Dunwoody High School grad Ryan Seacrest came back to his hometown Saturday to host the Hearts and Hands gala for Atlanta Ronald McDonald House Charities at the World of Coke. I caught up with him while he toured the year-old 50-room home near Emory University earlier in the day. (I attended a different charity event that night called Chopstix For Charity.)
Seacrest, looking relaxed and chipper in a Coca Cola T-shirt and jeans, spent more than hour meeting with families before CEO Linda Morris gave him a grand tour. She explained how families are able to use the home while their children are getting treatment at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta or other local children’s hospitals. The place, which resembles a snazzy hotel, even has separate laundry facilities.
Seacrest’s mom Connie, who still lives in the area, joined him for the tour and was bemused that he was in a room a washing machine. “I always told you that I wanted to be successful enough so I didn’t have to do my own laundry,” Seacrest told her. “Not that you ever did!” she teased him.
Here’s my 10-minute video interview with Seacrest I posted on YouTube. No major revelations though he did say why he wasn’t at the Georgia Dome in June for Idol auditions: he was in England negotiating his new contract. And as you can see, he had no trouble mocking my hat, saying I should be a Backstreet Boy. (Hopefully more Brian than A.J.)
Earlier, he had also teased Fox 5 reporter Stacey Elgin about her marriage when he asked if it was forever and she said “hopefully,” which he construed to include some level of doubt. She had asked him earlier about his personal life and he said he’s not dating anybody — except his Blackberry, who he noted he can turn on and off at will.
In an interview after the tour, Seacrest said he too was surprised by the Ellen DeGeneres hire a few weeks back and isn’t concerned by skepticism from fans that will it work because “Idol” itself faced massive skepticism when it launched in 2002. “Skepticism is fantastic,” he said. The dynamic between her and Simon Cowell, he thinks, “will be entertaining, never a dull moment.”
Many fans also hate the four-judge panel vs. three judges. “It doesn’t make a difference to me,” he said. “I think that having four adds a little bit of flavor to the panel. It’s something to change it up so it’s not what everyone expects it to be.”
Melinda Doolittle was there, too, but she pretty much avoided me, not that I had much to ask her either. When I introduced myself and told her I had met her at the Edy’s event two years ago, she just kinda nodded her head and moved on to a photo op. She didn’t seem eager at all to talk to me.
Here are a bunch of photos I took during the tour Saturday: