Toxicology Results Pending in Sudden, Mysterious End to Paula Abdul's Idol Tenure

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We've had less than 24 hours to fully absorb the shocking series of distress tweets typed by Paula Abdul, so despondent she could barely lift herself out of the luxurious, four-Mexican-gardener sofa that lines the wall of her sitting room. Reaction to her premature departure from American Idol -- just eight short years after she began -- has varied wildly, encompassing everything from veiled, Sicilian-widow-style sobbing to more composed remarks from the lesser-moved. (Hot Blog's David Poland eulogized, "Sadly, the only triumph left for Abdul will be in death. And given her clear substance problems, that could come all too soon. But don't book the Staples Center. The Wiltern should do the job, thanks." Touching.) Soon, a cottage industry of street merchants hawking tacky tribute T-shirts and knock-off charm bracelets engraved with the words "Miss Paula on Idol: 2001-2009" will fill the streets of downtown Los Angeles, but before Paula's departure becomes yet another opportunity to bilk a buck, we'd like some hard answers. Who is to blame?

The New York Times' report includes hard numbers: Abdul was making $2 million a year, plus about $1.5 million in "expenses and other benefits" (read: 24-hour weave maintenance and eyebrow-threading service, a personal bodyguard/drink freshener, pharmaceutical raw cook, etc...), and what she was demanding was "a package that would put her closer to parity, if not on par, with Simon Cowell, who earns an estimated $30 million annually." The Hollywood Reporter puts her demands at a cool $20 million.

She was offered $5 million a year, a piddling sum and a (mostly imperceptible) slap in the face compared to the staggering $45 million over three years that Ryan Seacrest is getting. So You Think You Can Dance executive producer Nigel Lythgoe called her "a special part of the chemistry of the show," and has already extended her a gig there -- an unsatisfactory scenario we've laid out for you in our Abdul 3.0 Employment Strategy Portfolio. The NY Times holds out for the possibility of a reconciliation -- "stranger things have happened in Hollywood," they note -- but to that Idol expert Richard Rushfield, formerly of the L.A. Times and now of Gawker, writes, "Paula brims with ideas for her own shows" and is perfectly happy parting ways with this insulting $5 million paycheck to make those ideas happen.

And finally, we leave on this celebratory note, of joyous Idol staffers breaking open the bubbly over Abdul's departure, as recounted to the Chicago Sun-Times' Bill Zwecker:

'Can't you hear our celebration?'' said a veteran key ''Idol'' staff member in a phone chat late Wednesday. ''We broke out the good champagne tonight.''

Indeed, I could hear the clinking of glasses and a few scattered cheers in the background at an impromptu party a number of ''American Idol'' staff members put together after learning the news.

Just you wait. You'll miss her when she's gone.



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