Dear Sir Elton John:
You will not remember me, but we met on two occasions while in Atlanta. On one occasion, you were eating dinner at Bluepointe, if memory serves. On the other occasion you were at the recording studio that I was involved with, apparently overseeing an album by your friend from Matchbox 20 or something -- I seldom recognized the performers who came in to our place, with the exception of the two guys from the Indigo Girls.
During your visit, I spent some time talking to your driver/bodyguard in the break room. The LAPD cop who you regularly hire. He was very nice. I peppered him with questions, trying to ascertain what you are really like, because it's always exciting to learn that a beloved celebrity is in reality an evil bastard. Alas, I had no such luck. According to your driver/bodyguard/LAPD guy, you are a wonderful employer and overall lovely guy. As he put it, "what you see is what you get." Indeed, when you emerged from the session and chatted with us in the break room you came across as a nice guy.
That is why it pains me to call you an enormous, short-sighted imbecile.
This is in reference to your recent declaration that last week's voting on American Idol was "incredibly racist."
Now, you prefaced that thoughtless remark with "I don't want to set myself up here..." - but you did in fact set yourself up, just as I'd have set myself up if I said "I don't want to set myself up here... but I think we should kill all puppies." The difference here is that you are very famous, and when you say things, they carry much more weight than those uttered by common people, the un-knighted, such as myself.
Americans have come to expect such tiresome, knee-jerk responses from the likes of Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. They are race professionals who possess the uncanny ability to turn everything from getting laid-off to ordering black coffee into a racial incident. To these men, the only criteria for having been slighted is if anything negative happens to a black person. Ultimately they do everyone a disservice; by sounding off so wrongly and so regularly on everything, legitimate racial incidents draw about as much attention as a car alarm in New York.
But it is generally understood that those men are cheerleaders of victimization and laughable characters. In fact, Sharpton may still be running for President; nobody seems to know if he's dropped out or not.
And so it was disappointing to read that you, the singer of a lovely ballad about Princess Diana based on a lovely ballad about Marilyn Monroe, would stoop so low and say something so un-knightly, so un-Eltonian.
I confess to being somewhat drawn to American Idol, especially early in the season when they show train wreck after train wreck of untalented, moronic, absurd aspiring stars. Watching a pompous no-talent windbag get humbled on national television is absolutely excellent entertainment, and I am not ashamed to indulge in it.
To see these favored black singers - Hudson, Barrino and London - land in the bottom three last week was a shock, certainly. Most viewers, myself included, assumed Barrino was a shoe-in. London and Hudson had close calls before, so that wasn't completely surprising. Overall, yes, the voting results were odd. But that should have been all it was.
And then, you went and announced that such an outcome was "incredibly racist." That was just an enormously short-sighted and imbecilic thing to say.
To assume that they made the bottom three solely because they're black is absurd, as if the Idol viewership consisted of 30 million Klansmen and skinheads, vigorously dialing-in their votes to keep blacks from winning a singing competition.
I doubt you're familiar with the show and this season in particular. Or last season. I can only hope that after you said your stupid thing in public, your driver/bodyguard/LAPD guy came dashing in and informed you with a whisper that last year's winner, Ruben Stoddard, is black.
This would have to mean that the "incredibly racist" viewing audience was watching something else last season when Stoddard won. Or perhaps you believe they were so incensed by a gay man losing to a black man last year that they've since mobilized to prevent a repeat occurrence. Instead of burning crosses and drawing backwards swastikas, they've united to phone and text-message their message of White Supremacy.
But, Sir John, I'd like to suggest that most rational folks might assume, rather than incredible racism, the results were just a case of 30 million people voting for the singers they liked - and the results being a little surprising.
But is it so surprising? Had you no life and actually followed the show, you might have had some insight that would have discouraged you from arriving at the unfortunate conclusion that America simply hates black singers.
For starters, Fantasia Barrino is undoubtedly talented and probably the best of the contenders. She has remarkable stage presence and a vibrant personality. But, that personality is also starting to grate on the nerves. She's loud too often, in-your-face too often, and comes across as quite cocky. A comeuppance was due, and this was probably good for her. An alternate explanation is that with Barrino considered by many, myself included, to be the winner, many people simply do not bother to vote for her.
La Toya London is also vocally superior to most in the ensemble. She's also potentially the oldest, and one of the blandest. Nice girl. Good singer. But she doesn't seem to have the whole package. Something is missing. She's like a librarian with great lungs.
And Jennifer Hudson, though quite good, was also quite overweight. The reality is most guys in the audience - the ones who like girls - will take that into account either consciously or sub-consciously when deciding who we like the most. We're just that primitive. And let's not forget she had already been voted out before - and brought back as a wild card.
Those in the top-four positions are not untalented. To assume that the three black females deserve to win on vocals alone is unfair.
Jon Stevens is Harry Connick Jr. trapped inside a red-headed teenager. No doubt he's getting votes for being the youngest, one of the sweetest, and the most different singer in the competition. Should he be in the top four? Probably not. He won't last the whole competition.
George Huff, who is black, has stayed in by being flat-out adorable and goofy. He comes across as one of the nicest people on the planet. I'd have to assume that even the skinheads would find him nothing short of charming. Would it be "racist" if he were in the bottom three? No. He's probably not going to win the competition either. When he is voted off the stage, please do not leap to any conclusions. I beg of you.
Diana DeGarmo and Jasmine Trias are both good singers. Somewhat bland themselves. I don't think either of them will ultimately win. If you'll notice, Jasmine has gone from "cute Hawaiian girl" to "hot Asian chick" in an effort to separate herself from the pack.
Bear in mind, this is the first time I've told a Knight of the Realm that he said something short-sighted and imbecilic. I hope I've done so in a polite manner. All I am trying to say is I believe that along with fame and fortune come responsibilities, such as the responsibility to not say inflammatory things for no reason.
You are only one among many Class A celebrities that I hope will consider not saying stupid things in the future, at least in front of the public. Whether or not you continue to watch the show, please realize that it's a singing competition and not a referendum on race relations. The voting is no more racist than last year's was homophobic.
Please know I still love your music, and will continue to download it.
You can ping this entry by using:
Oddly popular amongst legal professionals.
The New York Times • NPR • WBCN • Mancow • Fox & Friends • CBS Up To The Minute • The Jay Thomas Show • WJIM • WOCM • CW 11 • The Guardian • USA Today • Boing Boing • Daybreak USA • Fusion • New York Daily News • Canada National Post • KIRO • Radar • McSweeney's • The Independent • Glamour • MSNBC.com • FARK • Glenn Beck program • New York Post Page Six • BBC Radio • Gawker • Defamer • CNN.com • Cracked • New Zealand Herald • Irish Independent • Weekend America and other fine media outlets.