Once upon a time, in Season 1, when Justin Guarini’s fluffy ‘fro entranced the nation’s pre-Biebs tween girls, Ryan Seacrest had a cohost. His name was Brian Dunkleman. He wasn’t particularly terrible or particularly… anything. But Season 2 rolled around and Seacrest stood alone for good, with Dunkleman’s disappearance never addressed on the show. New book American Idol: The Untold Story reveals that Dunkleman quit and regrets giving up on a potential fortune, but that if he hadn’t quit, he would have been fired. Ouch!
Howard Stern Adopts Sanjaya’s Cause
Season 6 contestant Sanjaya Malakar sported some of the most insane outfits and impressive hairstyles (Hey there, world’s most impressive mowhawk!) American Idol had seen. And the pubescent girls? Oh, how they loved him. Simon really didn’t, though, because our main man was a pretty subpar singer by Top 12 standards. Each round he advanced, anti-Sanjaya sentiment rose, with Simon leading an army of angry detractors. Radio show host Howard Stern found this pretty freaking funny, so he rallied his listeners to keep voting Sanjaya through. The contestant survived five full weeks of Simon’s public denouncements to make it to seventh place, when grandma votes finally overpowered the ironic sector.
Andrew Lloyd Webber Week
Iggy Pop wasn’t American Idol’s only bizarre musical guest. One of the show’s themes for Season 7 was “Andrew Lloyd Webber week,” featuring the musical theater composer himself as the contestants’ mentor for the week. We’re guessing the producers got kind of bored with the usual totally normal and groove-along-able themes like “the 1960s” and “country music,” so they turned instead to the songbooks of The Phantom of the Opera and Jesus Christ Superstar. What a fun (?) auditory experience! Not weird at all.
William Hung: Superstar
Before the show started so openly pursuing schadenfreudic interest in laughing at the clueless people who turn up for first-round auditions (now a dime dozen each season), there was William Hung, the tiny, good-hearted Asian man who sang America’s favorite cover of Ricky Martin’s “She Bangs.” His cultural stock was worth so much that he even got a cameo in an episode of Arrested Development during his 15 minutes, which even we admit was pretty awesome. Take note, Rebecca Black.
Simon Cowell’s Push-Up Competition
Season 2 manly man contestant Josh Gracin, a marine, challenged manly man judge Simon to a manly man push-up competition on live TV, because American Idol makes live TV fun and exciting like that! (Even nuttier: check out those wide-leg, high waisted pants Simon is rocking.) Simon lost and Ryan insulted him, and then the two made out. Okay, just kidding about the making out, but that would have been so American Idol.