By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
This isn’t to say that last week’s vote was an overt racist attempt to knock black singers off the show, though such feelings are doubtless part of it. At my parents’ lily-white retirement home in the Midwest, all the golfers root against one guy. Guess who? Still, the show’s skewed balloting probably has more to do with an insidiously casual racism based on familiarity and comfort. Just as NFL owners pass over promising black coaches in favor of white retreads with whom they feel socially at ease, so perhaps American Idol 2’s viewers tend to vote for the contestants who somehow seem the most like themselves — or their dreams of themselves. Which tells you something about the demographic for flag-waving “event” television. If this show were broadcast on wigger-happy MTV, both the music and the voting would have a different racial cast.
In the end, Ruben lived on to sing again, and Trenyce, who may now want to reclaim her real name, got the hook. But she didn’t depart without doing her bit to fatten the Murdoch fortune. It’s part of the diabolical genius of American Idol 2 that the contestants aren’t merely enlisted into commercials for the show’s sponsors — you know, Ruben and Clay crooning for Ford — but are also used to cross-promote other Fox product. Last week, Josh, Ruben, Clay, Trenyce and Kimberley were filmed at the premiere of X2. Afterward, they told us how fab the movie was (could they have actually seen this dud?), and their praise was folded into the show. In Trenyce’s last hurrah, they even used digital effects to turn her eyes milky-white, just like Halle Berry’s Storm. As she walked off the stage for the last time, leaving behind America’s most popular Marine to mangle more music, she may well have been pondering the cruel law that still underwrites American Idol and, for that matter, American Populist Social Darwinism: survival of the whitest.
Connoisseurs of schadenfreude have had a delightful week. Alabama fired its football coach, Mike Price, after it was revealed he’d spent $1,000 on (and an unconscious night with) a stripper whose name, Destiny, proved all too uncannily true. Iowa State’s basketball coach, Larry Eustachy (the state’s highest-paid government employee!), was forced to resign after photos showed him at a post-game Mizzou party guzzling beer and nuzzling a coed. Dude, never kiss the chick whose boyfriend is holding the camera. While these Coaches Gone Wild moments allowed sportswriters to mount their high horses — does anyone worship and loathe their subjects more intensely than these wannabe jocks? — these stories gave me no pleasure. One shouldn’t exult in another man’s frailty. But I must confess that I hooted when Newsweek and The Washington Monthly reported that manatee-shaped Republican William Bennett, America’s former drug czar, ex–secretary of education and tireless Clinton scold, has gambled away up to $8 million in casinos over the last decade.
To be fair, for all his well-paid sanctimony about America’s moral decline — he gets 50 grand for a speech and made a small fortune from The Book of Virtues — Bennett has done nothing illegal, nor has he ever spoken out against gambling. But it does seem convenient that the only victimless vice that he doesn’t denounce just happens to be his own — the guy seemed plenty happy to imprison poor drug addicts. Still, the most pathetic part of the story isn’t that Bennett lost all that money but that he lost so much of it in the dehumanized realm of the slots and video poker. I don’t know what grandiose fantasy Bill thinks he’s living, but it ain’t exactly 007 at the chemin de fer table in Monte Carlo.