Paul Abdul: Straight Up

Until last year Paula Abdul was a regular on the highly-rated "American Idol" TV show. Now she's set to launch a new TV reality show of her own. Julie Chen offers this Sunday Profile:

Paula Abdul is at it again.

This week the veteran dancer, choreographer and recording artist will debut "Live to Dance," an all-new reality show on CBS, where amateur dancers of all ages hoof it out for a half-million dollar prize.

"Live to Dance" could launch a whole new crop of stars. And it might also launch a whole new Paula Abdul.

She was a judge on "American Idol" - the nice one - who helped to make that show one of the biggest in TV history.

But her eccentric behavior sometimes turned her into a punchline.

When asked what the biggest misconception of her is, Abdul replied, "There are many misconceptions about me. Where do we begin?" she laughed.

Paula Julie Abdul was born and raised just a few miles from Hollywood, and caught a bad case of dance fever early on.

"My earliest memory of dance, probably - what gave me the bug to actually become a performer - was when I was four years old," she said. "And I was watching 'Singing in the Rain' in our family living room. And my mom and dad were sitting on the couch. And I kept getting closer to the television set.

"And then I kissed the TV set to kiss Gene Kelly," she said. "And I looked back at my dad, and I said, 'That's my dad.' And my father says, 'No, I'm your dad! That can be your television dad.'

"I fell in love with Gene Kelly," she laughed. "And truly, that is my earliest, most beautiful memories of deciding right then and there. As my parents said, that I stood up and I put my fist down. I said, 'I'm going to be an entertainer!'"

And she kept her word.

Abdul's first big show biz break came on a basketball court, when she won a coveted spot on the L.A. Laker cheerleading squad, the Laker Girls, and began choreographing the routines herself.

Her work caught the eye of some very famous fans. The Jackson saw her at a Laker game and that, she says, is how she was hired to choreograph them.

And the Jacksons were only the beginning. Paula Abdul choreographed a scene from 1988's "Coming to America," as well as the cheerleading routines from "American Beauty."

Cuba Gooding Jr.'s end zone dance in "Jerry Maguire"? All Paula.

But there was more to Paula Abdul than dance moves: She started making records, and released a debut album in 1988. "Forever Your Girl" went multi-platinum, with a string of number one hits.

"When 'Straight Up' came out, everything was like a fast freight train," she said. "It was a bullet train, rather, that just was taking off. And I was always running to catch up to what was ahead. And it just didn't stop."

It did, however, slow a bit. Her follow-up records were big, but not colossal. Her marriage to actor Emilio Estevez dissolved after two years. A second marriage failed. And it seemed that Abdul's star was fading.

Then in 2002 came "American Idol" . . . and fellow judge Simon Cowell.

"We all saw what the energy was on-air," Chen laughed. "But what was it like when the cameras stopped rolling?"

"Worse," Abdul said.

"That's a show I want to see then," said Chen.

"I was his Lucy, to his Desi," Abdul said.

Abdul's slurred speech and chronic loopiness led some to conclude that she was either not very smart or not very sober.

"What bugs you that people say about you that you know, and your friends and family know, is just not you?" asked Chen.

"I am intelligent. Having a brain - that's a concept, yes, with Paula Abdul. I have a brain."

In response to unflattering video of her that has appeared on "Idol," Abdul states, "I've never had a drinking problem. Even though I've been in this business for quite some time, I've never physically been drunk in my life. I've never been drunk in my life. I don't use recreational drugs.

"But, I am goofy," she laughed. "It's Paula. And even the people on 'Idol' know that none of that existed, ever."

Now Paula Abdul begins 2011 a bit older, and a lot wiser, with high hopes for her new show . . . and for herself.

When asked if there is someone special in her life right now, she said yes.

"Am I making you blush?" asked Chen.

"No, not at all. Not at all," she said. "Maybe."

But she was shy about revealing who. "To me, my personal life is just that. It's personal. And I take pride in that."

"You've learned your lessons," said Chen.

"Julie, I have learned SO many lessons," she laughed. "Julie . . . you have no idea!"

For more info:
"Live to Dance" (CBS)
Paul Abdul Fan Club