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MAY
24
3 YEARS

'American Idol' Finale: What Happened to the Donna Summer Tribute?

UPDATED: Gloria Gaynor, Gladys Knight, Thelma Houston and Sheila E. were due to honor the disco queen in song during Wednesday's finale. Some even rehearsed the number.

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Multiple news outlets, including this one, reported that the season 11 American Idol finale would feature a Donna Summer tribute, yet on Wednesday's show, there was no such homage to the queen of disco. What gives? 

Insiders tell The Hollywood Reporter that the all-star salute, which included 70s icons Gloria Gaynor, Patti Labelle and Thelma Houston along with Sheila E., Jennifer Holliday and Nelly Furtado, was scheduled for the first half of the two-hour show, but was pulled last-minute by the network. 

VIDEO: Justin Timberlake Pays Tribute to Robin Gibb, His 'Idol' 

Some in the audience had seen a portion of the tribute taped at Los Angeles' Nokia Theater on Tuesday, when Kristin Chenoweth and Idol runner-up Jessica Sanchez duetted on "Enough is Enough," Summer's chart-topping single with Barbra Streisand. The performance was described by one observer as "weak" and possibly reason enough to pull the plug.

Some of the tribute participants were also heard rehearsing a medley on Tuesday night. In fact, according to a source, Idol had already paid for several of the artists' travel and accommodations. Still, another insider tells THR that at least one of the the women -- Furtado -- was never confirmed for the finale in the first place.

STORY: Donna Summer's Manager: What I Loved About the Queen of Disco

Disco did, however, get its due when the Idol boys (minus winner Phillip Phillips) performed a Bee Gees medley late in the finale. 

Representatives for the show and for executive producer Nigel Lythgoe have not responded to THR's request for comment. 

The ratings for this year's American Idol finale were down 32% compared to season 10's last show.  

UPDATE: Lythgoe tells THR that the reason the medley was cut was "purely and simply time [constraints]." (No doubt the surprise Ace Young-Diana DeGarmo marriage proposal played a role in throwing the run-of-show off-schedule.) 

Twitter: @shirleyhalperin