In our Behind the Scenes series, CNN correspondents share their experiences in covering news and analyze the stories behind the events. CNN's Jack Hannah and Denise Quan attended the "American Idol" finale and were backstage to hear the finalists comment on the show.
LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- Donna Summer didn't know who was going to win "American Idol," but she had some good advice for the prospective winner.
"Save your money. Seriously save your money," she told reporters in the backstage pressroom at Los Angeles' Nokia Theatre prior to the "Idol" finale. "For the first year, don't buy any major major things like a new house unless you made so much money it's stupid. ... And the second thing is to get a good lawyer, a good accountant and great songs."
David Cook, who was named this year's "American Idol," will now have plenty of time to put Summer's recommendations to use -- though he still seems a little surprised to be doing so.
"My music teacher, Mrs. Gentry, made me sing at a Christmas pageant in the second grade and now I'm here," he said in wonder. "So the ride's been ... pretty nuts. You couldn't write this -- or maybe you can," he said, noting the presence of a roomful of writers. "But I can't." Watch reaction to David Cook's big night »
He had compliments for his 17-year-old rival, David Archuleta.
"The respect that I have for David Archuleta is very much past a competitor thing," Cook said. "He has more talent at his age than I know what to do with at 25."
Archuleta repaid the compliment. "Cook -- he's like my big brother," he said. "I've learned so much -- I've looked up to him since the beginning of this. He's just such a great guy. ... [When I was on stage], I can't believe I'm standing next to him. 'I'm so honored to be standing next to you, Cook.' That's what I told him," he added.
Cook marvels at the path his life has taken. Not so long ago, he reflected, he was a reluctant hopeful who had to be talked into trying out for the show by his brother, Andrew, who wanted to try out himself. (Andrew received some brief camera time at "Idol's" conclusion.) Now he's the latest "American Idol."
"For me it just made the whole experience full circle," he said. "In August I stood in line in Omaha, Nebraska, at 5:30 in the morning when it was raining -- with no intention of auditioning. And now I'm here, and I got to share that moment with the same two people I stood in line with seven, eight months ago."