David goes Vegas


As New Year's Eve approaches, there are plenty of TV choices. You can find them by hitting the "TV Column" spot above and reading Friday's column.

I sent papers several stories on ABC's Eve, but I also sent one on an unlikely pairing on Fox: On this wild and crazy night, in the uncensored town of Las Vegas, one of the stars is sweet David Archleta. Here's the story:

By MIKE HUGHES

So welcome to Las Vegas, the sin city
(revised). It's a place for big bets, big breasts and buffets.

Yes, buffets. “My family would go
there on vacation all the time,” said David Archuleta, who stars in
Fox's New Year's Eve telecast from Vegas. “I love the buffets.”

That's a sign that the city's
family-friendly makeover is working. The clean-cut Archuletas –
members of the Mormon religion, which avoids alcohol – found plenty
to like there.

“It's cool, walking around all the
lights,” Archuleta said. “I like walking through the hotels.”

This is the perspective of a wide-eyed
teen – a former “American Idol” runner-up – who finally turns
20 on Dec. 28. Three days later, he stars in Vegas.

“I love working live,” he said.
“It's fun to see the people there.”

That's one thing that he's comfortable
with. Beyond that, Archuleta describes himself as being terribly shy.
“People would call me 'Smiley guy.' I was a pretty quiet kid, but I
usually had a big smile.”

He had much to smile about, with what
he describes as an extraordinarily warm family.

His mom is Honduran, in a family of
singers. She was converted by Mormon missionaries when she was 12;
later, she and her family moved to Miami.

His dad is of mixed ancestry, Archuleta
said. He grew up in Utah, but was a jazz trumpeter in Florida when
they met and married. For his first six years, David was immersed in
his mom's family. “The Latin culture is exciting,” he said. “The
people are different, the music is different.”

The Archuletas moved frequently in
Florida, then made the jump to Utah when he was 6.

As fans of “Idol” and “So You
Think You Can Dance” have seen, that state seems to nurture young
performers. “Utah is very much interested in the arts,” Archuleta
said.

He and his four siblings ranged from
nursing homes to talent shows. At 10, Archuleta had a panic attack
shortly before the Utah Talent Competition; he overcame it and won
the junior division; at 12, he was junior vocal champion of “Star
Search.”

He also had separate occasions when he
met his heroes – Natalie Cole and Kelly Clarkson – and sang “And
I Am Telling You I Am Not Going,” the “Dreamgirls” power
ballad. “I was so nervous and so shy, but I love getting to sing
that so much,” he said.

At 17 – after a long lay-off with
vocal-chord paralysis – he entered “Idol” and got to the 2008
finale.

Since then, he's only had one singles
hit (“Crush” was No. 2 on the Billboard chart), but his albums
have been No. 2, 30 (a Christmas album) and 13.

He plans to sing a couple of tunes from
that curent one, “The Other Side of Down,” on New Year's Eve. And
maybe he'll get to catch some buffets.

– “New Year's Eve Live,” on Fox

– 11 p.m. to 12:30 a.m.; live in ET,
tape-delayed in other zones

– David Archuleta is in Las Vegas,
with Travie McCoy, Plain White T's and the Jabbawockeez dance crew;
Nancy O'Dell hosts and Brandy does street interviews.

– Also, the debut of Mariah Carey's
“Auld Lang Syne” video