May 26, 2009
I’m pulling myself over
and issuing myself a WUI
FOR WRITING UNDER THE INFLUENCE
of red wine and Adam Lambert, two things which, when taken in excess, can erode your judgment and make you delirious. I’d been up all night working on a short story about an older man’s love for a younger woman, taking rest breaks to watch an Adam video or two, and was by 6:00 a.m. what you’d call, if you wanted to be generous, pickled in red brine, so to speak. I wrote a gushing Adamaniac column for comic relief before hitting the sack, about an older woman (that would be me) and her fascination with a younger man (that would be Adam). And there’s lots of us horny old broads out there, apparently. According to People Magazine, the “Core ‘Idol’ Fan” is a woman between 35 and 64, and we searched for Lambert “by more than threefold” than for the other contestants.
YES, I FELL PREY TO ADAMANIA,
but morning has broken and so has the fever. The lad had me under a spell, that he did, but the dry-ice fog has lifted and cleared my brain. A column raving about his hypnotic sexuality, outrageous talent and phenomenal stage presence is one thing, if of interest only to other Adamaniacs, but I also made some mean-spirited and simplistic generalities that I later didn’t even agree with, speculating about other people’s values, beliefs and preferences in a shallow and superficial way, like a teeny bopper hopped up on sugar. Instead I was a Baby Boomer hopped up on wine. So I got out my ax, gave it 40 whacks and threw an embarrassed veil over it. Before that, it got a lot of hits and positive feedback—from those people who agree with me, of course. For those who don’t, I feel I was patronizing and dismissive, and one respected reader did me the favor of telling me I’m full of shit, which I often suspect but am rarely told.
I published the column at 8:00 a.m., after my bout with the “wine” flu, without giving it much thought, but when I read it later that day, I saw it had needed a red pencil, not red wine. The word was out, though, and I decided to suspend circulation while I mulled it over with a clearer head. I understand some of you are disappointed I did this, thinking I felt the need to water myself down and make the article as average as the mediocrity it complained of, and normally I wouldn’t “retract” anything I write, but let it stand and make fun of myself later. I’ve deleted only one thing from this column in four years, when I repeated a falsehood about a public figure because it didn’t occur to me someone would lie to me.
Being safe and pleasing people is not something I worry about, as a writer. I’ll say almost any damn thing and there’s no wringer I won’t put myself through. I pulled the column because ultimately, it was not worthy of Adam, or myself. He is able to enjoy his success without diminishing someone else’s and he knows he’s not the center of the universe. He may be the cock of the media walk, but the others of the Top 10 (including the winner) achieved something pretty damn substantial themselves. Mazel tov.
IF THE ADORATION
flowing his way does not go to his head, he’s a better man than I am, Gunga Din, but I think he’s a decent person who can stay real and be grateful for his success. All of us want to spend our lives doing something we love but so few of us find a way to strike a happy and healthy balance between filling our stomachs and nourishing our souls. Everyone wishes their personal lives, their work and their art could combine into a unified whole, but that’s the great challenge of life. More power to Adam that everything came together to create this opportunity to choose his destiny. The collection of his AI performances were history-making, in my book. American Idol might as well cancel itself. How will it ever top Adam?
Like cream, Adam will rise to the top and, I think, stay there. But that doesn’t mean that people who don’t like his “screeching,” “screaming,” and overall look and manner just don’t “get” it. They just don’t like it, and they need to be respected just like those of us who are rolling in the aisles with our skirts over our heads. Whatever other people don’t like about Adam, I love it. I like the screeching simply because he can hit those high notes every time and does so with furious energy and panache. But if he doesn’t make it in the music biz, he can always get a job at the mall piercing ears!
In that nasty download of “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction,” he walks out onto a round platform surrounded by the audience, including his parents, an incredibly vulnerable position to be in, but gets down and dirty like he’s in front of his own mirror. And that’s the way we all want to scream when we don’t get no satisfaction. The mood of the room in response, to me, seemed “abashed,” like they’d witnessed something they themselves would hide under the mattress. What do you do with such a display? We’re not used to such raw presentations of self.
