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CNN LARRY KING LIVE

Encore Presentation: "American Idol"

Aired February 4, 2007 - 21:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


LARRY KING, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, it's all about "Idol" -- insights into the smash hit show that goes from the absolute worst...
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "AMERICAN IDOL," COURTESY FOX BROADCASTING COMPANY)

ANGELA MO: So please tell me why.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: ... to overnight sensations.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "AMERICAN IDOL," COURTESY FOX BROADCASTING COMPANY)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ruben Studdard.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: We'll talk with Ruben Studdard, who took the prize in season two.

Is finishing first all it's cracked up to be?

Plus, former finalist Kellie Picker, Ace Young and Latoya London.

Can losing on "Idol" turn out to be a really good career move?

Also, this week's wannabes -- how are they dealing with the 'dis or not going to Hollywood?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "AMERICAN IDOL," COURTESY FOX BROADCASTING COMPANY)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You guys, please. This means the world to me.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, Marianna, I'm sorry, honey.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: And the touching story of "Idol's" oldest auditioner.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "AMERICAN IDOL," COURTESY FOX BROADCASTING COMPANY)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just remember when a dream appears. (END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: All that, plus your calls and e-mail questions, and maybe a song or two, next on LARRY KING LIVE.

We'll meet some losing contestants later.

Our panel throughout the program, in Birmingham, Alabama, is Ruben Studdard, winner of "American Idol" in season two. Look how svelte he looks. He earned the nickname "the velvet Teddy bear." "The Return" -- "The Return" is his third and most recent album.

Kellie Picker is here in L.A. She was a top 10 finalist in season five. That was won by Taylor Hicks. Her debut album, "Small Town Girls," was released last October. She's got a big television scene coming, too.

Ace Young is back. He was also an "American Idol" top 10 finalist in year five. He's working on an album. He just released an independent single called "Scattered."

And in New York is Latoya London, "American Idol" top 10 finalist season three. Her first album, "Love and Life," was released in 2005 and she's going to play Nettie in the Chicago run of Oprah Winfrey's Broadway musical, "The Color Purple."

The new season of "American Idol" is making it -- are you nostalgic, by the way, Ruben, for your experience or are you over it? Is "American Idol" history to you?

RUBEN STUDDARD, "AMERICAN IDOL": No. I still enjoy watching it every now and again. But I love the show.

KING: Do you still like it, Kellie?

KELLIE PICKLER, FORMER "AMERICAN IDOL": I love it. I think it's exciting and, you know, I mean it's a phenomenal show and each year the ratings get higher and the talent gets better. And so it's a lot of fun.

KING: Ace?

ACE YOUNG, "AMERICAN IDOL" FINALIST: I love -- I love watching the competition when you get to know the people really well. And I also love the auditioning time right now, because you get to see everything. I mean --

PICKLER: Yes.

KING: Do you root for your favorites, too?

YOUNG: Totally.

LATOYA LONDON, "AMERICAN IDOL" FINALIST: Yes, I love it. I mean I love what's going on now with the bloopers and the people that didn't make it. You get to see the people that did make it and like they said, hear their stories.

And, you know, it's still a part of our lives. It's, you know, that's why we're here. That's why we've made it through the door. So I mean I love watching the show and I'm going to keep watching it.

KING: Concerning this week's auditions, let's take a look at some of the interesting aspirants.

Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "AMERICAN IDOL," COURTESY FOX BROADCASTING COMPANY)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, you make me feel shiny and new.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "AMERICAN IDOL," COURTESY FOX BROADCASTING COMPANY)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And I am still and wait here in the silence.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "AMERICAN IDOL," COURTESY FOX BROADCASTING COMPANY)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And I need your love.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "AMERICAN IDOL," COURTESY FOX BROADCASTING COMPANY)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because you're (UNINTELLIGIBLE). You know you have to (UNINTELLIGIBLE). The execution of your mind (ph), you know you have to (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: What else can you say?

Ruben, is this show exploiting these people?

STUDDARD: I don't think so. I think people have watched the show long enough to know exactly what's going to go on. They know if you sound bad, then they're going to put you on television. So I don't think they're being exploited at all.

KING: By the way, Tuesday's auditions took place in Birmingham.

Anything special about why Birmingham?

A lot of winners come from Birmingham, Ruben. STUDDARD: I don't know, man. You know, I guess, you know, the people here love to watch "American Idol" and they love to vote for us. And, you know, if somebody else gets on there this year from Birmingham, I think we might have the same result.

KING: And people are polite in Birmingham? Is that where you auditioned?

STUDDARD: Very much so.

KING: Kellie, where did you audition?

PICKLER: I auditioned in Greensboro, North Carolina. Yes.

KING: What do you make of these people when you see them? Come on, I mean they're not talented, right?

I mean, come on.

PICKLER: Well, I wouldn't say they're not talented.

KING: No?

PICKLER: No. Everybody has their own little special...

KING: What would you say then?

PICKLER: ... talent. You just have to figure out what it is.

KING: OK. So you don't think they're being exploited?

PICKLER: No. You exploit yourself, right?

KING: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

PICKLER: I mean, you know what...

