When Paul McDonald performed Bob Seger's "Old Time Rock 'N' Roll" last night on "American Idol," judge Steven Tyler voiced what all of America was thinking: "Never mind you, Paul--who's your sax player?"
Steven wasn't just interested in Paul's saxophonist because, well, she was an attractive blonde woman. Though I'm sure that didn't hurt. And it wasn't just because this was the first saxophone solo in "American Idol" history. The mystery woman really could play, and she practically upstaged Paul. While some people mistook the sax stylist for similarly coiffed Season 9 "Idol" semifinalist Lilly Scott, it was actually respected jazz artist Mindi Abair; she was enlisted by guest producer Don Was, whom she met several years ago at the Newport Jazz Festival. And there might have been a very funny and unexpected reason why Steven had his eye on her.
"I haven't told anyone this yet, but since the song we did was from Risky Business, one of the 'Idol' producers said, 'I'm gonna dress her up like Tom Cruise'--and they came to me and said, 'You're going to wear big a white shirt and men's underwear and socks.' I thought it was a practical joke!" laughs Mindi.
"So for dress rehearsal, I wore men's underwear, no pants on, and Ray-Bans like Tom Cruise," Mindi reveals. "So I think Steven Tyler was kind of flirting with me on the show because he'd already seen me in my underwear!"
Mindi's silly dress-rehearsal outfit also helped her become chummy with Paul. "I think it made for a nice bond with me and him," she says. "When I came out, he looked at me and went, 'Aw, they shouldn't make you wear that!' When you go onstage in your underwear with someone, you're instantly close friends."
Luckily for Mindi, the "Idol" producers eventually decided she should play on the show fully clothed. "I figured I'd be a good team player and go out there in my underwear and rock it, but I'm glad I didn't have to do that in front of 26 million people!" admits Mindi.
As for the Steven flirtation, Mindi was flattered and thrilled. "I'm such an Aerosmith fan. I just wanted to bond with him over the feathers in both our hair, and walk away into the sunset with him!"