CLEARLY, ADAM HAS STRUCK A NERVE
and put a spell over a lot of usually reasonable enough folk who were surprised by the intensity of their own response, including myself. It’s partly Zeitgeist; amid the travesty and tragedy of 21st century life, we seek out something, someone to be excited about without guilt or consequence. Mix that with Adam’s astonishing talent and power and there are likely to be more contestants next season who want to be the “next Adam Lambert” than the “next Kris Allen.” But hey, Kris won and a mighty number of people wanted him to. Congratulations to him.
I don’t have my finger on the pulse of pop culture. Like many people, I used to consider American Idol guilty pleasure/train wreck material; then I decided to kick back and admit I find it entertaining. I don’t watch much TV and don’t listen to contemporary radio. I can’t name five top hits and don’t watch the Grammy awards because I don’t know who the people are. I’ve been a classical music fanatic since 1970 and the CD in my player right now is Glenn Gould’s recording of Brahms’ Intermezzi. I have a Reader’s Digest “pleasure programmed” Collector’s Edition of “Be My Love: The Golden Voice of Mario Lanza.” My favorite band is still The Grateful Dead and my favorite songwriter, Tom Waits. I thought it was great that Brian May and KISS were impressed with Adam, because he thought it was great. Have no idea whether in the great scheme of rock history what he is doing is cliché, outdated or derivative. The most recent popular CD I bought was…I can’t remember (oh wait, The Killers). I don’t think of myself as a “Glambert.” Adam just plain makes me happy.
NOT THAT THE ADAM SPELL IS BROKEN.
I’ve never been in on any craze for the Beatles or Elvis or anyone. I’ve never known that kind of mass historical hysteria. I live a contented, grateful life, but it is not that exciting. I’m a freelance writer who spends a lot of time by myself at home and at coffee shops with my laptop. I visit with friends, go to movies and concerts, and have a predictably pleasant life. I knock out The Ax Files for laughs and relaxation while other longer-term projects simmer steadily on the stove.
For the first time ever, I succumbed to temptation and got a ticket to the closest American Idol concert, in Oakland, CA, which I would normally consider tantamount to going to the Ice Capades, only because I want to be in the same room with Adam’s contagious radiating energy. There’s plenty enough to go around to feed and fuel a stadium. I also look forward to seeing Allison Iraheta, a diamond in the rough. I’d love to see them tour together. The rest of performers don’t intrigue me, artistically, though I find Kris appealing enough and downloaded “Heartless.” I’d go hear him in a coffee house, sure.
I’m going to the show by myself, however, because the only other person I know around here who followed AI doesn’t particularly care for either Kris or Adam. I was on the phone with friends in Seattle who toyed with the idea of going to the Tacoma show, and thought how much fun it would be to see it with good friends who are also into it. I make my own schedule, so I impulsively got us three tickets and booked a flight to Seattle, even though I was just there. Then it occurred to me it would have been cool to see the Portland show because that is the first concert date after the close of the show, with the freshest audience response. Out of curiosity I checked to see if the show was sold out and searched for the best available seat at any price and lo, the one offered was a pretty damn good one.
YOU KNOW, GAL, YOU COULD USE A LITTLE ADVENTURE
I told myself. There weren’t any happening so I had to make one up. I lived in Portland for 15 years and shuttled between Seattle and there many times over the years. I love to travel and have a tendency to get up and go without much advance planning. So I said, what the hell? I’ll fly to Seattle for July 4th, take the train to Portland for the July 5th show, the train back to Seattle for the July 7th show, and the plane back to San Francisco for the July 11th Oakland show.
That way instead of simply taking BART to Oakland Arena, I get two plane rides out of the deal, two train rides, three cities and three shows. Not only because I want to see, see, see Adam Lambert, but for the sake of fun. Otherwise it’s just another week at home with the cats. I’ve gone to Mexico five times, Sweden, Brasil and New York in much the same manner, to see a concert or go to a party or because I can. I went from Los Angeles to the Grand Canyon because I was “in the neighborhood.” I went from Chicago to Philadelphia by way of New Orleans because I’d never been on that train they call the City of New Orleans. You get the drift.
