Pop Culture

Mario denies rumors about ‘Idol’ departure

It’s personal. That’s what Mario Vazquez is insisting about his decision to drop out of Fox’s “American Idol” talent search. Fans were buzzing Monday about why such a popular contender would forfeit “Idol” fame.

“My gut and intuition told me it wasn’t time to do this,” Vazquez told The Associated Press. “I had to focus on some personal areas in my life with the little bit of privacy that I have.”

The New Yorker’s own mother, Ada, didn’t know about his decision until a local TV reporter showed up at her doorstep.

“I do not know,” she told Fox 5 News. “I heard it from your mouth so I do not know what’s happening. I feel horrible about it.”

Fans felt just as bad. Messages on the official “Idol” Web site ranged from “Post here if you will miss Mario” to “Mario Vazquez Fans UNITE!” Working together, many attempted to piece together the puzzle on why such a promising contestant would call it quits. Here are three theories — realistic and ridiculous — that fans conceived, and here’s what he told the AP in a telephone interview Monday:

1. He didn’t want the “American Idol” contract.
Sure, the winner of “Idol” receives a heaping helping of media attention, but they also are beholden to a record deal with the show’s executive producer that many in the industry call restrictive. So maybe Vazquez saw a loophole, some fans posted.

Vazquez: “In all honesty, I’m not able to talk about contracts. ... It’s nothing with ‘American Idol’ in particular, it’s just things I really need to take care of in my life.”

2. He’s got a skeleton in his closet.
Contestants have been dismissed from previous “Idol” editions. One was arrested, some failed to disclose arrest records and one posed for an adult Web site. Could Vazquez be hiding something just as detrimental, or even more personal, and decided to bow out before it was found out?

Vazquez: “Crazy.” And, for the record, “Everything is fine with my health.”

3. He’s going to testify in the Michael Jackson case.
OK, it’s a stretch. But Vazquez does have a connection to the Gloved One. The crooner sang backup on “Whatever Happens,” a track from Jackson’s 2001 “Invincible” album. In a questionnaire on the “Idol” Web site, Vazquez called the experience his “proudest moment in life so far.” However, Vazquez wasn’t listed as a possible witness for either the defense or prosecution in Jackson’s molestation trial. And Vazquez is back in New York while the trial is continuing in California.

Vazquez: “Crazy, that’s how it goes,” he said, singing the answer. “No, I’m not. It was an amazing experience to work with Michael Jackson, who is a legend. It’s unfortunate what’s happening with that.”

Despite all the hubbub, Vazquez was sticking to his story — and to his dreams of music stardom.

“I don’t think it’s by any means an end to my career,” he said. “It’s just things you need to take care of in life .... I will always be singing. This won’t be the last you hear of Mario Vazquez.”

Mario’s top 10Although his No. 1 reason to fans and the media has been "it's personal," Mario Vazquez may reveal his top 10 reasons for withdrawing from Fox's "American Idol" on CBS' "Late Show With David Letterman" — or at least poke fun at the uproar.

According to CBS, Vasquez will present the "Top Ten List" during Tuesday's episode. The list, a silly roundup of current affairs jabs, has become synonymous with Letterman.

Recent lists include "Top Ten Messages Left on Paris Hilton's Cell Phone" and "Top Ten Secrets to Winning the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show (news - web sites)." CBS didn't reveal what list Vazquez would present or if he'd sing it.

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