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Last Updated: Wednesday, 20 August, 2003, 16:46 GMT 17:46 UK
Replica Simon is just as nasty

By Stephen Dowling
BBC News Online entertainment staff

Simon Cowell and judges
The waxwork Simon Cowell got some help from some less nasty judges
Madame Tussauds has opened an interactive Pop Idol display with a waxwork Simon Cowell which comments on the singing talent of members of the public.

I am standing on stage with the microphone in my hand staring at Simon Cowell - and even though he is not the real one, his look is enough to stop me from launching into song.

I cannot bear the thought of humiliation from even a fake Simon, so I step down - at which point several 10-year-old girls happily take up the mic.

It is the fear of every potential pop star in the country - the rolling eyes and acid tongue of pop's nastiest critic.

This waxwork Cowell has already buried the budding careers of several potential pop stars and it is barely lunch time.

Amira Al-Ansari from Qatar sang I Will Survive
Dozens of youngsters - and some grown-ups - are clamouring to be the latest victims of the Pop Idol judge people love to hate, in an interactive display based on the talent show.

An equally waxy Ant and Dec - models of Pop Idol presenters Antony McPartlin and Declan Donnelly - look on with fixed grins in an attempt to help put the public at ease.

Madame Tussauds staff, dressed in Pop Idol T-shirts are on hand to get the applause going and people dancing, and the Cowell model is flanked by two young girls who are lavishing praise on the hapless singers.

Simon says
That was extraordinary. Unfortunately, extraordinarily bad.
Do you really think that you could become a Pop Idol? Well, then, you're deaf. Thank you. Goodbye.
That was the worst performance I've ever seen
You've had singing lessons? Find a lawyer, sue the singing teacher.
I thought that was the weakest performance tonight, it just wasn't believable.
If you win this competition, we have failed.
You're not my Pop Idol.
That was my favourite song of all time. Not anymore.
You chose a very difficult song there but well done for trying.
One word to sum up - congratulations.

But wax's Mr Nasty has a device that can sense when a song is being sung out of tune - and it appears to be working overtime.

"I thought that was the weakest performance tonight, it just wasn't believable," he tells one performer, even though it is barely afternoon.


Unsurprisingly, given his reputation as Pop Idol's baddie, very few of his reviews are positive.

"That was my favourite song of all time - not anymore," he says after one rendition of We Will Rock You fails to make the grade.

Some young pop fans are ably taking on songs that would test the mettle of most karaoke veterans - It's Raining Men amongst them - but the fake Cowell seems even harder to please than the real-life model.

The pop hopefuls get their criticism in a room full of yelling and clapping tourists, to add to the embarrassment.

Philomena Rogers and Dec
Dec approves - but what will Simon say?

There were about 100 people there watching the show at any one time - and with three people "performing" every 15 minutes, there was a steady flow of live entertainment.

One girl gets her hopes up when Simon says "that was extraordinary" - only to return back to earth when the sentence ends with "unfortunately, extraordinarily bad".


But this is real life and not an edited TV show, and the public cannot wait to get their own back on Cowell.

Every putdown is roundly booed, and every performance cheered by the boisterous audience.

The performers were given their chance to talk back too.

One girl taunted the wax evil one: "Why don't you come up here and do it?"

Sisters Amira Al-Ansari, 11, and Reema, 7, from Qatar, give the show a double act - and even Simon seemed to like them.

"One word to sum up - congratulations," he told a beaming Amira.

Reem Al-Ansari
Reem Al-Ansari competed with her sister for Pop Idol stardom

"I loved it, it's fun but some of the other children were a bit sad - they seemed to take it too seriously," she said afterwards. Philomena Rogers, 14, from Croydon, south London, played down her own attempt: "It was great. I wasn't embarrassed.

"But I didn't know all the words from the song, even though I like Queen. And it was my first time doing something like this."

Frances Longhurst, 12, from Langley, Berkshire, was even more confident.

"It was OK because I have done talent shows before. I love signing and dancing. I don't like Simon Cowell, he's just a nasty man," she confided.

Members of the public can also try their hand at judging, and I sit at Simon's side and giving my own opinions on the talent.

Pop Idol hopeful's response
The new therapy? Pop hopefuls get the chance to talk back

But even when my ears are ringing I find myself struggling to say something nice - and it is fair to say that it is definitely a struggle at times.

There is a version of Angels that will haunt me for years.

Speaking as someone who always discovers a pressing engagement when the mention of karaoke enters the conversation, this really is the stuff of nightmares.

Too chicken for Pop Idol I may be - but this is one dream of stardom I am happy to leave unfulfilled.

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