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Thursday, April 19, 2007 - Page updated at 08:52 AM

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Sanjaya's run on "Idol" ends

NEW YORK — Sanjaya Malakar, the undertalented but unflappable singer from Federal Way who horrified and captivated millions of viewers on "American Idol," was voted off the show Wednesday night.

When the result was announced, Malakar wiped away tears and received a big hug from LaKisha Jones, the next lowest vote-getter.

"I'm fine," he told Ryan Seacrest. "It was an amazing experience."

Hometown detractors and supporters expressed their own amazement.

"He got booted! It's so freakin' awesome! I could have sworn that guy was going to go to the top five," said Cisco McCarthy, 26, a childhood friend of Bothell's Blake Lewis, another "Idol" contestant who now advances to the top six. "That's so great. That's great."

Chris Poage, who used to play with Lewis at Seattle gigs, was more charitable: "I think Sanjaya was too young. He'll probably take a few more years to mature into an excellent performer, but right now, he just seemed like a kid doing his best. He was cool for going for it, but I'm not sad to see him go."

But Michael Oldham, 18, who used to sing with Malakar during lunch breaks at Shorecrest High School, said: "It's a bummer, man. I'm bummed out. But, you know, when you think about it, he'll probably get a record deal anyway. He's a household name now."

His career is definitely not over, said Gina Brooks, 35, who sang with Malakar in Seattle's Total Experience Choir. "I know him," Brooks said, "and I could totally see him being on a soap opera — playing the heartbreaker with a beautiful smile every day on your TV. Oh my gosh, he'd love that."

Known for his toothy grin, pretty face and ever-changing hairstyles, Malakar routinely was savaged by judge Simon Cowell as he developed into one of the weakest, most awkward "Idol" finalists ever. Still, the gangly contestant managed to outlast better singers by cultivating an unlikely fan base that helped him survive round after round of viewer elimination.

Although his breathy, childlike singing voice paled in comparison with other finalists, his ability to stand out kept him in the competition. He consistently delivered the season's most talked-about performances, even daring to sport a ponytail Mohawk that added pizazz to an otherwise tepid rendition of Gwen Stefani's "Bathwater."

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That, of course, wound up fodder for water-cooler discussion on morning programs and Web sites, stoking suspicion that Malakar was self-consciously manipulating the media to carve a place in "American Idol" history.

Many had predicted that he would make it all the way to May finale.

"This whole season, all I heard about American Idol was Sanjaya, Sanjaya, Sanjaya. Now that he's gone, I'm not going to keep watching, " said Sarah Jacobson, 16, a friend of Malakar's from Shoreline High. "I know I'm biased, but it's going to be kind of boring without him, don't you think?"

Seattle Times staff reporter Haley Edwards contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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