''...Ruben Studdard!'' As Ryan Seacrest reads those words, the new American Idol disappears in a sea of worshipers and confetti. Before the applause dies down, ''Idol'' wannabes pour out of the stage entrance: RJ Helton. Ryan Starr. Jim Verraros. The glued-at-the-hip Tamyra Gray and Christina Christian (glued at the other hip to her rat-size dog). ''I hoped Ruben would take it,'' Tamyra confides. Not that she voted. ''I was out late last night with Christina.''
Simon Cowell emerges, smirking in a devilish cloud of Kool smoke. ''Yes, I did want Ruben all along,'' he says. ''But Clay [Aiken] grew on me for the last couple of weeks because I liked the way he took criticism. He took it like a man.''
''It's like a piranha pool in here,'' vents one Fox newswoman. Crews are elbowing, yanking, and grabbing to get a few seconds with Clay and Ruben. Cameras swing around like machetes, and one nearly decapitates an already woozy Seacrest: ''I'm nursing walking pneumonia,'' he says. (Paging the CDC!) Simon, standing nearby, lights up another cigarette and channels his inner Andy Warhol: ''This will all be over tomorrow.''
Ruben tells one Fox affiliate that at first he was reluctant to audition for ''Idol'' because he thought it was ''cheesy.''
Big (and I mean big) brother Kevin is eager to move on with the night. ''Let's go. Stop talking,'' he tells Ruben. Ruben shoos him away. ''I'm working.''
The judges ride golf carts to the VIP party, held at Universal CityWalk, but Randy returns in his after two minutes. ''There's no security there,'' he says. ''That was scary.''
After half an hour of signing autographs and posing for pictures, Ruben and fellow ''Idol'' contestants prepare to bolt the party by holding hands and forming a human chain to bust through the throngs of well-wishers. Stragglers are left to enjoy brightly colored cupcakes and massive vats of macaroni and cheese. Not surprisingly, Ruben was too busy with fans to sample either.
Skybar at the Mondrian Hotel
Ruben presumably makes an appearance at exec producer Simon Fuller's private party. Thanks for the invite, Simon.
Ruben finally gets to go to sleep. Kev's on wake-up duty.
Universal Amphitheater backlot
Being an Idol means waking up at 4 a.m. to do more TV interviews. Ooh, hot scoop here: Ruben tells a reporter that he was reluctant to audition for ''Idol'' because he thought it was ''cheesy.'' Unlike his predecessor, Kelly Clarkson, Ruben is clearly not at ease in front of the camera. For that matter, he doesn't seem to be particularly at ease speaking. Getting an extended quote out of Ruben is only slightly easier than eliciting a coherent one from Paula Abdul (more on her in a moment). Of his reticence, Ruben says, ''Everyone wants the same information.''