Monday, April 30, 2007

Idol Finalist Jessica Sierra Arrested

The St. Petersburg Times reports that Season 4 "American Idol" finalist Jessica Sierra was arrested yesterday on felony battery charges after she allegedly hit a man on the head with a heavy glass, police said.

Sierra, 21, the tenth-place finisher on the show in 2005, was booked in the Hillsborough County Jail on a charge of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon.

She was also charged with possession of cocaine and introduction of contraband into a correctional facility after booking officers found a “small amount of cocaine” while searching her, Tampa police spokeswoman Andrea Davis said in a statement.

Davis said the incident happened at a Tampa cafe about 1:52 a.m. Sunday. Police have not yet determined if Sierra knew the victim, Wisam Hadad, 28, of Tampa. Hadad declined medical transport for the cut over his eye.

When Sierra was arrested she was uncooperative with police, who threatened to shackle her legs because she was trying to kick out the window of the police cruiser, the spokesperson said.

After she was transported to the Orient Road Jail, police reportedly found a small bag of cocaine in her purse. She denied the cocaine was hers, according to her arrest report, but when asked, said that no one besides the police had possession of her purse that day.

Sierra, of Tampa, was freed on $11,500 bond Sunday afternoon. It was not immediately known if she had a lawyer. Her family referred comment to Sierra's manager, Nancy Eckert at Verge Management. As of Sunday night, Eckert had not issued any public comments on Sierra's behalf.

The Tampa native started singing in church when she was 3. After her mother died, Sierra was raised by her grandparents and father. She attended Robinson High School for a year before transferring to D.W. Waters Career Center, a public school that offers career training. She studied cosmetology there, graduating at 17.

Sierra had worked as a nanny and performed on "Star Search" before she was picked as an Idol contestant in Las Vegas when she was 19. The show turned her into a minor celebrity.

Last year, Sierra was in the news after she was the target of a persistent stalker. In 2006, Daniel Robert Young, 61, was accused of stalking Sierra. He reportedly had been making harassing phone calls to her, sending her gifts and following her to her grandparents' South Tampa home.

Mental health issues delayed Young's case, and it remains open in Hillsborough County Court. Sierra joined the Stalking Resource Center, a program of the National Center for Victims of Crime, to speak out against stalking.

Sierra recorded some songs in Nashville in 2006, but never released an album. She spent July 4 in Iraq, entertaining the troops.

In February of this year, WTVT-Ch. 13 reported that Sierra was working at Hooters as she waited for her singing career to take off. In the video, she signed autographs and sang for patrons.

To date, her only released recording was her rendition of "Total Eclipse of the Heart" included on the Season 4 "Idol" compilation CD.


We met Peter Noone after a concert this weekend and spoke to him about his Idol stint. He told us he really enjoyed mentoring the male finalists and that he thinks Simon Cowell's not only OK, but that he is right most of the time. He also said that he will be in the audience for the season finale. Check out his blog for his appraisals of Blake Lewis, Chris Richardson, Phil Stacey, Sanjaya Malakar and Chris Sligh.

Noone gives great show. Amazingly, at 59, he's lost neither his looks nor voice. His audience interaction goes above and beyond other performers and not only does he have a great sense of humor, his singing impressions are impressive. He does Tom Jones (the hip grinding is hilarious), Davy Jones and Mick Jagger, among others.

He also gave out some free CDs to the kids and threw some T-shirts into the audience. He generously met with a huge crowd after the show to shake hands and sign autographs. If he tours near you, it's a show worth getting out to see.


According to People magazine online, here are some things that happened on last week's show that you never got to see:

Ellen DeGeneres came out to greet the crowd before the show and showed off some of her signature dance moves as she shook her hips and did some tricks for the roaring audience. The talk-show host got a standing ovation and the audience chanted her name – "Ellen, you rock!" screamed one fan.

As the Idol Top 6 walked to the center of the stage for the show's opening, Jordin Sparks scanned the crowd to find her family. Dad Philippi Sparks caught his daughter's eye and held up his hands in the shape of a heart. She smiled and winked at her proud papa.

