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The mega-bucks "American Idol" rakes in on television is only the tip of the iceberg of the "Idol" business empire. Actress Angelina Jolie witnesses the plight of refugees worldwide in her role as U.N. goodwill ambassador. Former "Sex and the City" cast member Mario Cantone struts his comedic stuff in his one-man show "Laugh Whore." Jorge Garcia of "Lost" promises some surprises on the hit show`s upcoming season finale.

Aired May 25, 2005 - 19:00:00   ET


A.J. HAMMER, CO-HOST: What Simon says right before the "Idol" finale.
KARYN BRYANT, CO-HOST: And Cher, Judy, Liza and Tina all rolled into one. I`m Karyn Bryant.


BRYANT: A billion-dollar baby. Tonight, a new "American Idol" winner will be picked, but millions have already made their choice with their wallets.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The doors are just opening.


BRYANT: The business of "American Idol."

HAMMER: Also, Ambassador Angelina, out to save the world, not in the movies but in real life.




HAMMER: A frank talk with Angelina Jolie about life and saving lives in a "SHOWBIZ Sitdown."

BRYANT: Plus: He`s the break-out star from the hit TV show "Lost," and we found him. Jorge Garcia, live on SHOWBIZ TONIGHT.


KELLY CLARKSON, "SINCE U BEEN GONE": Hey, what`s up? This is Kelly Clarkson. And if it happened today, it`s on SHOWBIZ TONIGHT.


HAMMER: Hello. I`m A.J. Hammer. This is SHOWBIZ TONIGHT, and you are at the top of the show.

BRYANT: I`m Karyn Bryant. You are watching TV`s only live nightly entertainment news program.

HAMMER: Well, the final showdown is about to begin tonight. The tens of millions of Americans who have been with it all season long are going to pick the next "American Idol."

BRYANT: Will Bo win by a hair, or will Carrie carry the prize?

Last night, the judges panned Bo`s first number, an original tune, but he won praise even from Simon for "Inside Your Heaven."

Next up was country girl Carrie, who suffered a pitch problem or two, yet she still managed to wow the panel. Simon told Carrie she`d done enough to win the competition. We`ll see tonight who wins the million- dollar recording contract.

HAMMER: At "American Idol," the biggest big-bucks winner is, without a doubt, "American Idol." Tonight, in "The Show`s Biz," SHOWBIZ TONIGHT`s Sibila Vargas live in Hollywood to tell us all about the "Idol" empire that keeps striking back. Hey, Sibila.

SIBILA VARGAS, SHOWBIZ TONIGHT: Thanks, A.J. It`s certainly been a rocky road for "American Idol" this season, full of accusations, allegations and anticipation for the crowning of a new "Idol." Yet despite all the ups and downs, the show`s been writing its wave of publicity all the way to the bank.


(voice-over): Fans cheering, contestants singing and insults hurling.


VARGAS: And if you listen closely, you might hear "American Idol`s" biggest sound of all: cha-ching!

DAVID LIEBERMAN, "USA TODAY": Our estimate was that last year, the show generated over $900 million in revenues, and it`s probably over a billion dollars this year.

VARGAS (on camera): It`s the moment fans have been waiting for here at the Kodak Theatre, and last night`s "American Idol" brought in a whopping 28 million viewers. With numbers like that, it`s no surprise that Fox`s billion-dollar baby is stronger than ever.

(voice-over): Even amidst an alleged judge sex scandal, a phone number voting snafu and contestant arrest records, ratings are up 5 percent over last year, a remarkable feat for a show in its fourth season and one that translates into about $600 million in ad sales alone. But that`s only piece of the "Idol" pie.

LIEBERMAN: You`ve got it on television, obviously -- that`s the big cash cow, but also in records and concerts and merchandise. It`s really quite a phenomenon.

VARGAS: 19 Entertainment and Freemantle Media, co-producers of "American Idol," also share in profits from text message voting, 33 foreign "Idol" spin-offs and cash generated by music of "Idol" winners and finalists through albums, concerts and tours.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The opportunities are just endless from being seen by 40, 50 million people. The doors are just opening.

LIEBERMAN: (INAUDIBLE) got a couple of ideas for the show. He`s looking at creating a stage show, for example, where you`d have people from the audience get on stage and audition for prizes. Another idea is to have separate programming come over the Internet. And then they`re also looking at expanding the brand name, for example, having "American Idol" furniture.

VARGAS: And while there`s no way to know just how long the "Idol" empire will reign supreme, so far, the business of making dreams come true has been a good one.


Fans aren`t sure whether it`ll be Bo or Carrie`s dreams that come true tonight, but if past history is any indication, tonight`s winner should go on to sell over a million copies of their debut album under the guidance of Jay (ph) Records music mogul Clive Davis -- A.J.

HAMMER: Not a bad guy to be working for. Sibila Vargas live in Hollywood, thanks very much. And a little later in the show, we`re going to get up close and personal to investigate and reveal the real Simon Cowell from the people who know him best, including his very own family. It`s a special report you will not want to miss.

OK, so now it`s time to ask you. Our SHOWBIZ TONIGHT question of the day is: "American Idol": Will Bo beat Carrie? You can vote by going to the Web at You can e-mail us, as well, is the address. We`re going to share some of your feedback later in the show.

