Terry Gross, Secret 'American Idol' Fan Special guest Terry Gross helps list some of the most e-mailed, viewed and commented on stories on the Web, including a look at this week's American Idol.

Terry Gross, Secret 'American Idol' Fan

Terry Gross, Secret 'American Idol' Fan

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Special guest Terry Gross helps list some of the most e-mailed, viewed and commented on stories on the Web, including a look at this week's American Idol.


Hey, hey. Welcome back to the Bryant Park Project from NPR News. We're always online, don't you know? At npr.org/bryantpark.


There was a story that caught someone's eye and they told two friends...

MARTIN and STEWART: (Together) And they told two friends, and so on...


STEWART: Yes, it's time for the BPP Breck commercial, for those who remember. The stories you can't keep to yourselves, the most-emailed, the most-gawked at and now they're just The Most.

(Soundbite of music)


CHILLAG: Good morning.

STEWART: Who is also pulling double duty today.


MARTIN: As director.

CHILLAG: Triple duty, actually.

MARTIN: Triple duty? Producing as well?

CHILLAG: Yeah, well, anyway, so this is my Most...

(Soundbite of laughter)

KENNEY: Anyway...

MARTIN: I'm awesome, but moving on...

MCKINNEY: He's pulling triple duty because he has to be in the room with me.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CHILLAG: Yeah, it's - ugh. It's innumerable. So this is most-emailed from Yahoo! And I'm actually very excited about this. Last Harry Potter book, which, if you remember was 1900 pages, I believe...

(Soundbite of laughter)

CHILLAG: They're not going to try and make one seven-hour movie. They're going to make two movies. So we're going to have eight films, eight total Harry Potter films...


CHILLAG: Which I'm excited about. I'm a little worried because Daniel Radcliffe, who plays Harry Potter, is going to be 39...

(Soundbite of laughter)

CHILLAG: By the time the last movie comes out.

MARTIN: And he's going to look exactly the same. That guy never grows old.


(Soundbite of laughter)

CHILLAG: Yeah. So - and Hermione I'm kind of worried about. But still, more Harry Potter for my dollar. I'm happy.

MARTIN: Coolio (ph). Ah, Caitlin Kenney.

KENNEY: I have some bad news for salmon lovers. This is the most-emailed at the San Francisco Chronicle and apparently, some federal fishing officials are warning that the entire salmon season could be halted this year because there're so few salmon spawning. They could have to get rid of fishing in California and Oregon unless an emergency exception is granted.


KENNEY: There're different ways they count the fish, but the fall run of salmon in the Sacramento river was only about 63,000 and they were expecting about 122,000, so it's a huge discrepancy and it's just really bad news because if they cancel this fishing, people won't be able to fish for fun and the price of salmon that's caught commercially is going to go way up.

MARTIN: That's what I'm talking about.

(Soundbite of laughter)


MARTIN: That's the part that gets my attention. That is unfortunate.

KENNEY: If you like the salmon, look out.

MARTIN: Alison?

STEWART: Mine is the number one most-emailed at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. It's titled, "Chills and Thrills," and it's about the zoo there. They have this - a bunch of penguins there. But the penguins were born and bred at the zoo and they haven't really seen a lot of snow. They haven't really lived in a natural habitat, so the zoologists decided, well, maybe we should put these penguins in some snow and see what happens. They were sort of concerned about what was happening. They did - it was supposed to be an exercise in enrichment, a chance to see if the birds share an experience that's coded into their DNA, like, they'll see this snow and what - and they'll know what to do. So they sent out Barry, Iris, Renee, Tut, Louie, Annie and Angel...

(Soundbite of laughter)


STEWART: They presented them with the snow bank, and what did they do?

MARTIN: What'd they do?

STEWART: They dove right in.

MARTIN, KENNEY, and MCKINNEY: (Together) Aw!


STEWART: It's a real - they're - it's apparently, like, a tourist attraction. They announced they were going to do this and so a lot of people - obviously, a lot of people in St. Louis, because it is the number one most-emailed - are very excited.

CHILLAG: Home, sweet home.

STEWART: Exactly.

MARTIN: Too cute.


MARTIN: Tricia McKinney?

MCKINNEY: Hello, hello, hello.