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

PICKLER: I mean, you know what you're signing up for. I mean you've seen the contracts, you've seen the show.

It's been on, what, five years now?

And so I mean you know -- you know what you're signing up for. So you can't blame anybody but yourself.

KING: Do you agree with that, Ace?

YOUNG: I think that -- I think there's never a bad talent. There's always a bad booking.

So there's always a crowd for somebody, right?

And right now we (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

KING: All right, why do you think some of these people, honestly, go on?

YOUNG: I think a lot of them, truthfully, never really had the make or break opportunity. I know I didn't really have mine until I was -- I was older. I started singing when I was about 11 years old. And it wasn't until I got out of high school that I decided to really pursue it. And, you know, it's just -- it's -- it's an odd thing. You never know when you're going to actually have an opportunity to do something for the rest of your life.

KING: Latoya, do you think they all believe they have talent?

LONDON: Of course, you know, whether it's, you know, putting on their costumes and coming in and trying to show every aspect of their talent. Maybe they can get on some kind of way. You know, they want to show what they can do. And if, you know, if they don't -- if they don't do this right, they pull something else out of their hat.

So, I mean, you know, people want to -- they want to be famous. They want to be rich. And they feel like, you know, "American Idol" is a way for them to get there, to be noticed. And, you know, they're let through to the point where they see Paula, Randy and Simon, so they think that they have gotten there for a reason, because, honestly, we go through a few auditions before we reach Paula, Simon and Randy.

So, you know, they think they've gotten there for a reason.

KING: So their hopes have been built up.

LONDON: And...

KING: Yes.

LONDON: And then that's when -- when they get the truth.

KING: Now, Jennifer Hudson, who's now won two, already, awards for supporting actress for "Dreamgirls" and is nominated for an Academy Award, said this recently for "Essence" magazine. She said: "On 'American Idol,' you go through this mental thing. You've got to get yourself back together. You've been abused, misled, brainwashed to believe whatever they want you to think."

What do you make of that, Ruben?

STUDDARD: I don't think anybody abused me or brainwashed me. But I'm so happy for Jennifer and I'm, you know, I've always been a fan of hers. And I'm actually just -- I'm happy that god has blessed her with the success that she's had with the "Dreamgirls" film. I'm really pleased for her.

But I don't think that I ever went through any abuse.

KING: You were not abused? STUDDARD: No, not at all. They did end it...

KING: Were you, Kellie?

STUDDARD: I'm sorry.

KING: What do you make of what she said?

PICKLER: Well, they didn't take me out back and beat me, so.

KING: No, you know, what, she must have...

PICKLER: Well, you know, I think that you know what you're signing up for when you -- when you get in line. I mean you have contracts that -- you read them all. It specifically states everything in there. And I mean you -- you're just -- it's at your own risk.

So, I mean...

KING: Do they tell you what you have...

PICKLER: ... they took great care of me, so I can't complain.

KING: Do they tell you what you have to sing, Ace?

YOUNG: That's the one thing I would everybody is learn a lot of music that you're not familiar with because it's not the show that tells you what you can and can't sing. You really have to get songs cleared through the publishers, the writers.

So you may know a lot of Beatles songs or a lot of Michael Jackson songs and you can't do those on the show, because the publishing won't clear.

PICKLER: Yes.

KING: Oh.

What do you think, Latoya, about what Jennifer said?

LONDON: I feel that everyone has their own experience. My experience wasn't like that. I wasn't made to do anything that I didn't want to do. I wasn't, you know -- we were in a bubble. So, you know, when you get on the show, yes, you sign a contract and there's things that it states in the contract that, you know, your likeness and all these things is at their discretion, you know?

So if -- and the only way you can get through is if you sign it, so you sign it.

So once you get to that point where you're on the show and in the top 12, I mean, you're pretty much in a bubble. And, you know, I personally didn't go through anything bad, as far as the stressfulness and the things that we don't know about. That's just kind of show business... KING: You didn't experience it?

PICKLER: ... you know what I mean?

You've just got to go with it.

KING: When we come back, the Alabama "Idol" wannabe whose mom said she'd never make the grade. She got good news and bad from the judges.

She'll talk about it, when we come back,

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "AMERICAN IDOL," COURTESY FOX BROADCASTING COMPANY)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why is my reflection someone I don't know?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "AMERICAN IDOL," COURTESY FOX BROADCASTING COMPANY)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And you ain't no good, but oh, they don't know.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "AMERICAN IDOL," COURTESY FOX BROADCASTING COMPANY)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Baby, now I compare you to a kiss from a rose on the grave. Oh, the more I get of you, the stranger it feels yes.

SIMON COWELL, JUDGE: Chris, you're through to Hollywood.

RANDY JACKSON, JUDGE: Welcome to Hollywood.

COWELL: You've made it to Hollywood.

JACKSON: We said yes. Just remember that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "AMERICAN IDOL," COURTESY FOX BROADCASTING COMPANY)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Love can make you do some crazy things and I turned around and you're standing here, standing here. Oh, yes, no, nobody, no, no, no, no -- no.

COWELL: What the hell was that?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, gosh.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: We're back.

