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Axed by fiendish Rumpelstiltskin

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    Posted: 29 May 2011 at 12:14

Axed by fiendish Rumpelstiltskin: The 5ft 2in snakeskin boot-wearing TV boss who shattered Cheryl Cole's US dream

By Lara Gould and Caroline Graham

Last updated at 1:57 AM on 29th May 2011

Cheryl Cole was axed from X Factor USA by a ruthless 5ft 2in American television executive described as ‘the Rumpelstiltskin of reality TV’.

The star’s fate was sealed on Monday when Fox Television’s president of alternative entertainment, Mike Darnell, watched footage of her at auditions in Los Angeles and was distinctly underwhelmed by what he saw.

Because he had been tied up in meetings, it had taken him two weeks to watch the tapes from the £100 million show – even though his fellow executives had flagged up Cheryl’s poor performance.


Not happy: Axeman Mike Darnell is dwarfed by American Idol winner Scotty McCreery and fellow Fox executive Kevin Reilly

And once he saw it for himself, he immediately called Simon Cowell and told him Cheryl had to go.


Darnell – whose casual personal style of ripped jeans, snakeskin boots and cowboy hats belies his position as one of the most powerful men in American television – also told Cowell it was his job to break the news to Cheryl.

The next day, Cowell, who was in London, texted a friend saying simply: ‘Got big trouble here.’ When asked what it was he sent back a one-word reply: ‘Cheryl.’


Cool reception: Cheryl Cole appears to be ignored by fellow judge Paula Abdul at the Fox launch

He told another friend in LA: ‘I’ve got major problems.’

When the woman, a senior music industry figure, asked what was wrong, Cowell replied: ‘It’s Cheryl. They’ve told me to get rid of her.’

The friend said: ‘I’ve never heard him sound so upset. He was embarrassed and sounded defeated.

'He said he was convinced Cheryl would be great in America but that he now realised he had got it badly wrong.

'From someone like Simon, whose ego is everything, it was a shocking thing for him to say.’

The Mail on Sunday understands Cowell broke the news to Cheryl in a telephone call, telling her: ‘I’m sorry. The network aren’t happy. They’re letting you go.’

Another source confirmed: ‘Simon told her directly but there was no face-to-face meeting.’

On the same day, Cheryl met with Fox executives to discuss the terms of her exit.

Her £1.2 million-a-year contract contained a so-called ‘dead clause’ which allowed the network to axe her at any time with no option to sue.

Her departure comes less than a month after Darnell gushed that Cheryl was ‘an incredibly talented artist and performer, a style icon [with] that special charisma’.

Darnell – a former child star, whose height meant he played children’s roles until he was 20 – has an unusual facial appearance, said to be the result of Botox injections.

Now 48, he has built his career on controversy. In the 1990s he had to drop plans for a programme called OJ Simpson: If I Did It, Here’s How it Happened, following public protests.

Another show called Who’s Your Daddy? which would have seen adult adoptees try to pick out their biological father from a line-up met the same fate. And he once said his dream format would be a beauty pageant in a female jail.


Big player: Mike Darnell, far right, on stage with American Idol judges Steven Tyler and Randy Jackson, as well as the show's executive producer Ken Warwick

As well as X Factor USA, the lynchpin of Fox’s autumn schedule, Darnell also oversees American Idol, which attracts more than 23 million viewers. In the past, Darnell has said of TV: ‘We want visceral emotions, regardless of whether they are good or bad.’

Darnell’s latest move clearly provoked a strong reaction from Cheryl. A friend said yesterday: ‘She was very upset and she is still very emotional. But now that is turning to anger at what people are saying about her.’

Despite the sudden and ruthless dismissal of the woman he once championed, sources close to Simon Cowell yesterday defended his role in her sacking.


Shattered dreams: Cheryl has showcased a series of new looks during her short time as an X Factor USA judge

‘Cheryl felt uncomfortable on the panel. But she was given a massive opportunity and ultimately it was down to her to make it work,’ said one.

‘Maybe Cheryl is upset and maybe her pride is hurt but you can’t blame Simon for that. Simon moved heaven and earth to get her on the show.’


The axeman cometh: Mike Darnell

Another source added: ‘Simon said to Cheryl before the show started that he’d put his neck on the line to get her on the panel, but it was now her job to produce the goods. The ball was in her court.’

The Mail on Sunday has learned that Fox executives warned Cheryl about her performance two weeks before she was axed. The 27-year-old was told she needed ‘raise her game’ after failing to impress in the opening LA auditions.

A source said: ‘Don’t think last week was the first time Cheryl had been warned by Fox that her position was in the balance.

'There were meetings after the auditions in Los Angeles when she was spoken to. To say this came out of the blue is quite frankly ridiculous.’

Problems first became apparent at the Fox summer season launch on May 17 when Cheryl appeared uncomfortable and distant from the other judges as they posed for photographs.

Two days later, when auditions moved to Chicago, Cheryl checked into a different hotel to the rest of the panel: Simon, Paula Abdul and record producer Antonio ‘L.A.’ Reid. But it was the auditions at Chicago’s Sears Centre that sealed Cheryl’s fate after a series of gaffes.

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One audience member said: ‘There was a Latino woman who sang in a thick accent and Cheryl asked her, “Are you singing in a different language?”

“That didn’t go down well at all and the crowd booed her. And there was a stunned silence when she complimented a man in tight jeans on his “package”. She may have meant his overall performance but it didn’t come across.’

Miss Cole’s Geordie accent also drew boos and led one Fox executive to joke: ‘We’re trying to get sponsorship from Berlitz [language guides].’

Fox has yet to release a statement about Cheryl, and her spokesman declined to comment.

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  Quote Jonnyboy Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 31 May 2011 at 14:27
there is a reason he has got top where he has done, I imiagine any choice he may or may not have made was for the benifit of the show. 
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