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Star search: Where’s Sanjaya?

STEVE MAYNARD; The News Tribune
Published: April 28th, 2007 01:00 AM

Sanjaya Malakar’s hometown of Federal Way is trying to find him. The city’s mall is even offering a reward.
Sanjaya, where are you?

Some in his hometown of Federal Way want to honor the “American Idol” seventh-place finisher, who got higher marks for his luxuriant head of hair than for his singing chops.

But nobody seems to know where Sanjaya Malakar is.

The Federal Way City Council has discussed what his ties are to the city and whether to honor him, but it can’t get any traction in its Malakar quest.

The mall wants to throw the 17-year-old a reception. It’s offering a $100 gift certificate for information leading to his whereabouts. But it’s coming up empty, too.

“I would love to do something,” said Tiffany Archibald, director of marketing for The Commons at Federal Way. “I just can’t find him.”

The reason to honor Malakar is clear to Archibald: “He’s from Federal Way, of course.”

Just how much he belongs to the city is a matter of debate.

The lanky singer, who melted hearts and spilled tears among young “Idol” watchers, often tells interviewers he’s from Seattle, but that’s not unusual for a national audience that wouldn’t know Federal Way from Federal Express.

In a teleconference with Washington reporters last week, Malakar said he’s from Federal Way. “If you ever saw a little Indian kid walking on the street singing loud, that was probably me,” he said.

Last week, he said he’d be home by Tuesday, but his schedule apparently was too full. He complained about the paparazzi on “Live with Regis and Kelly” Monday morning, read the Top 10 list on David Letterman’s “Late Show” Monday night, and was shown in the “Idol” audience Wednesday night.

His publicist from the Fox program didn’t respond to a reporter’s e-mails.

Federal Way city leaders were hit with about 100 e-mails from fans urging them to do something, from declaring a “Sanjaya Malakar Day” to having a parade for him.

Only a handful of those supporters said they were from Federal Way, said City Manager Neal Beets.

Malakar’s mother lives in Federal Way. Malakar attended Todd Beamer High School during the 2005-06 school year, left school in fall 2006 and later earned his GED, said district spokeswoman Diane Turner.

Joshua Garcia, principal of Todd Beamer, is mum about the singer.

“The family has requested we not speak to the media about him,” Garcia said.

Mayor Mike Park said the city hasn’t honored anyone with a special day in its 17-year history. Council members have been left empty when it comes to information about Malakar’s ties to Federal Way.

“We don’t know anything,” Park said.

Beets has been searching for Malakar’s local roots. He’s come up with the names of a few kids who knew him at Todd Beamer, but that’s about it. He can’t find his mother or any other relative.

“It’s not as if they have deep roots in the community,” Beets said.

Beets said so far the city’s not planning to honor the teen.

Not even a proclamation? “In this instance, we don’t know who’s going to receive the proclamation,” Beets said. “We don’t even know where to send it if we’re going to mail it somewhere.”

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