Joining us from Tulsa, Oklahoma is Nicole Gatzman, who's been auditioning in Birmingham, Alabama on Tuesday's edition of "American Idol." She did not make it through to Hollywood.

Let's watch Nicole's audition before we talk with her.

Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "AMERICAN IDOL," COURTESY FOX BROADCASTING COMPANY)

NICOLE GATZMAN, AUDITIONED FOR THIS SEASON'S "AMERICAN IDOL," REJECTED: They think we're lovers, kept undercover. I'll just ignore it, but they keep saying, we laugh just a little too loud.

COWELL: You're very old-fashioned and you sing through your nose. And it's a shame.

JACKSON: Well, you're young. I just think that you've got a lot more work to do if you really, really, really want this.

GATZMAN: I really, really, really want this.

JACKSON: I don't think you're nearly ready for this.

GATZMAN: OK.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Nicole, did you accept that?

GATZMAN: Um -- did I accept that?

I...

KING: Yes. In other words, was it fair criticism?

GATZMAN: I think so. It wasn't as harsh as other people, so I just accepted it, I took it and I, you know, went back to my voice lessons and just tried harder. And I expect to go back next year just more prepared now.

KING: The show created the impression that your mom didn't think you could sing.

Was that false?

GATZMAN: That was misinterpreted. He -- they had asked me about how I began singing and I told them about when I was six and doing pageants. And my mom didn't think I could sing. But, I mean, she doesn't think I'm talentless now, obviously. Well -- I don't think I am either, but I mean she doesn't think that now. It's just misinterpreted, so. KING: You've entered beauty pageants, too, right?

GATZMAN: Yes.

KING: In fact, you know you the new Miss. America, right?

GATZMAN: Yes, Lauren Nelson. She's very exciting.

KING: What, you had the same voice teacher?

GATZMAN: Yes, we have the same voice teacher. I was so excited that night so...

KING: Sure.

Are you going to come back to "American Idol" again?

GATZMAN: If something doesn't happen before then that's, you know, even better, that would be great, too. But if not, I'm looking forward to "American Idol" next year. So, yes, I will go back.

KING: But your -- your dreams of being a singer or a show business person have not faltered because of this?

GATZMAN: No. They'll have to have 200 million judges in front of me tell me no before I'll stop so. They...

KING: See now, that's -- she's going to make it.

LONDON: That's all right, girl.

KING: You've got that gumption, Nicole. You're going to make it.

Thanks.

GATZMAN: Thank you.

KING: That's Nicole Gatzman from Tulsa.

An e-mail question, guys, from Don in Toronto, Canada: "I hate the judges' remarks about people being fat or ugly or having bad hair. It's not a beauty contest. Don't you think the judges should restrict their comments to singing?"

Kellie?

KING: You know, I think it -- "American Idol" -- I think that the judges are just trying to farm the whole package, or whatever. And they're going to critique everything about you. I mean this is the most critical industry you can be in, because you're constantly being watched and judged and picked apart. And I think that if you can't take constructive criticism, then this is the wrong profession for you.

So I think that you have to be able to take whatever they give you. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion and you're going to get turned down more times than you're going to get picked, so.

KING: Ruben, your runner-up has done very well, too.

Does that bug you?

STUDDARD: Not at all. I'm actually very happy for Clay, you know? We've both done well.

KING: It was a good experience for you, obviously.

STUDDARD: It was very much so.

KING: We have an e-mail question from -- an e-mail question from Casey in Montreal: "I used to get sad when my favorites were eliminated, but now I think it's better not to win because you have more freedom to do your own thing."

What's your experience, Ace?

YOUNG: I think that's a -- I think as long as you know who you are when you get into it, you know what you stand for and you're ready to push forward, I really think the opportunity stands there for you regardless. I mean Kellie is doing great on her album. Chris is doing amazing right now. Katharine is just getting out of the box. Taylor is going great. And I'm putting an album together with some of the best people in the world as far as writing, so I couldn't -- I couldn't be in a better place.

KING: And Latoya, you're doing fine, right?

LONDON: I'm doing wonderful. I'm steady working, you know, performing everywhere. I have a wonderful job coming up in May. So I'm very excited. And "American Idol" just opens up a lot of doors for all of us, whether you win, whether you don't, you know?

It's just about how much you do your part to pursue your dreams afterward.

KING: Up next, the "Idol" hopeful who was branded by "USA Today" as the worst singer on last night's show.

Is it true that he learned to sing from Randy and Paula?

We'll ask him, when we come back.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "AMERICAN IDOL," COURTESY FOX BROADCASTING COMPANY)

COWELL: You were absolutely useless during that audition.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "AMERICAN IDOL," COURTESY FOX BROADCASTING COMPANY)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just let me do it now for you. I swear to god, if I do not advance, if I do not make it, I was wrong.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "AMERICAN IDOL," COURTESY FOX BROADCASTING COMPANY)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want another chance.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "AMERICAN IDOL," COURTESY FOX BROADCASTING COMPANY)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Let me get another one.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "AMERICAN IDOL," COURTESY FOX BROADCASTING COMPANY)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: America -- they'll love me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "AMERICAN IDOL," COURTESY FOX BROADCASTING COMPANY)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just give me a chance.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "AMERICAN IDOL," COURTESY FOX BROADCASTING COMPANY)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All I'm saying is if there was a way, if there was some way, we can work it out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "AMERICAN IDOL," COURTESY FOX BROADCASTING COMPANY)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can do whatever. Cartwheels. Do you want me to cartwheels?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "AMERICAN IDOL," COURTESY FOX BROADCASTING COMPANY)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I've worked so hard for this.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "AMERICAN IDOL," COURTESY FOX BROADCASTING COMPANY) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I've got one more for you -- I can -- I can do something else. I can do blues.

