This is it: The new American Idol" gets crowned tonight, as America says goodbye to Simon Cowell. (Until next year when he returns to Fox with his new show.) What was it like to actually be inside the Nokia?
[Spoiler alert: This contains details from the finale of American Idol."]
This year, the Nokia has a special surprise waiting for its Idol" guests. To get to your seat, you have to first stand in a line that wraps around the LA Live complex to Figueroa and back around through LA Live.
Why? No one knows but people try to take it in stride, except of course when it seems they'll never get in.
[Updated at 7:05 p.m.]
The winner has been announced and...it's Lee DeWyze.
Before the show goes live, judges Randy, Kara and Ellen are introduced to the audience, which is made up of all ages (including lots of little kids) and ethnicities. Then Ryan Seacrest shows us Crystal and Lee and the crowd cheers. But no one gets a louder welcome than Simon, who arrives last. There are as many Goodbye Simon, we'll miss you" signs as Lee and Crystal posters.
When Ryan asks the audience whom they support, Lee wins hands-down.
The Bee Gees and Christina Aguilera are well received. When Hall and Oates perform, this officially becomes Your Mama's Idol Finale." Older folks are on their feet!
A lot is being made of Simon's goodbye tonight but it's also band leader Ricky Minor's last night. Will they even mention it?
The Nokia is nuts! Bret Michaels just rocked the house with his duet with Casey. Everyone is on their feet and singing along.
The goodbye to Simon has made some folks weepy. As Paula Abdul appeared on stage, people screamed We miss you!"
When the show breaks for commercial, Simon, Randy and Paula go backstage together, leaving Kara and Ellen at the judges' table.
[Updated at 6:56 p.m.] Ladies and gentlemen: with the entrance of Joe Cocker, this has graduated from Your Mama's Idol Finale" to Your Grandma's Idol Finale."
And the telecast is running over. DVR users: Oops!