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Missing 'Idols' Still Worthy of Worshiping

The guests of honor are no-shows but that doesn't keep the fans from partying

September 05, 2002|MARIA ELENA FERNANDEZ | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The search for the first American idol is over, but is the idolizing? Not judging by the thousand or so fans who came to Fox's worship fest--and those who stayed outside--on Tuesday night.

Of the 3,500 people who had tickets to the live taping, 1,000 were invited to the celebration bash at the Highlands nightclub at the Hollywood & Highland complex. That left the crowd holding heart-shaped "Justin" fans standing in the shopping center's hallways. Meanwhile, two souvenir hunters made off with the signs directing guests to the club.

"We've had to add security to the freight elevators," said Tolan Clark, director of marketing for the two-story, 28,000-square-foot nightclub and restaurant. "Everybody is trying to get in."

But those who were on the guest list were more disappointed than those who got left out. Guests of honor Kelly Clarkson, 20, and Justin Guarini, 23, the two finalists, never appeared, even though Fox publicists kept insisting they were on their way. Even Guarini's father, who was dancing and posing for pictures with his son's fans, was at a loss.

"He's supposed to be here," said Eldrin Bell, a former Atlanta police chief who shares Guarini's trademark smile. "But they keep them so busy. Who knows what happened? It's OK. I'm enjoying myself. I've got a career of my own but it's been great being known as Justin's dad throughout all of this."

Catered by Wolfgang Puck, the party featured such staples as hamburgers and fries, and chili. It got a little more creative with the mashed potatoes served up in martini glasses and drinks adorned with red and blue light-up ice cubes.

Fox publicists never explained why Clarkson and Guarini were no-shows. After they had all but given up hope on the show's judges arriving and the party was fizzling out, in walked Paula Abdul, Randy Jackson and Simon Cowell.

Fans who clamored for their brush with the now-famous contestants made due with semi-finalists Tamyra Gray, 23, R.J. Helton, 21, and Nikki McKibbin, 23.

The three made their rounds, signing autographs and chatting with fans. Actress Tori Spelling congratulated Gray, who was the favorite among many of the show's fans.

"I just love reality television," Spelling said. "Although I act for a living, I think real people are the best actors."

Helton, who was mobbed by a group of women at the door, said he's thrilled to be part of the latest American pop-cultural phenomenon.

"I've been living my dream these past few weeks, so I can't complain about anything," he said, moments after a woman who is old enough to be his mother hung her arms around his neck and told him how sad she was that he had lost.

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