Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Sanjaya Plans to Start Work on Album

Although many of us thought he was a nice enough kid who, most of the time, couldn't carry a tune in a basket, the Seattle Times reports that Sanjaya Malakar has returned home to Federal Way, Wash., where he will sign autographs to benefit World Vision and work on his debut CD.

Although he was booted before IdolGivesBackPalooza, Sanjaya is now doing what he can for a good cause: Signing autographs in Federal Way for a $1 donation that will benefit local relief agency World Vision. Tomorrow he will appear in the courtyard at The Commons (1928 S. Commons, Federal Way) at 4 p.m. for a "Welcome Home" reception/autograph session.

Then at noon Saturday he's scheduled to appear at the Mural Amphitheater at Seattle Center (305 Harrison St.). The Seattle event is free, though an announcement makes no mention as to whether Sanjaya will be singing. Although according to the release, Sanjaya will soon head into the studio to work on his debut album.

The paper also reports that you may soon see Seattle resident Blake Lewis at Safeco Field. The Mariners say that if Lewis advances on "American Idol" this week he is tentatively scheduled to sing the national anthem before the Yankees game.


Phil Stacey didn't last too long, so Vote for the Worst had to go dipping into the Idol finalist pool one more time. It came down to either Blake Lewis or LaKisha Jones, but Kiki prevailed, and we predict that not only will she need their votes this week, but that she'll still be eliminated and that Blake will be next week's poster boy.


What to do between Wednesday and the following Tuesday between Idol episodes (other than watch "American Idol Rewind")? How about the newest version of the classic board game Monopoly? Ronnie Gill in Newsday reports:

"American Idol" has made a fortune for a lot of people, including its executive producers, Fox Television and Simon Cowell, to name but a few. Now it's your turn to start raking in the big "Idol" bucks - even if they are fake.

The latest addition to the endless marketing miracle that is "Idol" is USAopoly's My American Idol Monopoly board game ($39.95, usaopoly.com, amazon.com and other retailers). The special edition is based on traditional Monopoly, with players attempting to acquire as many properties as possible while bankrupting their opponents. In this case, the properties happen to be "Idol" contestants from previous seasons.

Before the game begins, 22 of the customizable set's 57 removable labels - which bear the images and names of all past "Idol" finalists except Corey Clark, who was disqualified in Season 2 - are applied to the board's property tiles and title cards. In other words, it's your decision whether Kelly Clarkson is a cheap honky-tonk singer placed where Baltic Avenue would otherwise be, or becomes an expensive diva situated where Boardwalk normally is.

While four traditional board squares - Go, Go to Jail, In Jail (or Just Visiting) and Free Parking - remain unchanged, other variations include:
  • The four railroad properties become music genres: country, soul, rock and pop.
  • Paula Abdul replaces the Electric Company.
  • Randy Jackson subs for the Water Works.
  • The Chance and Community Chest cards become Being an Idol and Judge's Comments.
  • Instead of Luxury Tax there is a Host Fee space with Ryan Seacrest's mug, while Pitchy Performance is swapped for the Income Tax square.
  • Houses and hotels are renamed singles and albums, respectively.
Only Simon Cowell's picture does not appear on the board. Perhaps he is just too important to become a mere game-board property square.

The six pewter game tokens are a star, television, cell phone, microphone, performing idol and the "American Idol" logo.

Our only suggestion: For next season's edition, we think Overhyped Contestant should replace the Pitchy Performance square. And, yes, it should have a picture of Sanjaya Malakar.


Idol executive producers Nigel Lythgoe and Ken Warwick have backed out of producing the prime-time Emmy ceremony in September, according to the TV academy and Fox TV.

The pair cited their upcoming commitments and current demanding schedule, including the recent Idol Gives Back charity special and the show's finale later this month.

They will be replaced by Ken Ehrlich, an Emmy and Grammy awards telecast veteran.

"We respect Nigel and Ken's decision and are fortunate that Ken Ehrlich has agreed to return to executive produce his fourth Primetime Emmy telecast," TV academy chairman Dick Askin said in a statement.

Lythgoe and Warwick said in a statement they "realized that we could not devote the creative energy and time necessary to make the Emmys outstanding" for the TV academy and for Fox, which will air the awards.

When their hiring was announced in February, Fox Entertainment President Peter Liguori said the pair have raised "the creative bar with their innovative work" on top-rated "American Idol" and would do the same for the Emmy broadcast.

