American Idol worshipers praised our story on the star-making series (#666, August 9). ”These talented kids deserve all the press they get,” cheers Stephen Gavis of Prospect Park, Pa. ”It doesn’t matter who wins because they are all stars.” But not everyone was so kind to our wannabes. ”How did Jon Stewart don a wig and sneak into your photo shoot?” wonders Melissa Smith of Pflugerville, Tex. Charlotte, N.C.’s Arthur Offen asks, ”What’s with the Vaseline sheen, not to mention the ridiculous hair, on that creature in the middle?” Speaking of scary, Ethan Hawke’s new book also made readers shriek. ”Thanks for giving a lamebrain actor-turned-author just what he deserved,” says Stan Evans, of Valley Village, Calif. ”Now the publisher should pay penance by granting the same publicity push Hawke received to unknown authors who really deserve it.” As Hawke already knows, reality bites.

‘Idol’ Minds

I really enjoyed your cover article about American Idol. As a music teacher, I love the fact that these contestants are competing on real talent, not on their ability to eat gross animal parts or act obnoxiously in front of house-mates. And like cream, the talent is really rising to the top! ROSE BUETIKOFER Harleysville, Pa.

Johnny Wright’s comment about American Idol’s Justin Guarini — ”is he urban or is he pop?” — is ridiculous. One could ask the same about his act, ‘N Sync. Is ‘N Sync urban (”Girlfriend Remix” with Nelly, ”Gone”) or pop (”I Want You Back”)? That hasn’t hurt them. Judging by audience reaction, you’d think landing Guarini as a client would be a godsend. JAMES COLLINS Toronto

Having watched American Idol, I can’t help becoming irritated at the media’s insistence on making a huge issue over the comments made by judges Randy Jackson and especially Simon Cowell. Their job is to protect their investment by squeezing the maximum amount of talent from the many wannabes parading around on the show. Their comments seem constructive and prudent. The public could be 10 times as harsh when the winner’s CD hits stores. MICHELLE IACOBONI LaCrescenta, Calif.

Does EW respect itself in the morning after lavishing such unearned publicity on American Idol? Though the whole premise represents everything the magazine makes fun of (pop puppets, syrupy songs, cheesy dance moves), EW has written multiple stories on the show and its stars and finally lets three more hacks grace the cover. BEN SCOTT Oklahoma City

Lowe Point

I am disappointed that Rob Lowe has decided to end his run on The West Wing (News & Notes). After a decade of forgettable roles, a scandal, and Brat Pack burnout I was finally beginning to respect him as an actor. Why someone that smart and talented and beautiful would let his ego get in the way of his contribution to the best show on TV tells me that, even pushing 40, he’s still got a lot of brat in him. MICKEY STERLING Culver City, Calif.