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I have a 12-year-old son. He came back from his first sleep-away camp ever and made me happy in about 17 ways, and this was one of them

THRILLING BACKSTORY: So yeah, I’m a fan of Adam Lambert.
J Actually, he just goes by “Adam” in our house, no Lambert necessary for quite awhile now. Beyond his more salient gifts, he’s actually provided me with some “teachable moments”. Resulting in things like this:

Son: “Why do I have to get my hair cut?”

Me: “Well it’s getting a little long, don’t you think?”

Son: “But I like that. It’s just me. You know how you said Adam is just himself? My hair is just me.”

Me: D’oh!

Hoist by my own petard.

Anyhoo, for me, the first big highlight of Adam’s season on Idol was Ring of Fire. I looooved it. I talked about it in my recap of Adam’s season (about two doors down from this post) comme ca:

Ring of Fire

Bite me, I LOVE this. This was a controversial performance. In the taped mentoring session, Randy Travis’ borderline disgust for Adam, his nail polish, and his interpretation of the song would have been sickening if it weren’t so funny. It was funny because of a) who actually cares about Randy Travis, and b) Adam’s blithe acceptance of Randy’s near-panic at coming face to face with Adam. Adam is gracious and amused, and not even in a disrespectful way. When Ryan, who’s having WAY too much fun with it, points out the, um, lack of chemistry between Randy and Adam, Adam calls Randy a “gentleman.” Which is a lot like that thing where, when someone asks you about yourself, you give the qualities you wish you had rather than anything approaching people’s actual experience of you.

Second, Simon’s an asshole in this particular situation. Not because he hates the performance, which is his right to do. But because he does it with a supportive nod to Randy’s homophobic freakout about the whole thing. Plus which, Johnny Cash? Is FINE with it. So you can bite him too.

Regardless of where it lands relative to all parties’ comfort zones, it might be Adam’s best vocal performance of the whole season. So much for “this is a singing competition.” Listen to it back; it’s pretty flawless. And it wasn’t even Adam’s arrangement, which he says in the mentor piece, so call the chick who wrote it.

Randy Jackson got it. (See?) Randy, who should be given the same weight as Simon, IMO, but isn’t. He’s much more knowledgeable about music than Simon is, frankly. They tease him about the namedropping because, apparently, he does know all those people. He knows who wrote the song and who recorded it and who covered it and who played drums on it and who got the coffee. He knew that this interpretation was a Jeff Buckley kinda joint, and he said so, so he wins.

Paula and Kara like it, Kara famously saying it leaves her “confused and happy.” Heh. The voice of straight women across the country. J

For me, for him? Perfect. I love it because it’s beautiful, it’s bold, it’s artistic, it has gorgeous vocals…and look at the way our boy works the camera! He dares to be a little bit of a freak, RIGHT THERE ON AMERICAN IDOL, which earns many sighs and a slow clap from me. Plus, hello, this interpretation actually captures the spirit of the lyrics. “Love is a burning thing/ and it makes a fiery ring/ Bound by a wild desire/I fell into a ring of fire/ I fell into a burning ring of fire/ I went down, down, down, and the flames got higher/ And it burns, burns, burns/ The ring of fire, the ring of fire/ The taste of love is sweet/ when hearts like ours meet/ I fell for you like a child/ Oh, and the fire went wild.” Now I ask you: rollicking country arrangement in a major key or sexy middle-eastern-influenced rock arrangement in a minor key? Exactly. No disrespect to the great Johnny Cash or his iconic version, of course. I’m just saying this is a very valid way to sing this song.

Some say I was too hard on Randy Travis (who is no doubt sleepless over my disdain for him) to which I say yeah, maybe so. But when RT mentioned the nail polish and tried to explain why he wasn’t used to that sort of thing, it started to stink of cultural bias to me, if not homophobia, so I’m happy to err in that direction.

The season is now over and I play Adam’s iTunes downloads in the car a lot, so we’re pretty familiar.

Camp, right. The son was at camp for a week, living in a cabin with about a dozen other 12-year-olds and two camp counselors in their early 20s who -- HELLO – were these hot, adorable Brits with adorable Brit names. I’ll call them David and Nigel, but their real names are EVEN MUCH MORE ADORABLE. I have never wanted to go to camp so bad in my life.

On the way home from camp, my son was telling me how, contrary to the camp rulebook, it turns out they were allowed to bring their iPods. He said even David and Nigel had iPods. Then he told me a funny story. Funny like AWESOME.

One day they all came back to the cabin after an activity and found one of the counselors had left his iPod running (and docked? IDK, but it was playing so they all could hear it). The song playing was Johnny Cash's Ring of Fire. And all the kids were like, “What’s that?” and the counselor was like, “Ring of Fire” and the kids were like, “THAT’S NOT RING OF FIRE.” 8-)

The counselor explained that this was the original version of Ring of Fire, by Johnny Cash. The kids weren’t sure they liked this “other” version of Ring of Fire.

Silly Reader: I want to repeat that I am certainly not saying any version of Ring of Fire could ever be better than Johnny Cash’s version. And, in my defense, my son knew Adam’s was a cover, knew who sang the original and had heard a little bit of it. So siddown.

Me: “So they knew Adam’s version of Ring of Fire?”

Son: “Yeah.”

Me: “Were any of them Adam fans?"

Son: “Yeah I think all of them. The counselors too. They can watch American Idol in England and they said they went to an Adam party when they watched the finale.”

