As "American Idol" revs up for its make-or-break 10th season, all the hype focuses on the show's return to its classic three-judge format, which notably includes new judges Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler. But I can't help but wonder if a certain radio DJ in Los Angeles is still hoping he'll be called in to sit next to J.Lo and S.Ty one day.
Allow me to explain. While most fans think of former co-host Brian Dunkleman as the "Pete Best" of "Idol"--aka, the guy who came painfully close to being part of a multi-million-dollar entertainment empire, and probably still dreams of what might have been--at least Brian made it onto the air for a few months back in Season 1. It's really a radio personality known as Stryker, who works for KROQ in L.A., who's probably covered with proverbial black-and-blue bruises from kicking himself. See, Stryker was supposed to be "American Idol's" original fourth judge.
According to the juicy new book American Idol: The Untold Story by esteemed "Idol" reporter Richard Rushfield, when casting began in 2001 for Fox's soon-to-be-massive talent program, the original idea was to fill the judges' bench with two music executives (Simon Cowell and Randy Jackson), one performer (Paula Abdul)...and, as was the case with Britain's prototype show "Pop Idol," one media insider, such as a music journalist or radio host. And that fourth slot was supposed to go to a "flamboyant and edgy young DJ," Stryker.
"The deal was ready to go," Rushfield writes, "but at the last minute, Stryker pulled out, citing what he would later term 'image concerns' over appearing on what he no doubt considered a cheesy singing contest that might damage his rock creds." With no time left to recast, the "Idol" powers-that-be decided to just forge ahead with a three-judge format.
Apparently, rock credibility was less of a concern for another Los Angeles DJ, Star 98.7FM's Ryan Seacrest, who took on the role of "Idol's" co-host (alongside the aforementioned Dunkleman) and, as we all know, went on to unimaginable fame and fortune as a result.
It's interesting that Stryker was so concerned about his image at the time, considering that he later happily signed on to be the "dean" on the not-exactly-credible, Rikki Lake-hosted VH1 reality show, "Charm School." But maybe by then, he'd realized that reality television wasn't quite the career-killer he'd assumed it was. He also, ironically, served as the onstage DJ for the fifth season of the talk show hosted by...wait for it...Ellen DeGeneres, who ended up in the problematic "fourth judge" seat on "Idol" herself, for a time.
Rushfield is not the first to bring up the subject of Stryker's fateful career decision in the media. Back in 2004, when Stryker was hosting the syndicated advice show "Loveline," Randy Jackson mentioned it when he was a guest on the program. Jackson joked that Stryker had worried that being on "Idol" would "blow his cool."
Meanwhile, Seacrest is now blowing his cool millions on mansions and Julianne Hough. It all really makes me wonder if Stryker and Dunkleman have ever commiserated together over a couple of beers in the seasons since they walked away from one of the biggest television shows of all time.