BRYANT: Tonight, a "SHOWBIZ Sitdown," an exclusive Angelina Jolie, like you`ve never seen her before. People whisper about her. She has been the subject of tabloids. But for weeks, she`s kept quiet. She has talked to no one else until now. She sat down with CNN`s Richard Quest. He is live in London right now for SHOWBIZ TONIGHT -- Richard.

RICHARD QUEST, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good evening to you, Karyn! She is witty! She is charming! She is thoroughly delightful! She may be the most famous actress in the world, but when I sat down with Angie, as she now is to me, well it wasn`t mere movies on our mind. No! We had more important matters to discuss.


When did they realize that they`d actually got somebody who was going to play a serious role and not just be the pretty face to go and visit the nasty camps?

ANGELINA JOLIE, U.N. GOODWILL AMBASSADOR: They told me after I`d been there a week and we became friends, they said, You know, we did have bets as to how much luggage you`d have! And would you be wearing high heels and make-up? And they did have, like -- they did sit around and wonder what was this kind of strange creature that was coming to the middle of a place that seemed not to fit at all.

And you know, I felt very warmed that they gotten to know me enough to share with me that secret.

I think I handle -- I think I handle things and observe them really well, and I`m able to see things and move on, and then, you know, have a moment like I`m having right now, where it`s really hard to shake it, and you feel like if you start thinking about it, you start crying. You start remembering everything, that maybe you`ll break. But you don`t because you realize, My God, who am I to be crying? Because look at me. I am fine. I`m in England. I`m healthy. I have my family. And there`s no way I`m going to get myself into a state where I can`t. So you don`t. But I -- it`s certainly -- (INAUDIBLE) after I went to Sierra Leone the first time, I saw all the people with their limbs cut off and I saw, you know, just so much that I never thought I`d ever see. I have -- I still have nightmares. I still have nightmares that my hands are cut off. You know, you just do.

But you go there, and it`s -- and it`s such a -- you know, as a mom, it`s that shocking thing of seeing little, little kids, smaller than my son, and, like, just -- it`s so hot, and their little backs and they`re bent over and they`re pulling up all these -- this clay and this brick. And they do it from morning to night. And they have a small -- it`s -- it`s -- it`s like hell on earth. It`s the worst thing you`ve ever seen because it`s babies. And that`s just one situation in hundreds and thousands around the world.

QUEST: Have you been Bono`d yet or Geldof`d, in the sense that you have now become not exactly an expert, because no one would want to claim that...


QUEST: ... but at least you are now immersed in the subjects, so that you can become one of those people that can speak authoritatively on these issues?

JOLIE: I think I`m getting there. I`m getting there. And I`m going to dedicate my life to learning more and educating myself so I can really take on things properly. Yes, I`m getting there.

QUEST: Do you think that there will come a crunch point, Angie, when you`re going to have to decide whether it`s movies or refugee charity work?

JOLIE: Yes, I`m being told it`s coming. Yes. People have said that to me lately. You know, when I`m working on a film, like now, I have -- I haven`t worked for almost a year. I finished "Mr. and Mrs. Smith" a while ago, haven`t worked. I have trouble focusing on reading a script, or I read a script and I think, That`s wonderful, that`s important, but you know what? Why don`t I just go to that country and do a documentary about that?

QUEST: Do your acting colleagues...


JOLIE: Think I`m crazy?

QUEST: Well, I was going to put it more like -- do they think you`ve lost the plot?


QUEST: You know, (INAUDIBLE) God`s sake...

JOLIE: She`ll just go on.

QUEST: Don`t ask her about (INAUDIBLE) I mean, do they think that?

JOLIE: Probably. I don`t get a hell of a lot!


JOLIE: Yes, I hope -- I mean, I hope that because I`m -- I`m, you know, clear enough to know that -- that if you do a film every once in a while, you can maintain a certain kind of celebrity to be able to get on shows like this, talk about things, bring attention, you know, so there`s a balance.

QUEST: A Google search on you suggests you`ve dated everybody, with the exception, perhaps, of myself.

JOLIE: Well, there`s time.


QUEST: Now I`m blushing!


QUEST: Seriously blushing!

JOLIE: I don`t -- I try not to -- you know, I try not to pay attention to them, but just, you know -- I just had to -- I just tried to take my kid to school, and we were followed by a few cars. And I couldn`t drop him off at school because he had soccer today, and I couldn`t have him outside, didn`t know what these cars were, and I couldn`t have him (INAUDIBLE) You know, so I had to bring my kid home from school. That hurts. That bothers me. That -- I don`t -- I wish I could just take him to Disneyland. I wish I could go to Leggoland tomorrow. I wish -- I wish there`s freedom of -- but that`s the only thing that really bothers me. People writing about me or saying things about my personal life and -- you never want anything that says something nasty against your character, or -- you know, you don`t like it, but I know who I am, and...

QUEST: Let me...

JOLIE: ... so I don`t -- I don`t read those things.

QUEST: (INAUDIBLE) a copy of "The New Statesman" or "The Economist" next to the toilet?

JOLIE: Not next to the toilet, next to the bed.

QUEST: Next to the bed?

