David’s Moment As soon as the American Idol finale ended, David Cook was swarmed with hugs and well wishes from his fellow Idol contestants. The crowd in the Nokia stayed on their feet and continued to cheer for Cook, who took photographs with several members of the Idol staff and crew. Then, as he made his way off stage through a sea of confetti, he jumped up and down, looking like a little kid jumping in a pile of leaves.
Idol Pals Season six alumni Melinda Doolittle and Blake Lewis signed autographs to a gaggle of young girls just before the show began. When the audience was asked to take their seats, Lewis sat fellow season six contestant Haley Scarnato‘s lap. Throughout the show, he and Scarnato chatted up Jerry Springer, who was there because, “Simon Cowell told me I had to come. So I did. It was fun!” he told PEOPLE after the show.
Fire Power On May 6 Jason Castro stumbled on the words to Bob Dylan‘s “Mr. Tambourine Man.” The next day he was eliminated from the competition. On Wednesday night’s finale, Castro and his fellow season seven finalists had the luxury of having a giant teleprompter situated in the center of the orchestra seats scroll the lyrics to every song. Castro’s heartfelt rendition of “Hallelujah” went off without a hitch. It was a calm moment for Castro, who had the you-know-what scared out of him earlier, when the pyrotechnics went off after the show’s opening number. Castro jumped as flames briefly shot up on the stage right behind him. He lost his footing in the final dance moves, but got back into place just in time before the show went to commercial.
Almost There Ryan Seacrest made some convincing faces and gestures to make it seem as though he was reacting to Jimmy Kimmel‘s monologue, but the late night talk show host, who roasted Simon Cowell on Idol Gives Back, had pre-taped his segment. Still, laughter filled the Nokia Theatre thanks to Kimmel’s wacky witticisms.
Girl Power The female Idol contestants worked hard for the money during the Donna Summer hits medley. The grand dame of disco didn’t rush off the stage after the show went to commercial. She took the time to hug and thank each and every one of the six women for a job well done.
Hand Picked One young, blonde-haired girl waved furiously at Paula Abdul during a commercial break, squealing for an autograph. Abdul caught the attention of her publicist, Jeff, and asked him to bring the young girl to the judges’ podium. He hoisted the lass up to Abdul, who then gave the youngster a big hug and an autograph.
Big Band Theory An audition round reject, Renaldo Lapuz, accompanied by the USC marching band, sang his heart out on the Idol stage. Ryan Seacrest, Randy Jackson and Paula Abdul joined Lapuz in singing “We’re Brothers Forever.” However, they had a difficult time getting Simon Cowell out of his seat. By the time Cowell made it to the edge of the stage, the show had gone to commercial. He threw his arms up in the air in frustration, but still walked over to Lapuz to give him a hearty hug for a job well done.
Pride & Joy During the commercial break before the George Michael medley, David Cook and the other top six male contestants took their places on the stairs leading up to the stage. Dressed in formal attire, the men were greeted with whoops and hollers. Cook’s biggest fans, mom Beth and brother Andrew, walked over to give him a hug and a kiss. The medley, which ended with Michael’s inspiring solo of “Praying for Time,” was a hit with the crowd, especially Paula. She held her hands together under her chin and swayed to Michael’s soothing tones. As soon as the show went to commercial, Abdul sprung from her seat and made a beeline to the stage. A big George Michael fan? Absolutely, Abdul told PEOPLE after the show. “I choreographed his Faith tour,” she said proudly. –Monica RizzoMark Mainz/AP/REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni /Landov