updated 5/25/2006 11:05:28 AM ET 2006-05-25T15:05:28

Guests: Diana DeGarmo, Trencye, Katrina Szish, Tamara Conniff, Hugh Mitchell, Sean Valentine, Carmen Rasmussen, Trenyce, Katrina, Dianna DeGarmo, Emily Bowness, Vicki Harrison, Mike Sanders, Tom Gentry, Sherry Ballew, Dean Richardson

LAUREN LAKE, HOST:  Thanks, Joe.  Good evening everybody.  I‘m Lauren Lake in for Rita Cosby.

We‘re going to begin by warning you, if you don‘t want to know what happened on “American Idol” tonight, look out because we are about to tell you.  It‘s the night we have all been waiting for.  Just seconds ago we found out who won “American Idol.”  The voting public has spoken and Taylor Hicks is the next “American Idol.”

Joining us live from outside the Kodak Theater with more on this “Idol” finale is NBC‘s Jennifer London.  Jennifer, oh my gosh.  Tell us what is going on.  How exciting is this? 

JENNIFER LONDON, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  Well hi, Lauren.  After five months and well over 500 million votes over the course of the season and 63.4 million votes for last night alone, as you mentioned, we now know the new “American Idol” is Taylor Hicks.  And again, we do apologize to our West Coast viewers for the spoiler alert, but of course it is still worth watching the show. 

And Lauren, certainly a lot of anticipation going into tonight‘s show following last night‘s sing-off between Katharine and Taylor.  Now Simon Cowell, the show‘s most brutally honest judge, made this prediction after both Katharine and Taylor finished performing. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Assuming that I was right, that the show was tied, then you have just won “American Idol.”

(CHEERING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LONDON:  Now, it is worth noting that Simon originally took a path on Taylor back during the original editions.  It was the two other judges, Randy and Paula, who pushed him Taylor through to Hollywood and now we all know the ending to that story.  As far as reaction here, it really is not that big of a surprise.  A lot of insiders were saying, especially after last night‘s show, that Taylor really stole the show.

That he really is an all-around entertainer.  He can get people on their feet.  He is a good singer.  And I guess maybe what it came for voters in the end was did they want a great singer or did they want a great entertainer and apparently the voters have spoken and they did choose Taylor Hicks. 

Now, Lauren, a lot of big stars here tonight, both in the audience and performing on the stage.  We saw performances from Mary J. Blige, Dionne Warwick, Toni Braxton, and the big surprise of the night, a performance by Prince.  And also a couple of other “Idols”, Clay Aiken, who was a runner-up a couple of seasons ago, he performed, as well as Carrie Underwood who was the “Idol” star from last season. 

LAKE:  Well, Jennifer, we are going to be checking back in with you.  Please keep us posted as to all the exciting developments.  Thank you so much for the report. 

All right, now let‘s get reaction from a few people who know the inner workings of “American Idol.”  Some of them have even been on that very stage themselves.  LIVE & DIRECT tonight our “Us Weekly” entertainment reporter, Katrina Szish, former “American Idol” runner-up, Diana DeGarmo, “Billboard” magazine executive editor and associate publisher Tamara Conniff and former “American Idol” finalist Trencye.  Welcome ladies.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Hi.

LAKE:  Thank you so much for coming.  All right now, Diana, come on...

(CROSSTALK)

LAKE:  ... how excited...

DIANA DEGARMO, FORMER “AMERICAN IDOL” RUNNER-UP:  I wasn‘t even there.

LAKE:  Are you like reliving it all over again or what?

DEGARMO:  It is.

LAKE:  OK, what is your reaction to this? 

DEGARMO:  Oh, you know, I‘m so proud of both of them just first off, because I understand how hard it is to get down to there, (A), to be on the - -- quote-unquote losing side, but to also just be sitting in the audience now.  It‘s like my palms are sweating, so I can only feel—imagine how they are feeling right now again—all over again. 

LAKE:  Oh, that‘s great.  And Trencye, how about you?  Tell us how you are feeling right now.

TRENCYE, FORMER “AMERICAN IDOL” FINALIST:  I think the right person won.  I think that America just wanted to see something different.  They—like you stated before, like entertainers and when you can do everything that makes it that much better, so I was voting for Taylor myself. 

LAKE:  Oh, well that‘s wonderful.  Now Katrina, let me bring you in here. 

KATRINA SZISH, “US WEEKLY”:  Yes.

LAKE:  Do you think the best contestant won? 

SZISH:  I absolutely do.  If I could have voted I would have voted for Chris, but obviously I didn‘t have that option.  And Taylor was my second in running and I am so proud that he pulled it out.  And you would not have expected him to be the typical “American Idol,” but I remember his audition with the gray hair.  I remember Simon‘s reaction.  I remember the whole thing and the fact that he took it all the way is—it‘s what “American Idol” is all about. 

LAKE:  OK and Tamara, time for you to weigh in.  Why do you think Taylor won? 

TAMARA CONNIFF, “BILLBOARD” MAGAZINE:  You know I think he really is sort of has the every-man look about him.  I think people can relate to him.  I think people really felt for him, but I also think that both are going to have a great career.  I think Katharine, we definitely haven‘t heard the last from her. 

LAKE:  Wow, OK.  All right now, Diana, let me ask you this.  Last night Katharine sang two songs that she had already sung before.  You were a little worried that that could have hurt her.  What do you think about that? 

DEGARMO:  Well, when I was on, I sang a couple of songs that I had already done.  But I think when you find a song that you really know that (A), you are good at, that it‘s OK to go back and go back to things that you know already, and you can go in with your armor all fully prepared.  Sometimes going with a new song can be a little testy, but as you can see, sometimes it can work out also for your advantage. 

