American Idol Photograph by Michael Lewis
March 25, 2003 at 05:00 AM EST

The contestants moved into their multilevel mansion today. And just two hours later, it’s already starting to look and sound like ”The Real World.” Corey is alone in his room burning incense, Julia is unpacking her cigarettes, Josh has sequestered himself in the bathroom to call his wife, and Kimberly Caldwell is curled up alone in the den. Ruben, Carmen, Trenyce, Kimberley Locke, Clay, Rickey, and Charles are inhaling burgers, fish, salads, and corn on the cob prepared by the house chef. The table talk, invariably led by Clay, the most outgoing of the bunch, goes from food (Clay: ”We have pork barbecues back home. You take a pig, cut it in half, and open it wide on the pig cooker and just pick out of it”) to religion (Rickey: ”I don’t eat the swine.” Clay: ”Are you Jewish?”) to domestic violence (Ruben: ”Clay’s my dawg.” Clay: ”Ruben hits me.”) to interfinalist sex (”There won’t be any in our room,” Clay says. ”Not on those hospital cots we sleep on”).

7:45 P.M.
Most of the remaining finalists tell me they never thought Vanessa would be the first to go home. Julia, who was the first runner-up in loser land, is still visibly shaken. ”I’m kind of glad that I know now what to expect, and I think if I’m in that situation again at least I’ll know what’s going to happen,” she says. Julia is not the only one expecting to be voted out of Hollywood. Each finalist punctuates sentences with ”…if I’m here next week.” ”Everyone knows they’re basically expendable,” Josh says. Even audience favorites like Ruben and Clay, who currently seem untouchable, aren’t getting too comfy. ”I’m not going to unpack,” Clay says. ”I’m just going to live out of my suitcase. I don’t want to get too used to being here.”

Ryan Seacrest hosts as Katy Perry, Lionel Richie, and Luke Bryan guide aspiring singers on their way to superstardom.
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