MARTIN: What've you got?

MCKINNEY: You know, I'm your Google girl...

MARTIN: Uh huh.

MCKINNEY: So I checked the Google Trends this morning and, you know, nine out of the top ten were related to Governor Eliot Spitzer. So of course, I zoom in on the one that is not, and nestled in among all these Eliot Spitzer references was the name "Lara Flynn Boyle."

MARTIN: Lara Flynn Boyle?

MCKINNEY: So it turns out she was on "Law & Order" last night.

KENNEY: Guh-gong (ph)!

MCKINNEY: Now since Google Trends...

CHILLAG: Guh-gong!

(Soundbite of laughter)

MCKINNEY: Since Google Trends is all about context, when you - you've got to click on - you've got to find out what the related searches are, so here are the related searches.

MARTIN: Yes. You have to work backwards.


MCKINNEY: "Lara Flynn Boyle plastic surgery," "Lara Flynn Boyle's face..."

(Soundbite of laughter)

MCKINNEY: "Lara Flynn Boyle the Practice..."

PASHMAN: Oh, my gosh.

MCKINNEY: "Lara Flynn Boyle Law & Order." So I thought, oh, my gosh! What happened to her face?

(Soundbite of laughter)

MCKINNEY: So then I went and looked at a two-minute recap of the episode she was on last night. I don't think she looks that bad, but, you know, the thing is she doesn't look like the Lara Flynn Boyle I remember last seeing. I can't recall when that was. She had kind of puffy lips...


MCKINNEY: So then I start looking and then you go down the rabbit hole and, you know, there's like awfulplasticsurgery.com, et cetera. They've been doing stories about her they call "artificially inflated" lips ever since 2003. So I guess this has been going on but, you know, all over the Internet, people were writing on Yahoo! Answers, what happened to Lara Flynn Boyle? Everybody's checking her face out. So I thought she looked pretty good, actually.

PASHMAN: I'm just going to start Googling people I know and "face..."

(Soundbite of laughter)

PASHMAN: Just to see what happens.

MARTIN: All right, Dan. What do you have?

PASHMAN: I've got a most-emailed here from the Dallas Morning News entitled, "No Jerks Need Apply at SPM Communications." All right. It's a story about one of the ten winners of this competition that - the woman featured in the article refers to the contest as "'American Idol' for businesswomen," and it's sponsored by a New York-based nonprofit group called Count Me In For Women's Economic Independence.

They have a contest called "Make Mine a Million Dollar Business," where these businesswomen compete for a package of money, mentoring, marketing and technology tools to help make them become millionaires. And this one woman whose name is Suzanne Miller - one of the things that set her apart in the competition, allowed her to be one of the ten winners, is her philosophy as a businesswoman is that she does not hire jerks. She doesn't work for jerks...

STEWART: I like the lady already.

PASHMAN: Jerks...

MARTIN: A great edict.

PASHMAN: If you're a jerk, she doesn't want to have anything to do with you.

(Soundbite of laughter)


MARTIN: It's that so many jerks are not self-realized, you know? They don't know...

PASHMAN: That's true.

MARTIN: They're jerks.

PASHMAN: Right. Well...

STEWART: So they wouldn't know not to apply.

PASHMAN: I think most people who are self-realized probably say, I'm going to stop being a jerk.

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: But you know, there are those people who say, you know, he's so good. I'll just look past...


STEWART: Him being a little difficult.


STEWART: She's not doing that.

PASHMAN: No. She - you know, part of the competition was to give a three-minute elevator speech on how we're different and why we'll reach the mark, and she basically got her shpiel down to nine words, "Life is too short to work with mean people."

MARTIN: I think it's too short to date them.


(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: Just a personal aside.

(Soundbite of laughter)

PASHMAN: That's for a different contest, Rachel.

CHILLAG: Thanks, Rachel.

STEWART: Thanks, Rachel. And Matt Martinez, our senior supervising producer.

MARTINEZ: Well, I have the number six most-emailed on Yahoo! Entertainment News right now, and it is, of course, "American Idol."

(Soundbite of song "American Idol" theme)

MARTINEZ: You know, this could be the most-emailed anywhere. I could've said it's the most-emailed, you know...