LAKE:  Sure.  Sure.  Now Trencye, now Katharine sang a song that the judges didn‘t like too much.  Let‘s take a listen.  Listen to this. 

TRENCYE:  OK.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You sounded really good.  I did not love the song. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Oh, OK.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Sorry.  But you sounded good. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Listen, that is not your fault, Katharine, because you are brilliant. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The song was just average, but you sounded...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LAKE:  OK, so Trencye, what do you think?  I am with Randy.  I did not like that song at all.  I mean you sing all these great songs all year and then that was just so lame, that song.  What do you think? 

TRENCYE:  Well I think that she was kind of depending on her vocals at that point.  It is crunch time.  They have to learn so many songs and they don‘t have a lot of time to do that, so I think that she just kind of went with something, maybe trying to be different, maybe trying to pull the audience in a bit with something different and it just didn‘t work for her. 

LAKE:  OK, so Tamara, now let me ask you.  I‘ve already voiced my opinion on the new song.  What do you think?  Do you think it‘s going to be a big hit on the charts, Taylor‘s song? 

CONNIFF:  You know what?  I think it will be.  Listen, how many people voted tonight?  I think something like 60 million.  Just based on that alone, whether or not the song is good or not is not the point.  I would say a large percentage of those 60 million people are going to buy the song. 

LAKE:  OK.  (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Now, Katrina, let me ask you this.  In the end, do you think this is like a talent contest or a popularity contest?

SZISH:  I think it‘s a little bit of both because to be an “American Idol” you obviously have to have astounding talent, but you also have to have that connection.  You have to have that personable part of you, that thing that makes America out there kind of want to hang out with you.  They don‘t just want to listen to you sing.  They don‘t just want to buy your records, but they really would love to just hang out with you, so I think it is a little bit of both.  And I think that‘s important. 

LAKE:  Well, Diana, I have to tell you this now.  My mom liked him from the beginning, but I‘ll tell you who didn‘t like Taylor from the beginning, and that is Simon.  Listen to this.  I want to show you something. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Paula and I were the ones that wanted him...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  He didn‘t.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

(CHEERING)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We should remind America that Simon passed on Taylor Hicks.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Yes. 

(CHEERING)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Ryan...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  In your word...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Ryan...

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Ryan, that‘s show business. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LAKE:  OK, so are you surprised he went as far as he did, even though Simon didn‘t like him in the beginning? 

DEGARMO:  You know, well I got all the way down to number two and Simon did not like me for my first audition, so good job for you...

(LAUGHTER)

DEGARMO:  Good job for you, Taylor.  I‘m proud because, you know, and the judges do sometimes put a really big (UNINTELLIGIBLE) dent on what people thought they‘d be about you, but in the end it is all about what America, what they think, who‘s voting, and the judges don‘t always vote, so sometimes (UNINTELLIGIBLE) takes out the people on the other side of the camera.  They are the ones that dial in.

LAKE:  OK.  Now Tamara, I‘ve got something for you.  When you look at the “Idols” that have the top album sells, they‘re like number one is of course Kelly Clarkson, number two, Clay Aiken and number three, Carrie Underwood.  Do you think Taylor or maybe even Katharine can reach that level of album sell a success? 

CONNIFF:  I absolutely think they can.  I actually think that Katharine and Taylor are going to be sort of equals in this one, even though he won.  She has the right look.  She is really young.  There is a lot of potential to develop her.  So I think that both of them have the potential to have number one records.

LAKE:  OK, very interesting.  Now, Diana, I have something for you, because now the runner-ups, they join you along with Justin Guarini, we got Clay and Bo Bice.  Do you think that Katharine is going to be a success in the real world as you guys have been?

DEGARMO:  Well, I think Katharine is going to be amazing.  She is -- (A), she‘s so beautiful, and she‘s just got a voice that will go on for 10 years.  So I think—like Tamara said, it‘s definitely going to be the last you hear from her. 

LAKE:  OK.  Well one of the things we‘re very curious about is as well, Trencye, is like the “Idol” contract, so as it stands now, does that contract help you, hinder you?  Where are you in terms of that? 

TRENCYE:  I‘m out of the contract.  I think you‘re under the contract for about a year and a half.  And after the tour and everything is over with, and depending on the contestant and the demand for that contestant, the “American Idols” can keep working as long as they are you know in demand.  But after that contract is over, it‘s—you‘re free game.  I mean you can do whatever you want.  But it‘s up to the “American Idol” machine to keep you going for that year and a half that you are working with them.

LAKE:  OK.  Now, Katrina, out of all of the contestants we looked at and you know we have enjoyed them all...

SZISH:  Yes.

LAKE:  ... for this season, which one do you think we‘ll still be hearing from years, years from now? 

SZISH:  Well, I think there are a few. 

LAKE:  OK.

SZISH:  I think I gave one of my favorites away earlier when I mentioned Chris Daughtry, who I really think seemed like he was already a famous recording artist when he started the process, and I just think he‘s going to do incredibly well, whether he joins a band or goes solo.  But Taylor has that soulful voice that even if you are not a fan of his type of music, there is just something so rich and so enduring about that sound.  And I think he was the right choice to win because he will endure.  He‘s not going to be a one-hit wonder.

LAKE:  OK.  Yes, I agree with that.  Now, Tamara, let me ask you something.  Let‘s talk about this “American Idol” effect because it is becoming extraordinary.  I mean today we just saw Prince on “American Idol.”  We saw Mary J. Blige, Toni Braxton, Meat Loaf, Live (ph), Al Jarreau.  We saw all of these people on “American Idol.”  What do you think this phenomenon is?  It is getting bigger and bigger.

