The AMERICA has talent Season 17 auditions finally wrapped up on Tuesday, and as the episode wrapped, the judges were still trying to whittle down this year’s 138 successful listeners to a whopping 55 acts – up from last season’s 36 – who will compete for a residency in Las Vegas and $1 million prize. Fifty-four of those contestants were announced later in the evening (scroll for the full list), with the remaining 55th spot going to one of four wildcards currently up for public voting on social media platforms and the official website broadcast.
But surprisingly, one of the standouts from this season’s final round of auditions, octogenarian exotic dancer Penny Starr Sr., He made not to make the top 55… despite the naughty promise she made to cheeky judge Simon Cowell.
Penny, who at 88 proudly describes herself as “America’s oldest burlesque dancer,” is clearly a national treasure regardless. A Burlesque Hall of Famer who has been dancing “all her life” and is already familiar with the Vegas scene from her annual appearances at Sin City’s Exotic World convention, the silver fox slipped into AGT scene Three following the red, white and blue feather boas, declaring: “I want to give America a real show, a show that gets up!” The flapping and shaking grand dame then proceeded to shed those feathers, along with some other lacy outfits, to the peppy tune of “You’re a Grand Old Flag.”
The judges were thrilled. Former Victoria’s Secret model Heidi Klum, herself an expert at working the stage in lingerie, cheered enthusiastically as Penny’s act culminated in a burst of patriotic confetti. Co-star Sofia Vergara applauded Penny and told her: “I want to be you when I grow up!” However, Simon seemed the most impressed… and he actually seemed to be flirting with Penny.
First, Simon asked the sassy senior citizen, who has been married six times, if he was looking for a new husband – almost as if he was volunteering for the position. (Her rueful reply: “Yes, but it takes a while to break them in!”) And then he asked her the bold question that would, in all likelihood, define her AGT fate.
“If you went forward, would more clothes come off?” Simon asked.
“Oh yes, absolutely!” Penny replied excitedly waving her tail feathers.
“I want to see more!” Judge Howie Mandel then called out in surprise as Penny received four yeses.
Unfortunately, however, Penny’s victory was short-lived, so we ordinary to see her more—at least not AGT. Immediately after her audition aired, NBC announced, via a press release, that she had not made the top 55 list for the season. But Penny should be the subject of her own biopic—Simon’s production company, Syco TV, should really get into it—because her life story is actually more incredible than most crazy things that are displayed AMERICA has talent.
Born Janet Gaynor Colby in Allentown, Penn., this mother of two and former department store model got her start in show business in 1957 by literally joining the circus — doing a dangerous dance routine with a live elephant — before landing a steady gig in Florida. burlesque club Guys & Dolls. Taking her stage name from classic movie musicals Pennies From Heaven and A star Is Bornshe was finally crowned Miss Bump-and-Grind at Atlantic City’s Cotton Club in 1963. And a star was truly born.
And Penny has passed down the art of burlesque to her granddaughter, Augusta Avalone, aka Penny Starr Jr., who at 52 is a Burlesque Hall of Famer herself. The Starr ladies have even appeared together in the past, so if the elder Starr can keep up the batting and grinning, maybe she and Penny Jr. they can try AGT together next year. I have a feeling Simon wouldn’t mind that sort of thing.
Meanwhile, the four aforementioned wild cards vying for a spot in the Season 17 live qualifying rounds are singers Ben Waites and Debbii Dawson, sword-swallowing Auzzy Blood and stand-up comic Jordan Conley. We’ll find out which of these acts will join this season’s six Golden Buzzer contestants (saxophonist Avery Dixon, singers Madison Taylor Baez, Sara James and Lily Meola, Lebanese dance troupe Mayyas and country trio Chapel Hart), along with the rest of the just-announced top 54 listed below when the live shows begin next Tuesday.
The AMERICA has talent The Season 17 Top 54 is: The 54 acts leading into Season 17 are Acapop!, Aiko Tanaka, Amanda Mammana, Amanda Veranica & Her Incredible Friends, Amoukanama, Aubrey Burchell, Ava Swiss, Avery Dixon, Bayley Graham, Ben Lapidus , Blade 2 Blade, the Brown Brothers, Celia Munoz, Chapel Hart, Cline Twins, Don Milligan, Drake Milligan, Duo Rings, Freckled Zelda, Funkanometry, Fusion Japan, Harper, Hayden Kristal, Jack Williams, Jannick Holste, JoJo and Bri, Kristen Cruz, Kristy Sellars, Lace Larrabee, the Lazy Generation, Lee Collinson, Lily Meola, MPLUSPLUS, Madison Baez, Max Ostler, Mayyas, Merissa Beddows, Mervant Vera, MetaPhysic, Mia Morris, Mike E. Winfield, Mr. Pants, Nicolas, Oleksandr Yenivatov, The Pack Drumline, Players Choir, Sara James, Shu Takada, Stefanny & Yeeremy, Travis Japan, Urbancrew, Wyn Starks, XOMG POP!, and Yu Hojin.
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