My point: 1) I think American 12-year-olds know Adam is gay. 2) Even if they don’t, Ring of Fire was the wildest shit that fabulous bitch pulled all season, so it’s at least gay-adjacent. 3) IMO, the only people more homophobic than elderly people are young men.

These young men (at a YMCA camp \o/) like Adam! I think I’m gonna cry.

I’m certainly not saying that homophobia is dead. I think in some places it’s thriving. Like for example at Westboro Baptist Church.


I’m not saying hate is dead. I’m just saying that incidents like this camp thing give me hope. Combined with the dominos falling, state by state, I feel sorta good about this. To the point that when nutjobs like the WBC mount those protests, I feel angry but mostly I feel “Whatever. If you guys want to be the last gasp, have fun.” Unless folks like that go old-school and start lynching people again, I’ll put my people against their people any day.


( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 19th, 2009 01:18 am (UTC)
Yes, as counter-intuitive as it may seem, bigoted rallies and hate-filled fliers are an improvement. They never used to have to do things like that. It's a losing battle. So even the things we are disappointed in (or angered by) are a sign of the changing times. :-)
Jul. 19th, 2009 02:47 am (UTC)
I agree, ray. I remember the KKK marching in Skokie (a nearby surburb that has a significant Jewish population). A long time ago, but within my lifetime. It got lots of attention but changed absolutely nothing --- well, certainly not in the direction the KKK were hoping for. If anything, my guess is that it galvanized people on the other side.

When there was a protest at the...San Jose (?)...Idol concert the other night people I talk to were mad. But it was somewhere between 2 and 6 people who were actually protesting.

And it had a nice result, in a way. One of the finalists who's on the tour is sort of a good ol boy from Texas. (He was a roughneck on for an oil company until just before he auditioned.) He Tweeted his disappointment in the protest and his support for Adam several times that night. It was cute. He was like, "It's funny that people think they can mess with me and my friends...We are a strong family." :-)

Edited at 2009-07-19 02:52 am (UTC)
Jul. 19th, 2009 01:58 am (UTC)
Ray's got a definite point. They have to get loud, because they're simply not being heard like before. You know, over the din and roar of the Adam-love. ;-)

Of course, now I'm dying to know what the counselor's names are.
Jul. 19th, 2009 02:51 am (UTC)
I would imagine these Westboro protests will be louder and better attended than the pathetic showing at the protest the other night...and yes, it does seem very desperate. And calculated for maximum offense, cause that's how they get press.

Of course, now I'm dying to know what the counselor's names are.

I'll email you. ;-)

As if they would actually be on my LJ! Ha. I guess it's just my instinct to change names to protect the...adorable.)
Jul. 19th, 2009 12:47 pm (UTC)
This is how it happened with racism, for women's rights, any with any other form of bigotry you can name. Each generation is just a bit more enlightened than the last.

As I said, I am almost disappointed that the WBC will not be spewing their silliness at our concert in September. I want to see them the way you want to see an elderly celebrity because who knows if you'll ever have the chance again?

I'm also tickled that a couple of young British men listen to Johnny Cash.
Jul. 19th, 2009 04:30 pm (UTC)
I want to see them the way you want to see an elderly celebrity because who knows if you'll ever have the chance again?

You are warming my heart with this analogy. :-)

I'm also tickled that a couple of young British men listen to Johnny Cash.

Jul. 19th, 2009 05:37 pm (UTC)
I'm also taken aback by the description of Adam as Idol's "Sodomite-of-the-Day."

Dude. He only gets a day when he wears more makeup than Carrie Underwood?

Jul. 20th, 2009 03:48 am (UTC)
He should be Sodomite of the Month at least.
Jul. 19th, 2009 04:20 pm (UTC)
Here is the thing about Westboro and the attendance issue, there are, from what I remember, like maybe two dozen members of the church entirely, most of whom are blood relations who all live together in a subdivision. What kind of religious freaks don't even have a proper compound? Oh, and the two dozen includes kids and babies.

Anyway, the most of them that have ever shown up for a protest is about fifteen. And they don't even get along with other crazy extremist groups so they can't join up to make a proper showing. They manage to make a lot of noise and get a lot of attention by being so fucking on the edge they make even every day bigots feel uncomfortable. In that way I feel they are offering a valuable service.

Seriously, these people may be hurtful, but they are so pitiful too that I kind of enjoy them as bad American street theater.
Jul. 19th, 2009 04:29 pm (UTC)
bad American street theater.

Ha. Love that. You are especially funny today, Al.

Was it Westboro who protested that production in RF of The Laramie Project last year? Remember, where the students response was a silent demonstration in the form of a peace sign? (Such a nice picture I thought.)

Mar. 2nd, 2010 02:37 am (UTC)
Oh I love this story months later. Thank you for inviting me here.

Maybe you might be inspired as I was by these words from the Right Reverend Gene Robinson to my GLBT and Allies choir . He told us about visiting the civil rights museum in Memphis opposite the Lorraine motel where MLK, JR was assassinated. There is a statue there apparently which shows this spiral towards justice with civil rights leaders climbing upwards on the shoulders of those who came before. He told us we too were part of an historic struggle and then he said something like this (paraphrased by my far less eloquent memory): "We are going to win this struggle. That is not in question. It's not a matter of IF it's a matter of WHEN. Now we're just fighting about the date."

Mar. 2nd, 2010 04:04 am (UTC)
Aw, that's beautiful. I believe that 1000%. <3
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )