Backstory: Idol speculation

Fox's fifth season of American Idol starts Jan. 17. Here's a handy guide to the exciting new and "different" contestants. [Editor's note: The original article misidentified which season of American Idol starts in January.]

Cassie Casper: This 17-year-old songbird from Mouth of the Cricket, Tenn., has been singing out loud for only eight days but is already renowned for her talent at hair tossing and her ability to snap her fingers fairly close to the beat. Vegas handicappers believe she could slide into the finals with her jaw-dropping reggae version of "Stairway To Heaven," combined with the support of her astoundingly loud family, which, at last count, equaled the population of North and South Carolina combined.

M. Duke Morningstar: A city boy with a country twang, this Rego Park, Queens, native has been compared (by his mother) to both Willie Nelson and Perry Como. His ability to give a Yiddish lilt to such favorites as "Crazy" and the Kol Nidre puts the former Moishe Morgenstern in good position to be the first Hasid American Idol.

Li'l Bobbie: This 8-year-old "belter," referred to years ago by her preschool teacher as "Judy Garland on speed," might just wow America with her toe-tapping, gum-snapping, winking and blinking version of a song that sounds either like "Over the Rainbow" or the Hallelujah Chorus. Opinions vary.

Lindsay Oklahoma: A contestant offering the best of octaves from high C to low F, he is able to call any tune his own. Lindsay is booked for the 2006 Radio City Music Hall Christmas Show, playing both a lamb and its shepherd.

Fabuloso: This artist with one name and one song (R-E-S-P-E-C-T) could give America a new standard for "wailing." Indeed, Fabuloso (not her real name) has been known to hold a single note for more than one minute. This talent, however, might cause problems in the contest because she has been unable to sing more than two words of a song before collapsing.

Sgt. Budd Reck: Wrapping himself in the flag (literally) will definitely impede the dancing ability of this 20-year veteran of three wars, eight concussions, and 12 courts martial. Nonetheless, his success at getting the audience to stand up and salute could take him far considering his penchant for shifting key every other note.

Young Sam Kissenhamer: This teen heartthrob might just parlay his talent for suggestively pointing his forefinger at 78 swooning girls in less than 60 seconds into a victory. Handicappers agree his natural lisp and persistent throat clearing should not get in the way of his lack of talent.

Betty Betty: Two first names (the same one) haven't stopped this dynamo who will not actually sing a single note. Nonetheless, her ability to mime a song could give her a unique niche in the contest and will no doubt cause more than one judge to yell, "Bring out Betty. Please." after another contestant attempts to sing.

Chuck Cohen is a satirist and advertising writer based in California.

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