Mario Vazquez Is Not a Bad 'Idol'

Mario Vazquez | Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Mario's No Bad Guy 'Idol'

There's nothing worse than getting famous in this country. There's always someone out there waiting to do you in.

Mario Vazquez, a nice New York kid who dropped out of "American Idol" a couple of seasons ago, got sued yesterday by some former show staffer who painted quite a vivid and lascivious scene in his court papers.

One accusation was that Vazquez left the show early because of this tawdry business.

If that were the case, the accuser — one Magdaleno Olmos — would have had a hot story to sell to the tabloids.

This column, however, told you back when Vazquez left "American Idol" that his reasons — not publicized then — were simple. They had nothing to do with "sexual harassment."

Vazquez had been convinced by an attorney who had worked on extricating Clay Aiken from his "American Idol" management contract that, should he win, he would be stuck with a long deal that would be difficult to get out of later. It was that and nothing else; get out early or be tied to the show's owner for seven years.

Subsequently, Vazquez made a deal with J Records and Clive Davis, hooked up with Rod Stewart's superstar manager, Arnold Steifel, and released his first CD. He was on his way.

Two years have passed since Vazquez left the show. You would think that if Olmos had a beef with Mario or "American Idol," he would have said something a long time ago. The fact is: Mario Vazquez doesn't even remember Magdaleno Olmos. He has told mutual friends to tell me that he is very upset, almost distraught.

"It never happened," a friend we both know said.

New York is a small town. It turned out when Mario got on "American Idol" that I knew him slightly through my good friend, Ann.

Since then, I have seen him on and off periodically. Vazquez is a soft-spoken, polite and self-effacing guy who, as my friend Ann says, "says hello to everyone in the office, even the cleaning crew."

Anything's possible, of course, but if Mario did even a little of what he has been charged with, I would be surprised. Very surprised.

Rock Hall Voting Scandal: Rock Group Actually Won

According to sources knowledgeable about the mysterious ways of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation, British Invasion group The Dave Clark Five and not Grandmaster Flash finished fifth in the final voting of the nominating committee and should have been inducted on Monday night.

According to sources, Rolling Stone publisher Jann Wenner, who recently appointed himself chairman of the Foundation after the death of Ahmet Ertegun, ignored the final voting and chose Grandmaster Flash over the DC5 for this year's ceremony.

"Jann went back to a previous ballot instead of taking the final vote as the last word," my source insisted. "He used a technicality about the day votes were due in. In reality, The Dave Clark Five got six more votes than Grandmaster Flash. But he felt we couldn't go another year without a rap act."

R.E.M., Van Halen, The Ronettes and Patti Smith were the top four vote-getters, with Grandmaster Flash finishing fifth when the votes were counted on the first date ballots were due in to the Rock Hall office.

But when all the ballots were counted a few days later, the DC5 had pulled ahead. Wenner decided to ignore that and stick with the earlier tally.

"We begged Jann to allow all six acts to be inducted. But he insisted that he couldn't because there wouldn't be enough time," my source said. "He wanted to have Aretha Franklin come and perform in memory of Ahmet Ertegun."

The Ertegun tribute, while very nice, was deemed unnecessary by members of the main committee because the Atlantic Records co-founder will be memorialized in New York on April 17.

"But Jann wanted to do his own tribute. It was insane, especially since he took over Ahmet's position on the board before Ahmet even had a memorial. Jann simply sent papers around informing everyone that he was now the chairman," my source said.

The Dave Clark Five ballot tampering, however, stings the most. The group, part of the British Invasion of the '60s, should have been inducted long ago for their hits like "Glad All Over," "Bits & Pieces" and "Catch Me If You Can." Making them wait has turned out to be a huge mistake, as their fortunes have not been great.

In December 2006, sax player Denis Payton succumbed to cancer at age 63. Lead singer Mike Smith has been paralyzed since 2003 after falling off a ladder at his home in Spain.

In August 2005, a terrific fundraising effort for Smith at B.B. King's in New York was supposed to be the prelude to finally recognizing the group that had several memorable hits in the mid-'60s.

Wenner's cruel axing of them from the show and the Hall of Fame should be painful to many who are intimately involved with the Hall, like Paul Shaffer, who runs the Hall of Fame band and produced and emceed the Smith tribute.

So what happened here? My sources also say that Wenner's motivation may have sprung from a controversial speech that was delivered by new administrative head Joel Peresman to the nominating committee last winter.

"He stood up there and told us that we should vote for who we thought would be most commercial, and who be best on the TV show," a source said. "It was outrageous. Some people tried to stop him and asked him to leave, but he wouldn't. He said, 'I'm not leaving.' The director is never supposed to speak to the nominating committee."

Peresman came to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation last year when Wenner arbitrarily ousted the long-time chief of the group, Suzan Evans Hochberg, after two decades of loyalty.

"We couldn't believe Jann stood up there last night and said Suzan was retiring. But when the seating plan went crazy the other day, Jann called and begged her to come in and help. Peresman knows nothing about the business," a source said.

Peresman came to the Foundation from gigs booking shows at Madison Square Garden and with Clear Channel, the radio giant that many feel has strangled the music business with intransigent radio play policies and suggestions — actually, government investigations — of payola.

In the old days, such a hire would have been considered anathema by Wenner.

None of this should come as any surprise to those who have followed the roller-coaster world of the Rock Hall. According to the group's most recent tax filing, for example, they gave only $9,000 to indigent musicians from their $11 million in holdings.

Even worse: Wenner sent a tax-free $10,000 to something called Jazz Casuals in San Francisco. It's really just the archives of Ralph J. Gleason, the late jazz writer who periodically wrote for Rolling Stone in its early days. It was the only donation made by the Foundation to any group last year.

"Again, outrageous," a source said. "With all of Jann's money, he could have just sent a check. He didn't need to use the Foundation's money."

By contrast, the Foundation gave only $53,000 to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum in Cleveland. Attorney Allen Grubman's law firm took another $50,000 for legal services rendered. Evans received her usual $300,000 salary. Peresman is said to be receiving even more.

And then there's the matter of who has left on the nominating committee. I'm told that nearly half the group is gone, leaving 32 members. Many of the remaining members are former or current Wenner employees, like Rolling Stone's Nathan Brackett, David Fricke, Jim Henke, Joe Levy, Brian Keizer and Anthony DeCurtis.

Jon Landau, Bruce Springsteen's manager and a former Rolling Stone writer, is the chairman of the committee and considered the last truly mediating influence on Wenner.

There are only three actual musicians: Paul Shaffer, Steven van Zandt and Robbie Robertson. Three are female. One of them is black. There are only two other black members: journalist Toure and Reginald C. Dennis

Wenner, I'm told, "weeded out everyone he didn't like." He even got rid of the veteran New York Post and Vanity Fair writer Lisa Robinson.

Wenner almost bumped Claudia Perry, a Newark Star Ledger sports writer and former pop music critic. After a scuffle, she managed to hang on, which was good news. As a black woman she fulfilled two minorities on the board (Edna Gundersen and Elyssa Gardner of USA Today are the other females).

"This is the opposite of what Ahmet would have wanted," a source said. "He liked a big committee that reflected lots of different tastes."