Adam Lambert: Don’t worry, Elvis would have lost American Idol, too.

This year’s American Idol competition was the embodiment of America’s culture war. It was never a singing contest.

Today, I was interviewed on the Sirius radio show “Across the Nation with Bob Dunning,” and I correctly predicted Kris Allen would win the American Idol (AI) title even though Adam Lambert is the true talent and will be a worldwide superstar. Allen will most likely disappear into the woodwork within a year.

Why did I predict this? Because five out of the seven past winners have been Christians and all of the past AI winners have come from culturally more conservative states than their opponents. Allen is from a small town in Arkansas, and Lambert is from a big city in California. Allen is a church leader and Lambert has never disclosed his religious beliefs.

The majority of Americans identify as politically right of center. During the 2008 election, polls showed them to be more in line with the values of John McCain than Barack Obama. Barack Obama was able to overcome this hurdle and win the election because he was seen as a moderate. Lambert can in no way be described as moderate on stage. His flashy stage presence and the lingering questions about his sexual orientation put him firmly in the liberal camp.

Last night I reviewed the states that supported Lambert as opposed to Allen on the “Dial Idol” website, and then compared it with the map of red vs. blue states from the 2008 election. There was tremendous similarity. Lambert won many of the same states as Obama. He carried California, Oregon, Washington, New York and all of New England except Vermont. Allen won Texas, Georgia, Tennessee, Utah and Arizona.

American Idol is not a singing contest in which the most talented is crowned in the end. It is a show based on a democratic process in which callers—who tend to lean conservative--choose the performer with whom they can identify. The majority seek a winner who is wholesome as apple pie and who share their value system. Additionally, the AI demographic tends to be white, middle-aged females who are slightly more conservative than the average American.

Lambert is an iconoclast and was never the front-runner in this race. He was always the underdog.

Memorable newspaper headlines called the Allen-Lambert showdown: “Good vs. Evil” and “David vs. Goliath.” Did anyone actually believe ordinary Americans would vote for a contestant equated with “evil”?

A Kris Allen win is the expected and a continuation of the same.

The real story would have been a Lambert win. It would have indicated a cultural shift in America, especially as same-sex marriage initiatives sweep the land.

Elvis Presley’s appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1956 horrified the masses who thought the singer was upsetting the morals and mores of society. Elvis was the Adam Lambert of his time.

And he would have lost American Idol as well.


Adam Lambert and the Partisan Divide

I am a greenhorn in the music world. If you gifted me an Ipod, I’d probably mistake it for a remote control. Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, and Taylor Swift are names I have heard, but faces I could not place. I can’t operate a CD player and have always thought of concert-going as an activity other people do.

Until now. American Idol contestant Adam Lambert seems to have awakened my long lost music gene. It happened on a Tuesday in March when I coasted by the family room TV on my way to nab cashews from the kitchen. This male Elvira had cool, black nail polish, a Clark Gable confidence, an androgynous sex appeal and the ability to emote like I’ve never seen.

Heck, this is a concert I could attend, I thought.

With an alluring combination of pure talent, charisma, unpredictability and eccentricity, Lambert will no doubt go down in history as a superstar, not to mention American Idol’s greatest success story.

Commentators call Lambert a polarizing figure: you love him or you hate him. Could this stem largely from the partisan divide in America?

Lambert is a blue state. He is Hollywood, glamour and bigger than life. Using struts, vocal acrobatics, and bizarre song renditions, he sticks it to “the man” and orthodoxy. He upsets society, chastising manners and mores, much the way Elvis Presley did on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1956. Lambert is a comic book hero for those with an anti-establishment bent, such as 70’s children like me who learned early on to distrust government and convention.

His competitor, Kris Allen, is a red state. He is good ole boy from Arkansas who attends church and married his longtime sweetheart. On stage, he is as placid as a lake, even against the raging waterfall, Lambert. Allen is humble, casual and could live in Pleasantville. Lambert would be the Picasso of Pleasantville, upsetting the status quo.

In many cases, Lambert clearly transcends the red-blue divide, as evidenced by the statistics presented on “Dial Idol” and other websites that estimate the percentage of votes each competitor receives by state. But I have to wonder if some of his angry detractors are those with a deep-seated dislike for all things liberal and idiosyncratic. .

The controversy surrounding Lambert’s sexuality also plays into this theory. Bill O’Reilly, for example, thought it newsworthy to ask his Fox News viewers if they thought the singer was gay. Successful same-sex marriage initiatives are sweeping this country, and opponents may see Lambert as a poster boy for alternate lifestyles and as a threat to conservative values.

Could an Adam Lambert victory represent a new level of acceptance for difference? Would a Kris Allen win reinforce communitarian values and the familiar? Some may see this season’s contest as a battle of hope and change pitted against tradition and custom.

Win or lose, Lambert will be a music icon. And win or lose, I guess I’d better figure out what those shapes on the CD player mean.


Dom DeLuise died Monday at age 75.

Photo of Charlotte Laws and Dom DeLuise in Florida in 1979, during the filming of the movie Smokey and the Bandit II.


Jack Kemp: One of My favorite Politicians

I had a long and delightful conversation with Jack Kemp backstage at the Poverty Conference at the University of Southern California in February 2006; we discussed tax policy and whether there should be an increase in the minimum wage. The event was hosted by Maria Shriver, and Kemp was a panelist. I found him down-to-earth, energetic and authentic. He felt comfortable asserting his own views, even when they did not fall in line with the views of the Republican Party. He died of cancer yesterday at age 73. He will be missed.