CONNIFF:  Well I think people are realizing listen, a lot of today‘s youth don‘t listen to the radio.  A lot of them don‘t watch MTV.  Everyone watches “American Idol.”  So here you have artists that they get access to millions and million of people who are tuning in, so everyone wants to be a part of it.  I mean it‘s interactive, using your cell phones to vote, you‘re calling in.  It‘s television, you‘re watching it with your family.  That‘s what‘s created this magic. 

LAKE:  OK.  (UNINTELLIGIBLE) So now, I want to ask you something a little bit, Katrina, about style. 

SZISH:  Oh, oh.  OK.

LAKE:  Because you know what it is like.  One thing I found so interesting about Taylor is that he never really changed his style.  Even yesterday the purple velvet jacket was kind of old-mannish, you know...

SZISH:  Oh yes.

LAKE:  ... they kind of had him very, you know style wise where he kept his gray hair and he did his thing.  But Katharine, we saw her change a little bit.  She came in kind of kooky and then she became more Barbie beautiful.  By the end she was gorgeous, but...

SZISH:  Yes.

LAKE:  ... what do you think about that?  How much factor does style and change have to do with winning or you know getting a career out of this, a huge career?

SZISH:  I think part of what‘s fun about watching “American Idol” is watching these young unknowns who have this great amount of talent transform.  It‘s sort of like they turn into butterflies and that is part of the fun of watching it as an audience member.  But I think when you see someone like Taylor who is so comfortable with himself, very obviously from the moment he walked into the audition, the fact that he didn‘t compromise, the fact that he really just was so confident, he didn‘t let anyone change anything about him.  That also spoke a lot to his integrity as an artist. 

LAKE:  I agree very much. 

(CROSSTALK)

SZISH:  So I think both angles are fine.  It‘s great to see a beautiful woman become more beautiful, but Taylor was just Taylor. 

LAKE:  I agree.  Diana, very quickly, what is your advice for the winner and for the runner-up?  You know so well...

DEGARMO:  Well, you know “American Idol” has now opened you know a million doors (UNINTELLIGIBLE).  It‘s what (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and what gets them to walk through that door.  They‘ve got to go and get those opportunities and keep that ball rolling, so we want to keep hearing them sing, you know 20, 30, 40 years from now when we have the “American Idol” you know 90th reunion...

(LAUGHTER)

DEGARMO:  ... and we‘re all getting back together.  We want everyone to still be singing, so you just got to keep the ball rolling. 

LAKE:  OK, that‘s wonderful.  Well ladies stick around.  Coming up, a lot more “American Idol.”  Reaction from friends of “American Idol” winner, Taylor Hicks, and we‘ll look at how winning “American Idol” totally changes your life, that and a whole lot more coming up.  Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LAKE:  Still ahead, caught on tape.  Ahead, caught on tape, an SUV goes out of control and crashes in front of stunned onlookers.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  They were like flipping once and then that was it.

LAKE:  These amazing pictures are just the beginning.  Wait until you hear what happened to the people inside.

And what these two people are accused of will leave you stunned.  Not only did they allegedly do horrible things to a young woman, cops say they taped the whole thing.  You may be able to help catch them.

And we‘re taking you where no one else can, inside the horse hospital where Barbaro is recovering.  It‘s an NBC News exclusive coming up on LIVE & DIRECT.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(APPLAUSE)

(CHEERING)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LAKE:  Well America finally has a new “Idol” and again, here is a spoiler alert because we‘re going to tell you who won.  We checked in with Hollywood on tonight‘s “American Idol” final, now let‘s get reaction from Taylor Hicks‘ hometown of Birmingham, Alabama. 

Joining us on the phone tonight is Hugh Mitchell, a Hicks‘ family friend.  Hugh, oh my goodness.  (UNINTELLIGIBLE) oh I hear the laughter already.  What are people feeling?  What is going on?  Are you so excited? 

HUGH MITCHELL, HICKS FAMILY FRIEND (via phone):  We are.  We‘re ecstatic.  We are. 

LAKE:  Well tell me, like what is the energy in the room?  Did you guys know?  You already knew it.  Were you a little bit nervous at the end?

MITCHELL:  Oh, we were definitely nervous, but we‘ve been confident he would win for—since he started the thing. 

LAKE:  So you had confidence? 

MITCHELL:  Oh, yes.

LAKE:  What do you think worked in Taylor‘s favor?  I think it was maybe the purple velvet jacket.  What do you think?

MITCHELL:  We love the purple velvet jacket.

(LAUGHTER)

LAKE:  And what else? 

MITCHELL:  And the charisma and the talent. 

LAKE:  Really?

MITCHELL:  Oh, yes.

LAKE:  And you‘ve been knowing Taylor for how long? 

MITCHELL:  His whole life. 

LAKE:  Really?

MITCHELL:  Yes.

LAKE:  So you‘ve heard him sing many a number? 

MITCHELL:  Oh, yes.  Yes.

LAKE:  What is your favorite that he does? 

MITCHELL:  Oh, gosh, I‘ve got probably 50 favorites. 

LAKE:  Really? 

MITCHELL:  Yes.

LAKE:  OK, name a couple. 

MITCHELL:  I like (UNINTELLIGIBLE).  He does a lot of good Eric Clapton.  Gosh, he can do anything actually.  He is just good at all—at everything.  He is just—he‘s a great soul singer. 

LAKE:  Yes.  Is that what you think set him apart from the other contestants? 