JOLIE: Yes. (INAUDIBLE) my bedroom`s not as exciting as people think it is!



QUEST: What is fascinating is I`ve met Angelina Jolie before, and she just keeps immersing herself more and more in the details of the refugee crises. She`s got the facts at her fingertips. She has the authority now to speak on these subjects. And she has clearly dedicated a vast part of her life and her wealth to doing something about it.

BRYANT: All right. Thank you very much, CNN`s Richard Quest, live in London.

Well, Mario Cantone -- opinionated? You bet. He is outspoken, unapologetic and hilarious. The star of "Laugh Whore" joins us live for a "SHOWBIZ Sitdown."

HAMMER: And he was lost, and now he`s found -- right here on SHOWBIZ TONIGHT. Jorge Garcia is here with another season finale pass to the land of the "Lost."

BRYANT: He started in the mailroom and worked his way to the set of "American Idol" and beyond. So who is the real Simon Cowell? A special report coming up on SHOWBIZ TONIGHT.

HAMMER: Time now for tonight`s "Entertainment Weekly Great American Pop Culture Quiz." What did Cedric the Entertainer do before getting into show biz? Was he an appliance salesman, an auto mechanic, a golf caddy or an insurance salesman? The answer next.


BRYANT: Welcome back. Once again, tonight`s "Entertainment Weekly Great American Pop Culture Quiz." What did Cedric the Entertainer do before getting into show biz? Was he an appliance salesman, an auto mechanic, a golf caddy or an insurance salesman? The answer is D, he was an insurance salesman.

HAMMER: Well, you can run, but you can`t hide from the "Legal Lowdown." The defense in the Michael Jackson molestation trial rested its case today without Jackson taking the stand. His lawyers called some 50 witnesses in 15 days, including celebrities like Jay Leno, Chris Tucker and George Lopez. The defense painted the accuser`s mother as a shakedown shyster. Jurors could get the case next week.

Runaway bride Jennifer Wilbanks can`t escape the long arm of the law. A grand jury today indicted Wilbanks on two counts of falsely claiming she was abducted. If convicted, she could go to jail for as long as six years. Wilbanks`s attorney says her client did nothing criminal but regrets the hardship she caused.

BRYANT: Well, it`s time to bring a little levity to the show. In another "SHOWBIZ Sitdown," Mario Cantone is joining us live. "Sex and the City" fans remember him as Anthony, Charlotte`s sidekick and confidant. Since the series ended, the comedian has been very busy with his one-man variety show "Laugh Whore." And if you missed it on Broadway, you can catch it on Showtime this weekend.

Mario, welcome!

MARIO CANTONE, "LAUGH WHORE": Well, thanks for having me!

BRYANT: What do you think of Jennifer Wilbanks, the runaway bride?

CANTONE: First of all, I mean, look -- just look at the picture. You see the mental illness in the eyes. Do you see it?


CANTONE: You know, she`s, like...


CANTONE: The mental illness is right there. It`s -- it`s -- it`s right -- it`s -- laser -- it`s shooting lasers out of her eyes.

BRYANT: And she has been indicted now. She could go to jail for six years.

CANTONE: You know what? Good! Because you know what? She`s -- she`s just lying and running. She could say, I don`t want to marry you, you fat bastard! I don`t want to marry you! God! She`s ridiculous!

BRYANT: Oh, Mario, we want to take a look at...

CANTONE: She`s horrifying!

BRYANT: Well, you know...

CANTONE: Yes, I didn`t do anything criminal, except wear a tasteless blanket over my head and a baseball cap!


CANTONE: For running through the airport. That`s what I did. That was criminal. Enough!


BRYANT: Let`s take a look at you in "Laugh Whore." I happened to see the show on Broadway.

CANTONE: Yes, you did.

BRYANT: I thought it was hysterical.

CANTONE: Well, I`m glad you came.

BRYANT: We`re going to take a look at you. This is -- this is you in a cab? This is your experience in a cab in New York City?

CANTONE: Yes, this is because I`m very impatient.


CANTONE: You`ll see.


I am so impatient in a cab. I am like Faye Dunaway in the back of a cab. I`m, like, I told you to drive up 6th Avenue and across 44th Street! Why do you defy me? Drive! Drive!


I`m really like that, too.

BRYANT: I believe it.

CANTONE: I take the subway all the time because I don`t want to put myself in that position.


CANTONE: It`s horrible.

BRYANT: So I mentioned at the top of the show that you imitate Cher.


BRYANT: You love doing Liza, Judy, Tina. Who`s your favorite?

CANTONE: Oh, that`s hard.

BRYANT: Well, do...


CANTONE: OK. You want -- here, I`ll do my Cher. You know, the comeback song. (INAUDIBLE) (SINGING) Do you believe in love (INAUDIBLE) Do you believe in love (INAUDIBLE)


CANTONE: Close-captioned anybody?


CANTONE: Yes. Yes. And Liza -- well, you interview me. Say -- ask me a question.


CANTONE: Do an improv with me!

BRYANT: OK. OK. So Judy...

CANTONE: No, Liza first!

BRYANT: Oh, Liza? It`s Liza...


BRYANT: So are you dating?

