The People Love Loud

Notes from the American Idol Tour

The Pond was filled with humanity. American humanity. Sold-out American humanity. Many of the excited American humans were pre-teen or what futurist Faith Popcorn no doubt calls "tweens." Also, there were five gay guys; they were very shiny and wholesome, like all America's favorite gays. The tweens were screaming. Actually screaming does it about as much justice as calling Ann Coulter mildly disagreeable. In fact, the pre-teen and tween Americans were shrieking and wailing and carrying on like they'd been transported back to a 1984 Wham!show or something. Whatev!

"It's like running into someone you know at a gay bar," my boyfriend hoped as we bought some scalped tickets outside from the best scalper ever (he sold us a pair for less than face value and they weren't even fake!). "They can't bust you because you saw themthere, too!"

"Yeah. Unless they're here because they brought their kids," I reminded him, my usual bucket-of-ice-water-on-his-hopes-and-dreams self. His hopes were dashed. There were a shocking number of Americans present without children to justify their choice of Sunday night entertainment—at $25 to $50 a pop—and we were among them. If anybody saw us, we had no starry-eyed and runny-nosed excuse whatsoever for being two out of 16,000 fans at the American Idol TourSunday night. Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!!!!!!

So how do you make fun of an American Idol concert without being a big, 909-bashing elitist class snob, sneering at the rubes and yokels? How do you deplore the fact that people scarf down whatever Fox tells them to swallow—down to the most depressing product placement—without condescendingly implying that they're tasteless hicks who aren't as good as those of us who live in the city and go to concerts by actual bands? Christ, who wants to play hipper-than-thou? And would it be wrong to mention that a lot of people were grossly fat? I mean, that's a real problem in this country! And how do you gently chide the old white people who were crying during Clay Aiken's boring ballad—which was so boring I couldn't even be bothered to write down what song it was, because I was benumbed—without falling into the dismaying trap of mean and nasty class warfare? I find jokes about trailer trash appalling; poor whites and Southerners are the last people we're permitted to jeer at as a group, and I think it's awful. But what am I supposed to do? Not make fun of the twinkly young superstar who batted his eyelashes from the ginormous screen like he was Liberace? And neglect to tell you that some of the families that hadn't brought children but were singing and crying anyway looked a little bit like competitors in the Special Olympics? And that they were fat?

As a matter of fact, the Pond was a little piece of heaven, even if (sadly) there was no Ryan Seacrestrambling on about his hair. We watched in awe as girls in matching, homemade, lime Ruben shirts positively sashayed through the halls, their hips svelte and their legs coltish. They were outnumbered 20 to 1, easy, by grown-up old white people sporting preprinted red Clayshirts. We hoped there wouldn't be trouble between the competing boy-love factions. Maybe a dance off, like in "Beat It"? The Ruben girls, slim and multiethnic, would tap dance on the old white people's fat, diabetic corpses in any kind of match-up. It wouldn't be pretty—race riots so rarely are. But rhythmic? Yes, it would be that.

The show had yet to start, and plain, bespectacled middle-aged women were herding large groups of girls into something resembling order. Very, very loud order. It was very touching, all the good moms there, game and actually enjoying the twaddle. One mom-type lady was holding a banner. Clay,it read, These Girls Are Yours. It was kinda funny, the unintended paternity-suit quality of the language, except her own dormant sexuality was the last thing on her mind. Rather, she was offering to turn out any of the Ashleys, Brittanys and Caitlyns in her charge.* At what point do you decide it's time to draw the attention of a doubtless deviant pop star to your Girl Scout troop? And would she have raised the same banner at an R. Kelly show, or is Clay just totally nonthreateningly gay?

We got an excellent margarita and a not at all bad turkey sandwich (though if they're going to go to the trouble of making it right there when you order it, couldn't they throw in some tomato, lettuce and cheese as well?), and we settled in, watching the commercials on the huge screen. Girls screamed. People were happy. It was happy time. Really, for reals, it was feliz. We were part of something—something a small bit teenybop, perhaps, but something. You don't sneeze at a 16,000-person scream; you let yourself be caught up in the communal emotion, the mass hysteria, the mob mentality, even if your boyfriend is embarrassed by you—and he is. A Latino dude was next to us. Could he explain to us why the girls were screaming at the video screen showing commercials for Pop-Tarts, which was sponsoring the tour (and which one of the American Idol finalists would go on to thank)? "You'll have to ask my son," our neighbor declaimed; he was laughing and friendly, but he scrunched down in his seat, wanting to be sure we knew he was suffering through this for the kid's sake. We understood completely.

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