MITCHELL:  I do, and the fact that I think his personality and his charisma really come across on TV.  And I don‘t think that everybody‘s does, but I think you can see Taylor‘s. 

MITCHELL:  Right.  I know I liked him from the beginning, too.  And as I said earlier, my mom loved him from the beginning.  He seems like such a genuine guy, almost as if after you hear him sing you can just sit with him in your living room and you already know what he is all about.  Is that the kind of guy he is, just easy to get to know? 

MITCHELL:  Yes, he‘s very easy.  He‘s a great guy.  He is exactly what you see on TV.  He‘s just the nicest guy and he deserves everything that he has gotten. 

LAKE:  Oh, that‘s so wonderful.  Now, let me ask you this.  Taylor was in Alabama not long ago, right?  There were parades and all sorts of things going on, fans.  How proud is everyone in Alabama of Taylor? 

MITCHELL:  Oh, very proud.  It was a great day.  And it was very chaotic, but I think it was the best day of his life. 

LAKE:  Oh, that‘s wonderful.  OK, Hugh, now I know you are a dear, dear friend of Taylor‘s, but we want to get—get you to give us a little dish.  Tell us something about Taylor that we may not know.  Can you give us anything? 

MITCHELL:  Oh, something that you don‘t know?

LAKE:  Yes. 

MITCHELL:  I don‘t know.  Do you know that he‘s a really—I know you know he is a great harmonica player...

LAKE:  Yes.

MITCHELL:  ... and let‘s see.  He writes his own music. 

LAKE:  OK.

MITCHELL:  He is a guitar player.

LAKE:  Really?  He plays guitar? 

MITCHELL:  Oh, yes.

LAKE:  OK, that is something that we didn‘t know.  Well, I have another little funny question for you. 

MITCHELL:  OK.

LAKE:  When did Taylor‘s hair go gray?  It has become his signature.  Just

I mean everyone knows him for the gray hair, so when did it turn gray? 

MITCHELL:  I think it was gray ever since he was born. 

(LAUGHTER)

LAKE:  That‘s funny.  I hear people laughing.  That is funny. 

MITCHELL:  Oh, yes.

LAKE:  Do you think he will ever color it? 

MITCHELL:  No.  Are you kidding? 

(LAUGHTER)

LAKE:  Now I hear even bigger laughter.

MITCHELL:  Yes.

LAKE:  Well that‘s—well do you think that there is going to be a huge celebration when he gets home?

MITCHELL:  I think the celebration just started, and I think that it‘s going to go on for quite some time.  When he gets here, I‘m sure there will be a big celebration.  And I think he‘s looking at a long career. 

LAKE:  Oh, that‘s wonderful. 

MITCHELL:  I believe this is just the start of it. 

LAKE:  Oh, my gosh.  Well I know that you guys are so very, very proud of him.  We thank you so much for talking with us tonight.  It has been just a blast.  You guys keep on celebrating and we are celebrating with you. 

MITCHELL:  We will.  We will.

LAKE:  OK, great.  Thanks a lot, Hugh.

MITCHELL:  OK.

LAKE:  And now, moving over to Katharine McPhee‘s camp.  We have KIIS-FM radio D.J., Sean Valentine, who hosted the official hometown party for McPhee at Universal City Walk today.  Oh, Sean, thank you so much for joining us tonight.

SEAN VALENTINE, KIIS-FM:  Happy to be here. 

LAKE:  Great.  What is the mood over there?  I know everyone is still so proud of Katharine even though she didn‘t get the ultimate prize.

VALENTINE:  Yes.  Well I mean I think when you look at her dad and you look at her parents and you see the emotion that comes out of their faces there, that‘s the same things that all her family feels.  They are just so proud of her for what she did.  And when you get down to it with “Idol”, when you get down to the final three or four you‘re going to have a career. 

These people are going to have long, healthy careers, so even if you don‘t win it doesn‘t matter.  Clay Aiken didn‘t win “American Idol”.  The guy is on fire.  You saw him tonight and the crowd went crazy for him.  That is the situation that they find themselves in.  Everybody is a winner who goes on this show. 

LAKE:  I understand.  Now let me ask you this.  You mentioned her dad and everybody watched him just tear up when she sang.  It was just so touching.  How is her family tonight?  And I know her mother is extra supportive, too, and also her vocal coach, I think.  How are they doing? 

VALENTINE:  Well there was—it was a very large crowd out at her little fan base we had at City Walk and it was kind of a McPheever fan club out there.  So her parents I think, I‘m going to have her on the show tomorrow, we‘ll find out.  Her first radio performance is going to be on our show tomorrow afternoon at KIIS here in L.A., so I‘ll get a chance to talk with her more. 

But just looking at her parents, looking at how they raised her and how she‘s carried herself throughout the competition, you know, they are disappointed she didn‘t win, but they are so very proud of her.  In that aspect, you just got to sit back and go you did it.  You gave it everything you had.

LAKE:  She sure did.  Well I want to ask you something, too.  You are in the business, so you know...

VALENTINE:  Yes.

LAKE:  ... about songs and singles and things like that.  What do you think of that song she sang last night?  I personally just didn‘t love it.  I didn‘t love it for her vocal range.  I just thought that they could have given her something just more powerful to sing.  I didn‘t care for it.  What did you think?

VALENTINE:  Well I think when any song comes out and you hear it for the first time and a lot of times in radio we hear songs one, two, three, four, five times before we say oh this is going to be a hit.  We‘ve got a good feeling about it. 

