There's a certain aloofness on parade in Universal's vacuous soundstage enterprise. Nobody's face here reveals so much as a grocery-store-novel storyline while they glare anxiously past out-of-context dragon props and buckets of green slime. There is only the heavy-hipped expectant glaze of what's coming next. Because, inevitably, something is. Something big, green and meaningless.
Fitting, then, that combover king Ed McMahon has opted for our theme-park-cum-real-life television studio for the auspicious launch of his next star-making endeavor, NextBigStar.com. It's just what you think, too: more miserable fame-hungry pundits dripping their wares into scratchy RealAudio and RealVideo files so that the others who also have sworn off any sort of spatial or quality standards can vote for them so that they might skip the humility step and run straight into Ed McMahon's kiss of death (phew). Turn off the computer!
Today is the dress rehearsal for the first televised component of this next bad thing, and lite-rapper Sisqo (dumps like a truck, truck, truck) is in the hiz-ouse here to support his friend, Ed (Lover?), by playing some sort of generational bridge in hair paint for all of syndicated apathy to see.
"Ed's busy recording, but Sisqo will see you now," relays the scarved publicity conduit.
It's not so much nervousness I feel when confronted with the idea of interviewing the wee rapper with the thong issue, as it is a sort of embarassment. Am I really going to have to sit in front of this four-foot man, his sister and a mouthy manager (at least 8 feet tall) for more than, say, five minutes, so that I might wear out his crib notes and burn through to the real issue: Um, why are you here ... really? Or, what are you wearing underneath all that fly gear, huh? I scribble a few impromptu notes on my back-pocket pay stub to feign some research ... something like, "thong?" ... "tv show?" ... and the obligatory "weren't you a next big thing just one year ago? How's that working out for you?"
Let's get the niceties out of the way.
"Nice hair," offers Sisqo, touching a sweaty fray just over my cocked brow.
"Yeah. Huhuhuh. I'm a little nervous," I fake in the interest of regaining my composure from a mild stumble into his wood-paneled love den. Lucky I'm a boy.
Anyway, somewhere about 30 seconds into my mock teen-dream interview, the batteries go kaput on my tape recorder. All of which would be fine if his dragon-lady sister didn't look down and see the light go out and look up to see the beads come in on my ample forehead. I hazard to sketch out some key points while Sisqo delivers his resume with his eyes seemingly flipped up into the back of his head. I get the feeling he's done this before. I get the feeling I have, too.
Anyway, the conversation contains some, if not all, of these components: He has a "real" respect for 'N Sync; he's working on a romantic teen comedy movie with the girl from "That '70s Show;" and there's a "fish-out-of-water" TV pilot in the works for next March (no title or concept at press time ... doesn't really matter, does it?) written by the talented folk behind "Boy Meets World" and "Dinosaurs." ("I suppose it's meant to fill that gap," offers our wise kid.)
Very busy, keeping it real, etc., and I'm out like a tooth.
To the right of the studio audience bleachers and the "hi-tech" stage getup, Ed later holds court with Sisqo, and what look to be either Cher descendants or mooch-y family members. One tan tress-head is so convincing in her half-bred chortle that I almost offer her a record contract. Only, I'm not the starmaker here.
Ed, I've been told, is the American hero of celebrity, and regularly takes out across the country in his giant tour bus to scour Wal-Mart parking lots for the next Destiny's Child and the next Aaron Carter. His is a ceaseless search for popularizable pap, to be sure, and I'm about to be in its way.
"Hello, Mr. McMahon," I press.
"Hell-OOOO," he bassoons, hurrying off to his trailor for another piece of tape behind the ear and a spare pair of wooden teeth. His smile, you see, says nothing. The upper lip just hangs there on the plaque of the upper jaw, muscle-free and waiting to fall to a more permanent grin. This is MY fate, I grimace quietly to myself -- to be an aged tastemaker in Saturday-afternoon syndication. But would I sleep with Dick Clark?
Leggo my ego
One gets the sense that Donovan of Blue Meridian might. And maybe should, considering that an American Bandstand appearance (were such a thing still a possiblity ... sigh) might garner him a piece of wardrobing even more ghastly than his orange-hemp-sweater/striped-pant ensemble featured at Saturday night's much Ballyhoo-ed Orlando Music Awards. It was a night for the egos, as these things are, in addition to being yet another night for the sponsoring Orlando Weekly staff to get publicly drunk. Turn off those computers!
Myself and my partner set out to gather an audience read of the intentionally bloated gig: he (sporting a fabulous ensemble that may or may not have included a NET SHIRT!) up against the stage with a lesbian on his shoulders; I (sporting a fabulous ensemble that may or may not have included a GAY FEDORA!) like a salmon rushing against waves of, well, waves ... from those who recognize me.
Which is quite a substantial number, it seems, as a 30-foot-wide, black-and-white likeness of my whiny gay sarcasm has just been projected overhead for all of the House of Blues to endure. "It's not about the music," I coy. "If you wanted to play music you would stay home and play music ..." blah, blah, blah.
"You're so photogenic," mouths one glittered passerby.
I'd prefer a less techinical term, but photogenic will have to do.
Two nights later at The Bar-B-Q Bar downtown, a confrontation is ensuing over that very same night. Seems the Music Awards, our own little NextBigStar, only without the dot com, have scratched a few of our dilapidated axe-grinders in completely the wrong way. One angered bassist has cornered me in a reasonably threatening manner to let me know of a minor descrepancy in the Music Awards literature ... oh, and "how much the Orlando Weekly SUCKS!!!!!" He slurs that piece of celebrated info over and over from his mike a few a minutes later, as another local impresario motions to me, "What award didn't he win?"
"What the fuck did I do?" I overdramatize.
In the middle of it all, my formerly netted partner offers a defense of, "It's just an awards show! Slow down!"
There are no just awards shows, I figure. Only people who dizzy themselves in the whirl of self-importance. Oh, and the big, green, meaningless props just outside. Those, too. And net shirts. Did I forget net shirts?