While my reliance on a stipend prevents me from divulging ALL that I saw this past week, I can tell you that I ventured deep into the heart of artifice. That's right, I crashed The X Factor. Actually, it crashed us. For three days, Simon Cowell's circus camped out at the coliseum, drawing finalists and fans alike for a surprisingly strong string of performances. I sat through a couple of the live tapings and while I'd watched not a frame of the show's first season, I found myself unreasonably entertained. Maybe it was the way Demi Lovato kept putting Simon in his place. Or the way Britney glimmered. Or how L.A. Reid never once said "Dawg". Whatever it was, I'd like to apologize to my daughters for any spasmodic arrhythmia I exhibited once the Captain and Tennille medley started. What can I say? That scuba diver could really sing.
But cushy seats amid a sea of 'tweens was only the beginning. The publicity people really outdid themselves, granting Shannon Smith and me staggering access to the show's contestants, crew and, yes, celebrity judges. Much of what I witnessed was erased from my memory banks the moment I turned in my press-pass. All I remember is some goon in a windbreaker sticking a flashy laser thing in my face. Next thing I know I'm outside in the parking lot, fumbling with my live truck keys. Still, I've soaked my forehead in bourbon long enough to bring a few memories to the surface and while I still can't explain why I have an incessant urge to sing karaoke, a few truths ring clear...
America's youth is still greatly persuaded by a certain prickly Brit in a too-tight t-shirt. Kids of every age credited the middle-aged millionaire for 'keeping it real'. As for Simon himself, the man seems far happier running the show, instead of just fondling his lighter while Paula Abdul breathed into a paper bag. I even saw him smile once. Once.
Britney Spears' name looks great on a marquee, but Demi Lovato is the real scene stealer. Granted, I didn't know who the hell she was before this week, but after watching her part a sea of teenagers with the bat of a single eyelash, I consider myself a fan. Most of all, I enjoyed watching her bust Simon's chops while coming off as the biggest star in a very crowded room.
The lust for highly-contained fame remains at epidemic levels. Many years now after Idol convinced a nation of children that warbling outdated show tunes was really kind of rock and roll, the Millennials are still in lock-step with these now fully ordained taste makers. In better news, your favorite Jazz club is now more spacious than ever. Be sure to tip the waitress.
Well, there you have it: more than I planned to write about my latest brush with prefabricated talent show cavalcades. What will it all mean now that American Idol is shedding celebrities faster than those Deadliest Catch captains go through greenhorns? Ya got me. All I know is America's obsession with disposable fame is still going strong and no matter the name of its latest incarnation, the folks who sleep in their cars so they can massacre some overdone dirge in the morning still exhibit that same blend of starry-eyed ingenue and head-on collision victim.
What better recipe for television?