You‘ve got to remember that all the contestants on that show were never doing original songs.  They were doing songs they‘ve heard before, not written for the first time.  So to give a contestant a song in a matter of a couple of days, make it their own, Taylor just did a better job of making his song his own.  It‘s very tough to take a song that you‘ve never heard anybody else sing before and suddenly turn up the heat and make it something very positive for yourself. 

LAKE:  Yes, that sounds interesting.  I really understand what you are saying about.  So let me ask you this, so do you think Katharine has it in her to be as successful as like Clay Aiken or maybe even Kelly Clarkson?  What do you think?

VALENTINE:  I think—you know what, every time you see one of these “Idols” they are very unique people.  Kelly, as you know, grew up in a small town just outside of Crowley, Texas.  Clay Aiken is a small-town guy.  Everybody is different.

She is a girl from California.  She‘s seen a lot of celebrities.  She knows how this business works, so she‘s got an angle that nobody else had.  But the girl is a hard worker and she gives it everything she has.  I think she will be a big success, too. 

The “American Idol” machine, I hate to say it, but just can‘t be denied.  You go on that show, everybody in the world knows who you are.  Your life is changing the minute you get in front of those cameras. 

LAKE:  Great—that‘s a really great point, Sean, I‘ll tell you.  Thank you so much for all of your insights.  They‘ve been so helpful.  And go ahead and party for us, OK. 

VALENTINE:  OK.  We‘ll light it up. 

LAKE:  Thanks so much.  OK.  We‘ll have a lot more coming up on “American Idol”, life after “Idol” and how winning it or even losing it totally changes your life instantly.

And after you hear what happened to the people inside this SUV, you will look at your seatbelt in a whole new light.  That is coming up. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LAKE:  Well a new “Idol” is crowned and like we said before, this is a spoiler alert.  We‘re going to tell you who won.  But win or lose, things will never be the same.  The lights go down.  The curtain closes, and all the contestants move on.  So, what‘s life really like after “American Idol”?

Here with me is Katrina Szish, entertainment reporter with “Us Weekly”, also former “American Idol” contestant Diana DeGarmo, and we also have former contestants Trenyce and former contestant Carmen Rasmussen, who was inside of the theater.

Let‘s start with Carmen.

                Carmen, tell us, what was the energy inside that theater?   What were

people feeling?    Saying?    Doing?   Tell us.  

CARMEN RASMUSSEN, FORMER “AMERICAN IDOL” CONTESTANT:  It was insane.    The energy was incredible.   When Taylor and Catherine walked on the stage   everyone just screamed and jumped out of their seats.

But I have to tell you, I think the biggest surprise of the night was

when   Prince walked out there and did his thing.  That was fabulous.  

Everyone was jumping up and down.    The energy was electric.  It was

incredible.

And I‘m so happy that Taylor Hicks walked away with the “American

Idol” crown.   I think he was a perfect candidate for the next “American

Idol.”    I think we can expect great things from him.  

                LAKE:  Oh, that‘s so wonderful.

                Now, Trenyce, I want to ask you something.  First of all, let‘s look

at a little bit of what the judges had to say last might before I ask you this   question.   

TRENYCE, FORMER “AMERICAN IDOL” CONTESTANT:  OK.  

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED, JUDGE, “AMERICAN IDOL”:  It was a little pitchy for me this time, this song.   It was.  It was.  It was a little pitchy, a little pitchy for me.   

PAULA ABDUL, JUDGE, “AMERICAN IDOL”:  I don‘t know, Randy, I think what may be pitchy to you is the essence of who Taylor is.  And Taylor just.   

                LAKE:  All right.    Pitchy aside, I knew what the judges were saying.   

But at the same time, people just love Taylor, regardless.    How much do

you think the role    of the judge‘s play at that point?  

TRENYCE:  I think the role of the judges is—it‘s pretty intense.   I think that, by this time, the contestants have already shown who they are and the crowd either loves them or they don‘t.  

And it really doesn‘t matter what the judges say.   Sometimes if they go against the person they love, they vote for them more around the finals.    Sometimes if they are for the person they love, they don‘t vote as much. 

So it kind of goes back and forth.  

But this is the point where everyone wants to jump in and make sure the person they want to win wins.  And that is what happened.  

LAKE:  Understood.  Understood.

Now, Dianna, let me ask you something, because you have been there on   

this very night and experienced   this whole thing.    Fill us in.    Give

us some inside scoop on what is this night like afterwards?   After you

leave the stage and all of this hoopla is done, what do you do?   

DIANNA DEGARMO, FORMER “AMERICAN IDOL” CONTESTANT:  Well, it‘s definitely a whirlwind.   Because, besides all of the press and things, with everyone    announcing the next “American Idol,” you have all the parties you have all the parties that you have to have make an appearance at.   

So you‘re running from the Ford party, the FOX party, the Coca-Cola party, and eventually on to the “American Idol” party.  And by the time you finally roll into bed you don‘t realize you have to be up and ready in an hour.

LAKE:  Oh, my gosh.

DEGARMO:  Because, with them being in L.A., they have to be up and ready to do all the morning shows here on the east coast.  

I remember, Fantasia and I got up at 3:00 a.m.  We had to be camera ready by 4:15 and we were sitting there freezing, just kind of still asleep, going Good Morning, Atlanta.   

LAKE:  Trying to pry your eyelids open a little bit?

DEGARMO:  With duck tape.   

LAKE:  I know.  I can understand.   I have had many of those mornings.   

OK, Katrina, let me ask you something.  Now, we talked about the hoopla.  The curtain went down and all of a sudden the lights are out.  What really happened?    Let‘s talk about the forgotten factor.

