The quitter quips on Letterman, while AI producers say they respect his privacy

By Stephen M. Silverman
March 16, 2005 07:00 AM

The curiosity about frontrunner Mario Vazquez and his quitting American Idol continues, just as questions are arising as to when the 27-year-old Bronx crooner’s 15 minutes of fame might be over.

On Tuesday, Idol executive producers Nigel Lythgoe and Ken Warwick said at a press conference that Vazquez explained his decision to them but that they would respect singer’s request to keep his reasons private.

On Tuesday night’s Idol telecast, host Ryan Seacrest delivered the curt announcement: “Unfortunately, late Friday night, Mario Vazquez withdrew for personal reasons. So we all wish him the best.”

Also on Tuesday, Vazquez surfaced publicly on the Late Show with David Letterman, where he read the Top 10 list, in this case citing the reasons he quit American Idol.

Among the best explanations were Nos. 7 (“After seeing Michael Jackson, maybe I don’t want to be a pop star”) and 6 (“Ryan Seacrest is all hands”), though the biggest joke was No. 4, which is where the list finished off.

“Screw it!” said Vazquez, before walking off the stage. “I’m quitting this, too.”

Once he left Idol, Vazquez – whose replacement is Nikko Smith, son of Hall of Fame baseball player Ozzie Smith – said in a public statement: “I had to focus on some personal areas in my life with the little bit of privacy that I have.”

While speculation immediately arose that Vazquez was uncomfortable with the Idol contract, any unhappiness has never been properly confirmed or denied.

At the news conference, Warwick said that as he understands it, performers are contractually bound from signing any other deal for three months after the Idol finale airs, according to the terms of their contracts with 19 Television, which co-produces the show with Fremantle Media.