Friday, April 13, 2007

Cowell Once Competed as Well

One of the bad things about celebrity: Your past always comes back to bite you in the ass. Today's bitee is none other than Simon Cowell, according to What pompous millionaire would ever want film to surface showing him before he had it over all the rest of us? Well, probably no one, but pompous millionaire Simon Cowell wasn't that lucky. It seems that before fame and fortune, Cowell was struggling to get some face time on air and made his first TV debut in 1990, on a British daytime game show called "Sale of the Century." Cowell, 30 at the time, was aiming to win a Fiat Uno. But all he went home with was a £20 ($39) set of kitchen utensils (is that even the equivalent of getting a Golden Ticket to Hollywood?).

Unfortunately for Cowell, fellow contestant Barbara Humphreys, 54, from the West Midlands, saved her appearance of the show for posterity and recently uncovered the footage while clearing out some old boxes. "Watching the video now I remember thinking Simon was quite posh and handsome. He had a good sense of humour but I would never have put him down as a future superstar. He prattled on a lot backstage about wanting a Fiat Uno, but it obviously wasn't the height of his ambition," Humphreys said. She also mentioned that she didn’t recognize Simon because he had a lot more hair and he "obviously had his teeth done."

"He was very pleasant and said he was a record company director," Humphreys continued, "But the main thing I remember about him is he couldn't answer one of the questions. He didn't know who Saddam Hussein was, but I suppose in 1990 a lot of people would have been the same."

Now if someone would only unearth some footage of Donald Trump on "Supermarket Sweep."


ABC's "Good Morning America" took a look at voting practices at "America Idol" and whether the results could be rigged.

"As a democratic society, we think that anything involving voting is going to be incredibly fair," said "Good Morning America" technology contributor Becky Worley. "With technology today there are lots of ways to subvert the system."

"American Idol" tells viewers to vote by calling or sending a text message, but thousands of people have found other ways to give their favorite contestants an advantage, such as with 'phone freaking.' Basically, [with phone freaking] you download a program from the Internet. … Your computer becomes a power dialer that can make up to 1,200 phone calls a minute," Worley said. "That can shut out a lot of other people."

Jim Hellriegel runs a popular Web site [] that allows users to place thousands of calls for their favorite contestants with the click of a mouse.
"It's all about driving up as many votes as you can cast in a two-hour period," the computer engineer said.

Fox says the number of people who actually cast their votes this way is so small compared to the millions who vote each week that it doesn't affect the outcome one bit.

Some say an even bigger potential problem is computer hackers. "That would be a pretty elaborate process, but if we are talking about someone who has money riding on this, say with an online gambling site, you can see the incentive," Worley said.

IDOL ARRANGEMENTS interviewed ''Idol'' composer/arranger Michael Orland, who you've seen on "American Idol" countless times but you probably don't know it. He's the guy sitting behind the piano while the contestants rehearse with the guest mentor. As Idol's official musical composer, Orland gets to work with each contestant on their arrangements.

On contestants' schedule for deciding on a song? By the Thursday before the Tuesday of the show, they know and we work out the arrangements. Friday they work on them again and perfect them, Saturday we meet with our guest mentor for the week, Monday we rehearse with the band, and Tuesday is the show. It's a quick turnover, especially when you realize people spend months working in a studio on a single song.

On whether he regrets Coldplay-ifying "Endless Love" for Chris Sligh: We will take the blame for an arrangement but a lot of times — and it's happened a lot more this season than seasons past — contestants have had exact ideas what they wanted to do. My mother called me after ''Endless Love'' and said, ''Why did you want to do that?'' But he came in with that arrangement. That was totally his idea and when they want to do something like that we cannot stop them. That song is so beautiful that, as Diana Ross said, all you have to do is sing the melody. At one point the contestants had this need to put their stamp on everything, not realizing it was changing the integrity of the song. They're all learning now that they can sing it straight.

On whether he coached Blake Lewis to stop beatboxing every song: As long as we're not picking a song for anybody, once the choice of song is made we're all over it. We help as much as we can. That's something Blake chose to do. He decided he could give it a rest for a couple of weeks.

On why this season's contestants [LaKisha, Haley, Phil] seemed to be ignoring the advice of the guest mentor Tony Bennett: Believe me, no one wanted to come off being disrespectful. I know the kids were just blown away by him. I was a wreck playing the piano in front of him. He just happens to be a real purist with the melodies. Unfortunately, because of the way they had the clips, it made the kids look like they weren't going to listen to what he said. But we tried it his way. I worked with Haley and LaKisha that week and we tried changing it up and playing it straight. We came back to the studio on Monday and said, ''Let's try it his way.'' It just didn't work. They have to do how it feels right to them.

On whether he encourages contestants not to change songs late in the game, as Chris Sligh did with ''Every Little Thing She Does is Magic'': You know what? We did something on "Access Hollywood" with Chris with just the piano after he got voted off and he was so great. Sometimes the big band and the lights and the pressure just gets to them. When we did it I was like, ''Oh my god. Why didn't you sing it like that?''

On whether the contestants have the option to ditch the band entirely and just have a piano on stage: Absolutely. I remember when Bo Bice did an a cappella song. It was so daring. We've done stuff with just a guitar. They can request whatever they want.

On whether there are ever moments when someone just can't seem to find a song: Everyone has a struggle with different themes for different reasons. A lot of them will be great for country week [April 17]. But sometimes you struggle because you've found five songs you like. I'll make the contestants sing through each one of them. We tell them to get on the phone with their mother, father, boyfriend, girlfriend, and ask them what to sing. And when somebody is really struggling, [executive producers] Ken [Warwick] and Nigel [Lythgoe] will sit there with their laptops and play song after song after song. That's what's so special about the show. They are so hands on from the top down.

On whether he ever wants to say, "Nooo! Don't sing that!'': Of course. A contestant might pick a song and I'm cringing on the inside but you gotta let them do what they gotta do. I wish someone had told Gina [Glocksen] not to sing ''Smile'' because I think going all sentimental was what got the rocker girl voted out.That is a gorgeous song. But remember the contestants come in and go, ''Oh my god. Do you know what the judges said to me last week?'' and ''Last week I did up tempo so this week I want to sit down.'' They second guess themselves and try to figure out what the judges or the audience wants to hear.

On coping with having to work with some singers who are so far superior to others: That definitely happens every year. Bo Bice and Taylor [Hicks] and Chris Daughtry would come in every week and say, ''This is what I want to sing,'' and those are people that make it easy. They also had a great work ethic. That's what makes the difference between someone really good and really great. But yes, some people need more help than others. It makes it fun, actually.

On the judges' criticism this year: I'm shocked and appalled by some of the judges' criticism. Take Phil Stacey. I wish they had seen his dress rehearsal this [Tony Bennett] week because it was better and Phil has a tendency to doubt that what he sings is enough so he keeps adding to it, but he has got such a great voice. Then they just started slamming him. You just never know what the judges are hearing and what they're in the mood for.

HARD CORE IDOL says it's official: The "American Idol" sex tape is real ... real dirty. The Web site obtained the exclusive first images of the shocking video, featuring Season 2 semi-finalist Olivia Mojica. The video, which Mojica made with her boyfriend a month ago in her New York City apartment, is set to hit shelves on May 3, courtesy of Vivid Entertainment, the adult entertainment company behind Kim Kardashian's X-rated romp. Reps for Vivid, who claim they obtained the footage through an unidentified third party, are currently trying to contact Mojica to see if she will help promote the video and share in revenue from its sale.

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