SIMON Cowell was all smiles last night at The X Factor new series launch in London after finally meeting his match – an 86-year-old granny.
“I was made to feel like a three-year-old again. Very embarrassing,” he told me, when I asked him about his encounter at Salford’s Lowry Hotel with Edna Moore, from Oldham. More of which below.
Louis Walsh, who had water thrown over him last year by fellow judge Sharon Osbourne, also revealed why he felt moved to soak a female wannabe at one of the auditions
The first show in the third series – screened on ITV1 at 6.50pm this Saturday – is, as usual, brilliantly edited to within an inch of its life. It opens with the auditions earlier this year in Manchester.
Landscape gardener Tim leaves the judges speechless after his rendition of All Night Long. “It’s as bad as it can possibly get,” says Simon, who later comments: “This is the worst day I’ve ever had – ever.”
But it gets worse for one of the most powerful men in music and TV. After years of destroying dreams, Simon is at last made to say the hardest word of all – sorry.
Choir singer Lorraine, 52, (right) goes in to face the judges in Manchester with the added protection of her mother-in-law Edna, (below) standing on the sidelines.
When Simon laughs during Lorraine’s performance of Cole Porter’s Begin The Beguine, Edna isn’t happy.
All three judges tell Lorraine it’s a “no”, with Simon commenting, “It was a bit lifeless…there are other issues – lack of personality, performance, all those things. It was terrible.”
Lorraine and Edna leave the audition room to talk to presenter Kate Thornton. But Edna’s still not happy about Simon. “It upset me because he laughed,” she tells Kate. “He laughed and he shouldn’t have laughed.”
She then storms back into the audition room and berates Mr Cowell for laughing. “You want to alter your ways,” Edna informs him. “You think you’re better than anybody. I think you were very ignorant.”
That produces the magic word from Simon: “Sorry.”
Louis later tells him: “An 86-year-old – putting you in your place. You were put in your place by a granny today, Simon!”
Sharon comments: “She nailed his a***.”
Simon confesses: “I feel ‘that’ big. I have never been so humiliated in my life.”
But the last word goes to Edna: “Why these girls scream over him, he’s not even good looking. He hasn’t even got his own teeth.”
That last line got the biggest response of the night at the screening in London. Simon almost fell out of his chair laughing. He told me later: “She put me in my place. I met my match. Good old Edna, I really enjoyed it.”
Also one to watch out for on Saturday is Wigan music student Sean, 16, (below) who must be one of the most nervous wannabes ever to take part in The X Factor.
We see his hands shaking as he visibly crumples with nerves in front of the judges during the Manchester auditions.
Close to tears, he takes up Sharon’s offer of a short break, then bursts into tears as Kate Thornton consoles him outside. “I do love singing, you know,” says Sean, who got a huge sympathy vote in the preview audience.
Returning later, he finally partly conquers his nerves and manages to sing. Does he get through to Boot Camp? I’ll let you discover that for yourselves on Saturday. But I can tell you that Simon is not a happy man.
All three judges were at last night’s launch, along with the likes of PR legend Max Clifford, showbiz agent and former DJ Peter Powell and ex-EastEnder Lucy Benjamin, who won The X Factor: Battle of the Stars.
Also all smiles was Grammy award-winning producer Mark Hudson, the man with the dyed goatee beard who chooses the songs for Sharon’s acts when we get to the live shows.
He was sporting a pink jacket and cream cap. Simon, on the other hand, stuck to a grey T shirt and blue jeans.
Louis told why he’d thrown a glass of water over a woman from Leeds who confronted him at one of the auditions and then tried to soak him. “She really, really, annoyed me. She was going to throw water over me. I got in there first, because I had the practice from last year.”
The X Factor is in direct competition this year with BBC1 Graham Norton hosted hit How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria? “It’s going to be a bit of a competition,” smiled Simon. “I think if you’re over 90, you’ll watch Graham, and anyone below will watch us.”
The judges have now been given their various categories, although they weren’t saying what they are. That will have to wait until the recorded shows move towards the live studio section of the competition.
But Simon maintained he wasn’t looking for another Shayne Ward – and confirmed changes in the live shows. Paula Abdul is seen as a guest judge in Saturday’s first 2006 audition highlights edition, and there are promises of more guest appearances.
“There are some changes to the live show,” he revealed. “You’ll see quite a big difference on the live show this year. I don’t want to give too much away, but, yeah, there’ll be a lot of guests.”
You can read more of this week’s X Factor coverage here and here.