Dateline NBC
updated 5/9/2005 9:45:59 AM ET 2005-05-09T13:45:59

Is there anyone alive who doesn't love, at least just a little bit, good old fashioned gossip? Especially when the gossipee happens to be the famously sympathetic “American Idol” judge, apparently sweet, apparently loveable, Paula Abdul. Of course, the truly juicy bit of gossip is that she may have known at least one of those contestants a little too well.

Ken Baker: “Corey Clark is alleging that Paula Abdul seduced him.”

Ken Baker is the senior West coast editor of US Weekly. The old Hollywood cliché. Former “Idol” contestant Corey Clark is reportedly peddling a tabloid kiss-and-tell that is raising the question, are one of TV's hottest shows for four years straight and a beloved judge the pretty ex princess of pop, in for a crash landing?

Baker: “People have opinions about Paula Abdul. They love her. They don't like her. They think she's loopy. And that makes her a really good TV personality. And it's worked for the show.”

But is it still working? 

Few things sell so well as a lurid headline, but this one in the tabloid, The Globe, questions whether Abdul tried to fix the contest by promising some secret help. Clark says The Globe alleges she promised to choose his songs, help his style, and no matter what happened in the contest, even put up $2 million of her own to make him a star. 

Baker: “If what Corey Clark is saying is true, then Fox has a big mess on their hands. And Paula Abdul has an even bigger mess on her hands.”

Yes, but in 2003, Kimberly Locke was a fellow contestant, and was disappointed there was virtually no contact with their famous judges. Even sneaking a meeting on the down low would have been very difficult.

Baker: “Somebody would have seen it.We had a security guy. So it was like you had to bypass him. And he took names.”

And it was discovered that Clark wasn't exactly the ideal idol.The show's background check had failed to turn up criminal charges then pending against him. When producers found out, Corey Clark was finished. Pat Lalama is a correspondent for "Celebrity Justice."

Pat Lalama: “He's ambitious. He's disgruntled, perhaps. He has an axe to grind. There's a dollar sign in each eye.”

Neither Fox nor American Idol had a comment for Dateline, though the show's executive producer has dismissed any suggestion that the show is fixed, and fellow judge Simon Cowell, has called the charges rubbish. Efforts to reach Corey Clark were unsuccessful.

And Paula Abdul has issued a statement saying Clark is communicating lies about her in order to generate interest in a book deal.

Scandal, once started, is however, not so easy to put to bed. So was it a coincidence when Paula's own so-called "secret battle" with her medical issues appeared in People Magazine aroundthe same time Corey Clark's allegations surfaced elsewhere?

Lalama: “It's what I like to call the Hollywood preemptive strike.”

Paula was shocked, according to this latest story, to learn that “Idol” fans had been posting Internet questions about her. Was she on drugs? Taking pills? Hasn't she been looking, well, stoned?

Lalama: “It's a come to the table, lay your heart out, let me tell you about my 25 years of pain and suffering.”

But has it really been so secret? Or is it actually an old story to be told again at a vulnerable time?

Paula Abdul shared the secret of her medical woes for the first time on Dateline, two years ago, when she spoke to Ann Curry.

Paula Abdul: “I've not publicly talked about what my struggles have been. I had three discs that were completely ruptured and wore out so I was bone on bone on bone. And it was causing me to have partial paralysis.”

She was losing all feeling down the right side of her body, she says.

Abdul: “It then started radiating through my lower back and through my right hips into my legs. And I kept it pretty darn quiet. And took a good six, six and a half years.  Went in and out of surgeries.”

It started she says with a cheerleading move in high school that went very wrong.

Abdul: “There was one time that I fell and I wasn't caught properly and I had this really weird pain that went from the top of my head and it just trickled down all the way to my feet. From that moment on weird things would happen. Like I'd wake up and I couldn't lift my head.”

But Paula was moving way too fast to worry about that. She became one of the famous L.A. Lakers cheerleaders in 1980, in 1986 she was choreographing with Janet Jackson. By 1989, Paula's hit "Straight Up" shot right to the top.

In the 90s she earned two multi-platinum albums, six number one singles, a Grammy and two Emmys. And she never let on that she was in pain.

Abdul: “Dancers never complain. Pain becomes your friend. And the more I danced, the more I sing, I never knew that you know, protruding disks were like cutting off my air passage and causing you know nerve entrapment.

Along with that, she did 30 shows on tour with a torn knee. Finally a plane crash in 1992 kept her in constant pain.

Abdul: “It's something that is so aggressive that it takes your breath away. And makes your teeth start chattering because it's so uncomfortable. They could give me pain pills that would put a 300 pound man out. And there were no answers. Sometimes medicine doesn't work.”

She suffered for years, she said, undergoing 10 spinal surgeries, having three metal plates put in her neck, and losing half an inch in height. She had surgery just months before was to start an exciting new job. She began praying out loud.”

Abdul: “Please let this work because I'm going to take the job called 'American Idol.' And I deserve to this job. I have to do this job because there's nobody else who can do it but me. And well it's either going to work or it's not."

Paula told Ann Curry back then that she was just about pain free, and even dancing again.

Abdul: “There's no comparison to what I was going through as far as pain. And I've been able to manage it through physical therapy.”

What Paula has recently revealed that is new is that she's finally found a doctor who figured out what was wrong. She says it's a nervous system disorder, often caused by an injury, which produces chronic pain. She's finally free of pain, she says, thanks to medication. So "no," she tells “Idol” fans, she's not addicted to drugs at all.

Lalama: “And so you've got Corey who's been in trouble before, you've got Paula who's had all these illnesses and problems. You've got this giant machine called "American Idol" and man we're just gonna have to sit back and put our seatbelts on and take the ride.

Keith Morrison: “Does a little scandal hurt the show?”

Baker: “Absolutely not.”

Lalama: “This is Hollywood. The badder the better."

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