COWELL: I'm sure you've got a hundred.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can I give you guys something else?

COWELL: Yes, an exit.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "AMERICAN IDOL," COURTESY FOX BROADCASTING COMPANY)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In every other audition city, they fought with the judges. Birmingham was the only place they did take no for an answer.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "AMERICAN IDOL," COURTESY FOX BROADCASTING COMPANY)

COWELL: It was, possibly, the worst version of that song I have ever heard in my life.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thanks, Simon.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "AMERICAN IDOL," COURTESY FOX BROADCASTING COMPANY)

COWELL: That was absolutely useless. It's a no.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK.

Thank you.

COWELL: It was just like a karaoke performance.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "AMERICAN IDOL," COURTESY FOX BROADCASTING COMPANY)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you for your time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "AMERICAN IDOL," COURTESY FOX BROADCASTING COMPANY)

JACKSON: Nothing was special about it.

COWELL: Actually, you're corny.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "AMERICAN IDOL," COURTESY FOX BROADCASTING COMPANY)

COWELL: Reality, not good enough.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "AMERICAN IDOL," COURTESY FOX BROADCASTING COMPANY)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you guys so much.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "AMERICAN IDOL," COURTESY FOX BROADCASTING COMPANY)

COWELL: That was a complete and utter mess.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "AMERICAN IDOL," COURTESY FOX BROADCASTING COMPANY)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I appreciate your honesty (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

COWELL: I don't think you're going to be reaching for the stars after that audition.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "AMERICAN IDOL," COURTESY FOX BROADCASTING COMPANY)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you very much. Goodbye.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: That ain't New York.

ERIC MUELLER, AUDITIONED FOR THIS SEASON'S "AMERICAN IDOL," REJECTED: That's true.

KING: We now welcome to LARRY KING LIVE Eric Mueller. His L.A. audition was seen on last night's "American Idol." He did not make it through.

MUELLER: Yes.

KING: Eric is laughing it up.

MUELLER: Yes, it's great.

KING: Take it easy, Eric. We're going to show your performance and then we'll ask you about it.

Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "AMERICAN IDOL," COURTESY FOX BROADCASTING COMPANY)

MUELLER: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) you know you (UNINTELLIGIBLE). The execution of your mind, you know you have (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

Do you want me to go lower?

COWELL: Yes.

JACKSON: Yes.

MUELLER: You see right through distorted eyes, you know you (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

COWELL: No, we think you've got...

MUELLER: The execution...

COWELL: Eric, Eric, you need to go lower than that.

MUELLER: You want lower?

The execution of your mind, you know you (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Where did you get the hair, Eric?

MUELLER: Oh, it -- like about a week ago. It was great.

KING: You glad you did that?

MUELLER: Yes, actually I'm very proud of it. I had a whole lot of fun. You know, I wouldn't necessarily do it twice, but...

KING: How about the rejection, though, being told, you know, being criticized? I mean...

MUELLER: Oh, the greatest...

KING: Why face that?

MUELLER: The greatest moment of my life. I've never been happier.

KING: Why?

MUELLER: (LAUGHTER)

KING: Are you OK, Eric?

Why?

MUELLER: Oh, I...

KING: You go on, you sing, they call you the worst singer. "USA Today" said you're the worst singer of the night. The guy ridiculous you, tells you lower, tells you how to sing while you're singing and you're happy about it.

MUELLER: Well, there's a lot more to it than just that, but well, the main point is I went up there and enjoyed myself. I had a goal to set out for and I succeeded.

KING: Which was?

MUELLER: Exposure.

KING: You wanted to get on -- which you -- and obviously it's succeeded.

MUELLER: Well, the whole point is if you decide to go up with something and crash it on purpose, what more can you do?

KING: In fact, what do you do for a living, Eric?

MUELLER: I'm a tee guide (ph). But basically I do almost everything and everything under the sun.

KING: Handy man?

MUELLER: Handy man, basically. I've worked for Star Support (ph). I build office chairs, you know? They send me all over the place to do everything. Like they have me cover other departments when they don't have them filled.

KING: Is it true that your audition information suggested that part of your preparation was watching Randy and Paula?

MUELLER: I did study them a little bit.

KING: Do you think you sounded like they did?

MUELLER: I didn't even try.

KING: The song you selected...

MUELLER: Oh, "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath?"

Oh, awesome rock song. Just awesome. One of the best. Basically, I start off on one note. They wouldn't let me do it. I dropped it down. They wouldn't let me do it. I dropped it down, down, down again. Finally it got to a point where I just wasn't comfortable with the range and at that point I was just kind of like well, who cares?

