published Tuesday, January 27th, 2009

Idol Chatter: Contestant Pacitti isn't an amateur

by Christine Simmons

SUSAN PIERCE: “American Idol” has only finished two weeks of auditions, and already it has its first controversy of the season.

It centers on a good-looking brunette of Irish descent with a 13-year stage and recording career to her credit. Sounds like last season’s Carly Smithson, doesn’t it? But it’s Joanna Pacitti, the girl who auditioned last Wednesday night whom judge Kara DioGuardi immediately recognized.

Pacitti landed the title role in “Annie” on Broadway at age 11 and played more than 100 shows. According to MTV’s Web site, she was supposed to sing on the 20th anniversary album of the show but was cut when she came down with bronchitis. Her mom sued producers for a reported $50 million. The lawsuit was settled out of court, but it didn’t die a quiet death. Barbara Walters covered the story on “20/20” and even “Saturday Night Live” did a sketch about it with Cheri Oteri playing Joanna.

But the big news surrounding Pacitti is that Britney Spears covers one of her songs on Spears’ current CD, “Circus.” The song is “Out From Under.”

Pacitti also has sung on several movie soundtracks: “Watch Me Shine” from “Legally Blonde,” “Fall” from “First Daughter” and “Pretty Much Amazing” from the Nancy Drew movie.

To me, this does not make her an amateur and — good voice or not — she shouldn’t “be in this competition.

CHRISTINE SIMMONS: Bottom line? It’s simply not fair.

I know the judges say that as long as you don’t have a current record deal you are eligible to be in the competition, but this is just crazy. If she’s already had this kind of success, why would she need “American Idol?” Maybe she’s not as great as she thinks she is.

The whole concept of “Idol” was to find people who otherwise wouldn’t have a shot at making it big. Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood are perfect examples of that. I don’t care how good she is; if Pacitti makes it past the Hollywood round she will not be getting my vote because she’s already had her chance.

SUSAN: Also, did anyone but me think that Paula Abdul seemed almost paranoid this season? In all fairness, I’m sure having a stalker commit suicide outside your home would make you wary of anything out of the ordinary. But the young man that Paula claimed “threatened” her and Simon Cowell last week was simply being courteous — as any Southerner surely recognized.

It’s not unusual to hear someone tell you to “take care.” My own mother told me to be careful every time I left the house as a teenager driving my own car. Paula really overreacted. The producers had six months to cut that from the episode, and since they didn’t, obviously they were using it as a ratings ploy.

CHRISTINE: I think being paranoid is probably one of the least of Paula’s problems. Paula being a little strange (I’m being nice here) is something that they love to play up, just like trying to make Simon out to be the bad guy all the time, when in reality, Simon is simply honest.

I cracked up when one contestant picked up Paula’s cup and started drinking from her straw. Seriously, though, what do you expect when they deliberately put through people who obviously have “issues”? Another thing that I caught during bantering between the judges and a contestant: Randy Jackson said that Paula wanted a baby. Paula looked at him like she wanted to throttle him. I would love to know if anyone else caught that. E-mail us what you think.

E-mail Susan Pierce at or Christine Simmons at

about Susan Pierce...

Susan Palmer Pierce is a reporter and columnist in the Life department. She began her journalism career as a summer employee 1972 for the News Free Press, typing bridal announcements and photo captions. She became a full-time employee in 1980, working her way up to feature writer, then special sections editor, then Lifestyle editor in 1995 until the merge of the NFP and Times in 1999. She was honored with the 2007 Chattanooga Woman of ...

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ekercado said...

The show has never been called "Amateur" Idol and, knowing how this industry works, would have been canceled years ago if it had. There's a reason the show is NOT amateur only: RATINGS.

All "reality" shows by nature are not, will never be, and can never be 100% fair. It can be argued that she comes into this with a small fan base, but it's a drop in the bucket compared to the millions of votes. Now people like you are judging Joanna very harshly--even before the show's really begun. So her past experience is a tremendous disadvantage for her if anything else. So whether you like it or not, Joanna meets the show's criteria and she deserves to be a part of it.

January 28, 2009 at 5:53 p.m.
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