27,000 THOUSAND MEN from all over the North of England, most of them taxi drivers or ex-servicemen, gathered in Leeds Town Square yesterday for the first in a series of open auditions for the new series of "Popgun Idol".
The queues formed early, and by 4AM the line of muttering insomniacs reached round the Square three times. Some had to leave at ten, to escort their pre-school children on a supervised visit to McDonalds, but the excitement was still palpable as buskers and prostitutes entertained the rest of the line.
By the end of the day, not one auditionee had been turned away (following police fears for public safety) and all were seen by a panel of judges, including Simon Cowell, Declan Donnely, Amanda Holden and Glynn Jones, Professor of Forensic Clinical Psychology at the University of Bangor.
Mike McGill, 38, an unemployed sheet metal worker from Fleetwood, was one of thousands delighted to be given their shot at fame.
"They really put us through our paces," he said. "I've never had to sing Les Mis on a rifle range before." Keighan Gary, 30, a Bolton waste disposal officer, found the auditions more unpleasant.
"We had to improvise hiding out in a cowshed for five days," he complained to his ill-looking 16-year-old girlfriend as they both walked away.
Others in the queue, such as James Darrow, 47, a child pornographer from Filey, have previous experience which they believe gives them a chance to shine.
"I was once charged with assaulting a barmaid," Darrow explained. "And by 'once' I mean 'five times', and by 'barmaid' I mean 'special needs swimming class'."
At a subsequent press conference, uncharismatic svengali Simon Cowell admitted that the "Popgun Idol" phenomenon had its share of critics.
"But," he said, "we have to remember that before we started all this, the North of England was actually a very boring place. Nothing ever happened, and people were forced to spend their caravanning holidays here without any possibility of a Ribble Valley Rambo flipping over his ex-wife."
Following further open auditions in Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Sheffield and Barrow-in-Furness, the new series of "Popgun Idol" is due on ITV this autumn, with the eventual winner going on a killing spree in early December, before hiding out in the Peak Distict and shooting himself live in the studio for the Christmas Day edition.
And Cowell, 27, had a word of warning for any Facebook groups who wanted ruin his plans for Christmas television domination. "Remember, by the autumn I will effectively have a private army of a quarter of a million disaffected gun-totting misanthropes, so if anyone wants pull another 'Rage Against the Machine' against me this year - think on."