Last April I blogged about not judging a book by its cover and the Susan Boyle phenomenon. Susan didn't win Britain's Got Talent, much to my surprise, and then she had a bit of bad publicity from run-ins with the media. I'm sorry, but you can't take a shy woman from a small village, splash her across television in front of millions of people and not have her experience a bit of panic and pique with the paparazzi.
American Idol started last week and on Tuesday night, at the Atlanta, Georgia auditions, audiences were given a treat during the very last try-out. AI has an age limit of 28, so I was surprised when a gentleman who was quite obviously much older than that came in to audition. He introduced himself as General Larry Platt and after a little fumbling he began to sing his original composition, Pants on the Ground.
Simon and Randy displayed their usual sarcasm. Kara smiled politely at first, then clapped and giggled. Guest judge Mary J. Blige dissolved in laughter. The General kept his cool. Then Simon uttered the famous words, "I have a horrible feeling that song could be a hit."
In case you didn't catch it on television, here it is.
In true AI fashion, there's a story behind the story, and it appeared the next day in USA Today.
General Larry Platt: A closer look
We all got a good chuckle Wednesday out of General Larry Platt and his Pants on the Ground song. Entertaining as he was, I couldn't help but wonder why the American Idol producers saved the last spot of the show for a 62-year-old guy with a funny song.
Now I think I know.
Take a look at the photograph on the home page of the Civil Rights Veterans Movement website. See the young man on the left, looking directly into the camera? That's Larry Platt, age 16.
"We had come by bus in 1963 to a church in Savannah, Georgia to plan a march to desegregate the city," Platt writes. "Reverend Hosea Williams and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. were our leaders. That particular planned march was canceled and we were singing to raise our spirits before returning home."
Platt worked with the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in Georgia, organizing sit-ins in the South.
He was beaten during the Bloody Sunday march from Selma, Ala., to Montgomery.
He got his nickname, "General," from the Rev. Hosea Williams because of his heroic efforts on behalf of the civil-rights movement.
The Georgia General Assembly proclaimed Sept. 4, 2001, Larry Platt Day in Atlanta, because of "his great energy and commitment to equality and the protection of the innocent and for his outstanding service to the Atlanta community and the citizens of Georgia."
He remains a community activist in the Atlanta area and recently has become known for publicly protesting foreclosures.
If anybody in that Atlanta crowd deserved his 15 minutes of fame on national television, it was Larry Platt.
When he tells you to get your pants off the ground, you'd best listen.
True to Simon's word, Pants on the Ground has become an internet sensation, and last Saturday night I saw a young man who deserved a good dose of the General's advice. I didn't dare tell him, but on my way to the car I was hummin' the song.
It's still too early in the season to have much of an idea about who'll make it and who won't, but so far we've seen a few really good singers. And I'm looking forward to seeing new judge Ellen Degeneres once we get to Hollywood week.
Are you an American Idol fan? Whose your favorite winner to date? Or non-winner for that matter since quite a few of those have gone on to land recording contracts.