While no one has yet burst into his office, hoofing it on his desk to "Stars and Stripes Forever," Erikk Aldridge admits that he swims dangerously and deeply in the teeming talent pool that is Los Angeles. Folks slip audio tapes under his door. Far-flung relatives of co-workers phone at odd hours. And then there's that front-desk flotsam and jetsam. "The receptionist will call, 'There's someone out here who wants to sing the national anthem,' " says Aldridge, who, as a public relations executive for the Lakers, books talent for the pregame singing of "The Star-Spangled Banner."
Why the excitement? Because short of belting out show tunes in the middle of Mortons, this is as good as potentially being discovered gets: 1 million television viewers and a captive audience of 18,500 Laker fans per game, including luxury boxes filled with music industry bigwigs and front rows featuring Oscar winners.
But before you grab your tap shoes and head to his office, understand that Aldridge, 31, fills his dance card with what he bluntly terms "the best and brightest stars" in Los Angeles.
Ah, no, unless you happen to be jazz musician Gerald Albright, Broadway star Dale Kristien, the Red Hot Chili Peppers or Lou Rawls. Every once in a while an actor squeaks through--John Lithgow, for example--but even then, the person has to possess more than a modicum of musicality.
"I go by gut feel," says Aldridge. "I may ask for an a cappella rendition on tape."
As for his gut-feel stats--the Lakers should be so lucky. "I've only had one time when the person absolutely blew it," says Aldridge, who can't sing a lick. "I'm talking about forgetting the words, everything."
It is a tough tune. His tip to singers for hitting ". . . land of the fre-e-e-e-e-e-e"? "Cruise through the first and middle parts. Save the big-time stuff for the end. You can't give away too much too soon."
"You want the national anthem to be a good piece of the game that doesn't take away from the game itself," he points out. Then, silently recalling past anthem tantrums elsewhere, featuring crotch grabbing and other wearisome tirades, he adds, "But you don't want it to become too much a topic of conversation."