PrimeTime Live - Fallen Idol: A Paula Affairby Sting7 -- 05/05/2005
John Quinones welcomes us. He reminds us that millions of us saw Scott Savol get eliminated from American Idol. "Tonight, we tell a story of a different Idol wannabe. The story of Corey Clark: ‘The Fallen Idol.’" And, we see the reaction of other wannabes that hear this for the first time.
We get a clip of Corey in the studio singing a song he says is based on the story of him and Paula. The lady in the song definitely songs like a femme fatale.
Quinones quickly tells us that Corey alleges that Paula Abdul had an affair with him. In soundbites, he says she picked his songs and gave him extra coaching. However, they start from the beginning. Corey comes from a musical family with 30 years of performing experience, and Corey once sang at the famed Apollo Theater. John asks "where does he get if from?" Clark’s beaming parents, Dwayne and Jan Clark quickly answer, Dwayne points at Mom. Mom concedes it’s a happy mixture.
Quinones flashes us to when American Idol came to Nashville, TN for one of it’s second season audition rounds. Clark says, "My initial goal was to sing in front of Simon, and see what he says." Quinones says Corey passed the test with Simon ("I think you have a good recording voice."), but it was a different judge’s reaction that would change things for him – Paula ("I think you have star quality!").
Quinones and PrimeTime Live quickly skim over Clark’s criminal charges that Clark admits he never revealed. (I personally followed that story and Clark insisted that Idol knew along!) Quinones gives it the positive spin – that the battery charges were reduced to a misdemeanor. What the show does not clarify is that judgment happened months after Clark was dismissed. At the time of his dismissal, Clark was due in court the next week for the first hearing on the matter! "No, I didn’t report it because I was falsely arrested!" he snaps.
"But, we’re getting ahead of ourselves," is what Quinones offers for a time line. He and Clark are at an empty Alex Theater, where season two’s Hollywood rounds took place. Quinones, somewhat boastfully, announces that ABC News (20/20, specifically) was there that season doing a story on the phenomenon known as American Idol. We see shots of Clay Aiken in the audience, and Ruben performing with his group of three. Video placement that is no accident. "We were there first!"
Quinones says American Idol was also looking for additional footage, including Corey’s infamous dumping from the bull in some bar. Quinones says, "When it was time for Corey to perform – on no sleep – he forgets the words to his song. But, his adlib turns out to be better than the original!" I am sure Seal, performer and writer of "Kiss From A Rose" would beg to differ. The ad-lib in question was to say "Paula" instead of "baby" at the chorus. Clever.
As you may remember, and as PrimeTime shows us, Corey stealthily makes his way to Paula as he’s singing and ends the chorus just in time to kiss her hand. Paula, as you may recall, was beaming. Quinones notes that for us, as well.
That same day, Corey was doing an interview for ABC News, during which, "a woman" pressed something into his hand. Cameras close in on a slip of paper that looks like it was torn of a restaurant receipt, with two zip codes visible and the rest obscured. Corey says it was the phone number of someone who was going to help him "and if I told anyone, I was going to be trouble – I was going to be off the show, and that person was Paula Abdul."
Clark thought the number may be fake. He says he thought if he called it, "it would the American Idol hotline or something, saying haaaa-haaaa-haaaa you’re off the show for real now! Sucker!" Quinones says Clark was informed that he was voted into the Top 32, but he had a dilemma on his hands. What to do with the number? In way of narrative, we get Corey singing his song. He sings that he called the number and voice says hello! He sings this is Corey Clark, he hopped out of bed to call her.
Quinones says the temptation was too great for Clark to resist, so he went to an "untraceable" (convenient) pay phone in the Hilton lobby. Another shot of that slip of paper (did he keep a scrapbook?). Paula answers the call, he says she offers to treat him, like a mom... or more like a sister... or a special friend. "A special friend," Quinones repeats (in case you missed it), "who, Corey says (don’t sue us!) wants to meet him right away!"
Clark says he felt like 007 getting to her. She sent a car and a driver to retrieve. He says it would be the first of many times he would go to her house. Sometimes by taxi, his friends would take him there, or Paula herself. As he is driving with Quinones, he points out the house.
Clark says they had a couple of drinks, and Paula is giving him "all the ins and outs of the show. What to do, what not to do. Who to talk to, who not to talk to." Quinones asks if she offered to him on the show, "Oh, of course! Not as far as making it through, but as far as helping me, you know, like wardrobe, so I, like, look the part, you know and like song choices." Corey says they talked through the night, and he went back to the Alex Theater. Apparently, no one was the wiser.
