Addicted to Fluff

Hi, my name's Racket, and I'm an American Idol addict. (Hi, Racket!) I would like to tell you that I have been clean and sober for a while, but as I type this it has only been about 11 hours since I watched an episode, and to be frank, I am furious that I will have to miss tonight's results show because of a stupid little baseball game that, uh, my son is kinda playing in.

Not that I am not always delighted to watch my son play baseball. But it just makes me furious that those sadistic creeps who wrote up this Little League schedule failed to consult Fox's prime-time lineup first. Didn't they know that a 7:30 p.m. start time would wipe out my chance to find out who got the chop this week? Don't they know or care how much that means to me? Don't they know that Bo needs me to watch so I can help him win?

Pardon me, I get a little worked up about this stuff. Idol-itis does that to people.

And let me tell you this, friend: Once, I scoffed at this crap. During the first two or three months of Season I, I avoided A.I. completely. (By the way, referring to the show as "A.I. " or "Idol" is a pretty clear sign that you've got a problem.) I flipped past it a couple of times, sure, but the show just set off my then-keen hipster resistance system. Just a bunch of suburban dweebs crooning crappy pop, I sniffed to my wife, as I headed up the dial to watch quality fare like a Court TV Cops marathon from a great crime city like Memphis or one of the real-deal episodes of Cheaters with the gone-but-never-to-be-forgotten Tommy Grand.

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But soon enough, it sucked me in. It happened gradually. I watched the show moderately at first, but little did I know my resistance had crumbled. I cheered Texas homegirl Kelly to the finish line, but it was no biggie. I was glad she won, but hey, I wasn't gonna let this crap run my life.

That would come on Season II. This time I tuned in early enough to guffaw at all the delusional cases and no-hopers in the regional rounds -- people like the deranged and persistent Edgar Nova. I was savvy enough to pick Kimberly Caldwell as a possible winner just from the preshow ad campaign, but even though she's from Katy, I soon turned on her and her beauty-queen crocodile tears and horrifying stage mom. I was completely livid when Josh Gracin got to stay and Trenyce had to go. ("Don't worry, Trenyce," I said to the TV. "You're too good for this show anyway." Like a lot of addicts, I was ambivalent about my vice.) And what a great night it was when the Alabama Teddy Bear Ruben bested the elfin schlockmeister Clay!

Season III rolled around, and by this time I was hopeless. I went so far as to hang out in line at Minute Maid Park with all the wannabes at the Houston regional ("Cattle Call"). When the season aired (finally!), I was far gone. I started reading the recaps on I posted my opinions and predictions and spewed my bile and/or gushed my fanboy love on every Web site I could come across. I hooted at the antics of William Hung. I called friends the day before and after the results show. I screamed at the TV when Jon Peter kept hanging around, and I actually wept at Fantasia's stunning take on "Summertime," and I was thrilled when she beat out that plump girl from Georgia.

I should have seen the signs by then. To borrow a Simonism, "if I'm being honest," I would have had to answer "yes" to far too many "are you an addict?" questions like these:

Do you sometimes feel uncomfortable if American Idol is not on TV? Absolutely. I've even tried to get into both Nashville Star and even (shudder) Gimme the Mike. But nothing compares 2 U, Idol!

Have you sometimes failed to keep promises you made to yourself about controlling or cutting down on your American Idol viewing? Many's the time I have sworn off Idol completely, friend, especially after one of my favorite contestants has gotten voted off. I always come back. Always.

Are you having more financial, work, school and/or family problems as a result of your American Idol viewing? Yes. This column is probably Exhibit A for the prosecution on that count.

But I'm not the only one to succumb to this insidious disease. I sent out an American Idol questionnaire to about 50 music contacts in my address book -- all of whom I consider to be pretty hip people. I got about five responses -- a few people said they didn't watch the show at all, and only two (whose responses are below) had stones enough to out themselves as big-time fans. From the rest, a deafening silence. I'll take that nonanswer as confirmation that those people are addicts in denial.  

Anyway, the three brave souls were Nightfly columnist and musician Brian McManus, music business veteran and infrequent Press contributor Greg Ellis and local show promoter Jagi Katial, who I'm sure would rather you thought of him as the kind of guy who brings bands like Longwave, Starlight Mints and Clem Snide to town rather than an abject Idol-hound, but he's both.

