Blake gets the VIP treatment, Ryan greets the parents, Simon goes disco and more

By Jed Dreben
Updated May 23, 2007 08:00 AM

Blake’s VIP Treatment

Thirty minutes before the show started, Blake Lewis, rockin’ his performance gear, made an appearance in the FOX VIP room in the Kodak Theatre lobby. The room lit up as the finalist was escorted in, looking cool as ice despite having to get onstage and take on Jordin Sparks moments later. Blake, who was all smiles, greeted guests, shaking hands as he made his way around the room.

The Idols

Johnny the warm-up guy led the cheers and jeers at the Kodak Theatre Tuesday night. With the clock counting down to show time, he introduced the top 10 (minus two), sending the crowd into hysterics as Haley Scarnato, Melinda Doolittle, Chris Sligh, Sanjaya Malakar, Phil Stacey (wearing his black and white sailor suit), Gina Glocksen, Brandon Rogers, Stephanie Edwards and Chris Richardson made their way into the room. And this group, who will hit the road for the American Idols Live tour this summer, couldn’t have been a happier, more easy-going bunch.

Brandon, who may have been the most excited of the group, snapped digital photos of everything – including Sanjaya and Haley, who posed together, Haley doing rabbit ears behind Sanjaya’s head. Meanwhile, Chris Richardson and Melinda rocked out, with Richardson’s arm around her, as music played over the sound system, while Chris Sligh, always the loner, still with that signature ‘do, decided to make his way over to greet and congratulate the Lewis family (something all the Idols would do later on).

They should be dancing

When it was time to introduce the judges, band leader Ricky Minor had a little surprise up his sleeve: When Simon Cowell came out wearing, rather than his signature tight tee, a discoed-out black suit with a white shirt unbuttoned down to his “cleavage” (as Ryan Seacrest would later joke), Minor and band played “You Should Be Dancing” by the Bee Gees, replacing the lyrics with “It’s Simon Cowell, yeah.”

But, of course, Simon and Randy Jackson were already in their seats, with no sign of Paula Abdul. No problem: Minor and crew had some lyrics for that as well, adding “where’s Paula Abdul? Where’s Paula Abdul?” And, finally, Ryan, who is always on cue and on time, got a little theme too as he made his way onto the stage: “What you doin’ Seacrest, yeah? It’s Ryan Seacrest, yeah!”

Where’s Paula?

With two and a half minutes left to air, there was no sign of Paula anywhere. The audience started chanting “Where’s Paula? Where’s Paula?” With seconds to spare, in she came under the guidance of executive producer Nigel Lythgoe, who brought her out by the hand and let her hug and greet the former Idols before helping her up a step and into her seat. (She’d broken her nose in a nasty fall over the weekend.)

Ryan, Ryan

After Ryan introduced Simon Cowell as “Simon Cleavage” and said on live TV, “So the bitch is okay?” to Paula Abdul after she explained how she’d tripped over her female dog, it was revealed that Ryan’s parents were in the house. “The Seacrest family is here,” said Johnny the warm-up guy. “Big round of applause for Mom and Dad!” Aww … Ryan smiled as he headed over to do his next monologue right next to his folks. But true to form, he didn’t let their presence hold him back, continuing to make often risqué quips on and off screen.

Blockin’ up the scenery

Too bad for the sign-holders in the middle of the orchestra-level seating: Debbie the stage manager warned them before the show started not to hold their signs up too high as they were going to obstruct the cameras. Then, to their dismay, they asked to pass their signs to the ends of their rows so they could be removed. Let that be a warning.

TV Dads

Ricky Schroder

was in the audience with his wife Andrea, daughter Cambrie and sons Holden and Luke, as was Heroes’Greg Grunberg, with his wife Elizabeth and their sons Jack, Sam and Ben. During one commercial break, Schroder, holding his daughter’s hand, went up to shake hands with and chat with the judges.

Chris Daughtry Comes ‘Home’

Fans have heard the song “Home” all season each time one of the finalists was given their walking papers, but tonight, to the crowd’s delight, former Idol Chris Daughtry gave a live performance of the song that even the judges had to stand up for. Audience members, including Denise Richards and Marlee Matlin, cheered and gave Daughtry and his band a standing ovation.