So since Adam got me revved up to be excited about something again, I thought I’d make the most of it. I may be an “old lady,” according to my mother and some Glamberts, but I get around. In fact you hipsters could learn a few tricks from us hot mamas.
A new reader, 49 years old, married 26 years and with a 14-year-old son, who posts as Rosie on www.TheAdamLambertConnection.com, emailed to say that my post
Well said, Rosie. It’s time the elders of the tribe were honored as shamans. Unfortunately, there are no disciples seeking their counsel. America has always been a youth-adoring culture, and the older I get, the more I notice rampant agism and older folks being ridiculed, not honored, by their juniors. I ran across this reader comment via a web link, revealing
MORE THINGS OLD LADIES AND OLD GEEZERS SHOULDN’T BE DOING
Christ, why don’t they just put us all out to pasture and leave us to die? We have outlived life. We should no longer be living it, or allowed to be. I don’t know how young you are, whoever you are, but you need a spanking.
She is, however, a person, consumer and viewer, and her opinion has weight in and of itself and to advertisers and producers, perhaps. My own opinion is Simon makes the show, but I get a kick out of all the judges’ synergy, antics and camaraderie. Randy’s the life of the party, no one can look more exquisitely bored than Simon, and Paula would be a riot on Ladies’ Night Out. Not sure what to make of Kara, she didn’t seem to fit too comfortably into the niche they provided her. Ryan’s right on track to become Dick Clark and has mastered the pregnant pause between “This” and “is American Idol.”
I don’t find Allen all that contemporary. He’s got a mild and mellow James Taylor vibe. He belongs in a smaller, intimate venue like Yoshi’s, Café du Nord or Great American Music Hall (in SF), and Adam Lambert at the biggest fuckin’ flamin’ blow-out spectacle ever to burn down the desert at Burning Man. Unfortunately, he’ll be on tour in Kris Allen country, the Heartland.
I wish, for Kris, that it hadn’t been his luck of the draw to be pitted against the force of nature that is Adam Lambert, in all his splendor and pageantry. But though I am told it is actually Kris that some gay guys favor, he does not exude sex like Adam cannot help but do. There’s nothing threatening about Kris, and I, for one, respond more to some element of frisson and mystery to hold my interest.
the welcome vibration of sex in the air, and the Battle of the Lifestyles gave American Idol its much-needed edge and buzz this year. Rosie remarked that there was “so much made of Adam’s sexual ‘orientation’ that his ‘sexuality’ got lost in the media frenzy.” My post, she said, “connected the dots” and “the entire peri-menopausal world breathed a collective sigh of relief.” (Lovely!)
A friend suggests that Kris represents “safe sex” and Adam is “the dangerous, more exhilarating kind.” Here’s to danger, says I! Maybe it does come down to this: protected versus unprotected sex. With the former, you pretty much know what you’re going to get (Kris); with the latter (Adam), God knows what you’re going to get hit with. Married Christian sex vs. I’m Up For It If You Are. But as we all know, when it comes to interpersonal interactions, there is no such thing as safe sex. Something is always at risk. Nothing protects you from love and other side effects.
Homophobia is rooted in fear of freedom and fear of sex. There’s a Special Place in Hell for deviants. People don’t like people having freedoms and pleasures they themselves don’t exercise. I’m not going to rehash everything I’ve said in the past four years of writing this column, but marriage conventions are just one way of corralling and controlling the behavior of large numbers of people. Freedom is just too dangerous and threatening a commodity to have any given population running around doing as they please. And what Adam’s doing is not so radical. He’s just dressing up and singing. And his dressing’s relatively conservative, certainly nothing I wouldn’t expect to and do see on the streets of San Francisco.
It’s not just his look, it’s his carriage. We got stared at on the bus in (then) East Germany not only because I was wearing a man’s Stetson and my friend his jeans and cowboy boots, but because we were the only ones on the bus conversing and laughing, pointing out the window, having fun and attracting attention. The passengers were staring at us enjoying our freedom.
SAME WITH ADAM.