KING: Do you sing in clubs, in bars and stuff?

MUELLER: I've only sang in one bar and that was only one time. I went up there with a friend and I went into a Zeppelin song, "Stairway To Heaven." Basically, I realized when I was going on after and most of the song is pretty bland, but when you go up to -- when you go up to those super high vocals, when you go up to something really awesome, basically well, I left the entire place speechless, you know?

KING: I'll bet you did.

MUELLER: And I walk out of -- I walked out with the biggest smile on my face.

KING: Ruben, what do you make of Eric?

MUELLER: Ooh, Ruben.

STUDDARD: (LAUGHTER).

MUELLER: Hey, Ruben.

How are you doing, man?

STUDDARD: What's up?

What's up, Eric?

Good job. He was all right, man. He was -- he was funny.

KING: OK. Good comment.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: Kellie, what do you make of our man here?

PICKLER: Um...

KING: Want to do a duet album with him?

PICKLER: Oh, absolutely. Huh.

KING: Kellie.

MUELLER: Ah, be nice. Ah, come on.

PICKLER: Well, you know, he had a good time. And if you succeeded your goal, by all means, sing away.

KING: Ace?

(CROSSTALK) PICKLER: Sing your little heart out.

KING: Ace, what do you make of Eric, who apparently had a very good time that's carrying over?

YOUNG: I -- I'm just glad to hear you didn't cut your hair up last night, before the night.

MUELLER: Oh, no, no.

YOUNG: You did it before. So you -- you wanted to cut your hair. It wasn't that you -- you didn't want to, you know...

MUELLER: Oh, no, no. I did this completely at random.

YOUNG: OK.

MUELLER: I wasn't expecting to be here at all.

PICKLER: I (UNINTELLIGIBLE) mine cut, too.

YOUNG: Kellie cut hers, too.

PICKLER: I did.

YOUNG: Yes, I like that.

PICKLER: I'm trying to be like Ace.

KING: Latoya -- Latoya...

PICKLER: He's my role model.

KING: Latoya, what do you think of Eric?

LONDON: I think that, you know, Eric did his thing. Eric did what he wanted to do. He completed his goal, what he set out to do. My opinion, I don't think it's the type of voice that would appeal to the masses, but there is a market for you, Eric, and I say good luck to you if that's what you want to do.

MUELLER: That's all you've got to hope for.

KING: OK.

Eric, is it what you want to do? Do you want to be a performer?

MUELLER: Oh, with all my heart. It's...

KING: So what are you going to do? Are you going to take lessons? What are you going to do to make yourself better if this is your goal?

MUELLER: Well, actually, I came to realize while I was watching my audition is that one of my real problems is my consonants. Basically I have real trouble performing. It was like a slight speech impediment. So basically I want to (UNINTELLIGIBLE) a little focus into it and basically -- well, also, maybe next time not have so much fun with it. Maybe be a little bit more serious.

KING: A good singing teacher can correct that.

MUELLER: Yes, it's kind of hard to find one, though.

KING: Yes?

MUELLER: Basically -- well.

YOUNG: No, no way.

MUELLER: Well, when you're really poor, I mean it's hard.

KING: You live here?

MUELLER: Yes, in L.A. Well, I'm on the outskirts but...

KING: Are you single?

MUELLER: Yes. Happily single.

KING: I like the way you smile.

Good luck to you, Eric.

MUELLER: Thanks, Larry.

KING: Eric Mueller.

Coming up, the "Idol" contestant who brought her formerly famous mom into the audition to defend her honor. And her mom is here tonight, too. You'll meet them both, right after the break.

MUELLER: Really?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "AMERICAN IDOL," COURTESY FOX BROADCASTING COMPANY)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) shiny bright, lonely rivers sigh wait for me, wait for me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "AMERICAN IDOL," COURTESY FOX BROADCASTING COMPANY)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: 'Cause I'm saving all my love, yes I'm saving all my love, I'm saving all my love for you, you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We're back with our panel. Ruben Studdard's new album is "The Return". Kellie Picker's gold album is "Small Town Girl". Ace -- Ace -- Kellie Pickler, I'm sorry. Ace Young, "Scattered" is his single. And Latoya London is rehearsing to play Nettie in the Chicago run of Oprah Winfrey's brilliant musical production "The Color Purple".

We now welcome Marianna Riccio. Her "Idol" audition in L.A. was featured on last night's show. She did not make it through to Hollywood. With her is her mother Maria Lauren. Now, Maria was one of Dean Martin's glamorous golddiggers. She appeared on TV and on stage. That was one of the prettiest group of girls, more than pretty.

MARIA LAUREN, FMR. DEAN MARTIN GOLDDIGGER: Aw, shucks.

KING: The golddiggers were unbelievable. Maria, in that group, was unbelievable. She was at her daughter's audition. We'll watch that audition now. Here's Marianna.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(MUSIC)

SIMON COWELL, JUDGE, "AMERICAN IDOL": You sounded like Cher after she's been to the dentist.

MARIANNA RICCIO, "AMERICAN IDOL" CONTESTANT: No, please. I'm on my knees. I -- this opportunity, it means the world to me. You guys?

