NEW YORK – If Simon Cowell has effectively hijacked all the attention on the red-hot American Idol 2, it shouldn't be a surprise -- he's had practice.
Cowell confesses that he was "a very naughty teenager" who got into a scrape involving toy guns, a bus hijacking and Scotland Yard.
"When I was a teenager, as a joke we held up a bus with toy guns," says Cowell, who was actually 12 when he pulled off the stunt in Hertfordshire, England.
"We thought the driver knew it was a joke. Unfortunately he didn't and we all got arrested at the end. It was brilliant."
Cowell and his friends were hauled off to jail and forced to sweat it out behind bars for a few hours until his mother finally arrived.
It's not the first time Cowell gave her trouble -- he also reportedly set fire to his house when he was seven years old after finding out Santa Claus wasn't real. (Cowell had discovered St. Nick's costume in the attic and -- realizing it was all a fairy tale -- set it on fire as a lark.)
Idol 2 is burning up Nielsen ratings and obviously Cowell's decision to be naughty instead of nice plays a big part in that.
But however the judges play it, the Pop Idol format is a smash. Shows have already taken place or are planned in Poland, Germany, South Africa, France, the Middle East and Holland (What? Not Japan, the home of disposable teen idols?).
That brings to mind the tantalizing possibility of "World Idol," a face-off between the winners of each country that was bruited about earlier this year.
"I'm sure the winner of Poland would love to take on the American," laughs Cowell. "But I'm unsure if this is going to happen or not. I'm not sure that people like Kelly Clarkson and Will Young [the winner of UK's Pop Idol] would want to take part in another competition.
"At the moment, they are winners. And if you put them all together, you're going to get a lot of losers again."