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On the Scene: Idol Backstage Bonus

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Simon_lI try not to disappoint, PopWatchers, but sometimes it’s hard to be in two places at once and last night’s Idol was one of those situations. So I asked my good friend, and, yes, high school fling, Ari Karpel to be initiated into the exclusive club that is the Idol audience. And, as I’m sure you saw/read, he did a fabulous job.

But because I had an all-access pass to the studio where both Dancing With the Stars and Idol are taped, I fully took advantage of it and got a little backstage scoop for you guys. Shall we call it, Dancing With the Idols?

addCredit(“Simon Cowell: Michael Buckner/Getty Images”)

Okay, first off, I’m amazed how these two ridiculously successful showsshoot concurrently — they each have dozens of their own guests, VIPsand executives to accommodate; hundreds of cell phones, cameras andBlackberries to confiscate; and limited parking. Not to mention all thetalent walking around: everyone from Blake Lewis to Cheryl Burke,Carrie Ann Inaba to Simon Cowell (pictured) — all in proximity of 70 steps (yes, Icounted) from stage to stage. Another example: on Monday’s Dancing with the Stars, special guest Muhammad Ali (who came to cheer on daughter and Dancingsemi-finalist Laila Ali) was sequestered in Paula Abdul’s dressing roombefore the show (didn’t look like he minded the frilly, pink theme).

But it was Tuesday when the hallway log-jam got really interesting. As Idolran through a dress-rehearsal rife with technical glitches (it was herethat Blake first had microphone difficulties, I’m told, as did Melindaand LaKisha), the judges begin to arrive. And like Dancing With the Stars,the producers seem to want to keep them separated from the contestants,so no dress for Randy, Simon, and Paula. Which is just fine by Randy,who likes to kibitz outside with various crew members and industrypeeps. He looks good pre-make-up and is in a great mood.

Pacing nearby is LaKisha, who’s already wearing her green dress (withflip-flops) and practicing her second number with headphones on. Shepays no attention to the activity buzzing around her and is absolutelyfocused. A few minutes later, Melinda, Jordin, and Blake walk throughand straight into Randy’s arms. There’s a lot of love there, despitethe nerves. Most anxious to get upstairs and out of the backstagefrenzy? Blake. He was having a rough day, it seemed.

The Idols heads into make-up, and LaKisha goes to find her daughter, who’s with her tonight.

It looks like things are running late as no time goes by and the judgesare quickly whisked into position for their grand entrance. The Dancing With the Stars judge trifecta, on the other hand, is just arriving and Carrie Ann looks smashing, as always.

Simon sucks down a cigarette (his last for at least 15 minutes) and I wonder if he and Dancing judge Bruno ever puff together? They are pretty much the Italian and the Brit versions of each other, it would be so Euro…

I can hear the Idol performances from outside and it didn’tsound all too bad, but once I ran into Simon after the secondcommercial break (I believe that would be post-Blake), I could tellthings weren’t going well. “They’re having a hard time in theretonight,” he said.

I press on, of course, and inquire, “Are the Bee Gees songs a bit toochallenging?” “Well, they’re trying to make them their own,” he sayslooking to Randy. “It’s a bit odd, isn’t it?”

Little did I know Blake was having an Idol meltdown. Orthat Barry Gibb was “totally crushing on” Jordin Sparks, as a10-year-old VIP told me outside. Or that LaKisha had committed musicalsacrilege by reworking “Stayin’ Alive.” And really, haven’t we hadenough of that song? After Idol Gives Back’s all-starlip-synching montage? Though I have to admit, scary Teri Hatcher mayhave forever ruined it for me, and not even LaKisha can erase that badmemory.

But back to Jordin for a second (and relationships, though not withAri Karpel): how psyched was I when she performed my wedding song (orfirst dance song, technically), “To Love Somebody”? Of course, I used aversion by Gram Parsons (or, as I like to call him, my boyfriend from aformer life) that always drives me to tears. For that choice alone, shegets my vote for the week.

I couldn’t stick around for the contestants’ exit at the end, sinceI had very important Joey Fatone business to attend to (read the storyin next week’s issue), but I did see LaKisha come out with her adorablefour-year-old daughter looking quite contented with the evening. Blake,on the other hand, was M.I.A. It was a tough night, indeed.