CANTONE: No, I`m not. But you know what? I have a crush on Jim McGreevey. I don`t know why!


CANTONE: He`s a terrific man, and he`s so sensitive, just like my father. He`s so sensitive. I love Jim McGreevey! And I like ketchup in my coffee. I do! Instead of creamer, ketchup in my coffee. Isn`t that terrific? God

BRYANT: Well, Mario, what do you think of the Michael Jackson trial? Now, the defense has rested.

CANTONE: Yes. And so have I. I think -- I don`t know. You know? All I know is no matter what, whether something went on or not, he was dating the boys platonically. Do you know what I`m saying?


CANTONE: If nothing went on, he was emotionally dating them.

BRYANT: Invested in...

CANTONE: So there`s something -- you know, Emmanuel Lewis was like a Muppet on his show. He was, like, Hi, I`m -- it was really weird. It`s been going on for years. I don`t know. I -- it`s -- you know, and that -- that -- oh! What about his mug shot? Remember the mug shot?

BRYANT: Yes. Yes. With the wig a little askew.

CANTONE: Oh, he was, like...


CANTONE: Yes. That was him. Yes.

BRYANT: What about "American Idol"?


BRYANT: The decision`s coming down tonight.

CANTONE: The best! OK. Well, first of all, they were both off last night, but Bo is better. She, Carrie -- she was pitchalina! And that`s Italian for pitchy. She was pitchalina! I can`t believe this. And I love Simon. I think he`s right on the money, usually. He`s going to watch that playback and go, She was -- that last song was, like, You did everything you could win this contest. No! She was, like, on the edge, and then she was -- it was horrible! She was off. And...

BRYANT: Do you think it`s Bo, though?

CANTONE: No. I think she`s still going to win.

BRYANT: Really?

CANTONE: I do. Yes. And I want her -- I want Bo to win. I think Bo`s fantastic.

BRYANT: OK, last question, quickly...


BRYANT: Memorial Day weekend. Jersey shore or the Hamptons?

CANTONE: Jersey shore.


CANTONE: How about that?

BRYANT: Right on!

CANTONE: Because I`m Jersey, baby! (INAUDIBLE) The cops pull you over there for, like, you know, driving at 1:00 o`clock in the morning, like, driving the speed limit.


CANTONE: Yes, they pull you right over.

BRYANT: All right. Well, listen, we have to wrap it up, unfortunately, but you guys can catch Mario Cantone`s "Laugh Whore" on Showtime this Saturday. It is hysterical.

CANTONE: It`s on three nights in a row, if you miss it Saturday.

BRYANT: There you go.

CANTONE: (INAUDIBLE) Sunday and Monday.

BRYANT: Fabulous!



CANTONE: That`s right, baby! LBI! Yay!

HAMMER: Hurley`s made if off the island and into our studios. The "Lost" star`s going to join us live. Right before the show`s season finale, but will he spill any of the secrets?

BRYANT: And he`s the judge America loves to hate. He`s only happy when he`s winning. The real deal on Simon Cowell and a special report on the man behind the sarcasm.


HAMMER: In another "SHOWBIZ Sitdown" tonight: He`s on the hottest show on TV that doesn`t take place on Wisteria Lane or without singers. Jorge Garcia plays Hurley on the ABC drama "Lost," which airs part two of its season finale tonight. Jorge joins us live from Hollywood to talk about life on "Lost," and hopefully, he`s going to give me a nugget, just some kind of a secret of what we can expect to see on the finale tonight.

Thanks for joining us, Jorge.

JORGE GARCIA, "LOST": Hey, it`s my pleasure. Thanks for having me.

HAMMER: So when the -- when the season first started -- and I was one of the millions who tuned in immediately -- I`m watching the show and I`m looking at you and I`m thinking, God, I know that guy from somewhere, and I couldn`t place it. And then I thought, "Curb Your Enthusiasm." You sold the pot to Larry David.

GARCIA: Yes. Actually, that`s what got me this job on "Lost."

HAMMER: Is it really?

GARCIA: Yes. J.J. Abrams (ph) saw me on "Curb Your Enthusiasm," and they called me in and I had a meeting about "Lost," and they basically created Hurley for me.

HAMMER: And this show -- this show, one of basically the two biggest hits of the new season, both on ABC this year, has turned you -- you`ve always been a working actor, but it`s turned you into a huge television star. What`s changed the most about your life since the show has taken off so hugely?

GARCIA: Well, it`s really cool. One of the things about the fact that we do the show in Hawaii, we`re kind of sheltered from a lot of the heavy-duty fan craziness. But we did come out and we saw some fans one weekend with the Museum of Radio and Television, and that gave us a taste that our show may be a lot more popular than we realize.

HAMMER: But when you got back home, and you`re finally, you know, walking the streets or going to the mall of whatever it is that you`re doing, are people pointing at you and saying, Hey, Hurley, what`s up, dude?

GARCIA: Yes. I get some Hurleys, for sure, when I`m on the street, get a lot better service in restaurants and stuff like that.

HAMMER: Yes, you got to accept those perks.


HAMMER: Nice part of the gig. All right, let`s get to the season finale.


HAMMER: There`s a lot of stuff going on that has to be wrapped up tonight. You got -- you get people out on -- on the raft. You got, you know, the monster creeping around somewhere.