He dares to enjoy life and flamboyantly struts his stuff, radiating sex, energy and joy, while incidentally entertaining the hell out of us and making an emotional connection with his fans. People stare at him flaunting his freedom. We want it for ourselves. How many of us are at home tied to our spouses, children, mortgages while he gyrates on stage? If we’re not living it ourselves, it’s a joy to watch it, isn’t it?
Some resent it, though, and him. Rather than overly emphasize the role of homophobia in the triumph of Kris Allen, the overall “package” that both Kris and Adam present is of such contrast that some either loved or hated one or the other and Kris had Danny’s fans piled on. Kris has chosen a recognized and sanctified path in life that is easy to swallow, pardon the expression, like pablum, and easy to relate to. Not that there’s anything wrong with that! Adam, on the other hand, is a wild card rejecting traditional expectations of how one ought behave in ordinary society. He’ll wear what he wants, fuck who he wants, scream all he damn well pleases, and have a great time doing it all. Now he’s even getting paid for it. He’s extraordinarily talented, but it’s more than that, that has so many panties in a twist. It’s his whole persona of self-acceptance and delight in himself and what he does. He has the nerve to live life as he wants, and gives us a glimpse of how liberating that must feel. He doesn’t and needn’t apologize to anyone. All he’s doing is dressing up and singing!
HOW MANY OF US
have a chance to act out like he does, to yell at the top of our lungs, to just get it all out and feel happy about it? Adam makes us feel happy about it. If I am not going to go out and flout societal norms and average behavior and tastes, I’ll take every opportunity to watch someone else do it and get my kicks following him around Route 66.
Randy Travis was probably a good example of how some regard Adam, like an alien from Planet 9. Well, he’s certainly never seen a man wearing black nail polish before, he said—and that is the least of it! “Ring of Fire” was no doubt the wayest-out thing that dude’s ever had paraded in front of him. He looked dumbstruck. “What was that?” asked Simon and then answered himself: “Indulgent rubbish.” I agree that, if it didn’t exactly make my ears bleed, it was the most affected of Adam’s performances, but still super sex-charged. But if he wants to flame, fine with me. I was probably trying too hard to pry my eyes off the external zipper on his pants to pay much attention to the song.
THROUGH ALL THIS HUBBUB,
Adam is and has remained a gentleman. And though what I had to say about him in the awkwardly titled Meter-Outer post resonated with so many fans, I thought that, along with shared feelings about the marvel that is this thing called Adam, I exhibited a subtext of simply ridiculing people who disagree with me and that’s not how I want to put myself out there. I found it rude in some ways and that’s not cool. Plenty of you want me to reinstate the piece as it was, but this is not, and will not be, an Adam Lambert fan site. My stated mission when I began this column in 2005, was to write whatever I want, whenever I want, for whatever it’s worth. I’m glad my original piece was worth something to you, something you’ve been wanting to say yourself, but in this case, I spoke too soon, and with a glass of Warthog South African Cab in my hand.
ONE MORE THING
while I’ve got your attention. I’ve taken a few moments to scroll through various people’s comments on Adam’s website www.adamofficial.com and elsewhere in the media, and I am appalled at the atrocious spelling, grammar and punctuation of the masses of fans. You know, it’s not necessary to always write like you’re texting someone. This is still the English language. Go out and learn to use it, people, or I fear for the future of thought and discourse in this country and world! Lesson One. “UR” is not a word. “Your” is a possessive pronoun—Your English is awful. “You’re” is a contraction of “You are”—“You’re showing your ignorance.” Clean up your act!
Thanks to those of you who wrote so eloquently in praise of my original post, and for the cogent comments from those wanting me to reinstate it. I love hearing from readers. If you would like to be added to my mailing list, click on the email below. (By the way, if you want to get some traffic on the web, just mention “dick” and “Adam Lambert” in the same sentence.)
A reader alerted me to a fabulous Twitter both she and I wish we could take credit for: “Adam is what happens when sex becomes a person.”
Epiologue: Yes, it’s true. I did reinstate the post. Go knock yourself out.
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copyright Alexandra Jones 2009