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Last week, the Star tabloid and New York Post, ahem, "reported" that Burleson native and American Idol Kelly Clarkson wasn't the "doe-eyed amateur she appeared to be" when she was crowned Queen of Crappy Pop in September. Yeah, and Michael Jackson used to be black, Chevy Chase used to be funny and Jesus used to be a carpenter. As Woodward and Bernstein used to say while sitting on each other's laps: "Yes, but is it news?" Turns out it is, according to newspapers the literate and breathing are too embarrassed to read: According to the Star and, later, the Post, Clarkson "may have already had a recording contract" when she showed up to audition for American Idol earlier this year. "If true," wrote the Post's Michael Starr on December 12, "that means Clarkson may have violated the show's rule about not being an amateur with no prior professional singing experience."

The papers reported that Clarkson was in the middle of recording an album in Los Angeles with three music industry pros, including Brill Building songwriting legend Gerry Goffin, when she bailed and headed back to Texas for the auditions at the Wyndham Anatole Hotel on May 5. "She signed a production deal with us in early March to record a full slate of 12 songs for an album," says engineer Barry Goldberg, who was also involved in the recordings (and has worked with the likes of Reverend Horton Heat and Marilyn Manson). "But after doing five wonderful songs, she walked out."

Turns out that's true...but, of course, not the whole story.

Now, if you read the first two stories, well, you'd think Goffin, Goldberg and engineer-guitarist Michael Blum were getting ready to sue Clarkson for, among other things, breach of contract and being a big fat liar. And you'd be awfully wrong.

On December 12, the Dallas Observer contacted Los Angeles attorney Jay Cooper--a powerful, powerful dude who used to be, among other things, president of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences and general counsel for U.S.A. for Africa--to ask him about the articles. The Post had reported that Cooper had been hired by the three songwriters and producers to get three of the songs released.

Cooper says it's nonsense and insists the trio isn't "even thinking about a lawsuit" or any other legal action.

"We don't have any problems," said Cooper, who sounded last week like he was a little tired of talking about this, mostly because he was. (Every music journalist with time to kill was calling Cooper, who surely has better things to do. I, on the other hand, clearly do not.)

"What happened was the Star took a non-event and tried to make an event out of it," he continued. "The young woman did some tracks with my client for the purpose of trying to get a record deal for her. It didn't come to pass, other than the tracks were recorded. That's it. This whole thing has been totally blown out of proportion."

The attorney says at this point, the only thing he's done on his clients' behalf is talk with Bertelsmann-owned RCA Records, which is planning on releasing Clarkson's full-length debut early next year, about using some of the songs from those sessions, either as they exist or in re-recorded versions. Cooper also says he thinks Goldberg was misquoted by the tabloid. C'mon, pal--that never happens.

According to the attorney, the sessions took place between January and March. He says he doesn't know how she met Goffin, who wrote such No. 1 hits as "Will You Love Me Tomorrow" and "The Loco-Motion" with ex-wife Carole King in the late '50s and early '60s, only that Goffin "knew and recognized talent" when he met and offered to work with Clarkson during her stint in Los Angeles.

Goffin couldn't be reached to find out precisely how they met, but it's not like the Star or Post had to do much homework to find the Goffin connection: Not only does she make the Goffin-King composition "(You Make Me Feel Like a) Natural Woman" a staple of her live show, but the Bertelsmann Web site actually refers to her working with Goffin. Then again, what's 13 seconds of Google research when there's an alien baby waiting in Des Moines?

"She held jobs at the zoo, at a pharmacy, as a comedy club waitress, telemarketer and bookstore clerk and finally saved enough money to get to Los Angeles," reads her Bertelsmann bio. "But what initially looked promising turned into a nightmare: Gerry Goffin, a well-known songwriter and Kelly's mentor, suddenly fell ill. Her roommate decided to leave the state. Finally, her apartment burnt down. After just four months in California, the dream of show business had fallen apart--Kelly returned to Burleson."

Cue "A Moment Like This," Clarkson's No. 1 single. Cue hankies. Cue bullet through the temple.

"Thousands upon thousands of people are trying to make it in this business," said an exasperated Cooper last Thursday. "They come to town and look for opportunity to get in front of labels. That's an everyday process. I don't think there's anything strange or unusual about this at all."

Representatives from American Idol and RCA couldn't be reached, presumably because they had better things to do. I, for one, do not blame them.

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