Reality Rocks (New)

Catching Up With ‘American Idol’s’ Most Memorable Castoffs

Lyndsey Parker
Reality Rocks

"American Idol" Season 11 (yes, ELEVEN) starts this Wednesday, and you know what that means: The next few weeks will be filled with some really good auditions...and some not-so-good ones, and some so-good-they're-bad ones. For many "Idol" viewers, it is this early stage of the competition, when various unknown singers with wildly varying talent levels walk into that audition room for the very first time, that's the best part of the season. Many of these auditioners don't end up going the distance--unless that distance is the short post-rejection walk of shame back to their cars in the parking lot--but they make lasting impressions nonetheless. And some of them even manage to stretch their fame beyond the expected 15 minutes.

Which bring us to the question: What have some of the most memorable "Idol" rejects been up to since leaving the show? Let's find out...

WILLIAM HUNG

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photo: Fox

Of course, this article must begin with this patron saint of all rejected "Idol" auditioners. Back in 2004, even in the days before YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook, William's wacky Season 3 "She Bangs" audition went instantly viral, and he incredibly ended up with a major record deal. He even ended up selling more records than some legitimate singers from "Idol," as his first album, Inspiration, actually shifted almost 200,000 units (please note that's 50,000 more copies than Season 9 winner Lee DeWyze's post-"Idol" album sold). William has since released two more albums, starred in commercials, and acted in two Hong Kong films, but what's most interesting is the fact that he is now working for the L.A. County Sheriff's Department as a technical crime analyst. ("My passion has always been math. It just took a while to end up as my career," he told the L.A. Weekly.) But while William may be giving up his musical crimes to focus on actual ones, his "Idol" legacy remains intact. In fact, the L.A. Weekly just put him at number one on its top 20 list of all-time musicians. ("He is the greatest musician of all time because he epitomizes our highs, our lows, and our struggles to make ourselves heard," wrote journalist Ben Westhoff, insanely.) Hung apparently still bangs after all these years.

LARRY PLATT

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photo: Fox

That's General Larry Platt, to you and me. This former Civil Rights activist became the second-most-infamous "Idol" castoff when, at the ineligible age of 62, he tried out for Season 9 with the hilarious anti-saggy-trousers-anthem, "Pants On The Ground." The catchy tune was co-opted by everyone from Jimmy Fallon to Tyler Perry to Brett Favre, and Larry's performance of the novelty song was pretty much THE highlight of the Season 9 finale (even if surprise guest William Hung stole Larry's thunder when he bumrushed the proceedings). However, the General's showbiz career stalled when a label called American King Music claimed that it gave him the money to record "Pants On The Ground" and filed a lawsuit over the song. Additionally, a hip-hop duo called the Green Brothers claimed that "Pants On The Ground" was a ripoff of their 1996 song, "Back Pockets On The Floor." So Larry hasn't done much musically as of late. But he did recently conduct a radio interview about his past Civil Rights activism, which you can listen to here. And if you're still interested in his musical side, here's a fun "Pants" performance he did at a 2011 Christmas party for Georgia politician "Able" Mable Thomas:

JOSIAH LEMING

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photo: Fox

Josiah is one of only two true musical talents on this list--and what a talent he is! Though he is still best known as Season 7's "crying kid" who lived in his car and petulantly refused to sing a traditional version of "Stand By Me" during Hollywood Week, he really should be known as one of the best "Idol" contestants ever. Viewers were shocked at the time when--after receiving a huge amount of screentime early on--Josiah was passed over for the live semifinals, but a record executive who'd worked with the likes of Muse and Radiohead took notice of Josiah and signed him to Warner Bros., which resulted in Josiah's wonderful (if under-promoted) Angels Undercover EP and Come On Kid album. Corporate shakeups at Warner resulted in Josiah getting dropped, sadly, but he's still making great music: In late 2011, he self-released his second album Another Life, and he continues to tour the U.S., playing for diehard fans who still believe that he was robbed in Season 7.

KATRINA "BIKINI GIRL" DARRELL

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photo: Fox

Katrina made a big impression on lusty Simon Cowell with her scantily clad Season 8 audition, since her itsy-bitsy bikini distracted from her itsy-bitsy amount of vocal talent. Then-judge Kara DioGuardi eventually upstaged Katrina when she flashed her own bikini body at the Season 8 finale, and while Katrina was reportedly so miffed she fled the stage in a huff and locked herself in a dressing room, this setback ultimately didn't deter her from trying to pursue a singing career. Last year Katrina released her first music video, for a cover of the old classic "Big Spender," and in the clip she wisely worked her assets, romping on the beach in an array of two-piece bombshell outfits. Simon probably enjoyed it.

