I was always obsessed with American Idol, since I wanted to be a rock star but possessed not an ounce of the required talent. Then I swore it off when two lesser talents defeated the phenomenal Melinda Doolittle and I threw the television against the wall, which at least forced me to buy a new flat screen. But a friend emailed me Adam Lambert's performances of the Stones' "Satisfaction" and Michael Jackson's "Black or White" and my obsession is back. Somebody help me.
Lambert has electrifying white-hot talent and star quality that wipes the stage with the other contestants. He sounds like Axl Rose and Robert Plant had a baby that was incubated in Patti LaBelle. Adding to the glamour, he's got a funky gay back-story complete with pictures of him dolled up like he just escaped from Velvet Goldmine, as well as photos of him kissing a guy like they're at a Ziggy Stardust concert.
Lambert is everything I wanted to be in my 20's and never was -- sexy, stylish and self-confident, not afraid to be who he is, with a voice that could force the pigeons from the rafters and a great face for eye shadow. I watch him and become a bobby-socker watching Sinatra. I want to be his best friend, have him take me to cool parties with his overly costumed friends, and show me how to do my nails. I want to be his gay big brother.
He's an instant love-him-or-hate-him star who has inspired a whole Internet debate about whether or not he's really that great, whether or not he should come out on the show, and whether or not "America is ready for a gay Idol."
I'm all for out performers -- I'm one of them. I don't regret coming out on national television in 2000 when my Comedy Central special first aired. It got me a whole new audience and made me fearless onstage. But being an out performer is not without its hazards, and Adam needs the votes of America to win. A large part of the Idol audience are yokels who wouldn't mind voting for a gay guy as long as he doesn't make a production of it. By a "production" I mean telling the simple truth. One EntertainmentWeekly.com poster said, "KEEP IT IN THE CLOSET!!!!!!!!!!!!!! WE DON'T WANNA KNOW!!!!" An endless parade of very depressing homophobic comments follow.
Please. You know. Sad to say, simply acknowledging one's sexuality is still a huge deal to some. After a comedy set where I spoke of my partner of 21 years like any comic talking about his girlfriend, a customer complained to the management that I was "forcing my sex life down his throat" (always an unfortunate choice of words). People know it's there but just don't want to hear about it. A YouTube video of my comedy included this comment: "He's so funny, why does he have to be gay?"
I wish this wasn't the case, but alas, we're still in a hangover from the Bush years. There are lots of conservatives who, having lost on every other issue, are still going after gay people. An out Idol contestant would win lot of gay hearts but might lose votes.
But when asked about the photos, Lambert casually said, "I have nothing to hide, I am who I am, I've never been shy about anything," which is another reason why he rocks. There's no Clay Aiken pussyfooting around it. He is saying, here I am, America, take it or leave it. In the glaring spotlight of Idol, that's pretty fierce.
He has basically been on the scene for several weeks and it will take America some time to get used to a gay glam rocker with black nail polish. But we wouldn't even be having this discussion if he weren't an in-your-face major talent with the potential to go huge. This guy is Madonna, Tina Turner, and David Bowie. Even if he doesn't win the prize, he's the real thing. As Bette Davis said after seeing Barbra Streisand in Funny Girl: "The moment she came out onstage, we all knew."