This week's "American Idol" auditions at Charlotte Motor Speedway were supposed to be all about unknown singers and their big dreams.
Instead, the event has -- at least on the face of it -- turned into one big nightmare for Fox and the show's producers.
On Tuesday evening, celebrity news website TMZ posted a video of new "Idol" judge Nicki Minaj unleashing a profanity-laced tirade in an apparent dispute with Mariah Carey (also a brand-new member of the judging panel) during auditions at the speedway earlier in the day.
Here's the full video -- that's third new judge Keith Urban caught up in the fray and veteran judge Randy Jackson over on the right:
The following is TMZ's own transcript of the video, which is obviously a little lacking on the audio side of things:
Nicki: Get this s--- in self control. Get in control. Get in control. Randy: Settle down, settle down. Nicki: Don't lose your head. Don't lose your head (inaudible). Don't tell me I'm a gangster. Nicki: (inaudible) every 5 minutes. So every time you patronize me, I'm-ma take it back, and if you've got a f------ problem, handle it. Nicki: I told them I'm not f------ putting up with her f------ highness over there. Figure it the f--- out. Figure it out. Nicki: I'm not gonna sit here every f------ minute to have you come down and harass me every minute everyday.
Now, a couple things immediately spring to mind here. If you're a fan of "American Idol" or simply a fan of celebrity gossip, you're aware that rumors of fighting between Minaj and Carey have been circulating for weeks -- although in previous interviews the pair have denied any discord. This video would seem to confirm that they're not exactly close pals.
However, the video itself raises questions. From what we understand, security around the show has been extremely tight this week. Reportedly, many speedway employees didn't even know "Idol" was coming until the trucks showed up; media access has been very limited; confidentiality agreements have been signed; the actual judges' set has been locked down tightly.
So who took this video? How did they get away with taking it? And are they still getting away with it? Certainly there weren't a ton of people in that room at the time. Surely it wouldn't take a very sophisticated investigation to ferret out the leak.
Which begs the biggest question of all: Was this an inside job to create buzz around the show?
Fox isn't talking right now. But this is significant: A press conference with Minaj, Carey, Jackson and host Ryan Seacrest had been scheduled for Wednesday afternoon -- overnight, Fox publicity sent out an e-mail saying that press conference has been canceled "due to the production schedule."
TMZ confirmed that producers ended the auditions prematurely on Tuesday so that the two judges could cool off. That, presumably, pushed multiple "Idol" hopefuls to Wednesday's session, which would explain the press conference cancelation (since the day's schedule was probably tight to begin with).
Anyway, if this is an orchestrated publicity stunt, it seems awfully elaborate. Too elaborate. At the same time, it gets "American Idol" in the headlines even though it won't be on air for another three months. As the saying goes, there's no such thing as bad publicity...