American Idol Judges Circus: Mariah Carey, Bon Jovi, and Charlie Sheen?

Who is going to sit on the judges panel on "American Idol" for Season 12? Is Mariah Carey about to ink a deal? Who knows? At the moment the rumor mill is grinding out judge gossip like mad. But Bret Michaels, Adam Lambert, Aretha Franklin, and Charlie Sheen say they are interested.

Let it never be said that summers off for "American Idol" is downtime for the rumor mill. It never has been and the summer of 2012 has shown itself to be no different. In fact, it has become another gossip generator surrounding -- no, not former finalists, the winners, or the upcoming contestants -- the judges. That's right... the judges.

And just like the summer of 2010, where three judges dropped out, there is now a mad scramble to find out who will be the new judges. Rumors had already ran amok, with names being dropped by anybody and everybody with access to a blog. And where there were no rumors from anonymous sources, there were those with wish lists. With Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez, the two that came in on the tail of all that 2010 speculation, announcing their departures from the show last week within 24 hours of each other, the circus was definitely in town.

But one thing is not as certain as it looks. As for Jennifer Lopez, Fox Television has yet to announce her departure, unlike the formal press release they issued for Tyler when he said he was hitting the road with his band Aerosmith. So there's that...

Still, for all intents and purposes, it appears that there will be two vacancies (and perhaps a third, as the rumor mill has pushed the idea that original judge Randy Jackson might be placed in a mentoring role). So who's being considered?

Here's the list (although it is unsure how many on it are actual considerations for the job(s):

Jon Bon Jovi
Beyonce
Mariah Carey
Lady Gaga
Janet Jackson
Miley Cyrus
Nicki Minaj
Fergie
will.i.am
Katy Perry
Pink
Kanye West
Bret Michaels
Aretha Franklin
Adam Lambert
Jerry Lewis
Charlie Sheen

Now that's a list. And as the deadline grows short for the live auditions before the judges, the rumors will undoubtedly get more intense. And more names will almost assuredly be added to the list.

But the frontrunner seems to be Mariah Carey. Although it is unclear how they'll work out the details of Randy Jackson constantly namedropping Carey with her sitting next to him on the panel, Deadline Hollywood reported Friday that the "I'll Be There" singer is near to inking a $17 million deal. If true, it will be more lucrative than Lopez' rumored $13-$15 million deal for the eleventh season.

Notables like Bon Jovi have made it clear that they are out of the running. TMZ reported that a source close to Bon Jovi stating that with a new album and tour in the works, the famed frontman says he won't be filling one of the vacant seats.

At the same time, Bret Michaels, winner of "Celebrity Apprentice" and frontman for the rock band Poison, is said to have been in talks with "Idol." In fact, he tossed it out himself to an NBC affiliate in Oregon.

There is a report from HollywoodLife.com that Beyonce is at the top of the "American Idol" producers' wish list but nothing substantial. The same report notes that Pink, Kanye West, and Lady Gaga are also on the list.

Both Adam Lambert and Charlie Sheen heard rumors that they might be considered and said they were interested. Lambert said it was a "beautiful rumor" and would "jump at the chance" to be a judge on the show that launched his career. Sheen told Jay Leno on "The Tonight Show" he heard his name mentioned, had never even thought about, but considered it, and sent "American Idol" his terms.

Sheen was responding to the rumor started by "Idol" executive producer Nigel Lythgoe, himself still awaiting a contract renewal, who told TMZ that if he was again hired on as the executive producer, he was pushing for Sheen and comedic icon Jerry Lewis.

As he awaits a response, Aretha Franklin let it be known she wouldn't mind showing a little "R-E-S-P-E-C-T" to the amateur talent trying to make it big. The "Queen of Soul" emailed CNN and told them she would gladly join "Idol." She had one requirement: she wants famed singer Patti LaBelle at her side.

But who ultimately will land in the three seats is still an unknown. They very well could be several someones not even on the list.

And until there is a Fox Television announcement or several, the circus will remain in town...

(photo credit: David Shankbone, Creative Commons)