Now, Simon mentioned on one show, he said—or on an interview, I heard him say he‘s concerned that Elliot Yasmin will be forgotten.    There‘s a lot of the “Idols” that get forgotten.   What do you feel about this?  How do you think they can constantly reinvent themselves to keep themselves on the wheel?  

KARTINA, FORMER “AMERICAN IDOL” CONTESTANT:  I think, as Dianna mentioned   earlier, once the “Idol” phenomenon—once each season is over, they really have to keep the ball rolling themselves.   They have gotten that exposure and they‘ve gotten that fan base.    And people like Elliot and like Chris, they definitely have a strong fan base, and people are going to want to find them.  And they‘re going to find them.   And these two are not going to be forgotten.  I don‘t believe that at all.  

LAKE:  We hope not. 

Carmen, let‘s ask you, what are you up to now?    You‘re singing. 

You‘re acting.  Tell us what you‘re doing?   

RASMUSSEN:  Yes, I just finished recording an album in Nashville, Tennessee, it‘s a country album.  So I‘m so excited about that.  That will be out later this fall.

And I will be on “Fear Factor” on June 6.   So check it out.    It is pretty crazy.   

LAKE:  All right.  And what else are you going to do tonight since you are out there with all of the action?   

RASMUSSEN:  And tonight, I‘m going to go party with all of the other   “Idols” at the after party and get some really good food.  And then hit the sack.   I‘m exhausting.   It has been a long week.  As I‘m sure all the other “Idols” feel as well. 

LAKE:  Well, enjoy.  Party for us.   

RASMUSSEN:  Thank you.  I will.  

LAKE:  OK.  

Trenyce, let me ask you, now you‘re headlining right now in Las Vegas.  

Tell us about your show.  

TRENYCE:  Yes, I am headlining in the The Ultimate Variety Show here

in Las    Vegas, produced by David Sax.  And I opened last night and it was   

tremendous.    It is great to be in my own element outside of the “American

Idol” show, and for people to come out and see me as Trenyce and, you know,

not attacked to that.    But I am having a blast here.   

                LAKE:  Wonderful and great for you.    Congratulations.

TRENYCE:  Thank you.

LAKE:  And Dianna, you just finished  “Hair Spray” on Broadway.  And now you‘re about to, what, tour with a national company of the musical “Brooklyn?”   

DEGARMO:  Yes, it‘s their first national tour, playing the lead role in “Brooklyn,” which I‘m very excited about. I am surrounded by the most amazing singers.   Like Trenyce said, it‘s nice to finally be stepping away.

Yes, “American Idol” has gotten me where I am today.  But it is nice to finally to be able to get a name on my own.

And I‘ve been asked to come back to New York to be back in Broadway and “Hair Spray” again in September.  So I will coming back right after my Brooklyn tour for six more months.   

LAKE:  Oh, my gosh.  Well, that is so wonderful.

Well, congratulations to all of you ladies.  We‘re rooting for you all.

Katrina, thank you so much for joining us.

KATRINA:  Thank you.

LAKE:  I‘m sure we‘ll be hearing from all of you soon.

All right, still ahead, inside the horse hospital.  NBC News got an exclusive look inside the special clinic where race horse Barbaro is recovering.

And next, some unbelievable images from Michigan.  A spectacular crash got on tape.  How could anyone survive this?  And incredible story ahead.

But the story isn‘t over.  Police need your help.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

EMILY BOWNESS, HIT AND RUN SURVIVOR:  I looked over and there was a car kind of like coming at me.  And I just kind of got ran off the road.  I don‘t know.    All of sudden, you know, I swerved to the left to try to avoid him.   I remember flipping once and that was it.  

LAKE:  What a story Emily Bowness has to tell.    The Michigan native miraculously survived a horrific hit-and-run.  And it was all caught on a deputy‘s dash cam.

The accident happened near Lansing, Michigan when a driver on the left lane of the highway swerved to the left in an attempt to avoid another merging car.   That driver then hit Emily‘s SUV, causing it to swerve off the road, flipping over eight times.

Police are now looking for a white female who has maybe have caused the crash.

Joining me now is Ingram County‘s chief deputy, Vicki Harrison.

Vicki, thank you so much for joining us tonight.

VICKI HARRISON, CHIEF DEPUTY, INGRAM COUNTY:  Thank you for having me.

LAKE:  First off, how in the world did Emily survive that crash?   

HARRISON:  You know, that is a good question.    Thankfully, she had her seatbelt on, and but for the grace of God.   

LAKE:  Wow, amazing.   As a matter of fact, we‘ve got a little clip of Emily talking about her seat belt.  Let‘s roll that really quickly, Andy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

                BOWNESS:  See these marks, right there.    That is seatbelts marks but

it    saved my life, for sure.   There is no way I would have survived

without it.  

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LAKE:  Wow, Vicki that to me is an amazing testimonial for seatbelts.  

What could you say—actually I am from Michigan.  So what would you say to everyone in Michigan and   across the nation about the power and purpose of wearing seatbelts?  

HARRISON:  Clearly this is a great example of why you should wear your seatbelt.   Typically, in accidents like this where you have multiple   rollovers, if someone is not wearing their seatbelt, quite often they will    often be ejected from the vehicle and suffer extreme damage or death from the    landing or from the vehicle rolling on top of them.   You are much better off to stay within the vehicle and have your seatbelt on.   

                LAKE:  Wow, OK.    Let‘s get to the actual incident itself.   We want

to find out, you‘re   still looking for the car that hit Emily‘s—the

driver of the car that hit Emily‘s SUV, am I correct?  

HARRISON:  Yes, that‘s correct.  

