Kenny Crookston, Associated Press
"American Idol" contestant David Archuleta and his father, Jeff Archuleta, during a May trip home.

Two months after he finished second on "American Idol," life is pretty darn good for David Archuleta. As the "Idol" tour rolls into Utah for a two-night stand, the future looks bright.

"Everything is wonderful right now," his father, Jeff, told the Deseret News. "The opportunities are great. The support on the tour for David has been unbelievable. (Saturday) night in Tacoma, it blew my mind how many people there were supporting David.

"Even I couldn't go anywhere without being swarmed by people. People wanted my picture. They had me signing stuff ... which was totally weird," he said with a laugh.

And a pleasant change from this past spring, when Jeff Archuleta was the subject of unsubstantiated and unfair tabloid stories making him out to be the stage father from hell. Stories that violated a basic rule of journalism — not one story was attributed to anything other than an unnamed source.

The tabloid attacks actually began when TMZ printed a story alleging that 17-year-old David was a phony — that his bashful, self-deprecating behavior was all an act.

"I think once TMZ realized that everyone they talked with verified that David really was that down-to-earth and unassuming and un-

pretentious, they needed a different target," Jeff Archuleta said.

And they turned on him with a vengeance. The week David forgot some of the lyrics to his song, unsubstantiated stories appeared that his father yelled at him and made him cry during a recording session. And that Jeff had withheld water from his son.

Jeff Archuleta was understandably baffled.

"Everyone at Fox was really supportive," he said. "Everybody on the show was, like, 'Jeff — welcome to the business. This is what tabloid journalism is about.'

"I was, like, 'This isn't even true.' And they said, 'It doesn't have to be."'

They tried to assure him that most people would know none of the gossip was true.

"I said, 'But there are a lot of people out there that aren't going to know. And they're going to think that it really happened."'

But he couldn't respond. All the contestants and their immediate family members had to sign confidentiality agreements. The only interviews they could do were those arranged by Fox.

Another story claimed Jeff angered producers by adding lyrics to David's performance of "Stand by Me." The truth, Jeff said, is that the change had been approved by "Idol" producers.

"Everybody said, 'Oh, yeah. That's a great idea.' No one ever told us that there was anything wrong with that or that we shouldn't. That was totally manufactured."

Not long after came false reports that Jeff had been banned from the "American Idol" set. And a "made up" report that he'd been banned from the set of "Star Search" when David was a 12-year-old contestant on that show.

"All these things kept coming up. And it was, like, 'Oh, where there's smoke there's fire.' I heard that argument," Archuleta said. "Well, what if there isn't? They made one thing up and they realized I

didn't say anything, so they were, like, 'OK, let's make something else up.' They knew I couldn't say anything, so they could say anything they wanted."

Adding to his frustration was the producers' refusal to set the record straight. "They said, 'Well, it's a fairness issue.' And then I understood," Jeff Archuleta said. "It's their blanket policy that they don't comment on anyone's personal lives. So I accepted that and I understood that. But it made it difficult.

"They'd say, 'Oh, don't worry, it'll blow over.' And then something else would pop up."

Of course, it's also a fact that "Idol's" ratings were down this past season and at times it seemed the only national buzz the show was getting was from tabloid stories attacking Jeff Archuleta. And television producers and networks have been known to use negative publicity to pump up ratings.

"I can't judge the motivation behind whatever happened," Archuleta said. "But I can tell you that the stuff that they reported — there wasn't one thing that was true."

Jeff and the rest of the family kept all of this from David as best they could. When he was occasionally questioned about the reports by reporters granted the rare interview, David, without exception, declared all the stories to be false.

"David is such a black-and-white type of person, that I think it would have really troubled him to know that people were saying that kind of stuff," Jeff Archuleta said. "The only time it really became an issue was the last week or two. It's like it was everywhere. It was on TV, it was on the (Associated Press).

"That's one thing that's weird, too. The AP releases something based on a TMZ article? And then it's in every newspaper, and it's on the talk shows. It was on the 'Today Show,' 'Good Morning America.' All these shows were bringing it up. Unbelievable. Why would the AP use TMZ as a source and not even verify it?"

But, Jeff said, it was all worth it. "Everything is just fine" for David and the rest of the family. And fans are "saying, 'We love David so much. And thank you for bringing him into the world and supporting him so he could share his talent with us.' I mean, it was just very sincere, genuine and heartfelt. I was just so overwhelmed."

David has begun recording a CD, although any reports you may have seen about a release date are, well, premature.

"Amazon has already created a sku for David's CD. They even have a release date. I don't know where they're getting it," Jeff said with a laugh.

And finishing second to David Cook in the "Idol" finale is far from the worst thing that could happen.

"There's been no downside. Obviously, there are perks when you win that you don't get if you don't win," Jeff Archuleta said. "But David was offered a record deal the same night as the finale."

He signed with 19 Recordings/Jive, owned by "Idol" impresario Simon Fuller, after Fuller "said, 'This year we don't look at it like there was a loser in this finale. You're going to have every opportunity. We're behind you 100 percent. We want you to be very successful,'" Jeff Archuleta said.

"Simon Fuller is about finding talent and helping that talent achieve their dreams. That's his motivation. It's not about money anymore. He's already a billionaire. He's just a very genuine, warm, kind individual. I mean, he looks like he could be an elders quorum president. Just a very nice guy."

And, at this point, TMZ has been reduced to writing silly stories about how — gasp! — David wouldn't be returning to Murray High this fall. Which no one expected he would.

"I don't understand why that's a story. It's not like he's rejecting school — the tour's not even over until the middle of September," Jeff said. "It's just weird.

"I've learned a lot about journalistic integrity these last five months. It's been very much a learning experience for me."


E-mail: pierce@desnews.com