STEWART: Because it is the most-emailed everywhere.


CHILLAG: It's the most-emailed everywhere.

MARTINEZ: Now if you are TiVo-ing "American Idol" and you do not want to know who was voted off last night, and you're living under a rock, please turn down the radio. David Hernandez? Out of here. He's out of here. He was among the bottom three last night. Syesha Mercado and Kristy Lee Cook were also in the bottom three. And, you know, I thought today, because I've been going on about "American Idol" for weeks now.

STEWART: Yes, yes. You and I are the "Idol" people.

MARTINEZ: Yes, I have a deep love for "American Idol" for various reasons and I thought we would bring in somebody else who also has a deep love of "American Idol" and that person is WHYY's host of Fresh Air, Terry Gross. Hi, Terry.

TERRY GROSS: Hi. You know, as someone on "American Idol" might say, or did say, "I'm livin' my dream."

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: And we are living ours by having you on. Thank you, Terry.

MARTINEZ: Oh, my God. While you - I have to tell you, Terry, I mean, the reason I love "American Idol" so much - and I don't know if this is the same for you - I'm most fascinated by whether these guys can transcend the original song. That's why I watch. That's how I vote, you know? If they can - they did Beatles this week on it...

STEWART: Which was so difficult...

MARTINEZ: It's very, very difficult.

STEWART: Because you love the songs. They're in your DNA.

GROSS: But at the same time, you have to sit through, like, meaningful versions of "Let It Be" and "Eleanor Rigby" and stuff like that.

MARTINEZ: It's true. It's absolutely true.

GROSS: But, you know, my test on "American Idol" is if somebody can take a song I really don't like and make it sound good, I figure they're talented. And the only person who's really done that so far this year was already eliminated...

(Soundbite of laughter)

PASHMAN: Who was that?

GROSS: Like a couple of weeks ago. Alexandra Washington I think was her name.

MARTINEZ: Oh, yeah.

GROSS: She did a song I really don't like, "If You Leave Me Now." The one that goes, "Ooh, baby, please don't go."



GROSS: And she made it sound like, oh, this is not a bad song! And it kind of is a bad song.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: So I feel that she's really talented. I was sorry to lose her. This week, it was just like a competition for the bottom. You know, it was just something else.

MARTINEZ: It really was.

MARTIN: Terry...

GROSS: I was going to out myself on your show as an "American Idol" fan, and I think I'm outing myself as a former "American Idol" fan. That's so disappointing.

(Soundbite of laughter)


STEWART: Stay with it. You know you have to stay with it week to week. I vow off it every week, too, and then I'm back the next time. Terry, which - who did you think should be voted off? Because Matt and I have been disagreeing about this all morning.

MARTINEZ: I mean, I really don't think David Hernandez should have been voted off.


MARTINEZ: I actually think he has a great, great voice.

STEWART: He's like a cruise ship singer...

MARTINEZ: I think he's...

GROSS: Well, I love the way he was out there in the audience Tuesday night, as if he has, like, all this sexual charisma, and everybody's, like, touching him, you know?


GROSS: Mingling in the audience but I thought there were several particularly bad performances last night. For me, it was like a competition between the country version of "Eight Days a Week"...

STEWART: Oh, please.

GROSS: Amanda doing "You Can't Do That." She's, like, the rocker, and - which you really want to - it's sad because it's like she's auditioning for "ROCK STAR Supernova" or "ROCKSTAR INXS"...


(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: And, let's see, oh, the tearful version of "Let It Be."


MARTINEZ: Oh, the - oh, that's Brooke White, Brooke White. Actually, I have a little bit of that here.

(Soundbite of TV show "American Idol")

(Soundbite of song "Let It Be")

Ms. BROOKE WHITE (Contestant, Season 7, "American Idol"): (Singing) ...myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me...

MARTINEZ: She looks exactly like she sounds, by the way.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. WHITE: (Singing) Speaking words of wisdom, let it be. And in my hour of darkness

STEWART: Like somebody scraped a little piece of Carly Simon and put it in a Petri dish?

MARTINEZ: That's right.

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: And put it under a big light?

MARTINEZ: And it became Brooke White.