GARCIA: Right.

HAMMER: What can you tell us? Give us something.

GARCIA: Well, you`re going to see a piece of what the creature in the woods is, that mysterious monster. You`re going to see a piece of it. I don`t know if it`s enough to fully figure out what that thing is, but it`s enough to keep you talking about it.

BRYANT: OK. What else is going to be tied up tonight that you can tell us about?

GARCIA: Well, the big agenda is getting into that hatch, and we`re going to be working on that up until pretty much the end of the season. And you`ll find that that boat is a much bumpier and scarier ride than they may have anticipated.

HAMMER: Now, the boat -- and we`re seeing them out there right now.

GARCIA: Right.

HAMMER: Will they be making it to some sort of a rescue situation?


HAMMER: There`s not a chance you`re going to tell me that! I don`t know why I bothered to ask. So where are...

GARCIA: Probably running into something.



HAMMER: I`m they will. Would be out of character for the show if they didn`t.

GARCIA: I got one more thing I can tell us, is that someone tonight is not going to make it into season three.

HAMMER: Really?

GARCIA: Season two. Sorry.

HAMMER: OK. Because there`s speculation whether or not somebody will actually die, and of course, Boone (ph), you know, he died earlier in the season.

GARCIA: Right.

HAMMER: And J.J. Abrams, the creator of the show, famous for, you know, wanting to kill people off just to maintain the credibility. Did you kind of have to live in fear as a result of that, going through the season?

GARCIA: Well, I just don`t think it`s a way to live, to be living afraid that your character might die on the show. But you do kind of have to accept that this is a dangerous place that we`re all tromping around in.

HAMMER: All right. Well...

GARCIA: And some of us are going to have to not make it.

HAMMER: Well, I`m sure you have a viewing party to go to tonight, and we hope we get to see you back in season two next year. Thank you very much for joining us live from Hollywood, Jorge Garcia.

And of course, the two-hour season finale of "Lost" airs tonight on ABC.

BRYANT: I tell you what, A.J. That show is a perfect reason to get a high-def television. It looks fantastic.

Well, they`re married, and they are mad. Nick Lachey and Jessica Simpson get a real big apology over some very nasty rumors. Someone`s eating crow, and we`ll tell you who.

Will the real Simon Cowell please stand up? "SHOWBIZ In Depth" takes a look at the man behind the cutting criticism on "American Idol."


SOPHIA CHOI, CNNHN ANCHOR: Hello. I`m Sophia Choi and here`s your Headline prime newsbreak.

Amnesty International says members of the Bush administration should be invested for human rights abuses. The group`s annual report cites alleged torture and mistreatment of prisoners at Iraq`s Abu Ghraib Prison and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and in Afghanistan. The White House calls the report ridiculous.

Judge Pricilla Owen will take a seat on the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The Senate confirmed her earlier today. Democrats had blocked the nomination for years. And now, senators turn their attention to John Bolton, whose nomination to be UN ambassador also has been hotly debated.

Well, the pain staking search continues in Idaho for two missing children, Dylan and Shasta Groene, missing since May 16th. Campers in the state`s national forests are being asked to keep an eye out for anything suspicious. The children`s mother, one of their brothers, and their mother`s boyfriend were found beaten to death in the family`s home.

That`s the news for now. I`m Sophia Choi. Now back to SHOWBIZ TONIGHT.

A.J. HAMMER, CNNHN HOST: Tonight, Leno takes the stand and then turns it into stand up. A day in the life at the Michael Jackson trial.

KARYN BRYANT, CNNHN HOST: And what Simon says about a lot of things. A candid interview with the "American Idol" judge.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, what`s up? We`re Simple Plan. If it happens today, it`s on SHOWBIZ TONIGHT.

BRYANT: Welcome back to SHOWBIZ TONIGHT. It is 31 minutes past the hour. I`m Karyn Bryant.

HAMMER: And I`m A.J. Hammer. Here are tonight`s headlines. The defense rests. Michael Jackson`s team rested its case today in his molestation trial. They decided it was not necessary for the pop star to take the stand. "Rush Hour" star Chris Tucker was the last witness Jackson lawyers called. After rebuttal witnesses, the jury could get the case next week.

BRYANT: She has been charged. A Georgia grand jury today indicted the runaway bride. Jennifer Wilbanks could face up to five years in prison if convicted on the charge of making false statements. A warrant for her arrest could be issued tomorrow.

HAMMER: And one of these two will become the fourth "American Idol." More than 28 million people tuned in last night to watch Bo and Carrie sing. Voting results are going to be announced just a short time from now.

And we have been asking you to vote on our SHOWBIZ TONIGHT question of the day. "American Idol," will Bo beat Carrie? Please continue to vote by going to If you`ve got more to say you can email us at and we`re going to share some of what you had to say coming up at 54 past the hour.

BRYANT: Perhaps the hardest "Idol" judge to win over is Simon Cowell. He has made it his business to give everyone else the business. But who is the real Simon Cowell? Well, tonight we have the answer as we bring you a special PEOPLE IN THE NEWS look at Simon. We hear from the people who know him best, including his own family.

