Kara DioGuardi’s decision to drop law plans paved way for ‘Idol’ gig

New Rochelle native Kara DioGuardi had just received a political science degree from Duke University, but she told me that career path burdened her as early as her junior year.

“I’d always heard melodies in my head, I’d always loved the theatre and I’d loved the arts, but I just didn’t know how to do that. I didn’t know how to break in.”

So although her father, former Congressman Joe DioGuardi, wasn’t thrilled to hear she was singing in an Ossining garage band called Gramma Trips instead of becoming a prosecuting attorney, he offered advice that wound up propelling her career in the music industry:

“You know what you do? You find the place that will help you to learn … tell them you’ll work for them for nothing. They’re probably going to pay you something. But just do it.”

From that moment on, Kara DioGuardi’s singing, songwriting and producing talents transcended the Lower Hudson Valley and Durham, N.C., to reach an international audience. And all that led to her recently being named as “American Idol’s” newest judge.

Find out more about her Westchester County upbringing and her path to stardom in my article appearing in today’s edition of The Journal News.

EXCLUSIVE: Kara DioGuardi picks favorite ‘Idol’ contestants, performance and judge (sort of)

Just before Labor Day weekend, I had the pleasure of chatting up New Rochelle native and Grammy-nominated songwriter/producer Kara DioGuardi, who on Aug. 25 Fox announced as the fourth judge on “American Idol.”

new-idol-panel.jpgA true LoHudder, her connections to the region are seemingly endless. As a child, she attended Immaculate Heart of Mary School in Scarsdale, sang at the Larchmont Shore Club and provided the soundtrack at campaign stops throughout Westchester County for her father, former U.S. Congressman Joe DioGuardi. She later graduated from The Masters School in Dobbs Ferry. Despite graduating from Duke University with a degree in political science, she abandoned law to become a vocalist in an Ossining garage band called Gramma Trips.

After snagging multiple jobs at Billboard magazine for a five-year span, she got signed to a record deal. Although her singing career never took off, her songwriting and producing gigs did. She was partially or completely responsible for writing Gwen Stefani’s “Rich Girl,” Kelly Clarkson’s “Walk Away,” Christina Aguilera’s “Ain’t No Other Man” and dozens of other recent hits. No wonder she was named BMI’s 2006 Pop Songwriter of the Year.

My full story about DioGuardi is slated for the week ahead, but in the meantime, check out 10 questions and answers from my exclusive interview with “Idol’s” newest judge:

kara2.JPGWhat recent song do you most wish you’d written?
“Irreplaceable” by Beyoncé.

As a singer, how far do you think you would advance on “American Idol”?
“I would hope to the top 10.”

How long have you been watching “Idol”?
“Since the beginning.”

You’d said that you thought “Idol” would have hired someone more famous to fill the fourth judge’s chair. Had you heard of any famous names who were being considered?
“They kind of kept me in the dark. I hadn’t really heard anything.”

As of Aug. 28, who was the most famous person outside of the show to congratulate you for the “Idol” hire?
“Dave Stewart (of Eurythmics).”

From the first seven seasons, who have been your three favorite “Idol” alumni?
“I’d say Kelly Clarkson, (Chris) Daughtry and, hmm, I like Katharine McPhee.”

Who’s the most underrated “Idol” contestant of all time?
“Katharine McPhee.”

What’s your favorite “Idol” performance so far?
“I thought that ‘Billie Jean’ performance that David Cook did was ridiculous.” (In the good way.)

The perception among fans is that Simon Cowell’s the bad cop, Paula Abdul’s the good cop and Randy Jackson’s somewhere in between. With which judge have you sided the most through the years?
“Probably Simon. Sometimes he can be hard, but I also think at times he’s doing people a favor.”

For your first day judging “Idol” contestants, you sat between Randy and Paula at the judges’ table. Where would you want to sit?
“You know at this point, I’m pretty much just like, ‘Where do you want me?’ I’m the new kid in school. I’m not going to cause waves right from the beginning.”

(AP Photo of Simon Cowell, Kara DioGuardi, Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson/Jason DeCrow; AP Photo of DioGuardi/Chris Pizzello)

Wanna be on national TV? It helps if you’re from Westchester. Just ask Kara DioGuardi and Bobby Moynihan.

August has been a good month for Westchester natives who seek a national network TV audience.

kara2.JPGToday it was announced that Kara DioGuardi, who grew up in New Rochelle, was named the unprecedented fourth judge on “American Idol.”

I spoke this afternoon with her proud papa, Joe DioGuardi, an Ossining resident and former U.S. Congressman. He told me Kara was raised in the Wilmot Woods section of New Rochelle, attended the Immaculate Heart of Mary School in Scarsdale and graduated from The Masters School in Dobbs Ferry. He said his phone has been ringing off the hook today but was proud of and thrilled for his daughter.

It’ll be interesting to see with whom she most often sides on the panel. I’m guessing she’ll have the compassion of Paula but the ear of Simon, which in my mind is the ideal combination.


This was the second bit of exciting news for Westchester natives this month. As I reported last week for sister blog Remote Access, Eastchester’s Bobby Moynihan is joining the cast of “Saturday Night Live.”

