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By William Michael Smith
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By Sonya Harvey
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By Nathan Smith
I'm guilty of it: grabbing hold of my pale and pimpled cheeks and spreading them just wide enough to release a wheelbarrow of critical dung on the head of sweet Ashlee Simpson.
Poor girl can't get a break. First was her Milli Vanilli impression on Saturday Night Live. Many feel about it as they do 9/11: They will "never forget." That shameful and awkward hoedown plays in our minds as a perfectly etched illustration of her ineptitude anytime we turn on the boob tube and see her hawking minty-fresh gum or hear her playing in the background of a shampoo commercial. The days following were an exercise in bad PR, with the "singer" blaming the incident on everything from her drummer pressing the wrong button to her continuing battle with acid reflux disease. Apparently Nexium ads don't run in Los Angeles County.
Soon after she recovered (kinda) from the SNL debacle, 72,000 Orange Bowl attendees rained a chorus of angry boos upon her following her performance of the sexually suggestive "La La." They seemed to be telling her, "You're better when you fake it!" Again young Ashlee decided to pass the "you suck!" buck -- choosing to believe the flood of disapproval came from Oklahoma fans who somehow knew she was rooting for USC. At that point, critics no longer needed to drop dooks on the "performer," as she clearly had her head up her own ass.
Fast-forward a few months, and the critical outcry has faded to a whisper. No one really seems to care much anymore. Ashlee has used her MTV infomercial, The Ashlee Simpson Show, as a soapbox for continually espousing what seems to be her new mantra, "I'm not perfect. No one is." When your fan base consists of girls ranging in age from six to 16, you couldn't have a better battle cry. After all, who feels less perfect than they do?
Ashlee has curtailed her dunce act into full-on Teen Queen, rife with the same "I'm still finding myself" problems had by the girls who arrive at her shows with homemade, glitter-pasted signs expressing their undying devotion. Joe Simpson, you old pimp, you truly are a genius.
So to hell with being mad about it. What's the point, right? The people lining her pockets are little girls who can't be expected to know any better. Are you still upset with your sister for her crush on Jordan Knight?
It's time to stop being mad at Ashlee and the corpulent pop machine that allows such pabulum to flourish. In fact, we should revel in her success. What must it take to love an artist so unconditionally -- to ignore any and all proof that the object of your affection isn't worthy?
Who knows? But chances are, a case of beer doesn't hurt. Down it, look yourself in the mirror and repeat the phrase "I am a 12-year-old girl." And then head on down to the Verizon Wireless Theater for her show.
Forget authenticity. Forget obvious marketing ploys. For one night, just sit back and allow yourself to be washed over by waves of mindless shit, you hypercritical nit!
Armed with willing friends, a designated driver and a serious case of double vision, I decide to do just that. And you know what? It frigging rules!
Arriving just before eight turns out to be a good thing. Members of opening act Pepper's Ghost are in the lobby signing CDs, posters and (sorry, moms) teenage tit. After taking photos in front of a Thermasilk "Be a Rock Star for a Day!" backdrop, the crew and I wait longingly for our chance to talk to the band.
Le Grand Fromage (see "Grace Under Pressure," March 17) antes up first, raising his shirt for a petrified young man who writes "Pepper's Ghost" around his navel in Sharpie.
He seems like a good sport. I shoot the breeze with the squirt. After asking if Pepper's Ghost gets to take turns banging Ashlee in her tour bus (his answer is a very quick and candid "of course"), he has a question for me.
"What are youdoing here?"
I tell him of our experiment and get him to sign my ticket...which he does: "To the Night Fly. U Suck. With love, Pepper's Ghost."
Inside the theater, the lights go down and the crowd erupts. We squeal like piglets and run in, almost knocking over a police officer.
During the show, we scream ourselves hoarse. When the crowd jumps, we jump higher. When they scream, we scream louder. We dance our old male asses off to countless bewildered stares. For her part, Ashlee forgets some of the words, thanks the crowd for standing behind her during her "difficult year" and emits a nervous giggle incessantly.
After the set (a tight 45 minutes) I rush the stage and beg a roadie for a set list. He gives me one. Skipping happily away, I glance down at it. It actually tells her when to talk.
Back in the lobby we look at Ashlee merch. A $60 sweatshirt with an anarchy symbol sprawled across the back causes me to temporarily break character, screaming, "Oh, who are we fucking kidding!" Mothers look at me with scornful eyes.
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