Simon Cowell was known for being nasty and mean to aspiring singers on American Idol, but his final appearance on the show was a total lovefest.
The caustic judge was feted in film and in song during Wednesday’s season finale, which saw shy paint clerk Lee DeWyze win the Idol title.
Fellow judge Paula Abdul returned to the show to pay respects to Cowell, saying their work together “brought me immeasurable joy.” Comedian Dane Cook offered a musical tribute, melding Cowell’s quips into a song. Cowell said he felt more emotional than he’d anticipated on his final Idol episode.
“I just want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for the support, the fun and your sense of humor,” he said. “That’s what’s been the best part.”
“It’s been a blast,” he continued. “Thank you.” Then he hugged host Ryan Seacrest and kissed Abdul on the head. Cowell was a man of few words as an American Idol judge, but they were choice.
Throughout the series, Cowell scored with his “understanding of the music industry, his understanding of what it takes to be an artist,” said industry analyst Shari Ann Brill.
Cowell, in turn, has been richly rewarded, making a reported $36 million a year for his work on Idol and founding his own TV empire.