So without further ado, here's the questionnaire.

1. How long have you been watching?

Katial: Season II, Clay vs. Ruben.

Ellis: Season III, Diana vs. Fantasia. I avoided the first two seasons. I only like shit after it "jumps the shark."

McManus: Just this season and the finale of the last one.

Racket: Started at the tail end of Season I.

2. Who are your favorite performers this season?

Katial: None really, but I still can't stop watching. But if I had to choose, I liked Anwar.

Ellis: I like Bo and Vonzell this year.

McManus: Bo and Carrie. And I like Scott -- not that he had much talent, but I was glad he hung around for some reason.

Racket: Bo! "Free Bird" -- fuckin'-A right, bubba!

3. Which performers do you hate?

Katial: I want to beat Constantine, piss on his face, and then take a crap on his head.

Ellis: I hate Scott Savol.

McManus: I really, really hated Federov. I couldn't stand that little putz. Scott's sob story really affected me for some reason, but Anthony's tracheotomy story just seemed like an excuse.

Racket: My hatred of Constantine equals Katial's -- I wanted to drop him in an active volcano, and I actually jumped in the air when I heard that he had been voted off. This was in public, too. Also, Carrie's kinda bugged me ever since I found out she went to elocution classes to shed her Okie accent.

4. Simon -- brutally honest genius or asshole?

Katial: Both.

Ellis: Brutally honest asshole genius.

McManus: Brutally honest genius.

Racket: Brutally honest asshole genius and the best thing on TV.

5. Paula -- did she or didn't she? And do you care?

Katial: Probably -- midlife crisis. No, I don't care.

Ellis: Of course she did -- so what?

McManus: I don't care, but I think she did because when [Corey Clark] went on Stern, he knew too much. But it would only be a scandal if he had won. Let Paula fuck who she wants.

Racket: [Hank Hill voice] Uuuh, yep. Uh-huh.

6. Paula again -- what do you think she's on?

Katial: Probably some sorta antidepressant, or maybe none.

Ellis: What isn't she on is an easier, shorter answer.

McManus: Mix of Vicodin, OxyContin, Xanax, maybe a 20-bag of coke so she doesn't fall asleep on the set. I think she drinks some, too.

Racket: I think she's "high on life."

7. Who do you think will win?

Katial: Carrie or Vonzell.

Ellis: Bo Bice.

McManus: Carrie. But it's a toss-up -- that's the beauty of it. For a while I thought Constantine had it in the bag.

Racket: Bo.

8. Who was your favorite train-wreck early-rounds performer à la William Hung?

Katial: Can't remember…I felt sorriest for Sanjev, the accountant who did "Eye of the Tiger."

Ellis: The cracked-up crunk guy who had to watch himself from jail.

McManus: That guy who did the Lion King song in eight different voices. And also the crunk kid.

Racket: That would be Leroy Wells. Maybe Paula hooked up with him after the show -- that would explain a lot of her behavior this season.

9. Have you ever cried, yelled at the TV, jumped up and shouted "Yessss!" or engaged in any other such unstable behavior while watching this show?

Katial: Yes. Probably all of these. I may have been teary watching Fantasia once.

Ellis: Yes, I have cried -- but I cry for commercials too. I'm so easily manipulated I'm surprised I'm not a Republican.

McManus: Not really, but I was like "Yeah! Fuck you! Peace out, bitch!" when Federov got voted off.

Racket: McManus, you big meanie…I blubbered when we all got to meet Anthony Federov's sweet little Ukrainian parents. ("They're so proud of him…And he almost lost his voice…He's not just a dreamer, he's a dream-maker!") And then he started singing that Celine Dion song, and I was crying for a whole 'nother reason, so I do kinda see your point.  

10. Are you proud to watch this show?

Katial: No.

Ellis: Of course not!

McManus: Dunno if proud is the word, but I'm not ashamed -- it's a good show.

Racket: Not really proud, no. This whole column has been an attempt to convince myself that there is something worthy and noble about this show, but I remain unconvinced. Totally addicted, but unconvinced.

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