Ms. WHITE: (Singing) She is standing right in front of me

GROSS: But she has Janis Joplin's hands, don't you think?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. WHITE: (Singing) Speaking words of wisdom, let it be.

MARTINEZ: Oh, she does. But, you know, that's the thing. You do have the Janis Joplin singer in there. You know, the woman who basically sings...

GROSS: Oh, oh, no, that's who I'm thinking of. No, you're doing "Let It Be" and I'm already thinking about Amanda.

MARTINEZ: Oh, yeah.

GROSS: Yeah.

MARTINEZ: Yeah, Amanda...

GROSS: Yeah.

MARTINEZ: Overmyer, that's her - right. And she did "You Can't Do That," and, you know...


(Soundbite of TV show "American Idol")

(Soundbite of song "You Can't Do That")

Ms. AMANDA OVERMYER (Contestant, Season 7, "American Idol"): (Singing) I got something to say that might cause you pain, if I catch you talking to that boy again, I'm gonna let you down...


STEWART: I think we're hurting Terry.

MARTINEZ: You're out!

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTINEZ: Yeah, we're hurting Terry.

Ms. OVERMYER: (Singing) And leave you flat...

MARTINEZ: But it's so wonderful to have outed Terry Gross as ultimate "American Idol" fan right here on the Bryant Park Project.

STEWART: Now, Terry, before we let you go, who're you pulling for?

GROSS: Ah, you know, that's the problem. I have no one to pull for this year. I would've been pulling for Alexandra Washington...


GROSS: I hope I have her name right. But I have no one to root for this year. It's just - it's just sad for me.

STEWART: I like Aussie boy.

MARTINEZ: Yes, you know, I am rooting for him, too, and maybe we can go out on that, on the Michael Johns "Across the Universe." It was really, really, really nice, and...

GROSS: Wait. Can I ask you a question?


GROSS: I never understood this of the Beatles, and I particularly didn't understand this last night when he sang it and enunciated so well, and - is it "Jagaroo Davaron (ph)," like, what...

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: What is that phrase...

MARTINEZ: That is a great question. Let's see.

(Soundbite of TV show "American Idol")

(Soundbite of song "Across the Universe")

GROSS: That precedes "nothing's gonna change my world"? What is that phrase?

Mr. MICHAEL JOHNS (Contestant, Season 7, "American Idol"): (Singing) Words are flying out like endless rain into a paper cup...

MARTINEZ: I don't know. Let's see if we can figure it out.

Mr. JOHNS: (Singing)

They slither while they pass They slip away across the universe Pools of sorrow, waves of joy Are drifting through my open mind Possessing and caressing me

MARTINEZ: We're getting to is but this is a beautiful version, I thought.

STEWART: Yeah, I didn't want - didn't like them giving him trouble for being earnest.

Mr. JOHNS: (Singing) Jai guru deva, om...

MARTINEZ: It is "jai guru deva, om."

Mr. JOHNS: (Singing) Nothing's gonna change my world Nothing's gonna change my world Nothing's gonna change my world Nothing's gonna change my world

STEWART and GROSS: (Together) It is jai guru deva, om.


STEWART: Does that mean something?

MARTIN: It sounds like a mantra.

STEWART: Sounds yoga-y.


MARTINEZ: Sounds...

PASHMAN: Oh, yoga - sounds like part of the Maharishi phase.

MARTINEZ: Yeah, the Maharishi phase of the Beatles. That's right.

MCKINNEY: It's Sanskrit. I can look it up if you want.


MARTIN: Oh, wait. I'm still going. I'm in a Google hole on this one.

PASHMAN: This show has officially fallen into the rabbit hole.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MCKINNEY: OK, I can't say that this source is all that reliable, but I have a source that says it says, I give thanks to Guru Dev. Om."


GROSS: Thank you for straightening that out for me.

MARTIN: Now Terry Gross can go on with her day peacefully.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: Thank you so much for being here.

GROSS: Oh, it was really fun. Thanks for inviting me and Ian Chillag, we miss you.


CHILLAG: I miss you, too.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: We love him.

(Soundbite of song "Across the Universe")

Mr. JOHNS: (Singing)

Nothing's gonna change my world Nothing's gonna change my world

(Soundbite of crowd cheering)

MARTIN: And that's The Most, folks. These stories and more on our website, npr.org/bryantpark.