I’m psyched not only because he’s a talented product of the Lower Hudson Valley and because I love the show, but also because I’ve been friends with him since we were in middle school. Call it full disclosure or name-dropping. Either way, I’m proud of him.

With a budding film career and tons of experience performing at the Upright Citizens Brigage Theatre in Manhattan, Moynihan’s an outstanding sketch and improv comedian and will quickly become an audience favorite.

Want some gossip about him? He really likes peach Snapple. Ooooh! Call the Enquirer!

(AP Photo/Chris Pizzello; Moynihan photo/Brendan McMullen)

Westchester’s most stupid-awesome celebrity cars

Having just finished a feature for the July/August issue of InTown titled “Extreme Car Makeover,” I’ve still got the whole “pimp my ride” thing on the brain. Which is why I had to link to this story from the Customized Girl blog, breaking down the 25 most “stupid-awesome” cars driven by megacelebrities.

While none of our Westchesterites actually took top honors — that went to Jay Leno and his Blastolene Special 21-foot-long aluminum roadster with M47 Patton Tank engines — we still had an admirable showing, with Dobbs Ferry’s Funkmaster Flex, New Rochelle native P. Diddy, and Bedford’s Donald Trump all making the list (at Nos. 12, 6, and 5, respectively).


Personally, I can’t say I really like any of their cars though. From Trump’s Cadillac DTS Presidential Limo to Diddy’s Sean John Navigator to the Funkmaster Flex edition Ford, none of them is especially unique or customized. In fact, the Navigator and Ford Expedition are standard production vehicles.

What I do know is that if Diddy’s $350,000 Chevy Express 3500 (aka “the Diddy-mobile”) had made the list, it would have run right over the competition.


Diddy had it outfitted by AI Design in Tuckahoe (also one of the businesses I wrote about in that forthcoming car feature), who souped-up the car’s drive train, expanded the cab, added brakes, and chic rims. On the inside, it has six plasma TVs, a Marvel wine celler, and hardwood floors. Just try and top that, Funkmaster!

“25 Stupid-Awesome Celebrity Vehicles” [Customized Girl Blog]

(Image of Diddy-Mobile from New York Post, Nov. 7, 2005)

Pimped out 2008 Ford Expedition Funkmaster Flex Edition arrives in dealerships

So, aside from a 300-horsepower, 5.4-liter, V-8, with 6-speed automatic transmission and about a thousand tons of steel, what do you get standard with a Funkmaster Flex Ford (or FMF for short)? Try this on for size:

• 3dCarbon body kit with custom front/rear fascia and side skirts
• Two-tone Black and Colorado Red paint with Orange pinstriping
• Funkmaster Flex chrome badges on fenders
• Second-row captain’s chairs
• 20-inch chrome-clad aluminum wheels
• Black leather interior with contrasting Colorado red stitching
• Funkmaster Flex stitched logo headrests
• Unique floormats with FMF logo
• Limited-edition Funkmaster Flex numbered dash plaque
• SIRIUS® Satellite Radio
All these features, dreamed up by the the Dobbs Ferry DJ, can be yours for $40,910, including $900 for destination and delivery charges.

An impulsive, angry White Plains dentist who will shove people away from the vehicle with vicious authority? That costs extra.

(Seriously, check that video out. If anyone out there actually goes to this dentist, William Moody, please, please be careful!)

Funkmaster Flex reclaims the No. 1 spot from DJ Clue

Funkmaster Ford

Between “Car Wars” and the “Funkmaster Flex Custom Car and Bike Show Tour” it’s easy to forget that the DJ still has a radio show on Hot 97. For years Flex had owned the night, from 7 p.m to midnight, but when DJ Clue moved onto 105.1, he lost the No. 1 slot. Since then a rivalry has been brewing between the two stations.

Given that Flex has an office in Dobbs Ferry, that made it easy for us to choose which spinner to side with. And now, according to The Daily News, we made the right choice. Flex is back on top, with 12.6 percent of the 18- to 34-year-old demo, compared with Clue’s 9.6 percent. Not quite as cool as a tricked out Ford Expedition, but pretty close.

Don’t funk with the Funkmaster Flex Car Show

Funkmaster FlexLos Angeles County made a little slip-up when it canceled the Hip-Hop car show headlined by Dobbs Ferry-based DJ Funkmaster Flex. The rationale for shutting down the event, which was supposed to be held in August, was that the music was “offensive.” There was just one little problem. Two, actually. The First and Fourteenth Amendments.

The organizers of the event, Imagine Media Group LLC, have filed an $800,000 lawsuit on September 20 asserting that the county violated both Constitutional rights. According to this story on AllHipHop, “The company seeks compensatory damages for violation of civil rights, compensatory damages, exemplary and punitive damages and attorney’s fees.”

(photo: Ford Motor Company)

Suburbarazzi Week in Review on RNN: Stone rolls, Kalter quips and Rosie not the closest to the actual retail price without going over

After the break, find out the answer to this week’s quiz question: Which local stand-up comedian received early show business advice from the late father of Tarrytown product and fellow stand-up Greg Fitzsimmons?


