A flamboyant American Idol contestant who stormed the stage during Simon Cowell’s farewell episode appears to have finally gotten a reality check in federal court.
Ian Benardo, 29, who first filed a lawsuit in July claiming he’d been told to “gay it up” during three appearances on Idol, has not only obtained a lawyer, but reduced the amount he wants from Idol’s production company from $300 million to $5 million.
Benardo’s suit has been twice kicked out of federal court on technicalities. That’s the same number of times he was kicked off the reality TV show before being asked to reappear on Cowell’s finale, because he had been “the most hated contestant,” he said in court papers.
During Cowell’s 2010 farewell, Benardo rushed onto the stage during a performance by comedian Dane Cook. Afterward, he rushed to federal court and filed a $300 million claim, in which he accused the Idol production house of “exploiting” his “nonconformist appearance and sexual orientation.”
Benardo, who is openly gay, appeared on the program in August 2006 and January 2007 before his 2010 finale cameo. From the start, he said he was directed to act in an “overt and stereotypically effeminate way,” he said in the lawsuit.
Producers told him to perform the song “Gloria” as part of his campy persona, he said. And during the follow-up audition in 2007, he claimed, American Idol employees repeatedly called him “fag” and “homo.”
In 2010, he said he was asked to come to Los Angeles to be on Cowell’s farewell show and told to act “outrageous” and directed to be “extra flamboyant.”
During the live broadcast he interrupted comedian Cook’s routine by taking the microphone from him and speaking directly to Cowell, he said.
In retribution for his outburst, he was threatened by Cook and a producer who said he would “shove this mic up your ass, but you would like it,” according to the lawsuit.
Benardo said that he fled the studio in a cab and hid in his hotel on the advice of the show’s security, who he said told him that his life could be in jeopardy.
The lawyer for American Idol Production declined to comment.
“American Idol is fake,” Benardo said when reached by phone on Tuesday. He directed all questions to his lawyer, who did not respond to phone calls seeking comment.