Here`s CNN`s Kyra Phillips for SHOWBIZ TONIGHT.


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On "American Idol" he`s Mr. Mean.

SIMON COWELL, "AMERICAN IDOL": You have about as much Latin flair as a polar bear.

It was horrendous.

PHILLIPS: He is Judge Dread.

COWELL: Can I finish?

PHILLIPS: Combative. Outspoken. Sarcastic. Simon Cowell is the music mogul who has become a bigger star than the pop idols he helped create.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There is a lot of booing of Simon from the audience and people take sport in sort of picking on him.

COWELL: That was very boring.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And criticizing him and saying he is too mean. But when you ask people they probably will agree with what he`s saying.

COWELL: You`re like three overweight Jessica Simpsons.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: "American Idol" wouldn`t be "American Idol" without Simon Cowell. He really is the show.

COWELL: It was a complete and utter mess in my opinion.

PHILLIPS: But Simon doesn`t really mean to be rude, does he?

COWELL: I think most people I know have rude thoughts, they think mean things. I`m much more comfortable with somebody`s telling me to my face the way they feel about me and I am much more comfortable doing the same thing in return.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: His personality away from the cameras is exactly what you see on camera. He is honest, he can be nasty. he`ll say what he thinks constantly and sometimes you don`t want to hear it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That`s one of the things I love about him. What you see is exactly what you get.

PHILLIPS: As for stardom, Simon`s longtime friends like Jackie St. Clair (ph), say it hasn`t changed him a bit.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He was then and he is now, the funniest person I have ever met. Just hilarious.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You`ve got to look for the glint in Simon`s eye sometimes, all right? Because he is lovely at being provocative sometimes. He does it to spark people.

PHILLIPS: Simon may be a joker, but he is very serious when he comes to business.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He`s a real businessman and he is constantly coming up with ideas and he is constantly thinking about the next thing. So definitely work is what drives him.

PHILLIPS: Work and money.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Definitely money. He always wants to make more money, yeah.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Simon has made no secret of the fact that he is just doing this to make as much money as possible. That`s it. That`s honest.

PHILLIPS: And those who know Simon say that is how he has been almost from the very beginning. Ambitious, blunt and opinionate.

COWELL: I would say America is almost becoming as good a judge as me.

PHILLIPS: Simon Cowell was born in Brighton, England, on October 7th, 1959. But he was raised about 20 miles north of London, in Elstree, at his family`s estate, Abbott`s Mees (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was quite privileged to some extent but we grew up in a very instant family. My mother and father were both previously married before and they both had children from their previous brothers so when Simon and I came I guess we were the two brats of the family.

PHILLIPS: Simon`s father, Eric (ph), was a successful real estate developer and he instilled in his sons a healthy respect for money and wealth.

COWELL: We came from, you know, quite a well-off family. But we were always taught that we had to earn our own spending money. And we would take jobs when school finished.

PHILLIPS: As Simon realized early on in life the love of making money, he also quickly learned that he wasn`t much for school.

COWELL: No, I was badly behaved, rebellious, fought very quickly. I hated school. I thought it was a punishment. Very lippy, always had an opinion.

PHILLIPS: Simon`s big mouth was apparent early on. He seems always to have been a critic.

COWELL: And I think I was three and my mum came down, she was going out one evening and she had this terrible outfit on which was a fur coat with a fur hat and I think she asked me if she looked pretty, and I said, no, she looked like a poodle.

PHILLIPS: Simon wasn`t only mouthy, he was mischievous.

COWELL: When I was about 12, we got on to a bus and as a joke pointed these -- they were called pea-guns and they were sort of plastic guns that shot dry peas. They would go about five feet, the peas, but they looked like guns and we pointed the gun at the driver and we told him we were hijacking the bus and he believed us so he didn`t stop for about 10 miles and when we got to the other side, the police were waiting for us.

PHILLIPS: Simon quit school at the age of 16 and set out to find a career. After a series of false starts, including a short lived stint at Elstree movie studios, he landed a job at EMI records in the mail room. It was an entry level position that would change his life.

COWELL: I understood instinctively that this wasn`t something where you were going to get handouts. This was a job where you could fail or succeed based on your own instincts, tenacity, so I would just drive everybody crazy from the minute I was delivering mail because I would walk into everyone`s offices and tell them they should give me a better job.


BRYANT: There is more Simon to come here on SHOWBIZ TONIGHT. Up next, more on how Simon has gone from scraping money together for records to mopping the floor with "Idol" hopefuls.

HAMMER: And Jessica Simpson is flashing the finger. Her ring finger. She and hubby Nick Lachey get an online apology.

MIKE EPPS, THE HONEYMOONERS: I listen to a little Miles Davis. I listen to a little jazz. I`m a jazz aficionado. Whatever that means.


HAMMER: Welcome back to SHOWBIZ TONIGHT as we continue our special report on "American Idol" judge Simon Cowell, who went from the mailroom to record producer in no time. But of course, he is best known for his brutally honest criticism which has cemented his place forever as a television icon. Love him or hate him, you can`t deny him. Once again, here`s CNN`s Kyra Phillips for SHOWBIZ TONIGHT.



COWELL: What do you do, Christopher?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I work at the Venetian front desk.

