Sorority girls recruited for American Idol’s mosh pit

The New York Times finally got around to reporting from an American Idol 7 taping, and found that the show “is as scripted as a ‘reality’ show dare be.” That sentence is a bit reality-challenged itself, as among the paper’s shocking discoveries are that the audience is instructed to give a standing ovation for every performance, and those in the pseudo-mosh pit are instructed to clap with their hands above their heads. Ooh, clapping.

However, there are some interesting details. For example, stage manager Debbie Williams revealed the (not exactly unsurprising) reason why the viewer call-in segments are not live: “We pretape it because we’re afraid somebody might say something bad,” she told the audience. That’s too bad, because with an element of drama, that segment might actually be interesting instead of coma-inducing.

But perhaps the most interesting revelation is that producers actively recruit sorority girls to stock the audience, and then strategically place them where cameras will see them. “They are recruited,” and “[s]tage assistants choose specific women and place them where the hand-held cameras will swoop during performances,” according to the Times. “In early April it was the turn of the women of Alpha Phi, a sorority at the University of California, Los Angeles. About 25 members trekked to the studio one Tuesday, said Rachel Lorack, a member from Half Moon Bay, Calif., and another two dozen were to attend the following week. Last week it was the Delta Gamma and Delta Delta Delta sororities.”

One sorority sister, Courtney Lauwereins, said, “We sometimes talk about this at rush. Join Alpha Phi, and you might get to go to ‘American Idol.'” And just being downwind from Paula Abdul’s Coca-Cola cup probably delivers as much alcohol to the brain as a keg party, so it’s a win-win.

American Idolatry: If Only Reality Were This Well Organized [New York Times]

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.