The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences 59th Primetime Emmy Awards show is set for Sept. 16 at the Shrine Auditorium. Nominations are to be announced July 19.

"American Idol" wraps its season on May 23 but Lythgoe and Warwick plan to remain busy.

Lythgoe, who co-created Fox's "So You Think You Can Dance," is a judge on the summer dance contest series. He's also president of 19 Television, the TV division of 19 Entertainment, the company founded by "American Idol" creator Simon Fuller.

Warwick is senior executive producer for worldwide productions of the "Idol" format for Bertelsmann AG-owned FremantleMedia North America, which produces "American Idol" with 19 Television.


In a story that's a bit dated (December, 2006), the New York Post reports that for the right price, "American Idol" castoffs, finalists and even champs will pay a visit to your wedding, Sweet 16 or bar mitzvah.

"The average going rate for an 'American Idol' finalist can be as little as $15,000 or as much as $150,000," says a source familiar with the business of brokering singers, bands and other talent for corporate functions and exclusive private parties.

"But it really depends on what you want them to do. Are they just going to show up at the party or are they going to sing? Do they have a song on the charts right now, or are they yesterday's news?"

A wealthy entertainment mogul once shelled out big bucks - more than $30,000 - to hire second-season "Idol" champ Ruben Studdard to sing just three songs at a party for his wife. "And I'm in the industry," he says.

For gigs booked by less well-connected individuals, Studdard reportedly rakes in around $75,000 or more.

Taylor Hicks, the latest champ, fetches as much as $150,000 for a private performance. Sources say original "Idol" winner Kelly Clarkson is paid as much as $300,000 to put on a private mini-concert, while Season 4 winner Carrie Underwood commands upward of $250,000 to show up at a party and sing.

On the lower end of the "Idol" scale are acts like second-season finalist Kimberly Caldwell, who garners around $2,000 a gig, according to the gossip Web site, PerezHilton.com. She pockets $3,000 if you ask her to sing. But she's made bigger money in the past; at one gig, Caldwell got as much as $7,500 to sit for hours signing autographs, an industry source says.

The people who now manage "Idol" finalists and winners are extremely tight-lipped, even slightly belligerent, about how much their clients are paid, because, one manager says, "the price can change overnight and is frequently different depending on who they're singing for, where and when."

From bands of the '80s to pop icons like Paul McCartney, Elton John and the Rolling Stones to hip, newer acts like Beyoncé Knowles and Christina Aguilera, music superstars are increasingly making themselves available for private parties.

Take rapper Ja Rule, who sang at a bat mitzvah in Florida, performing for more than an hour in front of the friends and relatives of a 13-year-old girl. Pop singer Ashanti joined him for three numbers in front of the well-heeled crowd.

And just last month (April, 2007), Jennifer Lopez was reportedly paid $2 million by Russian billionaire Andrei Melnichenko to give a private 40-minute performance for his wife Aleksandra's 30th birthday party. Melnichenko paid $1.2 million for the performance and an extra $800,000 to fly J.Lo's entourage from the United States to Britain where the party took place in the Berkshire countryside. Lopez and her entourage were housed in a top London hotel, included in the $800,000 payment.


Kellie Pickler talks about her late grandma in a story in Guideposts Magazine:

"Country songs are also about heartaches, and I’ve had my share of those. Most folks know by now that I had some tough times as a kid. My mom took off when I was two. My dad was in and out of jail. Neither one of them gave me much to write inspiring songs about. That job was left to someone else. A lady named Faye Pickler. My grandmother. I dedicated my first album, 'Small Town Girl,' to her. The last song on the album, “My Angel,” tells the whole story. There’s an old dirt driveway I mention in that song. It ran straight from the main road to the front door of Grandma and Grandpa’s house. Grandma had an easy chair that looked out the big front window, and her view went straight to the street. Whoever was coming, she could see from a long way off.