I'm on my knees. I'm on my knees.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Cher after the dentist. That I don't understand.

Why were you begging?

RICCIO: You know, it's funny, Larry. Before I got in -- during this whole ordeal, before I had gotten into the room, they were saying, you know, just people in general saying, you know, "If they say no, plead your case." So I've been doing theater my whole life and acting and stuff, and I guess just as a person following a direction, I got into the moment and just -- I was running on pure adrenaline.

KING: You think you performed well?

RICCIO: it wasn't my best audition. I'll be honest. I can do better than what I did.

KING: Marianna, are you glad she entered?

LAUREN: Maria.

KING: I'm sorry. You're Maria.

LAUREN: That's OK.

Well, sure. I mean, you can't look back with regret. I mean, actually I didn't want her to do it because the contract is pretty fierce. They really -- they own you, you know? It's...

KING: Really?

LAUREN: ... you can't do anything. And I looked at this and I went, "I don't think so because they could edit this, they could make you look like this, they could..." you know. And -- but she has a lot of little cousins. So they really wanted to see her. They're all over, you know, the East Coast and out here in...

KING: How did you feel when she was criticized?

LAUREN: Well, I could see right away that she was not singing in the right place. She was nervous and kind of had her nerves in her throat. I know that she had prepared another song and had a backup song. And they wouldn't let her sing that song because they didn't have the rights to it. So she had to kind of, you know, pull that one out.

RICCIO: Wing is it out of the air.

KING: Would you do it again?

RICCIO: Audition for "American Idol"? I don't think I'd audition, just again, just because it was just such a long ordeal. I'm kind of enjoying the moment right now. Last night I got over 200 e-mails of people saying that they thought I did a really great job. And me, personally, I don't think I did the best I could have done. I've had so many great opportunities to sing in my life. And they've been successful. Unfortunately this one wasn't.

KING: Kellie, can you understand her?

PICKLER: Huh?

KING: Can you understand Marianna.

PICKLER: Yes. I mean, everyone has their own opinions. And it's -- you know, I would advise you never to give up your dream. If this is what you want to do, then by all means pursue it. So, I mean, everyone...

RICCIO: Well, I want to pursue it, just maybe not through "American Idol".

PICKLER: Absolutely. I mean, "American Idol" is not for everyone. Everyone has their own different ways I was that they want to go out, you know, go about pursuing it. So whatever's best for you. And, I support you.

RICCIO: Thank you.

KING: Ace? YOUNG: Did you get to sing the other song, even though they couldn't clear it for them?

RICCIO: I didn't get to because when I was...

LAUREN: Beforehand you did.

RICCIO: Beforehand I did. But not when I was...

YOUNG: When you got in front of the judges.

RICCIO: ... Simon and -- yes.

LAUREN: Then it was switched.

RICCIO: But, you know, I'm enjoying the moment now. I did a lot of radio footage today. And got over 200 e-mails just from people, just that really...

LAUREN: That was kind of nice.

RICCIO: ... had faith in me. So it means a lot.

KING: Why do you think, Maria, we enjoy even watching those people who are rejected?

LAUREN: I don't know. To tell you the truth, I really never watched that part. I always, like, when they pick their 12. I enjoy that part. But you have to go through that part in order to get there.

KING: What do you think Dean Martin would have said about all this?

It's a new rage of show business.

LAUREN: Well. he probably would have called it crazy. But, you know, that's what he called Jerry Lewis, crazy, you know.

KING: Latoya, would you tell her never to give up?

LONDON: I would tell her never, never, never give up. Like Kellie said that, you know, there is plenty of ways out there to get discovered. "American Idol" is just one. So, you know, just follow your heart's desire and the doors will open for you. They will.

KING: Ruben, you never tell anyone to quit, right?

STUDDARD: Never. Never quit. You did a great job. And you have a pretty smile so...

RICCIO: Oh, thank you so much. Means a lot.

STUDDARD: You're welcome.

KING: Danny Kaye, one of the greatest entertainers of all time, was thrown out of an audition and told by the head of the nightclub, "You will never make it in show business."

Sylvester Stallone was thrown out of the University of Miami School of Drama, "You have no ability to act."

Hang tough.

RICCIO: Thank you, Larry.

KING: Still ahead, the contestant who really pushed the limit on last night's age limit. His sad story didn't get him a spot on the show, but it did bring handshakes and hugs and tears from the judges.

Sherman Pore is here next on LARRY KING LIVE.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAULA ABDUL, JUDGE, "AMERICAN IDOL": Do people tell you have a very interesting voice?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My talking voice is completely different from my singing voice.

COWELL: Well, I hope so.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (SINGING)

Simon, he hates it...

COWELL: I do.

ABDUL: And just for that reason alone, you're through to Hollywood.

RANDY JACKSON, JUDGE, "AMERICAN IDOL": Welcome to Hollywood. Welcome to Hollywood.

COWELL: I say yes.

