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Original Fourth Judge Doesn’t Regret Walking Away From ‘American Idol’

Lyndsey Parker
Reality Rocks

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As recently revealed in Richard Rushfield's new TV exposé American Idol: The Untold Story, "Idol" was always supposed to have four judges--but when the original fourth judge, a young KROQ Los Angeles radio personality named Ted Stryker, opted not to join the cast at the last minute, the show went on without him. One might assume that, like original co-host Brian Dunkleman--who quit "Idol" after one season and has since very vocally admitted that it was the worst decision of his career--Stryker spends every day kicking himself, wondering what might have been. But in a new interview with Reality Rocks, Stryker insists that he has absolutely no regrets.

"I really don't regret the decision," he says. "I've achieved more than I ever thought I could in the radio world. I've gotten to do some of the coolest things, at least to me, and those things wouldn't have happened if I had done 'Idol.' Whether it's interviewing Julian from the Strokes or having [Rage Against The Machine's] Tom Morello in the KROQ studio world-premiering The Battle Of Los Angeles....I don't think those artists would have been as comfortable as they were with me if I had been on 'Idol.'"

While some would-be DJs probably fantasize about one day becoming the next Ryan Seacrest, Stryker explains that for him, his ultimate dream was always to get on KROQ, one of the top alt-rock stations in the country. "My main goal in my career, years ago, was to be a radio personality on KROQ," he begins. "When the 'American Idol' thing came along, I had only been on KROQ one to two years at that point. Believe me, I was super-excited to get an offer from Fox to be on a huge TV show, it felt great, but I was so new to KROQ, and I did not want to do anything to ruffle the feathers of my bosses. KROQ was my whole goal, and I had just achieved it!

"Mix in the fact that the head of KROQ had at least a three-hour conversation with me on why I shouldn't do it, and he had the power to put his foot down and tell me not to do it back then....I'm nervous to talk about this because I've never really talked about it in depth, but let's just say that after my super, super, super long conversation with my boss, I was afraid to do 'Idol.'"

While Stryker's rejection of "Idol's" job offer might seem like a foolish mistake to many, it should be noted that it was an entirely different pop-culture climate back then, coming out of the 1990s' alternative rock revolution. Says Stryker: "That was 2001, and it was a different time. There was no MySpace. Mystique was cool. And so that was a big concern for my bosses--and for me, too. It's not because I thought I was too cool for school. It wasn't me thinking I was too cool for a TV show. But messing up my rock credibility, my credibility with the KROQ audience and KROQ artists, at that time, was a concern. That was the main reason it didn't go down for me."

It's interesting to imagine how the edgier influence of Stryker--who cites the Strokes as one of his favorite bands, and Kelly Clarkson as his all-time favorite "Idol" contestant--might have altered the direction of "Idol" if he'd been on board from the beginning. Would Clay Aiken have made it through? Would Adam Lambert and Blake Lewis gone farther? Would we have seen more alt-rockers? Would there have a been a Green Day Night or Strokes Night?

Stryker just laughs at the thought. "I don't think I would have changed the history of 'Idol,' but I think there wouldn't been some really great bickering about what exactly a talented performer is. I think Simon and I would have had a really good time."

Since walking away from "Idol," Stryker has done some television--like stints on Ellen DeGeneres's talk show and VH1's "Charm School"--and now that he's secure in his career and standing in the rock community, he says he's open to more TV possibilities.

"I'm so comfortable with my radio world now. I'm not the new kid on the block trying to prove what I'm about," he explains. "If something like 'Idol' came along now, now that I've built up my career, I would totally do something like that. I don't think 'American Idol' will be calling me anytime soon, but I would love to work with Simon Cowell on any project he has going like 'X Factor,' either as host or a judge. I'm still the same guy as I was when 'American Idol' wanted me, I'm just a little older and wiser now."

Hey Simon, are you reading this?

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