An audience member had the opportunity to ask Simon Cowell how his trip to Africa affected him and he sincerely replied, "You don't feel sorry for yourself anymore." The audience responded with polite applause.

When a shiny black Ferrari – just like Simon's – pulled into a parking space outside Idol's studio before the show, all heads were turned. But it wasn't the judge – it was Seal, who was arriving for the show. A fan remarked that she thought it was cool that the singer drove himself instead of taking a limo.

After Josh Groban performed an emotional rendition of "You Raise Me Up" with the The African Children's Choir, they got a two-minute-long standing ovation from the crowd at the Disney Concert Hall. And over at the Idol studio, the Top 6 were equally emotional about the tender song: When the show went to commercial, Jordin Sparks buried her head into her hands and turned away from the audience as she tried to regain her composure while LaKisha Jones rubbed her back. Chris Richardson was also in tears and quickly left the stage to pull himself together. Upon his return, Melinda Doolittle embraced him and patted him on the back.

For a crowd who had been anticipating surprise duet, there was an audible letdown when it was Celine Dion and Elvis Presley (we'll explain how the technology works in tomorrow's blog), who made a "guest appearance" next to her in the form of a 1968 performance. There were grumblings and light boos from the audience, who talked amongst themselves during the performance. Much more well-received was Annie Lennox's showstopping closing performance of Simon & Garfunkel's "Bridge Over Troubled Water." While Lennox sat down at her piano to prepare for her song, an excited Ellen DeGeneres came over to greet and hug the British singer.

Only a week after being ousted from Idol, Sanjaya Malakar returned to the Idol studio as an audience member. During a commercial break, Simon Cowell summoned Sanjaya to the judges' table, where the he was greeted warmly with hugs from him, Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson. During another break, Sanjaya reunited with the Top 6 contestants on the stage. They all embraced him, especially an excited Phil Stacey, who picked Sanjaya up and swung him around before putting him back on his own two feet.


During a recent conference call with the press, Idol executive producer Ken Warwick said that although he'd love to have former Beatle Paul McCartney be a guest mentor on the show, it was unlikely he would appear. Here are some excerpts from the inyerview session:

On doing a Beatles theme night: But we were in dialogue with them this year as part of one of the genres. The problem we found was that, the problem we had was obviously, we need a mentor that is up to the job. And we were after George Martin and his schedule, unfortunately, we tried every which way. We had permission from the record company, but we just couldn't get George. And without a mentor, it's meaningless.

On whether he'd like to have Paul McCartney as a mentor: I'd love to have Paul McCartney as a mentor, yes, absolutely. The problem is I think he early on, I think in the English show, and I don't know whether this is true or not. This is what I've heard, he kind of took exception to Simon's acid comments about the contestants. You know he's a nice guy and he didn't like Simon saying "You're horrible. You're the worst I've ever heard. You shouldn't be singing," or whatever he says. And so the chances of Paul coming on the show were pretty slim.

We were trying to get, as I said earlier, George Martin to mentor that show, and you do need a credible mentor, if you're doing The Beatles. And his schedule, although he was up for, we got a really nice letter saying, "I would love to do it. But unfortunately, I'm France this day. I'm in Switzerland the next day. There's no way I can actually be there on the date that you need me." And, of course, we can't change the day of the show, so it's a very specific date they have to adhere to. And if they can't do it, then they can't do it. And so it was that reason, and that reason only that we went to British Invasion week, which had good stuff in it, too, it was a good week.

On whether Melinda [Doolittle] is too mature for a show that emphasizes young talent: Well, she is more mature, mate, to be honest with you. But the fact of the matter is that it's not my decision, it's the public's. If they think that she's fine and great and they want to see here again and again, then they vote for her, then she's going to be there. It's as easy as that. It's not my — you know I long ago gave up worrying about what my personal favorites were.

Last year I loved Kat McPhee. I thought she was great. I thought she was gorgeous. I thought she had a great singing voice. I knew for a fact she could dance like there's no tomorrow. I knew she could act really well. She was just a really, really talented all-arounder. I would have loved her to have won last year, but it wasn't to be. There was somebody there that was a singer that was a bit quirky, people liked him and he was the winner, end of story. So what I think is immaterial, really. ... Melinda is fine. She's doing very well. The public do love Melinda, so the chances are, she'll be there for awhile to come, hopefully, but you never know.

