The rumors surrounding popular Idol finalist Mario Vasquez’s abrupt departure from the show have generally fixed on personal skeletons, including speculation that he might be gay. Vasquez was replaced on the show by Nikko Smith, son of Hall of Fame shortstop Ozzie Smith.
But the truth may be a lot more calculated and clear-eyed than anything like that. Roger Friedman of Fox News is claiming that Vasquez has turned the tables on Idol and is getting while the getting is good having used Idol to catapult to fame:
- He’s hired former “Idol” runner-up Clay Aiken’s high-powered record-industry lawyer. And he may have jeopardized his “amateur” status by being featured on an album that’s already been released.
Vazquez, I’ve learned, has gotten Atlanta entertainment lawyer Jess L. Rosen to represent him. Coincidentally — or not, depending on how you look at it — Rosen is most famous for extricating Aiken from his octopus-tentacled “American Idol” management contract with Simon Fuller’s 19 Entertainment last year.
Unbeknownst to anyone, Mario is featured on an album that was originally released last May and had a re-release this week, according to Amazon.com. He sings several pop songs as the only guest vocalist on “Worlds of Change,” by an Argentine flamenco and R&B guitarist named Cesar.
….The show’s Web site states: “In order to be eligible, the contestants are not permitted to have any CURRENT recording or talent-management agreements.”
In leaving the show, Vasquez was obviously convinced of the value of bowing out now rather than continuing through the needless process of competition. Aiken would be his role model.
After losing “American Idol” to Ruben Studdard, Aiken realized that he was stuck with a management contract that kept him with Fuller, the show’s owner, for years to come at a very high commission.
Rosen got him out of it and moved him over to Jeff Kwatinetz’s behemoth agency, The Firm.
….So I guess it’s fairly clear that Mario’s “personal reasons” were specifically about the money he could make if he bolted the show before being indebted to them legally and financially for a couple of years.
Rosen, who did not return calls, prides himself on negotiating contracts for artists, according to his Web site.
As for Mario, he’s also now using Susan Blond for public-relations help.
I haven’t been able to get hold of a copy of the current Idol contestant contract, but my expose of the first season’s contract is here.
AP has more on the departure:
- Executive producers Nigel Lythgoe and Ken Warwick said Vazquez explained his decision to them, but they told a news conference they intended to respect the singer’s request for privacy.
Fox’s hit talent contest, drawing close to 30 million viewers an episode in its fourth season, will weather the latest storm, Warwick said.
“It is a reality show. … This show is never without drama,” he told The Associated Press in an interview. “It’s just one of those things that happens.”
On Monday, Vazquez tried to extinguish some of the rumors circulating about him, including the possibility of skeletons in his closet.
“Crazy,” he called that in an interview with the AP.
“My gut and intuition told me it wasn’t time to do this,” Vazquez said. “I had to focus on some personal areas in my life with the little bit of privacy that I have.”
….Warwick said it’s his understanding that the performers are contractually bound for three months after the finale airs under their deal with 19 Television, which co-produces the show with Fremantle Media.
Mario was on the Letterman show Tuesday night and did the “Top Ten Reasons I Left American Idol”:
10. “Well, for starters, I was really, really drunk.”
9. “I’ve got my eye on the ultimate prize: ‘Belgium Idol’.”
8. “Yes, my career is over, but I just saved a bundle on my car insurance.”
7. “After seeing Michael Jackson, maybe I don’t want to be a pop star.”
6. “Ryan Seacrest is all hands.”
5. “I started liking when Ryan Seacrest was all hands.”
4. “Screw it–I’m quitting this, too.”
Hee hee, it got a laugh.
I wonder if this will cause future contestant contracts to become even MORE restrictive for the performers.