By People Staff
Updated August 07, 2009 12:00 AM

For eight seasons Simon Cowell has had the pleasure of taunting, teasing and tickling Paula Abdul on American Idol. But for the first time on Friday, Cowell and fellow judges Kara DioGuardi and Randy Jackson plowed ahead without Abdul. Spice Girl Victoria Beckham subbed in for Abdul in Denver.

“I’m going to miss her. She’s my buddy,” Cowell told PEOPLE before entering the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Denver. On hand for Idol’s season nine second round auditions, Cowell said he isn’t sure how things will be without Abdul by his side. But, he assured, he’s talked to her “every day” since she Twittered on Tuesday that she was not returning to Idol. “Paula has been very cool about the whole thing. And let me tell you, Paula is going to be fine.”

DioGuardi, who renewed her contract last month, arrived wearing a black sheath dress and was feeling somber about the road ahead without Abdul.

“I am so missing Paula. That’s why I’m in black mourning,” DioGuardi said. “I’m very sad. I talked to her last week. It’s sad, but it was her choice.”

While much had been made of a rivalry between DioGuardi and Abdul, DioGuardi says that was not the case at all. “She was a great friend to me. She was so incredibly helpful.” Not only did Abdul show DioGuardi the ropes in her first weeks on Idol, she was great with the contestants. “She was nurturing and the heart that she showed the contestants. I’m really going to miss her a lot. Really am.”

Jackson echoed his colleagues’ sentiments. “I talked to Paula a couple days ago and she’s going to be great.” What’s of more concern to Jackson is his own well being. “We all love her. I think I may cry today. It’s weird.” — Vickie Bane