Quinones says they brought back seven other singers from that round (Hadas, Meosha Denton, Patrick Fortson, Nasheka Sidall, George Trice, Jordan Segundo, and Samantha Cohen). They said they had virtually no contact with the judges. Hadas says the judges would arrive about 20 minutes before work began. They say contact with judges outside the show is unthinkable. They don’t know that PrimeTime Live is going to suggest it was more "thinkable" than they thought.
Corey says Paula gave him an old cellphone so she could contact him. Quinones says a Sprint employee told him that he saw Paula and Corey come in the store to activate the phone. Two of Corey’s friends say they thought it was remarkable that Corey now had two cellphones – one Idol gives all its contestants, and one from Paula. One friend says whenever he was with Corey, there would be two or three occasions when the phone would ring. The other says he heard Paula’s voice clearly and, "it was wild!"
We are shown phone records that say Paula called "dozens" of times to Corey’s phone, with some pretty lengthy conversations. Corey says he was given money to shop at trendy clothing stores, bought him dozens of CDs to listen to, and even a bottle of cough syrup for his sore throat. The camera shows Paula Abdul’s name as the recipient on the bottle.
Corey says things started platonically, but became sexual later. On December 12, 2002, when Paula leaned over and kissed him in the car they were driving back to her house in the hills. "It was dope! I was like, wow!" Clark expands on his first kiss. Then, one night, while watching American Idol, "she came up behind me and, you know, starting kissing my neck." That was to be their sexual encounter.
"It turned into a relationship, you know, it’s like ‘I’m chillin’ with you,’ but you still can’t tell nobody."
"Can this possibly be true?" Quinones says to, voice full of urgent indignation, "A naive and perpetually broke young man of no fixed address who didn’t own a car or even a cellphone (the horror!), and yet he says he ‘chills’ with a wealthy superstar in a Beverly Hills mansion."
A brief retrospective of Paula’s career, and finally, some journalism: "Why should we believe you?" Quinones asks gently.
"You can or you don’t have to... at the end of the day, I’m not here to try to prove my case one way or the other, I’m just here to let people know what was really going down on my side of the fence."
Corey gives some details of the inside of Paula’s house, the guest room is usually where he slept when he was there. He knows the names of Paula’s three dogs, and says they often spent time in the jacuzzi, watching music videos on a television in that room.
Corey’s friends say Corey started bragging about his exploits with Paula, and that they met Paula with Corey at a club one night. They saw enough that night to believe what Corey was telling them. Corey also told his parents, Quinones says, almost immediately. Jan Clark was not happy, considering Paula’s age. Dwayne was concerned that Corey was in a competition while all this is going on, "I told him ‘get back to the music!’"
The Clarks were invited to the set that season, because Idol featured parents’ reactions that season. They met Paula Abdul in person, but they already knew her from the phone calls. They both say Paula called constantly. Jan says in a conversation with Paula, Abdul asked that they not mention her and Corey’s involvement if the tabloids should ask. Jan told her, "no problem."
Then, the Top 32 competition heats up. Paula helped Corey choose songs, he says, and they settled on "Foolish Heart." Quiniones notes the singer, Steve Perry, was in a band called Journey that Randy was a part of. (For ONE TOUR!) Why that song? Corey says Paula told him that Randy was a part of Journey, and that he would probably like that song.
Then, on to shopping at Fred Segal, and it was time to perform. We see a clip of Corey nailing "Foolish Heart" (he really nailed it), and Randy and Paula giving him a standing ovation when he was done. In his critique, Randy tells Corey he worked with Steve Perry, Corey says, "I didn’t know that!" Quinones says, "You were lying. You did know that." Corey admits he did.
Quinones says Corey was on his way to the Top 12, while 20 other "losers" were about to fade back into obscurity. Patrick Fortson shows he still has the star necklace Paula gave all of the Top 32 that year. Quinones teases that they are about to find out that one of their own was getting inside information.
Now, we see a clip of the Top 12, the first night of that segment of the competition. They, as a group, sing "(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life" and Corey is seen singing directly to Paula. She hugs him. Quinones notes the line "and I owe it all to you." Corey says he was expressing his love for Paula, definitely. (Julia DeMato was singing to Randy, but I don’t think she was expressing love necessarily.)
Back to those 20 "losers." Hadas and Nasheka say that it was devastating to lose. Nasheka says some people were almost suicidal. Again, Quinones teases that they are about to be told that Corey was getting coaching.
