"Idol" ousts Elise: Being the old-timer isn't always helpful


Elise Testone seemed wedged into an
“American Idol” sub-category.

“(Erika Van Pelt) always called us
'the old girls,'” she said today (Friday). “And she's two years younger than I
am.”

When the show was down to its final four women,
it almost seemed like Take Your Daughters to Work day. There was
Testone, 28, alongside Hollie Cavanagh, 18; Skylar Laine, 18; and
Jessica Sanchez, 16. She towered over them physically (she claims to be 5-foot-7, but seems much taller) and in experience. She's been a teacher for three
years; Sanchez is still a high school student.

Still, Testone was the one voted out
Thursday, finishing sixth. Is age a disadvantage?

She doesn't think so. Testone said she
only auditioned for “Idol” one previous time; she wanted to
wait until she had seasoning. “I thought I would have these life
lessons.”

Before that, Testone had endless
experiences. After growing up in New Jersey, she studied music in
South Carolina, then stayed there. She sang the National Anthem for a
crowd of 18,000, opened for Snoop Dogg for 10,000; she did clubs,
once “playing to three people, with a four-piece band.” She
linked with guitarist Wallace Mullinax for a band (the Freeloaders)
that won awards in Charleston.

During the “Idol” run, she may have
been an informal mentor for her young colleagues. “I could see
their eyes shift over to me, like, 'Is this what I should do?'”

And yes, she would respond. “I'm just
not shy about my craft,” Testone said.

Experience, however, can be a mixed
blessing. The others appealed to younger viewers who dominate voting;
and with all of her experience, Testone sometimes chose older, odder
songs.

She granted that she chose poorly on
the first night for the 13 finalists. Given a list of Whitney
Houston songs, she went with”I'm Your Baby Tonight.” In hind
sight, “I would have sung 'The Greatest Love of All' …. It would
have made a better first impression.”

Testone was in the bottom two that week
and the bottom three the next week. After doing better for two weeks,
she hit her streak – in the bottom three for four straight weeks,
finally being ousted.

Even to the end, Testone made risky
choices. Her final song Wednesday was “Bold as Love,” a Jimi
Hendrix song that never made the Billboard singles chart; Hendrix
died 13 years before Testone was born … and a quarter-century
before Sanchez was born.

Some judges considered it a bad choice;
Testone didn;t. “I'm confident in myself ,” she said.

Confidence can be worthy independence
or foolish bull-headedness. Phillip Phillips ignores advice on
everything from clothes to song choices; he's never been in the
bottom three. Testone was there six times; now she's off the show.