Grandma could see a lot of other things coming too. Like what I was heading for in life. My dad’s house was right across the way, just a big field between the two, with a path running through it. After Mom took off and Dad’s troubles got worse, I got to know that path pretty well. Seemed I was running toward Grandma’s more often than heading home. Life was confusing back then, and I didn’t ever know what to expect from one minute to the next. By the time I started school, I was living with Grandma and Grandpa full-time. There was a little shelf of kids’ books right inside their door. My favorite was a songbook full of hymns. Amazing Grace, Jesus Loves Me, all those old favorites. Grandma and I would sit together on the porch with that book in our laps and sing our way right through it. I got lost in those songs. If I was feeling sad, mixed-up or scared before we started, by the time we were a couple bars in, my troubles took a backseat. There was a power at work in those songs that you can’t put words to—that you just feel in your bones. I knew Grandma felt it too.

Grandma used those times to help me build up my confidence—something any child from a broken family can always use a little extra of.

Everyday when I got off the school bus, there was one thing I could count on: Grandma. She was at the end of that old dirt driveway, waiting just for me. Year in and year out. No matter what. When I stepped off that bus I knew I’d see her—either looking out from the big picture window or, if the weather was warm, standing in the front yard. She was always there.

Grandma had had a rough life herself. You know the expression “dirt poor”? Well, that was my grandparents. They were teenage sweethearts. They knew from the moment they met that they were going to get married, but they weren’t looking at a whole lot of options in life. Grandpa quit school real young when he got tired of being teased for wearing the same clothes everyday. He couldn’t even read till Grandma taught him. He got his GED thanks to her, and later on his electrical license. Grandma knew how important it was to have someone rooting for you—someone who believed in you 100 percent. And she believed in me every bit as much as she believed in Grandpa.

In all the years I knew her, Grandma’s health was never good. She had rheumatoid arthritis and gout—a painful combination. She was in pain much of the time. I mean, really hurting. Not that she ever admitted to it. Even if she’d been awake till four in the morning with her arthritis, she was always up the next day to get me ready for school, almost as if she drew some kind of strength from her pain. And don’t think that we spent all our time out on that porch, either. If she was feeling well enough she’d take me out back to pick apples or plant daffodils—our favorite flower. Daffodils, Grandma told me, are the flower of hope. We planted bulbs all around the house. “All you have to do to know that God is up there watching out for all of us,” she told me, “is look at a daffodil in bloom.”

But then Grandma was diagnosed in 2002 with an illness she couldn’t smile her way through: lung cancer. I was 15 and a sophomore in high school when she passed away. After a funeral there’s always tons of relatives milling around, tons of food. But there comes a time when the last of the friends and guests have left, the last of the leftovers have been eaten and it’s time to move on. Time to get back to life—or what’s left of it. For Grandpa and me life was Grandma—end of story. Everywhere we looked in that house there was something that reminded us of her. The night of our first real supper without Grandma neither of us could sit down at the dining room table. We both just sort of stood there, staring at it. There was my chair. There was Grandpa’s chair. In between was Grandma’s. Empty. Like the house. Like our lives. “Grandpa, it’s too lonely in here without Grandma,” I finally said. “Let’s just go eat in the living room.” That’s what we did too—that night and the ones after it. If I thought I knew what emptiness felt like before, I was wrong. When I came home from my first day of school after the funeral, I looked down that dirt driveway. For the first time no one was waiting for me. I loved Grandpa dearly, but Grandma looked after him just as much as she did me. Who on earth would care for us now?

It was a long time before Grandpa and I moved our meals back into the kitchen. And just as long before I could walk down that long driveway and feel at peace. But in time, I could. Along with everything else, it turned out Grandma had been passing along another gift to me over those years. Something I didn’t know I was getting, but that was flowing into me with every song we sang on that porch. Strength. The kind of strength that comes from only one place. The peaceful place I lost myself in when Grandma and I were singing those hymns. The strength of faith.

Another spring came, and one day, walking down that long dirt driveway, I could see that the daffodils were up again, bright and cheerful as ever, all around the house. Grandma’s flower of hope.

In the fall of 2005, with the memory of all those porch songs in my heart, I made the long drive to Greensboro, North Carolina, to try out for 'American Idol.' And the rest, as they say, is history. Much as he hates to travel, Grandpa flew to L.A. to watch me perform. How much do I wish Grandma could’ve been there too? Well, I don’t need to tell you. But, in a way—a very real way—she was. There isn’t a time I open my mouth to sing I don’t feel her right there beside me.

Just as sure as she sat there with me on that porch swing, Grandma’s still rooting for me, believing in me 100 percent. She’s there for me. Always. My angel."

Watch a video of Kellie Pickler's photo shoot for Guideposts Magazine.

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© 2007

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