Of those 100 million plus YouTube hits over the last ten days, at least twenty are from me. I just can't get enough of her. Every time I watch it, I wind up crying. A friend recently told my wife that she had a husband who wears his heart on his sleeve.
This time, however, it was lodged firmly in my throat.
We live in a world where appearance is reality. Or at least close enough to reality that it can by no means be safely ignored. We also live in a world of conventional wisdom. If a frumpy "plus size" woman pushing 50 has not fulfilled her dream of becoming a professional singer, chances are . . .
She can't sing.
We all knew that when she walked onto the stage. A slow, somewhat uncomfortable walk that we thought said, "I have never been here before and do not expect to be back any time soon." Then she started answering questions.
And really convinced us her fifteen minutes of fame would either be funny for us . . . or embarrassing for her . . . or (we hoped) both.
Simon started with softballs. "What's your name, darling?" (He would never have tried that "darling" bit on Amanda; she would have clocked him). "Susan Boyle," she said, safely enough. "And where are you from?" "Blightman, near Bathgate, in West Lothian," she replied. That's a "big town," said Simon smoothly. Her puzzled look said "not really."
And then she stopped. For more than a moment. And we knew again she was cooked. TV pros don't stop. Silence is deadly. Pregnant pauses are decidedly for amateurs. We had an amateur and we knew it. She scratched her head. Which no one else on TV does either. Because their hair is very made up. Which was not her problem. Because her hair was barely made up.
"It's more a collection of . . ."
And then she stopped again. To find a word, for heaven's sake. Doesn't she understand she is on TV? We knew she didn't.
". . . villages, don't ya think?"
Simon doesn't get paid to think. At least not about the size of West Lothian villages. So he plowed on.
"And how old are you Susan?" "I am 47," she said. Simon's eyes opened . . . wide. He couldn't say what he was thinking. Which was that she must be kiddin'.
"And that's just one side of me," she added, suggestively rolling her decidedly non-Madonna like hips. Pierce frowned at the unvarnished tackiness of it all. Simon muttered a disgusted "Wow" sotto voce to Amanda. Even in Europe, this was still a family show. So tackiness approaches raunchiness only at a distance. Simon moved on.
"OK. What's the dream?" he asked.
"I'm tryin' to be a professional singer," said she. And then the camera panned to a woman in the audience. Whose look said either "Yikes" or "C'mon" depending on the continent. Simon moved in for the proverbial kill. "And why hasn't it worked out so far, Susan?" "I've not been given the chance before, but here's hoping it'll change" said Susan. We didn't believe her. And when she told us she wanted to be as successful as Elaine Paige, a theatrical superstar, we all laughed.
Pierce had had enough. "What are you going to sing tonight?" he asked, just to get it over with. "I'm going to sing I Dreamed A Dream from Les Miserables," she said, just to let us know how bad what was coming would be. "Big song," said Simon. Pierce chuckled. Amanda just stared.
Then Susan Boyle sang.
And right about that time, to quote Forrest Gump, "God showed up."
She didn't just sing. She overwhelmed. She was perfect. The audience was on its feet. Simon was simply fooled and couldn't wash that "I've been had" smile off his face. Amanda was in shock, and Pierce later admitted as much. In the evaluations which followed, Amanda apologized for all us "cynics," calling the performance "the biggest wake up call ever." Pierce confessed that when she had said she wanted to be "like Elaine Paige, everyone was laughing at you."
"No one is laughing now," he added.
Who always knew she could sing.
Even when we were certain that this frumpy, slighty overweight, 50ish, not ready for prime time, spinster, with a silly dream, from a village in West Lothian . . .