The Most Thoroughly Cooked Moments In ‘Australian Idol’ History
Remember when Hillsong Church was accused of vote stacking?
Before the Honey Badger dumped two beautiful finalists, before Sarah Murdoch announced the wrong winner of Australia’s Next Top Model and before Martha poured a wine all over Cyrell on MAFS, we had Australian Idol — the cornerstone of Australian television in the early 2000s.
The masterpiece that brought us Guy, Shannon, Millsy, Ricki-Lee, Paulini and countless other unmistakable superstars. The show that had every single human furiously texting ANTHONY to 19 10 10 on their Nokias during his tearjerker performance of ‘The Prayer’.
Australian Idol ran from 2003 to 2009, and was wildly successful; the ninth highest rating TV show in Australia in the past century. Every five or so years, rumours of Australian Idol coming back to our screens circulate. Osher Günsberg once called it “a cornerstone of modern Australian popular culture”; that it was “a time that will never exist in history again.”
As much as I’m desperate for my weekly fill of sad karaoke versions of P!NK songs, the show is a relic that deserves to be left exactly as is; it’s a window into quintessential Australian 2000s culture. Across the seven seasons there were plenty of iconic performances, heartwarming moments and emotional journeys. There was also a fair share of absolutely cooked moments that I have an undying need to compile — so dive in.
Laura Gissara’s Vote Rigging Scandal
Laura Gissara’s top 30 performance was so horrific that Mark’s brutal critiques left her crying on stage. She shocked audiences when she somehow made it through to the top 13. Her dad worked for Telstra, Australian Idol’s major sponsor, so rumours circulated that rigging was afoot. Those claims were debunked, but not after a Gissara family smear campaign.
Importantly, I stumbled across a somewhat brutal quote from Laura’s own mother: “Laura was in the top 30 and she sang dreadfully and woefully, there’s no doubt about it… Whether it was because people felt sorry for her that night, I don’t know how, but she got through. We were as shocked as the next person.”
Cosima’s Nodules = Guy Vs Shannon
Icon Cosima De Vito, first person in history to score a ‘Touchdown’, made it to Season 1’s top three. Andrew G (now Osher Günsberg) announced that only 0.8 percent split the votes between her and Shannon Noll, then said Cosima had something to say.
She shakily read from a note in her pocket, saying she had a condition affecting her voice, and withdrew from the competition. Cosima states she made the decision before the voting lines closed, but felt pressured to keep it secret. The $11 million made in vote revenue may have influenced that.
Who knows what would have happened if she stayed. Would we still have had the iconic Shannon and Guy dichotomy? Would Shannon Noll still randomly become meme-fied years later, reigniting his career? Would ‘What About Me?’ still be the unofficial national anthem of Australia?
Axle Whitehead At The ARIAs
Despite Axle Whitehead only making it to the top 20, he landed a Video Hits host position and became a heartthrob B-list celebrity. Then, as the legend now goes, he flashed his dick onstage at the ARIAs. He pretended to jack off onto the ARIA trophy, stating later he did it because he thought it would be “a great gag.”
Channel 10 did not think it was a great gag, and fired him the next day. According to Whitehead, he was tripping on acid so hard during this meeting that he saw “purple smoke” coming out of an executive’s ears.
Telstra Congratulates Gay Pornstar, Casey Donovan
In a moment that absolutely got somebody fired, Telstra took out advertisements in major newspapers congratulating Casey Donovan on winning Season 2. The problem was, the website listed on the poster was that of another Casey Donovan, the well-known gay pornstar.
A huge mistake, yes, but also may have garnered a new audience for Donovan’s wonderfully named film, The Opening of Misty Beethoven.
Ricki-Lee Broke Our Hearts
Ricki-Lee was a favourite to take out the crown in Season 2. Her perfectly highlighted hair, low rise jeans and flared pinstripe suit landed her a place in the heart of every viewer. She was viciously eliminated on October 11 (never forget), sending shockwaves across the nation.
Gasps, boos and tears were heard in the studio, and Dicko called the moment “a scandal.” She went on to have a fruitful career (God bless The Young Divas), but the moment went down in history as proof of how critical it is to not get complacent and VOTE.
Mark Holden invented an arbitrary unit of measurement in Season 1: is it Touchdown-worthy? Mark later said he “pulled it out of the air. It became a symbol of quality. Something to strive for.” What at first was confusing as fuck soon had its own extravagant audiovisual effects blaring, while he swung his arm wildly. Truly one of the more batshit periods of Australian television.
During Season 5, Today Tonight ran a story claiming that five of the nine Idol finalists were Hillsong Church members, calling for speculation of ‘vote-stacking’. The claims were quickly refuted, but in true Today Tonight fashion, they doubled the fuck down and released a completely fabricated second segment, claiming the congregation was using ‘mind control’ to garner votes.
Millsy & Paris’ Love Story
Iconic teen dreamboat Robert ‘Millsy’ Mills, a.k.a the only man to make me question my lesbianism, hooked up with THE Paris Hilton in 2003. He met her at an Opera House Party, and despite being a free bar, offered to buy her a drink. Phenomenal.
They kicked on at a party at Osher Günsberg’s house, then went to her hotel room. He said on the record the most fantastic Aussie sex phrase of all time: they did “everything but”.
Forcing Eliminated Contestants To Sing Their Losing Song
Pure emotional torture is forcing contestants to sing the song they got booted on, live on national TV, moments after finding out they’re going home. Thanks for that sucky performance, now show Australia why they made the right choice, loser.
It’s no surprise that 19-year-old Lauren Buckley cried hysterically instead of singing ‘Lady Marmalade’ after her elimination. In a genuinely very lovely moment, contestant Cle Morgan jumped on stage and sang alongside her.
The Gold Dress
Probably the most infamous moment in Australian Idol history was Dicko body-shaming Paulini after a killer performance of ‘Survivor’. Mark, who was, for the record, wearing a black turtleneck with an oversized dollar sign necklace, asked her, “what is with what you’re wearing girl?” Marcia rebutts, asking Mark about what the fuck he’s wearing. Audience cheers.
Dicko (essentially just ten rats in a human suit) then said, “you should choose more appropriate clothes or shed some pounds, sorry.” James and Andrew G elicit loud applause for Paulini, but a heated debate about body shaming ensued immediately. A truly gross moment in TV history.
This Fucking Performance
Historians are quaking at this video’s ability to capture the complexities of Australian culture in 2003 so perfectly in only six minutes and 22 seconds. The heinous outfits, the gelled-up hairstyles, the medley of a truly unhinged collection of songs; it’s perfection.
They flawlessly mix ‘I Still Call Australia Home’ right into ‘Shout’ by The Beatles, as well as incorporate ‘The Voice’ by Daddy Farnham not once, but twice. Also fast forward to 5:45 for a moment of sheer sexual tension between Guy and Nollsy. Put the link to this video on my tombstone.
Dani Leever is a pop culture writer based in Melbourne. They tweet about their dogs, feelings and gay stuff at @danileever