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The Scoop: Behind the scenes at star-studded charity golf tourney

Photo by Seth Harrison/The Journal News

If you want the formal account of yesterday’s Autism Speaks celebrity-laden tournament at Mamaroneck’s Winged Foot Golf Club, check out this story in today’s Journal News.

In it, you’ll find quotes by former NBC Chairman Bob Wright, who cofounded the charity; “Dateline NBC” co-anchor and Dobbs Ferry homeowner Stone Phillips; “Fox5 News at 10” meterorologist and New Rochelle resident Nick Gregory; National Football League Hall-of-Famer Harry Carson; fellow former New York Giant and one-time star of “The Bachelor” Jesse Palmer; and “Late Show with David Letterman” announcer Alan Kalter.

Now for some behind-the-scenes gossip that didn’t appear in print due to the constraints of space, time and relevance:

• Some of the other celebrities to appear at the event, in alphabetical order: actor Gregg Bello; CBS sportscaster Don Criqui; Kansas drummer Phil Ehart; CourtTV commentator Jack Ford; “Squawk Box” cohost Joe Kernen; actor Richard Kind; former NFL cornerback Jeremy Lincoln; “Today in New York” sports anchor Otis Livingston; music producer Brendan O’Brien; and musician Tyrone Vaughan, who is the nephew of the late Stevie Ray Vaughan.

• Among those scheduled to appear at the event, but didn’t show, were season-five “American Idol� champ Taylor Hicks, “Today� show cohost Matt Lauer and comedian George Lopez.

• True to his persona on “The Bachelor,” Palmer charmed members of the public and media, enthusiastically posing for photos and answering questions.

• Carson said he was happy to help out the charity, despite repeatedly stating that his golf game “sucks.” Asked what his score was minutes after completing the 18-hole course, Carson said, “I have no idea.”

• Celebrity golf handicaps (or at least those they want us to believe): Kalter, 14; Palmer, 15; Lincoln, 16; Wright, 18; Gregory, 26.

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EXCLUSIVE: Stone Phillips’ post-‘Dateline’ plans: ‘Traveling, rest and relaxation’

AP file photo

Dobbs Ferry homeowner Stone Phillips was one of many celebrities to appear at today’s Winged Foot Golf Club outing in Mamaroneck to fundraise for the Autism Speaks charity.

Just before heading to the links, Phillips chatted exclusively with Suburbarazzi about the prospect of providing piano accompaniment for event no-show Taylor Hicks; the similarities between football and golf; and his plans after his employer opted not to renew his “Dateline NBC” contract, which expires at the end of the month.


Suburbarazzi: You played piano and serenaded Katie Couric on her “Today” show finale, and “American Idol” champ Taylor Hicks was expected to be here today, but didn’t show. Would you have accompanied him on a song had he shown up?

Stone Phillips: I would not. Because I wouldn’t have embarrassed him or me by trying to do that.

Suburbarazzi: You were the starting quarterback on Yale’s 1976 Ivy League Champion football team. Do any of those skills translate to anything on the golf course?

Stone Phillips: Yeah, I think some of them do. To me, it’s visualization. You have to visualize the point of junction between and the receiver and the ball you throw. And in golf it’s a lot of visualization, too. Other than that, I just try to have fun. I enjoy playing football and I enjoy playing golf.

Suburbarazzi: What are your plans, post-“Dateline�?

Stone Phillips: Nothing immediately. Nothing for a while. You know, I’m going to take some time off and do some traveling with my wife and take it from there. It’s gonna be a nice long period of rest and relaxation, and then taking on some independent projects.


Funkmaster Flex: Snitching on rap stars is just plain responsible citizenship

In response to my weekly updates on fugitive rapper DMX, who still has two warrants out for his arrest, I got some angry comments on the blog.


• james wrote, “leave dmx alone all you self rightous hipocrets.”

• truebluechicago said, “He can stay at my place anytime for his house arrest, with his fine ass. Leave X alone and quit helping the cops do their job, you’re not getting paid for it.”

• Mpho exclaimed, “u want X arrested u dick head?? … GTFO”

• And Left told me to “stop snitching.” </div></blockquote>

Now, I’m not one to normally back down on those who mess with the criminal justice system (you’re not going to ever hear me defending Paris Hilton, ok). Still, in this instance I was starting to wonder if I’d made some breach of hip-hop etiquette.

Ford Motor Company

That’s why I was heartened to read that none other than Funkmaster Flex, the legendary Hot 97 DJ (who has an office in Dobbs Ferry), has taken on the proponents of the rap business’s so-called “anti-snitching” movement. “Call me what you want,” he said on Monday, “I’m snitchin’.” He added he would give out police hotline numbers to anyone who wanted them.

Now, granted, he was talking mainly about the tragic murder of Dipset rapper, Stack Bundles, and the reluctance of people to speak out to authorities. But still. As far as I’m concerned, Flex’s endorsement of “snitching” is good enough for me.

The search for DMX continues!

“Funkmaster Flex Speaks On Snitching & 50 Cent” [HipHopDX]