COWELL: Well, I have some good news for you. You`re going back to the hotel. That was appalling.

PHILLIPS: As a judge on "American Idol", Simon Cowell has been called rude, mean ?

COWELL: That was like fingers going down a blackboard.

PHILLIPS: And vain. But he is more than just a big mouth. He is a risk taker who has been taking big gambles in business since his first job in the recording industry.

COWELL: I did two years at EMI out of the mailroom and then a manager, he was a smart guy. He said to me, why don`t we start a record label together? And why not? I was about 20, 21. With no money, we just took an office and started a record label.

PHILLIPS: And with that, Simon Cowell was a record producer. A producer, that is, with no artists and a very low budget.

COWELL: I had about -- in dollars, maybe $8 or $9,000 to find an artist, make a record, make a video, manufacture it, promote it.

PHILLIPS: Despite the lack of funding, Simon did find an artist. Her name was Sonita (ph) and their first hit together, "So Macho," sold nearly a million copies.


PHILLIPS: The cocky record producer was on his way. At 29, Simon was a millionaire. But his new found fortune was about to disappear. By 30 he was living back at his parents` home in Elstree. A buyout of his record company had gone sour, leaving him bankrupt.

COWELL: I can remember being in the back of a taxi and I had the equivalent of about five dollars in my back pocket. And that was the end of my money. And all I remember thinking is, is this going to cover the cab ride to my parents` house.

PHILLIPS: Simon turned to a legendary British pop producer, Peter Waterman (ph), to help rebuild his career.

COWELL: So it took me about two years to eventually persuade him to work with me and within that two year period I followed him around like a dog because I knew this guy could teach me more in a year or two than I could learn in 25 years within a major corporation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, the one good thing about Simon is he never claimed he didn`t pinch all the ideas off me.

PHILLIPS: Simon eventually took a job with recording giant BMG and found early success producing albums inspired as TV shows, such as the `teletubbies` and the "Power Rangers." But his biggest success came when he signed Westlife, an Irish boy band that went on to sell more than 45 million records.


PHILLIPS: By the time he reached his early 40s, Simon Cowell was a certified powerhouse in British pop music. But it would take the success of the U.K. reality series "Popstars" to lead him to television. The TV talent show used judges to build new pop bands and the format gave Simon and music manager Simon Fuller an idea, with a twist.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Simon was a successful record producer in Britain and he and Simon Fuller, who was also in the music industry over there came up with the idea of doing a sort of televised talent show like "Popstars" over there, but what made this one different is that that audience and viewers got to vote.

PHILLIPS: "Pop Idol" took Britain by storm and the judge with the acerbic wit became a celebrity almost instantly.

COWELL: Honestly, it was terrible.

PHILLIPS: It was more than even the brash Simon Cowell could have imagined. Despite "Idol`s" phenomenal success in Britain, U.S. broadcasters were reluctant and Simon himself doubted the show would make it in America.

COWELL: I thought at the time, you know what? We`ll be on air for three or four weeks. We`ll be thrown off. We`ll have a nice holiday and go back to England.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not everything that works in England will work and translate in America. And whoa, to become the biggest show is just so crazy. None of us knew.

PHILLIPS: Four years later, "American Idol" has made Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul, Randy Jackson and host Ryan Seacrest household names. Interest and speculation about their private lives and relationships lands them in the news and in magazines, especially when it comes to Paula and Simon.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Simon and Paula are like an old married couple. Each of them knows the weak spots. They do build it up. They do know they get publicity from kissing each other and everything else.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They have a love-hate relationship but he is always there for her and she knows that but he drives her crazy like he drives me crazy.

PHILLIPS: Behind the scenes of "American Idol," Paul Abdul also has to deal with the guys` club that developed among Simon, Randy and Ryan.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The guys on the show really are friends. Simon and Randy and Ryan go out every week. They vacation together. They just have fun hanging out. Paula is sort of the odd woman out in that circle.

PHILLIPS: Simon certainly has his opinions of his fellow "Idol" judges and they, in turn, have him. Especially when it comes to his sense of fashion or lack thereof.

RANDY JACKSON, "AMERICAN IDOL": Simon Cowell is definitely the no fashion guy. I don`t think he believes in fashion. He only believes in a designer. Armani. If you`re out there, Giorgio, look, this guy loves you, but call him, hook him up, man. Say look, if you`re going to wear my stuff, don`t buy 20 pair of the same jean and 20 of the same t-shirt.

PHILLIPS: Simon Cowell`s sense of fashion may be stuck in the past but he is always looking forward professionally, and he insists he sees a day in the not-so-distant-future when he is back working behind the scenes instead of in front of the camera. For the judge America loves to hate --

COWELL: That was -- I`m not being rude but that, I thought was appalling.

PHILLIPS: It`s all about the next big thing.

COWELL: I`m very, very, very competitive. And I`m only happy when I`m winning.


HAMMER: That was CNN`s Kyra Phillips reporting. You can catch PEOPLE IN THE NEWS Saturday`s at 5 p.m. and Sunday`s at 2 and 11 p.m. at CNN and the latest issue of "People" magazine hits newsstands this Friday.