So we've got one more for you, though. This is the most-emailed story at NPR. It's a report by business correspondent Adam Davidson on how prosecutors became aware of Eliot Spitzer's involvement in a prostitution ring. They noticed suspicious movements of his money, and Adam found out that it doesn't take spending lots of money to attract some attention.

ADAM DAVIDSON: I thought the rules were simple. Any bank transaction over 10,000 dollars is reported to the government. Anything less than ten grand is ignored. Turns out, I was wrong. Banks monitor even the most mundane transactions.

(Soundbite of traffic)

Ms. CARRINE YOUKLA (ph) (Employee, Actimize): Should we go to Speedy's?

DAVIDSON: Right here on the corner?

Ms. YOUKLA: Right here on the corner, yeah. That's our local deli.

DAVIDSON: Corrine Youkla is my guide. She's with Actimize, a company that makes the software many banks use to identify suspicious transactions. She says banks monitor every transaction. Every one, no matter how small. I decided to use my ATM debit card to buy a Diet Coke and a fruit salad.

Ms. YOUKLA: Actually, I wouldn't recommend the fruit salad.

(Soundbite of laughter)


Ms. YOUKLA: Really.

DAVIDSON: The fruit salad isn't that fresh. So I bought the Diet Coke and a chocolate croissant.

Unidentified Woman: That's it?

DAVIDSON: That's it. So this is as routine a transaction as it gets. What's happening right now?

Ms. YOUKLA: So your transaction is going through the various systems at the bank and it will get loaded into our transaction monitoring system. And we will actually add this transaction together with different - with several other types of transactions that you've done recently.

DAVIDSON: The software is checking to see if, maybe, that four dollars is part of a pattern, if I'm making lots of small transactions at different delis around town.

Ms. YOUKLA: Then we will see that there's excessive activity, even if it's across many transactions. But that would be a lot of croissants.

(Soundbite of laughter)

DAVIDSON: This is exactly the kind of thing money launderers do. They break big transactions into lots of smaller innocent-looking ones. Youkla invited me up to her office to see the reports the software produces. The report goes to a bank's compliance officer, listing all recent suspicious transactions. Every transaction is given a numerical score.

Ms. YOUKLA: The score comes between zero and 100. And it determines how risky is that suspicious activity that was detected.

DAVIDSON: The computer scores risk based on who is making the transaction. Where does he come from? Who is he associated with? What else is he up to? Every bank customer has, somewhere, in some computer database, a risk assessment score. Youkla's boss at Actimize, Ido Ophir, explains.

Mr. IDO OPHIR (Vice President, Product Management, Actimize): Immediately upon opening an account, the bank would look at all your characteristics, starting from your credit score, to where you live, to how much money you make.

DAVIDSON: The bank uses all this data to create your personal risk profile. It also checks a bunch of lists. Are you on a terror watch list? A list of criminals?

Mr. OPHIR: Most banks today will also look up the PEP list, the Politically Exposed People list.


Mr. OPHIR: PEP list, yeah.

DAVIDSON: A PEP - banks really do use that term - is anybody with political power. That means a Nigerian general, a U.S. senator, or, say, the governor of New York. And any PEP, any Politically Exposed Person, is monitored more carefully. If Governor Spitzer wasn't a PEP, if he was a regular schmo, his large cash withdrawals would have had a lower risk score. They might have been ignored. He also would have been safe just a few years ago.

Mr. OPHIR: It is improbable that anyone would have detected something like that ten years ago.

DAVIDSON: Nine/Eleven and the Patriot Act forced banks to more carefully monitor suspicious activity. But something else happened in 2001 that makes banks invest in monitoring software.

Mr. OHPIR: The New York Attorney General Office started going after Wall Street firms and requiring them to put more surveillance on their trading behaviors.

DAVIDSON: And who was the New York attorney general?

Mr. OPHIR: I think that...

(Soundbite of laughter)

DAVIDSON: I'm not sure why Ophir didn't want to say, but, of course, the New York attorney general in 2001 was Eliot Spitzer. I might not have known about how this bank surveillance works, but if anybody should have, it's him.

MARTIN: That was NPR's Adam Davidson reporting.

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