Is ''Idol'''s Simon actually an okay guy? Staying true to his word, the notoriously nasty judge has offered to help booted contestant Ryan Starr with her music career

By William Keck and Nicholas Fonseca
Updated August 16, 2002 at 04:00 AM EDT
Simon Cowell: Joe E. Viles/FOX

Is Simon Cowell really a softie? ”American Idol”’s notorious judge tells Entertainment Weekly he was sincere when he offered to help axed idol Ryan Starr make it as a musician.

”I meant it,” he pledges. ”She can get ahold of me through Fox. She’s a nice girl who realized she screwed up.” (Cowell has called Starr an original who failed to choose the right songs; he found her losing-night rendition of ”Last Dance” particularly troubling.) ”She had something I didn’t think the others had,” adds Cowell. ”I was going to try to make the point to Paula [Abdul] that talk is totally cheap. If you really believe in someone and want to help them, then help them.”

For her part, Starr says she’ll do what it takes to shine: ”I think he’s got a lot of inside information I could use. I definitely will be talking with him.”

Apparently, the remaining contestants are also warming to Cowell. He says the backstage punching bag bearing his mug ”doesn’t look worn at all.”