LAKE:  What are you looking for?  You said it may be a white woman.  

What color is the car?  

HARRISON:  The car is a green color.   We think it‘s some type of Dodge Chrysler model car.    From the tips we have been receiving, initially it was that it was possibly a white male, but now information we‘re receiving indicates it could be a white female with very short, blond hair.  

LAKE:  There is also a tip line to the viewers on the bottom of the screen.    Please, call the tip line if you have any information about this crash and who hit Emily‘s SUV.

Vicki, let me ask you as well, the driver that came down the highway, what is their liability, culpability?  Were they negligent at all?  Why did that second car swerve so dramatically to the left and hit Vicki?  Does anyone know?  

HARRISON:  The vehicle that was merging off the ramp onto the highway, they do not appear to be at fault at all.

It appears that the driver of the green car maybe overreacted.   We

won‘t know that for sure though until we can locate the person or they come

forward and give their side of the story, so we know exactly from their

perspective what    happened.   

                LAKE:  Let‘s play the 911 call.    Listen quickly with me.   

(BEGIN AUDIO FEED)

DISPATCHER:  What kind of injuries are there?  

CALLER:  There‘s one person.  She‘s badly injured.  She‘s got blood coming out of her mouth.  She rolled over several times.

(END AUDIO FEED)

LAKE:  Again, if anyone knows anything about the crash, please call the tip line number.

And, Vicki, we thank you so much for being here with us.

And we will continue to follow this story.   

HARRISON:  Thank you for all your help.    We couldn‘t do it without you.  

LAKE:  Thank you.

Coming up, an NBC News exclusive.  We‘re taking you inside the stable   where the wounded race horse, Barbaro is recovering.   See where he is being nursed back to health.

And next, a manhunt for two people accused are not just abusing and killing their victim, but recording the whole sick and twisted thing on tape.  That‘s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE SANDERS, PRSECUTING ATTORNEY, JACKSON COUNTY, ME:  I‘m a father.  We‘re all human beings.    I‘m a husband.    And watching that tape, that‘s probably the most disturbing—I see 170 homicides sometimes in a year.  That‘s probably some of the most disturbing stuff I‘ve ever seen.  And it‘s something I won‘t forget.

LAKE:  Right now, there is an all-points bulletin for the two murder suspects responsible for that sick and twisted tape.

Cops say the victim was bound, beaten, raped and then strangled to death.

Here are the two suspects police are hunting for.  Police say the videotape of the ordeal is two hours long.

Lisa Benson from NBC affiliate KSHB in Kansas City, Missouri is live tonight with the details.

Hello there.  Please fill us in with the details.  

LISA BENSON, CORRESPONDENT, AFFILIATE KSHB KANSAS CITY:  I tell you the concern right mow is there are possibly more bodies out there somewhere.  And that is something that investigators are now looking   into.

A fisherman found Marsha Spicer‘s body on May 15th in a shallow grave in Lafayette County, Missouri.

She was nude.  And according to the medical examiner, she had been choked and beaten to death.

Investigators started questioning friends, which led them to Richard    Davis and Dena Riley.

Initially, the couple said that they did not know Spicer.  But a detective noticed a camcorder facing the couple‘s bed and ordered a speech warrant.

On May 19, investigators executed the search warrant and found a videotape.

According to police, it shows Davis and Riley beating and raping Spicer until she falls unconscious.   Investigators tell us Spicers‘ hands and eyes were duct taped the entire time.

Richard Davis and Dena Riley have been on the run since the murder   charges were filed on Monday.  Investigators say they were spotted in Perryville, Missouri, and possibly in Illinois in the last 24 hours.

Now, some fear the victim—that Spicer is not the only victim.  Michelle Ricci has been missing since April.  And her mother tells NBC Action News that she, her daughter, knew Richard Davis.

And investigators are not giving us a lot of information at this time as to whether or not they believe there are other victims.  But, like I said, we do have word that investigators are going to begin a search, possibly in Lafayette    County, for more bodes.

And, again, investigators are not saying that Michelle Ricci is another   victim.  But her mother tells us that Michelle Ricci did in fact know Richard Davis.  

And at this point, that‘s pretty much all the investigators are giving

us.  They‘re not giving us a lot of information on the investigation.   But

I‘ll tell you right now, there is a huge concern there could be more bodies

out there    buried, possibly in Lafayette County.   

                LAKE:  Thank you, Lisa, so much for that report.

                Let me bring in Tom Gentry with the Independence, Missouri police, and

Sherry Ballew, whose daughter, Michelle Ricci, is now missing. She says her daughter knew the murder victim.

Thank you and welcome to both of you.

TOM GENTRY, INDEPENDENCE, MISSOURI:  Good evening.

SHERRY BALLEW, MOTHER OF MICHELLE RICCI:  Hello.

LAKE:  Good evening.

Tom, let me ask you, give me the progress on the search for these two sickos, because these people sound like they are just sickos.   

GENTRY:  This is a very heinous crime that was perpetrated.    When we discovered the tapes, subsequent to a search warrant, we found that the victim in the videotape was virtually begging for their life.  Duct taped, hands behind them, being beaten, open hand, closed fist.  It was just a horrible crime.

We don‘t know at what point, if even the death took place on the tape,

but toward the end, it seemed as if the victim was unconscious from

choking.    So that is pretty much what we found.  

                LAKE:  Tom, let me ask you this.  I heard that you said that some of

your officers are even having trouble sleeping at night after looking at this videotape?

GENTRY:  Absolutely.   It‘s such a shocking thing.    When you are a police officer, you think you‘re pretty much callus, that you think you‘ve seen it all.   And then something like this comes along.

