'American Idol': 'Idol' worship sweeps SLC (with multimedia)

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They say three times are a charm, but for 26-year-old Heather Elmer, it took six times.

Elmer had auditioned five times before to be a contestant on America's top-rated television show, "American Idol" - in seasons two, four, five, six and seven. But it wasn't until Tuesday at EnergySolutions Arena that the South Jordan resident finally was successful - as auditions for the country's top-rated TV show arrived in Utah for the first time.

"My dad and I have a saying," she said. '' 'No' means 'Not yet.' "

More than 6,000 other David Archuleta-wannabes gathered early Tuesday morning at the home of the Utah Jazz to audition for a spot on the eighth season of "Idol."

One was Kateri Combs, who didn't just want to be the next "American Idol" - she wanted to be the "1st Gypsy-American Idol."

The 17-year-old Romanian immigrant who now lives in Salt Lake City carried a sign with that label as she approached the gigantic line of singing hopefuls wrapped around most of the EnergySolutions Arena Tuesday morning.

"You should take the chance while you get it," Combs said about why she's willing to endure hours of waiting, all for the nerve-shattering experience of auditioning for the TV singing competition. "It's not a life-or-death experience, but you should give it a try and see what comes out of it."

The chances, however, will be less than stellar for the thousands who stood in line, many of whom arrived just after midnight Tuesday.

Patrick Lynn, "American Idol" senior producer, said they expected some 6,000 people to audition Tuesday, while only 200 to 400 might make it through to the next round. "It's really who we think is good enough for the show," he said, noting there wasn't a limit on how many they would pass.

Another singer who was passed on to the next round was 23-year-old Josh Pierce, of Salt Lake City, thanks to his rendition of Marc Broussard's ''Hope for Me Yet.''

Now that he is moving on, Pierce is making plans to go shopping for a stage-worthy outfit and hit the gym a little bit. "I'm proud to be a part of 'American Idol,' even at this stage," he said.

Familiar faces, including host Ryan Seacrest, floated around the arena throughout the day. Former "American Idol" finalist Justin Guarini from the first season was wandering up and down the line to interview contestants. So was Season 3 finalist Jon Peter Lewis, who was interviewing people for www.AmericanIdol.com.

"The moment you slip into this line, you're competing against everyone in music," he said. "And they have no idea what's in store. It's a whirlwind waiting for them."

The line of hopefuls entered the arena at 8 a.m., where they were assigned a seat and told to wait inside. On the arena floor were a dozen tables with two judges each from 19 Entertainment, the production company that makes "Idol." Four people at a time are summoned to a table, where each contestant has one minute to sing a song.

Those 60 seconds could make or break someone's career, but there were plenty of courageous auditioners who expressed confidence Tuesday morning.

"I have an ideal male pop voice," said David Gold, 20, of Layton. "I can operate my voice to do melismas [the ability to sing a variety of notes in a single syllable of a lyric], runs and licks."

Diana Castaneda, 21, of San Jose, already failed at the San Francisco auditions earlier this month and flew to Utah Tuesday morning on a red-eye flight to try a second time. If she doesn't make it, she plans to fly to a third audition city. "I've had a passion for singing, and I want to inspire a lot of people," she said.

Meanwhile, Laura Deneen, 18, flew all the way in from Clemson, S.C., where she goes to school, to "give my best shot," she said. "It's the best I can do." She was joined by her father, Henry Dean, who drove nine hours from Colorado Springs to be with his daughter.

After the auditions, those who make the first cut will have a second audition before the show's executive producers at an undisclosed location, Lynn said. Only after the second audition do they go before the show's three famed judges, Paula Adbul, Randy Jackson and the notoriously critical Simon Cowell.

Lynn said those judges will come to Salt Lake City sometime in September for those auditions, which will be held in secret.

Nigel Lythgoe, the show's executive producer as well as creator of Fox's other hit reality series, "So You Think You Can Dance," said he decided to bring "Idol's" auditions to Salt Lake City for the first time after successful auditions here for his dance show earlier this year. Those auditions led to four Utahns making the finals of this season's "So You Think You Can Dance."

''Once I saw the talent with 'So You Think You Can Dance' it was very natural for me to come back and say, 'Hey, this is a talented area, we should go there,' " Lythgoe said.

Salt Lake City is one of eight cities "Idol" is visiting for auditions for the eighth season, which debuts in January. The show's crew goes next to San Juan, Puerto Rico, on Saturday.

Kim Ipson, 17, of Centerville, did not make it to the next round, even though she wore a shirt that read, "I love Simon," brought a hula hoop and composed a song dedicated to Murray's Archuleta, who was the show's runner-up last season.

She sang her song for the judges, including the first two lines: "David Archuleta is my first true love / Please just let me be your wife in eternity."

Ipson received some chuckles from the judges, who ended up telling her "No," but "You have potential."

After all, six times are a charm.