Nasheka says every decision is crucial. Having someone to tell guide them would have been great. Quinones offers that if a judge were to give that kind of help? Fortson says, "Then they would need to go out on the street and find the star they want. If that kind of thing is going on behind the scenes, there is no need for American Idol."
Quinones finally tells them that a contestant among them did get that kind of help, and made it to the Top 12. They all seem to want to know who. Quinones gives them the big news – the relationship was also sexual. Meosha says she just can’t see any of the judges putting themselves in that position. Samantha Cohen says she can though, so can George Trice, "it wouldn’t surprise me."
Quinones tells us that viewers decide who gets ten out of the top twelve spots (actually, that’s not true anymore, and then it was 9, John – two voted in outright, and America’s choice in the Wildcard round). But, judge’s praise can inspire votes. Nasheka says if a judge is sexually involved with a contestant, that is just flat wrong.
Quinones shows a clip of Corey singing "Foolish Heart" with the same voiceover we heard before – he was relaxing in Paula’s jacuzzi in the days before that performance, and the nights in her bed. There is a poignant shot of the former Idol’s faces watching the video. Quinones rightly calls it "disillusionment." Fortson immediately says Clark didn’t deserve it, and it wasn’t fair.
Nasheka says she is not surprised. In fact, she first heard "whispers" shortly after her elimination (Wildcard round). Samatha says she is not sure how to react to this news. George says it’s "a slap in the face."
Back to Corey. Did he feel he was doing anything wrong? Corey says of course, that is why it was a secret Quinones asks what he would say to the other contestants. Corey stammers he doesn’t know, but says he didn’t ask for all of that.
Quinones says Corey admits what he did was wrong, but the lure of an affair with a beautiful celebrity would be more than any young man could handle. Corey asks what Quinones would do? He doesn’t answer.
But, he does ask what Corey will do, now that after two years, Paula is back on his phone? We hear a terse phone message, "Hi Corey, this is Paula. Call me back."
Back to the arrest. Corey’s "ungraceful" exit from American Idol, save for a few brief phone calls, was also the end of his relationship with Paula. Two years later, he has a record deal. Quinones asks, why speak up now?
"I need to set the record straight for myself. And, unfortunately, I need to set the record straight for her too because she was a part of it." Quinones asks if this is a publicity stunt. "No, this is me telling the truth, and it just happens to be a very explosive truth."
Quinones notes on April 8th, news broke that Corey was shopping a book proposal to publishers. Later that day, he got a message from Paula which said, "if reporters try to talk to you, say absolutely nothing. That’s what you do. This is crazy – I don’t know what its regarding, but something is going on. Okay? I hope you’re doing well."
Corey says he got several messages from Paula, and from her handlers, all telling him to stay calm... and stay quiet. Clark says his reaction was, "I’m not the one hyperventilating, but you guys might want to help your girl out because she sounds a little upset!"
Quinones says Paula offered things for Clark’s silence. Clark said she offered to help him with career, hooking him up with DeAngelo’s people, but she can’t promise anything would come out of it, he smirks. Just days ago, Clark alleges Paula pleaded with him not to publish a book, or talk about her at all. Clark says he promised he wouldn’t spread any lies or rumors about her. Paula was emphatic, he says, don’t talk about her at all. Corey says he told her he could not promise her that.
"I’m trying to clean off my pathway, and if that involves – if that means getting your dirt off my pathway, then I gotta do that."
Quinones says Abdul was sent a list of specific questions about Corey. The email response was the statement calling him a liar that you’ve undoubtedly heard by now. Last night, Quinones says, American Idol issued statement suggesting they look at Clark motives.
Jan Clark is informed for the first time that Corey wrote a song about his affair with Paula called "Paula-tics" She reads the lyrics and seems to seethe with anger, "He really loved her, how dare she do that to a young man!" Quinones asks what she would say to Paula. Jan says she wouldn’t want to. What would there be to say? "Stick to the script!" Dwayne offers.
Quinones reminds Corey the song says she broke his heart. Corey says she did, "You build up somebody like that, you tell them you care about them. Then they pull out? That’s not right."
A final shot of Corey singing, "Did you think you’d win this? Our secret’s not a secret, We’re no longer concealed. Straight Up!"
John Quinones promises to return tomorrow night, at PrimeTime Live’s regularly scheduled time (10 PM EST) with "fallout from ‘Fallen Idol.’"
I will be there too.
Sting7 has been a respected published writer for 16 years, as a music editor, entertainment critic, columnist, and interviewer. He also has a curious love for pro-wrestling! You can email Stinger at email@example.com.
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