Cover Story

The 'American Idol' Bunch

Diary of a day in the ''American Idol'' house. Jessica Shaw hangs out with the contestants (and a testy Kristin Holt) to get the scoop on who's a dear and who's a diva -- an excerpt from Entertainment Weekly's March 28, 2003, cover story

Trenyce, Clay Aiken, ... | THIS GROUP WOULD SOMEHOW FORM A FAMILY... Carmen, the booted Charles and Vanessa, Corey, Julia, Rickey, Kimberley Locke, Clay, Trenyce, Josh, Kimberly Caldwell, and Ruben…
Image credit: American Idol Photograph by Michael Lewis
THIS GROUP WOULD SOMEHOW FORM A FAMILY... Carmen, the booted Charles and Vanessa, Corey, Julia, Rickey, Kimberley Locke, Clay, Trenyce, Josh, Kimberly Caldwell, and Ruben cheese it up

FRIDAY, MARCH 14, 7:00 P.M. -- HOLLYWOOD HILLS
The contestants moved into their multilevel mansion today. And just two hours later, it's already starting to look and sound like ''The Real World.'' Corey is alone in his room burning incense, Julia is unpacking her cigarettes, Josh has sequestered himself in the bathroom to call his wife, and Kimberly Caldwell is curled up alone in the den. Ruben, Carmen, Trenyce, Kimberley Locke, Clay, Rickey, and Charles are inhaling burgers, fish, salads, and corn on the cob prepared by the house chef. The table talk, invariably led by Clay, the most outgoing of the bunch, goes from food (Clay: ''We have pork barbecues back home. You take a pig, cut it in half, and open it wide on the pig cooker and just pick out of it'') to religion (Rickey: ''I don't eat the swine.'' Clay: ''Are you Jewish?'') to domestic violence (Ruben: ''Clay's my dawg.'' Clay: ''Ruben hits me.'') to interfinalist sex (''There won't be any in our room,'' Clay says. ''Not on those hospital cots we sleep on'').

7:45 P.M.
Most of the remaining finalists tell me they never thought Vanessa would be the first to go home. Julia, who was the first runner-up in loser land, is still visibly shaken. ''I'm kind of glad that I know now what to expect, and I think if I'm in that situation again at least I'll know what's going to happen,'' she says. Julia is not the only one expecting to be voted out of Hollywood. Each finalist punctuates sentences with ''...if I'm here next week.'' ''Everyone knows they're basically expendable,'' Josh says. Even audience favorites like Ruben and Clay, who currently seem untouchable, aren't getting too comfy. ''I'm not going to unpack,'' Clay says. ''I'm just going to live out of my suitcase. I don't want to get too used to being here.''

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