AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORE11 theater productions to see in Southern California this week, Dec. 27-Jan. 2And Kat had no regrets. “I don’t need any sad faces or anyone feeling bad for me,” she said. “I got a record deal, I got a new car, I have all these great new shoes and I have all these fans. “I want to have anything any normal person can have – family, kids – but I want to have this incredible career and do movies and sing. We’ll see how it will play out.” “American Idol” is practically a sociological phenomenon, attracting people of all ages and backgrounds fascinated by an amateur singing contest that often resembles a high school talent pageant. So many North Americans were wrapped up in “Idol” that one witness said George W. could have invaded Canada on Wednesday night and not even the Canadians would’ve noticed. America has spoken: Taylor Hicks is the new “American Idol,” but runner-up Katharine McPhee won’t be working the drive-thru anytime soon. The fifth season of “American Idol,” the world’s most closely watched karaoke-like contest, came to a close when the gray-haired Southern soul man squeaked past Sherman Oaks’ McPhee to snare the crown Wednesday in front of more than 30 million TV viewers. “I was just telling myself, `Don’t fall to the floor, don’t let your knees buckle.’ I’m living the American dream,” an elated Hicks, 29, told reporters backstage. About 63 million votes were cast, host Ryan Seacrest said, but the breakdown was not announced. On Kat, Hicks was gracious: “She’s such a beautiful young lady and entertainer and she’s going to have a bright future whatever she does.” As winner, Hicks gets major record and management contracts and an enviably fast start in the music biz. But McPhee, whose background in acting and musical theater set her apart from the season’s competitors, will surely fare equally well. She is about to embark on a national tour with Hicks and the 10 finalists, has a single due soon and has probably been fielding offers for the past several months. Also, KFC has a contract on the table for the runner-up to get $10,000 to star in a commercial. For her part, McPhee, 22, is already planning a pop album along the lines of a Joss Stone or Norah Jones, she said. Whatever happens, McPhee will do fine, said Michael Laskow, CEO of Calabasas-based Taxi.com, the world’s leading independent A&R company, which spots and develops talent and material for the major labels. “The TV exposure gives her a massive audience before she even releases a CD,” he said. “In the old days, a label would sign an act, make the record, do the marketing set-up, hope they can get the act on radio and MTV, cross their fingers and hope for the best. “But with `Idol,’ the audience is built before the CD is even recorded. So it’s a guaranteed hit before the artist even enters the studio.” Commercial time on the two-hour “Idol” finale went for $1 million a minute and, if past season-enders are any indication, viewing figures could break records. The Fox-TV show opened with all 12 finalists in performance, followed by a solo spot by Prince and star duets with the likes of Mary J. Blige, Toni Braxton, Burt Bacharach and the rock band Live. McPhee was joined by Meat Loaf for the song “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now.” Said the Loaf backstage: “Katharine was unbelievable. I kept asking her, `Aren’t you nervous?’ She’s beautiful and gorgeous and you know what they say – sex sells.” The show, which reran moments of comedy from the past four months, included cut-ins to a McPhee support party at Universal CityWalk, and to Birmingham, Ala., where young Hicks fans had dyed their hair gray in honor of their “Idol.” While Hicks has expressed interest in going on the road with a rock band, McPhee says she wants to move into film work, a career she was pursuing when she auditioned for “Idol” in January. Her mom, Peisha, is a vocal coach and cabaret singer, and her dad, Dan, is a TV producer. McPhee graduated from Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks and attended the Boston Conservatory for 18 months. Final advice from the year’s “American Idol”: “Do what you want to do, and be happy and be proud.” [email protected] (818) 713-3676160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!