Ah, the Apollo'"Where stars are born and legends made." Since 1934, this world-famous Harlem theater has been searching for untapped talent with their weekly Amateur Night competition. Folks like Stevie Wonder, D'Angelo, Billie Holiday, Jaheim and the Isley Brothers all got their big break after winning the Wednesday night competition. But most performers aren't so lucky.
The Apollo's crowds are notoriously tough, known for loudly booing at bad performers until executioner Howard "Sandman" Simms (and his recent replacement C.P. Lacey) makes them leave the stage. Tomorrow night, the NYC institution will celebrate the 75th Anniversary of the tradition with a special Amateur competition hosted by Uptown's current poster boy, Ron Browz. Chances are somebody will get booed, but it's not the end of the world. The Apollo crowd actually hated on these 5 acts before they became stars...
AMATEUR: Lauryn Hill
WHAT WENT WRONG? Before debuting in Sister Act 2, a clearly nervous L Boogie tried to win over the Harlem crowd with her rendition of Smokey Robinson's "Who's Lovin' You." At first, she stood too far away from the microphone, and her wobbly delivery drew an immediate chorus of boos from the audience. But after picking up the mic, she loosened up a bit and eventually won over the crowd. It still wasn't enough, as she still went home a loser that night. Years later she would return to the stage as a special guest with the Fugees.
AMATEUR: Luther Vandross
WHAT WENT WRONG? After winning some local talent shows with his group Shades of Jade, a young Luther decided to debut his solo act in front of the city's toughest crowd. The crowd failed to see his amazing talent, and he lost 5 out of 5 times that he entered the competition. His repeated failures led to persistent rumors that he had been booed off stage, which he later denied. Regardless, he learned a lot: "The experience taught me that show business is really a process of rejection, until you get to someone who might want to champion your cause."
AMATEUR: Dave Chappelle
WHAT WENT WRONG? The comedian recounted his Apollo nightmare while on Inside the Actors Studio: "I still remember that boo. I had never been booed off stage before. I just remember looking out and seeing everybody booing. Everybody! Even old people. Who boos a child pursuing his dreams? This is the meanest crowd in the world! Then that siren went off and the dude came out tap dancing. Sandman! I wanted to choke him! And that was the best thing that ever happened to me, because before that time, I had never bombed...after that, I was fearless."
AGE: Probably In His Early 20s
WHAT WENT WRONG? With a golden blonde Sisqo 'do, a youngish Ne-Yo (it's hard to pin down exactly how old he was since he's been lying about his age for 10 years)'who was then known as "GoGo"'performed with his boyband Envy at the Apollo. Despite some groin-stretching dance moves, the group fought persistent boos throughout their lackluster performance. At least they finished the song, which is more than most can say.
AMATEUR: Lyfe Jennings
WHAT WENT WRONG? Fresh off a 10-year prison bid, this Ohio native took to the Apollo stage to get his big break. But before he could even open his mouth, the crowd started booing him based solely on the fact that he looked like a bum with an acoustic guitar. Still, he pressed on, and as soon as he started actually performing, the crowd warmed up and ended up giving him a standing ovation. Lyfe went on to win the next 5 weeks and sign a deal with Columbia Records.