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Media mogul in the making, Ryan Seacrest, talks about his popularity, his birthday and ambitions. Born in Atlanta , he just turned 33 yesterday with a lot to celebrate. Seacrest is most well known as the affable host of "American Idol," but that's just one of his many gigs. He also took over Casey Kasem's "Top 40 Countdown" radio show in January 2004, has his own line of clothing, the "R-Line," and a morning-drive-time radio talk show in Los Angeles. He has been crowned host of this year's "Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve 2007." which airs at 10 p.m. Sunday on ABC-TV. It's the 35th annual special and will feature performances live from Times Square.
Q: Did you have dreams of fame and fortune growing up in Atlanta?
A: I had dreams of just being able to afford a house with a yard like I grew up in, which wasn't that big of a house. I remember thinking to myself every night when I would get home from school, "How's my Dad paying for the bills?" And thinking, "I just want to do a job where I don't have to work as many hours as my Dad." Of course, now I think I work twice as many a day.
Q: How much of your success is luck? How much is strategy?
A: I would say it's a sum of all parts ; I think it's an equation. I don't believe you can do just one thing and have it end up the way that it has ended up. A little bit of drive, some skill at what I do and certainly timing equals the opportunity that I have right now.
Q: You seem to be in the process of empire building right now.
A: Well, I know that, if that's what it's called that's good, I'll take that as a description (laughing). Yeah, I have a lot of different things, a lot of moving parts each day. Fortunately for me, I'm young, and I feel like I've got the energy to get up and work hard every day, and I certainly haven't gotten tired of it. Then I hang around people like Dick Clark and they motivate me to do more to try and accomplish more.
Q: I know you don't use it anymore, but where did you get the sign off, "Seacrest... Out"?
A: It was something that I started on the show and didn't even realize I was saying it on a regular basis. It kind of started for me as a crutch. It was a way just to say good night when we were trying to end the live shows. I figured saying good night was probably the right thing to do this last season. There wasn't a strategic OK, let's bury that now. It sort of came and went, kind of like my bleach blond hair.
Q: Your birthday was yesterday . How did you celebrate?
A: I always celebrate by being in Atlanta, my home where I grew up, and doing a traditional fondue dinner on Christmas Eve. My family was Swiss and my parents are actually from Pennsylvania, but I grew up in Atlanta. We do a traditional Swiss fondue dinner on Christmas Eve, where we do cheese and dessert, and we open presents for my birthday. I get socks and underwear. Then we go to church, sing Christmas carols, go to bed and Santa comes (laughing). It's a standard tradition. It always works out. Then Christmas day, it's great. It's like a two-fer.
Q: Where in Pennsylvania did your family live?
A: My family grew up in Chambersburg. My mom and dad met when they were in high school and have been married ever since.
Q: Hosting "American Idol" really propelled you into the center of the pop universe. Did you sense it was going to be this big?
A: We had no idea it would have the impact that it had and resonate the way it did. Fortunately, it has for us. I think also for the audience. On top of it, each of us in the show has been able to parlay it into other things. It would be very easy to work the nine months of "American Idol" that are the live shows and the audition shows and take some time off and enjoy life and kick back. But, I'm not comfortable doing that. I have so much anxiety. I feel like I've got to do a lot while I can and make hay. That's sort of what I've been trying to do.
Q: As you've become more popular, is having a private social life increasingly difficult?
A: During the week it's impossible. I go to bed at 8:15 p.m., and I get up at 4 o'clock in the morning every weekday, and I've done that for the last three years straight. On the weekends it's a little different, I get a chance to go out and do what young bachelors do. That is to want to date and try and cultivate a relationship with a girl. Hang out with your buddies every once in awhile. My job is fun. It's not that difficult and it doesn't change the world. Secondly, it allows me to live a nice life, so I could never, ever complain.
Q: Is it hard avoiding the tabloids?
A: I don't think it's hard avoiding it. I believe that any of us that get into this business realize that's part of what comes with it. I think that when you're doing something that's making some sort of an impact, you're being covered in those magazines. I would assume that for most people they'd rather be making that impact than not. You know what I mean? If they weren't, they'd probably be complaining that they weren't in those magazines and tabloids.
Q:Are you a New Year's resolution kind of guy?
A: Wasn't really in the past, however, you know this year I've jokingly said my resolution is to be a better person than Simon Cowell in '07 (which won't be too tough), retain less water, put on a few pounds of muscle. You know, I'm pretty normal.
First Published December 25, 2006 12:00 am