JACKSON: Welcome to Hollywood.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: There is an age limit on "American Idol," but Sherman Pore had a petition which earned him an opportunity to audition for the "Idol," even though he was way past its age limit. He wasn't singing for himself last night. He didn't make it. But watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SHERMAN PORE, FORMER "IDOL" CONTESTANT: My lady and I have been together 20 years, and she came down with cancer. She passed away Friday, two days before the audition.

ABDUL: I'm so sorry. COWELL: Wow, Sherman.

PORE: I'm going to sing a song for my lady.

COWELL: Called?

PORE: "You Belong to Me."

(MUSIC)

COWELL: Thank you very much.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: How did you get on?

PORE: How did I get on? I just got a petition, wrote them a letter, and when I got up there at the Rose Bowl, they let me come in.

KING: Did your girlfriend know you were going to do this?

PORE: She helped me cook it up. About three weeks before I lost her, I found a little blurb in the newspaper that said "American Idol" was getting ready to audition. And she had been pushing me for years to do something with my singing. I would come home every night singing love songs to her.

KING: Because you can sing.

PORE: Well, thank you very much.

KING: Was it hard to do emotionally?

PORE: Very hard. Very hard. That day was very hard.

KING: Why did you go through with this?

PORE: I promised her I would. She asked me no matter what happened to her, she asked me to promise that I would go ahead with my singing and share it with as many people as possible, because I had done it for her so often.

KING: Glad you did it?

PORE: I wouldn't have it any other way. She and I are winners.

KING: What was her cancer?

PORE: She had ovarian cancer that metastasized everywhere. It moved pretty fast, and, you know, I used to call her at work and sing a love song to her every now and then. And one day I called her and I forgot to ask the -- ask for her extension number before I started singing. About halfway through the song, the operator says, "who is this? Who is this?" And I finished the song and said, "you have just been serenaded by the phantom crooner." Just got around the office and she laughed about it, but she didn't tell anybody. She came home and told me that night.

Few days later, she called me and says, Karen is having a rough day today. This is her extension number. Would you call her and give her a -- and she told me that night that this turned Karen's day around. So every now and then, she would call me and I would fix somebody's day.

KING: What do you do for a living?

PORE: I'm a maintenance engineer. I repair all kind of factory machinery.

KING: You know, Sherman was on this show before. He was an alternate juror in the Winona Ryder case, right?

What a way to memorialize someone. You want to -- that's a great song, by the way.

PORE: Thank you.

KING: "You Belong to Me." Great song. Want to sing a little?

PORE: I would love to.

KING: Go ahead, sing a little.

PICKLER: Serenade us.

KING: Do a couple of bars of any love song you feel like.

(MUSIC)

KING: That was brilliant. That was one of...

PICKLER: Beautiful.

KING: That was one of two songs written by Charlie Chaplin. He also wrote "Smile."

Sherman, you're an ace.

PORE: Thank you very much. Thank you.

KING: Great to have you on this program.

PORE: Thank you for having me here.

KING: Sherman Pore.

We'll be back with more after this. But first, let's check with Anderson Cooper, who will host "AC 360" at the top of the hour. You top this.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: I was going to say, Larry, a tough act to follow. Man, Sherman. A very disturbing story we're reporting on tonight, Larry. Police say a 29-year-old man, a convicted sex offender, found a way to make himself look like a 12-year-old, enrolled himself in several middle schools, if you can believe it, and went unnoticed for two years. How could this happen? Tonight, we'll get some answers.

Plus, the war in Iraq and its ties to Iran. Tomorrow, the Bush administration plans to release a new intelligence estimate. We'll look at what it says and whether it offers proof of Iran's anti- American actions in Iraq.

Also, hear from someone who knows Iraq like few others do. Reporter Michael Ware. We received hundreds of e-mail responses to my one-on-one interview with him. If you've missed it the first time, now is your chance to see it. All that and more, Larry, at the top of the hour.

KING: Thanks. Anderson Cooper, 10:00 Eastern, 7:00 Pacific.

In our next segment, Ruben Studdard, then and now. We'll compare the hit maker's style from years ago to the Ruben America knows and loves today. That's next. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's what some of the contestants are talking about, that you're a panther.

(MUSIC)

COWELL: That was horrific. The outfit was horrific. The meowing was ridiculous and the singing was horrendous.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: We're back with the group. We have an e-mail question from Laura in Newark, Delaware.

"I want to ask Ace, is there any possibility of you and Chris Daughtry touring together? It would be great to see both of you in the same concert."

YOUNG: For this first tour, he started actually now -- I'm going to go see him tonight. But in the future, definitely.

KING: He's here now?

YOUNG: Yes. He's actually out in Los Angeles. We're all going to go see him tonight and support him kicking off his first tour.

KING: An e-mail from Rosetta in Montgomery, Alabama for Ruben. "Ruben, first of all, I always thought you looked great, very sexy. But after losing all that weight, how is your love life?

STUDDARD: I'm good. I'm good.

KING: How much weight have you lost?

STUDDARD: About 85 pounds.

KING: Ruben, we're going to do something little interesting tonight. We have been showing auditions of others who failed. Let's show an audition of someone who succeeded.

We go back to season two, and this was the audition of Ruben Studdard. Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(MUSIC)

COWELL: Thank you.

All right, all right.

