Friday, May 8, 2009

Letter to Matt Giraud

WB breaks from the usual third-person perspective to offer Pinkmingo's firsthand account of a pop-culture meltdown:

Dear Matt Giraud:

On behalf of your true fans (you know, the ones who actually voted), I would like to apologize for the events that unfolded at your American Idol welcome home celebration in Kalamazoo, Michigan on May 7th.

I know you weren't expecting to see over 5,000 people welcoming you home, since you humbly believed there would only be about 40 faces in the crowd. And I know you weren't actually in the crowd, therefore you probably didn't see most of what unfolded. So, because you were (hopefully) unaware of anything past the first few rows, let me explain a few things.

I've watched every season of American Idol. I always complain if the person I want gets voted off, but I never did anything to stop it until you came along. Since your audition, I became a supporter and voted as many times in the two hours as I could (my personal high was 286). So, when I found out about a party to welcome you home, I gladly made plans to drive two and a half hours to be there.

I got there at 4:00, knowing you wouldn't be out for another three hours. The 40 people you estimated arrived within an hour, so I decided to stay close to the stage and wait for your former co-workers and bandmates to perform. As it neared 7:00, I suddenly found myself further back from the stage. It became obvious why after a woman in front of me forced her son to block the incoming crowd pushing their way through. Further away, 50 or so people of all races were claiming to be your family and shoving us out of the way (prompting one woman to say she saw you on TV, and to ask me if I thought that made her your sister). One man told me he shared a last name with you and isn't related, but they were letting him go up front anyway. Shorter people complained that they couldn't see, and drunken people danced on chairs, further blocking the views of many. When I next turned around, I saw thousands of people who hadn't been there 20 minutes earlier.

And then, at a family event that was supposed to be showing our pride for you, an older woman yelled into my ear that she would love to have your children — after you take her underwear off with your teeth. It was then that I became disgusted, with the people, with the behavior, and with the situation that was rapidly unraveling. The pride I'd had for my home state showing support to one of our own turned to utter embarrassment. You were now being treated like an object, not as a human worthy of respect for his accomplishment.

I quietly scanned the crowd for security in case a pair of underwear landed in front of me.
And when you finally arrived on stage to tell the crowd that you couldn't perform because of your current contract, I'm sure you could hear all of the "supportive" booing and see the people leaving angrily. Another thought then occurred to me, even through the trauma: Could those people have come here just in hopes of getting a free concert? Had any of them voted until their fingers were stiff and their cell phones were dead? What kind of fans were these?

I wasn't sure what to think. Many of the people in the crowd seemed to love you, but the night wasn't supposed to be for us, it was for you. You were being honored, and we should have been grateful to be witnesses. And although I'd had hopes of meeting you, especially after you asked us to stay so you could meet us all, I knew your hopes were too high given the massive turnout. But partly out of slight hope, and mostly out of a curious mind and journalistic blood running through my veins, I stayed to witness what happened next.

After you left the stage, I was shoved again, this time by a crowd of 'tweens looking for an autograph. My new front-of-the-line position was now five rows back again. I was elbowed in the side, my foot got stomped, and I'm pretty sure I was almost punched in the face. I was pressed between two men for way too long, and a child almost knocked me over. I decided I still didn't want to leave because now I was intrigued by the behavior. I followed you down the narrow path you took to get to your car. I ended up at the end of the line alone, with only a security guard telling me I could stand with him if I didn't act like the others. It didn't last long though, as the crowd of people from the front of the line came running to the end, shoving me out of the way. You quickly moved through that crowd and disappeared into your awaiting vehicle.

I was relieved. You were safe, and I was alive. My feet were dirty from other peoples' shoes, my head was throbbing, my back hurt, and I felt sad. For you, for me, for true fans, and for my home state.

It shouldn't have turned out the way it did. You should have been able to receive your awards and honors in an intimate setting, with respectful fans who would have loved to meet you. Those fans wouldn't have left when you said you couldn't perform, would have respected you and others, and wouldn't have jammed papers in your face in hopes you'd sign your name so they could sell it on Ebay, as one woman loudly explained. And those would have been the fans who voted, who appreciate you for your gift (and although your teeth are surely wonderful, those fans don't expect you to use them for removing underwear).
Our society loses its moral mind around celebrities, and too many of us act on our impulses, not our rational thoughts. Your first experience back home should not have been one where you experienced this loss of common sense and common decency.
I can absolutely understand that a crowd of 5,000 people would make a performer feel better than a meager group of 40. And although I didn't experience anything remotely close to what you did, given our opposite perspectives, I hope you can appreciate the value of true fans and understand that the people who support you for the person and the artist you are, not just the commodity, are most likely the ones you didn't see because they got pushed to the back of the crowd.

Maybe you could have come home a little later?


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