otis Redding.

After being crowned the winner, Arlyn performed an encore version of a song she had written to perform at her high school graduation.

Along with a trip to Los Angeles for a guaranteed audition with the "American Idol" judges, she won a full scholarship to the abc Model-n- Talent agency.

For CJ Mickens, 18, one of the runners-up in the competition, it was a case of life imitating television. He played the part of Justin Guarini, the "American Idol" competitor who didn't win the competition, but seemed to be the popularity champion.

One group of fans brought a "We (heart) CJ" sign. Mickens signed autographs for a group of young girls after performing his version of the 'N Sync song "Gone."

Before the sold-out show, a long line of people snaked through the Wild Duck parking lot, a testament to the popularity of the TV show, which became a surprise hit for Fox after debuting last year.

Many of those who came admitted to being intimately familiar with the television show, including Michelle Kelley, 25, of Eugene.

"Everybody wants to be a star," Kelley said.

Kelley showed up to cheer on a friend who was competing, while other people came just for the pure entertainment value of watching amateurs on stage.

Rick Gent and Tom Hutchings, members of a Eugene hard rock band called Minus Mine, had a different reason for coming. "We're looking for a singer," Gent said. "There are a lot of vocalists here, and you never know what you can find if you look hard enough."

Entertainment reporter Lewis Taylor can be reached by phone at 338-2512 and by e-mail at ltaylor@ guardnet.com.

CAPTION(S):

Fans line up outside the sold-out Wild Duck this past Wednesday night before a Eugene audition for the ``American Idol'' television show. The 10 performers on Wednesday were competing for a chance to go to Los Angeles for the next round of auditions for the Fox hit. Two earlier qualifying rounds at the Wild Duck also sold out. BRIAN DAVIES / The Register-Guard
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Copyright 2002, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Entertainment
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Nov 11, 2002
Words:726
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