ABDUL: Yes or no to "American Idol?"

JACKSON: I would say yes.

STUDDARD: Thank the Lord. Oh, my God.

COWELL: Yes. Paula?

ABDUL: Then you're going to Hollywood.

JACKSON: Welcome to Hollywood, dog!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Did you have all that confidence then, Ruben?

STUDDARD: Oh, man, I was so nervous, but it was really fun. It was really fun actually getting the chance to see everybody. That was -- that was a great experience, man.

KING: How about the night you won?

STUDDARD: The night I won...

KING: They are making that announcement, you and Clay are standing there, we had both of you on the next night on this show.

STUDDARD: Right.

KING: Did you expect to win, truth?

STUDDARD: I didn't really -- at that point, I didn't really care which way it went. I just wanted to go home, man. We had been in L.A. so long. I was so ready to go home. But you know, after I won, it actually got worse than it was when we were on the show. So -- and actually I had to wake up the next morning at like 4:30 and do like 100 interviews. So it was -- but it was a blessing, though. I'm happy I won. And I'm happy about everything that's happened after the show.

KING: By the way, program reminder, Saturday night, a major program dealing with the subject of beyond a reasonable doubt. How do you interpret that quote that has gotten so famous? We'll have lawyers and others discussing it Saturday night. Beyond a reasonable doubt.

Coming up in our final segment, if you thought "American Idol" found all the great musical talents out there, you haven't seen singers we managed to find when we sent the King cam out to the streets as we go to break. Yes, our own show. A sample of what's ahead. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: That's our own Kellie Pickler there. Is that from the album?

PICKLER: Yes, that is the first single. It's called "Red High Heels."

STUDDARD: Love that song.

PICKLER: Thanks, Ruben. Yes. That was the first music video I ever shot. And the album is doing well. It debuted at No. 1 on the country charts when it came out. And so far, they're keeping me busy. I'm getting to go on the Brad Paisley tour this summer. So looking forward to that.

KING: (inaudible). Not to be outdone by "American Idol..."

PICKLER: Absolutely.

KING: Not to be outdone by "American Idol," we sent our own camera, the King cam, to the streets of Los Angeles. Take a look at just some of the potential talent -- or not -- that we discovered.

(MUSIC)

KING: "The Larry Idol Show." Why can't we do it? We could do an imitation. Hey, this is an imitation business. That's all they do in television. They imitate each other. That's all we do.

How long can -- Latoya, how long can "American Idol" stay on top like this?

LONDON: Wow, I would say as long as the ratings stay high. You know, it's show business. It's a moneymaker. And as long as it's making money, it makes sense. So they're going to keep it on, I'm sure, for a while, until the people get tired of it, which I don't see that happening.

KING: There have always been contests like this in the history of broadcasting, back to Major Bowes on radio. Ruben, why do we like them so much?

STUDDARD: "American Idol" in particular, I think people just enjoy having a hand at, you know, making people famous and picking their own stars. And that's what they get a chance to do with "American Idol," not just the winner, but they pick the whole top 12 and they fall in love with all of the finalists. And I think that's what gives us the edge.

KING: Kellie, do you think you can keep on keeping on? You can go on ad infinitum?

PICKLER: You think I can?

KING: No, the show.

PICKLER: The show can? I think it's great. I think what's so great about it, you know, like Ruben said, America has a chance to, you know, take part in the winner. And they pick the winner and they're able to watch. And it's a family show, you know, so it's fun, and it just grows and gets bigger and better each year.

KING: Are you surprised, Ace?

YOUNG: I'm not.

KING: This I think is the biggest year yet.

YOUNG: It gets bigger every year. But the one thing that I think is great is you really get to see that -- you don't just come out of your house and become a professional. A lot of people put in a lot of time to get ready. And you fall on your face quite a bit. So we get to see that and see every aspect.

KING: Your calendar is out now? Right?

YOUNG: Yes.

KING: You've got a calendar and a single.

YOUNG: I have a calendar out for children's hospital. I have a charity. You can check it out at highrollerswithheart.org. And all the proceeds on that Web site go directly to the charity for children's hospital.

KING: And the name of the single is?

YOUNG: Name of the single is "Scattered," and I wrote it and produced it with a friend in New York, and it's available on iTunes.

KING: And your name isn't on it, it's just your name, Ace, sort of like a...

YOUNG: It's in the...

KING: Hard to spot it.

YOUNG: It's in the spade. It's in the spade cartoon.

KING: Ace of spades.

YOUNG: There you go.

KING: Congratulations.

YOUNG: Thank you so much.

PICKLER: Thank you.

KING: Thank you. Ruben, keep on keeping on, Ruben.

STUDDARD: Thank you, sir.

KING: And Latoya, good luck with "The Color Purple." You'll be fantastic.

LONDON: Thank you. Thank you so much.

KING: That's a great show.

Ruben Studdard, Kellie Pickler, Ace Young and Latoya London.

That's it for tonight's edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Don't forget that reasonable doubt show on Saturday night. You will be informed.

Right now, if we want to be informed, we always go to New York and who else but Anderson Cooper and "AC 360." Anderson, what's up tonight?

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.voxant.com

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