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While in prison, dad has 'Idol' thoughts

Clyde Pickler Jr., who used to live in New Port Richey, has a daughter, Kellie, on the hit show American Idol.

By THOMAS LAKE
Published April 26, 2006


NEW PORT RICHEY - Five days from now, if his schedule holds, Clyde Pickler Jr. will leave Florida State Prison with $100 and a bus ticket. He will head southwest from Starke, bound for a motel near Main Street, carrying on his right arm a permanent thunderstorm.

The tattoo is a cloud and a lightning bolt. It says Kellie.

Pickler is 41, with a ponderous rap sheet and a future unknown. But he will have his freedom and - unless she is banished from the show tonight - a daughter in American Idol's final five.

"Despite what some people may think," Pickler wrote in a recent letter to their hometown newspaper in North Carolina, "Kellie and I are very close."

That is debatable. Kellie, a 19-year-old waitress who is known among Idol's millions of followers for a countrified persona and a lack of seafood acumen, told the Charlotte Observer in February that she was reared by her grandparents, that she had not seen her father since he went to prison three years ago for stabbing a neighbor and nearly running over a New Port Richey police officer.

It was cold night in January 2003 at a trailer park on Sunburst Lane. Frank Lukoski said he saw Pickler trying to burglarize his trailer. He says he yelled at Pickler, and Pickler got a knife and gave him a puncture wound in the left shoulder.

When the police came, Pickler tried to speed away in his black Oldsmobile. The car struck the elbow of an officer who was scurrying out of the way.

Lukoski, who now lives near Gainesville and details boats for a living, still has a thin pink scar from the knife wound. He said he happened to see Kellie Pickler on a recent episode of American Idol.

"I saw that last name and of course I went, "Pickler!' " he said. "I said, "Oh yeah, she's probably related to that s-----g Clyde Pickler.' "

But it appears Kellie has forgiven her father.

"If I make it to the finale," she told the Observer, "he should be able to come. Which would be really great."

Times researcher Angie Drobnic Holan contributed to this report.

[Last modified April 26, 2006, 01:22:18]


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