On whether the judges are favoring Jordin [Sparks]: In truth I have to say where they can, they always pretty much tell the truth, because they've also been pretty supportive of Melinda every week. I don’t think it's any more than anybody else who's good. They call it the way the see it. I mean had they had any kind of agenda towards making Jordin one of the frontrunners, they would have started earlier. It's just that in the past few weeks, she has impressed them. And it was one of those — as always with these shows, you find generally, it’s the person that grows throughout the series that usually reaps the benefit at the end of it.

I think they're realizing that the one contestant that has consistently grown — Melinda has been good every week. LaKisha [Jones] has been pretty good every week, but Jordin has grown. So it gives them something to talk about, because it maybe even a bit, they’re probably getting fed up with saying Melinda is great every week. So Jordin is someone that they can hook into, and say, "You were much better than last week," or whatever. And it just gives them a bit more credibility, really.

On whether they'd consider doing a 50/50 split, like "Dancing With the Stars," where 50% of the vote comes from viewers and 50% from the judges: No, I'll never consider that. It's not a part of our format. As far as we're concerned it's the public at home who pick the idol. There has never been a case where they have been able to sufficiently put the vote one way or the other, skew the vote in any way. The voting numbers, I mean we had, I think, 38 million this week, 38 million votes.

Now with all due respect, even the biggest radio shows on earth are not going to have anything more than maybe 1,000 or 2,000 or even if it’s 10,000 people who actually listen to that radio station and think, "Oh, we're going to do that." Ten thousand is a drop in the ocean and would never influence the outcome, one way or the other.

On how he feels about Ryan [Seacrest] apparently supporting the contestants more than ever this year, as he takes on the judges: I love it. One of the attractions, if you like, people say to me, "Why is this show so popular? Why does it do this and why does it do that?" One of these points, very relevant points is the fact that there is quite curt banter, if you like, between the judges and Ryan. Ryan is always there to support the contestants, no matter what the situation. He's not there as a judge. He's there to champion their song and the way they sing it. So if he thinks that they're being bullied by Simon or any of the judges, it's part of his mandate. You step in there and you defend them if you think that's right, or ask the relevant questions.

On whether the contestants do commercial endorsements immediately after they are off the show, or do they have to wait: Generally I don’t think they — to be absolutely honest, I'm not sure if there's a time. I know with regards to taking up recording contracts or promoting themselves in the music business, that there is a very definite wait. They have to wait until the Idol has released their song. They can't contaminate that market for I think, three months, minimum. But to be absolutely honest, when it comes to things like that, because it's a totally different department that would handle …, I don't know if there'’s a time limit. I hope not to be truthful, because that wouldn't impact the show in any way. I kind of like to think the kids have gone on to do some other tangible way and they’re getting something back out of it.

... As far as I'm concerned, it's fine. But there's a whole legal department, both in Fox and with Fremantle International that handle that. If I got bogged down in the licensing and marketing issues, you could imagine what kind of a nightmare that would be on a show like this. So I tend to step back and I'm given, "This is what we've got to do this week in the show. This is what we're compelled to do." We do that, sometimes I argue that, because I think it's too much.

But generally speaking those things, especially if the contestants have gone, I leave up to the legal people to sort out. And as far as I'm concerned, bless them. They can do it. I would love Haley [Scarnato] to do it; I think she'd be great at it.

On whether this year's group of contestants have as much pizzazz as last year's group: The truth of the matter is that it is a fact that last year was an exceptional year, the kids were just great last year. It was as much in their diversity and personalities as in their voices. So it was a very good year, last year. Are you asking me is this year's contestants as diverse? No. Are they better? Some are; some aren't. And a lot of this is subjective anyway. So you can ask one person and they say, "Yes, I love these people much more than I did last year." And you can ask someone else that says, "I thought last year's were great." I thought last year's were great, personally, I thought they were great. But this year's are pretty good, too.

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