BRYANT: Tonight E Online is apologizing to Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey. Yesterday the Website posted a story claiming the couple filed for divorce in L.A. Superior Court citing so-called irreconcilable differences. E Online yanked the story after reps for the couple called the whole thing untrue. E issued the following statement.

E deeply regrets that a draft report from E Online, which contains some false information regarding the Nick Lachey and Jessica Simpson marriage, was accidentally disseminated. The couple has not filed for divorce. E apologizes to Nick, Jessica, their families and their fans for any distress this may have caused.?

HAMMER: It is time now to get your laugh on "Laughter Dark" as we do every night. We bring you the late night laughs you might have missed on "The Tonight Show" with Jay Leno. Jay recounts his day as a witness in the Michael Jackson trial.


ANNOUNCER: Direct from testifying at the Michael Jackson trial, Jay Leno.

JAY LENO, TALK SHOW HOST: You know, I have got to admit I was a little nervous before I testified. Once I got to the courtroom I wasn`t uncomfortable at all. They really made me feel at home. Show the security camera footage of me arriving in court today.



LENO: There was one kind of embarrassing moment. When I took the stand they asked me to point to the defendant and I pointed out Latoya.

Well, there is a lot of talk about Michael Jackson, if he is acquitted, he wants to leave the country as soon as the trial is over. That is what they said. One report says he wants to go to Africa and disappear. He wants to disappear in Africa. Africa? He`s got a better chance of disappearing in Sweden.

Well, after what, 12 weeks of trial, Michael Jackson`s attorney, they have finally admitted Michael Jackson slept with children, but it was about love, not sex. Which just goes to prove, that line works for all guys.


HAMMER: Well, tonight, of course, Jay`s going to be back and his guests will be Russell Crowe and rapper Nelly.

BRYANT: Well, there is still time for you to sound off on our SHOWBIZ TONIGHT question of the day. "merican Idol, will Bo beat Carrie?" Gonna be a close call. Vote at or email us at We`ll read some of your thoughts live next.


HAMMER: As we close in on the holiday weekend, Fleet Week underway in New York City. There is a live shot of the USS John F. Kennedy on the West Side of Manhattan, or as my co-host Karyn Bryant refers to it, as the SS Fullahunks. Well, as we do every Wednesday here on SHOWBIZ TONIGHT, this is a look at the week`s Billboard Top 200 Album Chart. We`re taking at the top albums of the week, which just came out this afternoon.

System of a Down`s "Mesmerized" debuted at number one. Country star Toby Keith`s "Honky Tonk University" opened up at number two. Mariah Carey`s "The Emancipation of Mimi" still hanging in there. It`s at number three. Last week`s number one album, "Stand Up" from the Dave Matthews Band slips to number four and Kem`s "Album II" debuts at number five.

BRYANT: Well, throughout the show we have been asking you to vote online on the SHOWBIZ TONIGHT question of the day. "American Idol," will Bo beat Carrie. It looks like we`ve got more Bo fans out there. So far, 63 percent of you say yes, Bo will indeed beat Carrie. 37 percent of you saying, no, he won`t. And you`ve also been sending emails our way.

Anita from California says, "Bo will win due to the fact that we have not have a rocker win this before. It is refreshing and different. Go Bo!"

But Richard writes from Louisiana, "I love to watch Carrie on `American Idol.` As for Bo Bice, you`re fired!"

And remember, you can continue to vote at

HAMMER: It is time now to see what`s playing on SHOWBIZ TONIGHT tomorrow.

BRYANT: Let`s take a look at Showbiz Marquee. Marquee guy, take it away.

ANNOUNCER: You know him as Joey Pants. He is a really Jersey guy. He was born in Jersey, played Ralphie on the "Sopranos" and his new movie is set in the Garden State. It is called "Second Best." But Joey, you`re A number one with us. Joe Pantoliano live tomorrow on SHOWBIZ TONIGHT.

And Chris Rock is earning his strips as the "Zebra." And uh-oh, rocket ship back to a big rock called Madagascar. Chris Rock, tomorrow on SHOWBIZ TONIGHT.

This is the Marquee Guy and I love Rock and roll baby.

BRYANT: That is it for SHOWBIZ TONIGHT. I am Karyn Bryant.

HAMMER: I am A.J. Hammer. Stay tuned for the latest from CNN Headline News.

CHOI: Hello. I am Sophia Choi. Let`s get to your Headline Prime newsbreak.

Well, President Bush is praising the U.S. Senate for voting today to confirm controversial Justice Pricilla Owen, bringing to an end a more than four year ordeal. The president says he now wants lawmakers to vote on his other stalled nominees. The new developments are the result of Monday`s bipartisan compromise to avert a showdown over judicial filibusters.

Next the Senate`s Democratic leaders are calling for a swift vote on a bill to expand to federal funding for embryonic stem cell research while President Bush says he has already made up his mind to veto that measure should it pass. Yesterday the house approved its version of the bill.

And she can`t runaway from this. The so-called runaway bride, Jennifer Wilbanks, has been indicted on two charges stemming from her very public case of cold feet last month before her wedding. Wilbanks is charged with a felony and a misdemeanor after allegedly making false claims that she had been abducted and sexually assaulted.

That`s the news for now. I`m Sophia Choi.


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