The detectives, the individuals at the department that have had to

view this tape have reported having difficulty sleeping.    And just that

visual image that keeps playing through their minds.    It‘s very

disturbing.

And we do plan on having some professionals come in and speak with them once this case is resolved.    It‘s just that heinous.  

LAKE:  Unbelievable.

Sherry, let me ask you this.  You believe that your daughter, Michelle, could possibly be one of these two suspect‘s victims.    Why do you believe that?  

BALLEW:  I saw my daughter, the 30th of March, and she was with Marsha

Spicer.   And I have not seen my daughter since the 3rd.  But she was seen

last,   the 6th.   And I do believe that she is not with me.  

                LAKE:  You do?  

                BALLEW:  I believe that possibly this couple has been involved in my   

daughter‘s disappearance.   

LAKE:  If you believe this couple is involved in your daughter‘s    disappearance and they are watching right now, what would you say to them?  

BALLEW:  I would say please, if my daughter is still alive, turn her loose.   Please, I beg you.  

I‘m hoping she is still alive.   But everyday that goes by, I lose hope.  

LAKE:  I see that you have a picture there of your daughter?   

BALLEW:  Yes, I do.    This is Michelle.   

LAKE:  And you last saw her when?   

BALLEW:  I last saw her April 3rd.  

LAKE:  And you remember distinctly seeing her with Spicer that would be Marsha Spicer?  

BALLEW:  Yes, March 30th at my daughter‘s house.   

LAKE:  What were they doing at her house?   Watching television?  

BALLEW:  No.   We were in the bedroom talking.   

LAKE:  How did Marsha Spicer --  what did you feel about her?   Did she strike you as being an odd character?  

BALLEW:  No, no.  A little bitty thing, she was doctoring my

daughter‘s lip because she had a big sore on her lip and her nose.   And

she asked me if I was Michelle‘s mom, and I said yes.  And she says, “My

name is Marsha.”  And I said that will be easy to remember because I have a

sister named   Marsha.

                The same girl, 100 percent.   

                LAKE:  Well, we are praying for your daughter tonight.  We will

continue to be on top of this story, as well as this search for these suspects, Richard Davis and Dena Riley.

We know that they are out there somewhere, and we will continue, this whole entire nation will continue to support you.

Please, look at the tip line.   And we‘ll be right back.

BALLEW:  Thank you.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LAKE:  Tonight we check in with the Kentucky Derby winner, Barbaro.  His prognosis is better.  But he‘s still recovering at a Pennsylvania hospital after surgery to repair his shattered leg.

Melissa Stark paid him a personal visit in this NBC News exclusive.   

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER:  And they are of.  

MELISSA STARK, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Since Saturday, the nation has been holding its breath with fans of all ages pulling for this young horse named Barbaro.  

No two fans were more devastated by his breakdown than his owners, Gretchen and Roy Jackson.   

ROY JACKSON, CO-OWNER OF BARBARO:  We have run through the gamut of emotions, from the Kentucky Derby euphoria to the devastation of the Preakness.   

GRETCHEN JACKSON, CO-OWNER OF BARBARO:  It is so painful.   It is so painful when something like this happens.  

STARK:  And keeping Barbaro pain-free has become a fulltime job for   the team of veterinarians at the New Bolton Hospital for large animals.  

DEAN RICHARDSON, VETEINARIAN:  He is feeling very good.  He‘s walking very well in the limb.   

Dr. Dean Richardson, who performed the intricate surgery on Barbaro,

allowed me to visit him in the ICU  

STARK (on camera):  So this is his home for the next few months?  

RICHARDSON:  This is his home.  Yes, probably.   It is nice in here, don‘t you think.  

STARK:  Well, it‘s a 14 by 14 stall—cell of sorts.   

RICHARDSON:  Yes.  I think he will stay in here.  Because it‘s quiet. 

It‘s climate-controlled.  It‘s very restricted in terms of the access.   

So he will probably stay in here for the foreseeable future.   

STARK (voice-over):  The next few weeks are critical for Barbaro.   

RICHARDSON:  It is better and better every day that goes by.    If we can get him a month from now and he looks this is good, I‘d be ecstatic.  But the problem is the nature of this type of injury in a horse is such that things can go bad very suddenly.  

STARK (on camera):  So will you just tell me a little bit about the cast?   

RICHARDSON:  It is fiberglass.  It stops right below the hock.  The cast stops right here.  And then it goes all the down to the foot.  This is just a soft bandage to help keep a little bit of the swelling out of that part of the leg.   

STARK (voice-over):  So Barbaro will remain on what his doctor has called equine bed rest, relaxing and eating carrots.

(on camera):  Here you go, boy.

(voice-over):  The hope is that, one day, his leg will be strong enough to support him in his life as a breeding stallion.   

(on camera):  I understand he already flirting a little bit.

RICHARDSON:  Oh, yes.  He likes the girls.  He seems to like the girls.

STARK:  That is a good sign, right?   

RICHARDSON:  Yes, it is.   

STARK (voice-over):  And Dr. Richardson remains cautiously optimistic    about Barbaro‘s recovery.   

RICHARDSON:  It is going every bit as well as could possible hope right now.    You have to be optimistic if you you‘re going to be in the racing game.   

STARK:  As Barbaro continues the race of his life.

Melissa Stark, NBC News, Kennett (ph) Square, Pennsylvania.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LAKE:  That‘s live and direct.

I‘m Lauren Lake, filling in for Rita Cosby.

“The Situation with Tucker Carlson” starts right now.

Hi, Tucker.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

END   

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