by Constance Daley
American Reporter Correspondent
St. Simons Island, Ga.
February 14, 2006
A VALENTINE FOR MY 'AMERICAN IDOL'
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. -- In the late '50s, Carol Burnett in her debut performance on late-night television belted out a torch song that was so inconsistent with what the audience expected from this tall, slim, serious-looking singer with a powerful voice that we still ask, "Remember when?" The song was: "I Made a Fool of Myself Over John Foster Dulles," and the words were those of love, devotion and heart wrenching desire for our prim Secretary of State.
At the time, Secretary Dulles was not particularly popular politically and certainly passed his prime as an object of anyone's affection - speaking fan club-wise, now - he was more on the order of Vice President Dick Cheney than, say, Defense, Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who I am told has more than a little appeal with ladies of the 50-plus set.
But there's no accounting for attraction. It's baffled me since I was a very little girl. There was a book on our shelf with a cover of fading lipstick red. The title and author's name were printed in similarly fading silver, saying onlyly "IT, by Elinor Glynn." Now, what was "it"? In those days, anything suggesting "it" was spoken of in hushed tones and certainly not to me.
After many years I learned of an actress named Clara Bow who was called the "It" girl, and when I noticed her sultry, blackened mascara-rimmed eyes, her bright red and pursed Cupid's bow lips, I blushingly thought, ah ha! "It" means, you know, sex appeal. And, to Carol Burnett, John Foster Dulles had sex appeal; and, today, to the 50-plus ladies attracted to Secretary Rumsfeld, "Rummy" has sex appeal. (I'll just bet he's bursting his buttons over that notion!)
To put Carol and John Foster Dulles in perspective, think of last year's "American Idol" Bo Bice singing of his love for Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. You'd have to laugh.
Speaking of "American Idol," it's time for me to say why I'm on this track at all; why is my imagination is so triggered by the force of attraction, incomprehensible though it might sometimes be, that I must reveal my love for Simon Cowell?
There, I've written it down. Simon Cowell is the driving force behind the ABC hit show "The American Idol" - brought here by the Fox Network from Cowell's native Great Britain and the "British Idol" show he spearheaded there. Fox had one condition: that Simon come along as one of the judges of the talented and not-so people across American yearning to be stars. What foresight! The show is a blockbuster here as it was in the Britain.
I absolutely love that man. And it's not sex appeal; I don't think he's particularly sexy, but he has something that is so rare that it is refreshing: I love his brutal honesty. I love his instant take on everything said and done by contestants, as well as his ability to let the corresponding insults fly right by him. He's his own man. He puts himself out there, he is what he is, and I love him. I see him, hear his thoughts, am not put off by his non-wardrobe of black t-shirt and jeans and I know I'm in the presence of "the real thing."
Honesty is a rare commodity these days. That is not to say dishonesty is running wild. However, we are now equipped with a dictionary of psychobabble words that allow us to be politically correct, sensitive to other's feelings, and accepting of white lies in order to boost someone's self esteem.
Simon Cowell will tell you what you should know - if not exactly what you want to hear. Life is too short to continue down a path leading nowhere. Although the contestants are sensations in their own living rooms many will get a thumbs down from Simon - and not with disrespect. His honest assessment is with a hint of caring - albeit gruffly spoken.
All of this came to me as I was sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic yesterday, listening to a radio station playing easy listening music; no commercials, just soft-spoken announcers. I was inching along musing that vocalist after vocalist would never get past Simon Cowell.
Much as I enjoy Rod Stewart's new four-volume collection, "Thanks for the Memory," I doubt if Rod could have gotten a thumbs-up from Simon. He hit the right notes and he has style, but he doesn't have a voice, any more than Ray Charles singing "Georgia" shows any vocal talent. Piano? Yes. Style? Yes. But as Simon would quickly say, "'American Idol' is a talent show for vocalists." Vocalists, as we once knew them, went out with The Beatles and "Yeah, Yeah, Yeah."
The other two judges, perky Paula Abdul and big-hearted Randy Jackson, are so sympathetic to the would-be performers that they vent their anger toward Simon, who speaks truth to outlandish nincompoops who are there for no other reason than to claim Andy Warhol's "15 minutes of fame." Paula and Randy twist their faces into sincere concern and say sadly, "No, you're not going to Hollywood." When the contestant schlumps off the stage, Paula and Randy tell Simon "You can't do that Simon - it isn't polite."
Their slings roll off Simon. He's doing his job as he perceives it - well, except for the night it got to be a bit much and he just stood up, turned his back on them and quietly walked off. I was proud of him. In a backhanded way, his move showed class. And, mo, he didn't come back after the commercial. The camera caught him getting into his limousine.
No, I won't be like Carol Burnett and make a fool of myself over Simon Cowell as she did pver John Foster Dulles. Am I fawning publicly? If so, it's honest fawning. I'm no sycophant looking for a thumbs-up from Simon. It's just that he is indisputably genuine. How refreshing! hear me shout.
Of course, don't ask me to sing about it; I'm no Carol Burnett.
Visit longtime AR Correspondent Constance Daley at www.skylinetoshoreline.com.