IAN BENARDO

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photo: Fox

Ian is a double-threat, literally, since avid reality-watchers will recognize him from both his trainwrecky "American Idol" and "So You Think You Can Dance" auditions. More casual viewers will remember him from that time when he interrupted Dane Cook's performance on the Season 9 "Idol" finale, and panicked Fox producers pulled the plug on the entire number as Ian was dragged offstage. Still wanting to have the last word, Ian subsequently filed a $300 million discrimination lawsuit against "Idol," claiming that producers encouraged the Dane Cook stunt, that he was encouraged to "gay it up" for the cameras, and that the stage crew taunted him with multiple gay slurs when he was on the set. A New York federal judges tossed the suit out of court. Now I'm just wondering what talent show Ian will audition for next.

SHERMAN PORE

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photo: Fox

This gentle-natured senior citizen gave one of the most touching "Idol" auditions ever, when he successfully petitioned in Season 6 to be allowed to try out despite being over the age limit--all in honor of his "lady love" of 20 years, Melissa, who died from ovarian cancer two days before he appeared on the show. Sherman later served as a celebrity ambassador for the City Of Hope, and was approached by the Z Entertainment label after he subsequently appeared on "Larry King Live," which led to the release of a benefit album of classic love songs, For My Lady Love, in honor of Melissa. Sherman will go down in history as one of "Idol's" classiest class acts. Listen to tracks from his album here.

RENALDO LAPUZ

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photo: Fox

Admit it: You've probably had this furry-hatted friendship ambassador's anthem "We're Brothers Forever" lodged in your brain ever since he auditioned with it in Season 7. (Everybody, now: "I am your brother, your best friend forever...") Really, "We're Brothers Forever" probably should've been Season 7's coronation song instead of "Time Of My Life." Renaldo later released two independent albums, 2009's Renaldo Lapuz and 2010's Rey, but those recordings, unsurprisingly, weren't nearly as popular as "We're Brothers Forever," so he was last reported working as a janitor at a Wal-Mart in Reno--where customers still recognize him, even without his hat. Renaldo still has hopes to pursue a musical career.

DARWIN REEDY

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photo: Fox

When this monotonic blonde auditioned for "American Idol" in 2007, her equally bizarre lookalike mother was by her side. It didn't go well. Darwin had a voice only a mother could love. Four years later, Darwin followed Simon Cowell (who actually inspired a novella she wrote) over to his new show, "The X Factor"--and since that competition had no age limit, this time her mom Sherry actually auditioned with her, in the mother-daughter duo the Good Girls. But they were not good at all. And so, history repeated itself, and the Reedys were rejected by Simon once again.

CHRIS MEDINA

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photo: Fox

This Season 10 hopeful's tragic tale of his fiancée Juliana Ramos's horrific car accident, which caused her to lapse into a coma for months and sustain a traumatic brain injury, had all of America rooting for him last year. Chris was shockingly eliminated before the live shows--a decision that made Jennifer Lopez practically undergo a meltdown while telling him the sad news--but he did get to release one Juliana-inspired single on Interscope Records, "What Are Words." The ballad generated little attention in America (it peaked at number 83), but it became a huge hit in Scandinavia, going double-platinum in Sweden and quadruple-platinum in Norway; Chris actually became the most-played international musician on Norwegian and Swedish radio for all of 2011. Meanwhile, Juliana continued her long and arduous recovery; her progress is still being documented by her mother in a blog called For Juliana, which includes Chris updates as well.

NORMAN GENTLE

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photo: Fox

Interestingly, comedian Norman, whose real name is Nick Mitchell, went further on "Idol" than anyone else on this list; he's the only one who actually made it to the live rounds. Norman didn't get past the top 36, much to Simon Cowell's relief (and my disappointment; I found him hilarious). But since grandly leaving the show with his "And I Am Telling You" swan song, Norman has served as a correspondent for "The Wendy Williams Show," filmed a reality show pilot with his notorious Season 8 co-stars Kristen McNamara and Tatiana Del Toro, and released a kissoff single about Simon, "Brit Slap," with his eponymously named band, Gentle. (The hysterical video starred a Simon cardboard cutout and another surly British reality judge, "Top Model's" Nigel Barker.) Norman also stopped by Yahoo! once, and performed what I still like to think of as this column's unofficial theme song (check out the second video below):

Will any of Season 11's "Idol" auditioners be as memorable, or as ridiculous, as the ones above? Tune in Wednesday, January 18, when the madness starts up all over again, and find out.

Related links:

Top reality TV moments of 2011

Casey Abrams signs record deal

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