I double-park in handicapped spaces. I speed up at crosswalks. I belch at funerals. I relish taunting orphans and clubbing baby seals. I refuse to tip. I don't floss. And I have $50 that says the Pope doesn't make it till Christmas.
Cynicism is my defense mechanism, so fuck off. My modus operandi is pissing in other people's Wheaties, and last week I had a buffet's worth of misanthropic musings.
There was Newlyweds Nobel laureate Jessica Simpson giving her dissertation on quantum physics in the Tommy Jeans juniors department at Dillard's at Oak Park Mall. Simpson dazzled fans by writing her name -- all by herself, in cursive and not even with a crayon -- for those who made a $50 purchase.
There was the Freakers Ball -- a Marilyn Manson concert at the crumbling Kansas City International Raceway that managed to spark a chaotic confluence of impotent security forces, balsa-wood barricades and gaggles of dickheads, leading to a "riot" that was more temper tantrum than Tiananmen Square.
Then there was the American Royal Superstar competition, in which the American Royal folks made a Xerox of American Idol and unveiled it as an entertainment alternative to the petting zoo and the mechanical bull. It was schlock. And it wasn't even creative schlock -- this rip-off was freeze-dried, prepackaged and served with a tangy mustard dipping sauce.
Seven finalists had been plucked from a pool of 200 applicants to compete during the final week of the American Royal, with the winner announced before the Trick Pony concert at Kemper Arena on Saturday night. The magnificent seven were fortuitously diverse in region, gender and ethnicity, and as chance would have it, none of them were butt-ass ugly. Lucky us.
Organizers tallied votes from guest judges and audience members on six consecutive "theme" nights (country night, pop/rock night, musical night, R&B pedophiles night, etc.). To sweeten the deal, the competition was held in the American Royal Marketplace, a bizarre bazaar of vendors hawking hot tubs, saddles, caramel rolls, Confederate flags, breast-enhancement lotions, boots, bridles, bio-magnets and bumper stickers with slogans such as "Ditch the bitch, let's go fishing"; "Save a horse, ride a cowboy"; and "73 percent redneck ... and the rest beer."
The guest judges were about 73 percent polite ... and the rest pansy. They were mostly talent-agency types with a few local radio personalities and visiting celebrities like the country music six-pack Emerson Drive thrown in for variety. Though Emerson Drive was judiciously noncommittal, the Nashville N'Sync did dispel the notion that cowboys can't look like employees of Banana Republic. Get along, little doggies, because you look fabulous!
Judges shied from offering any opinions other than vague yearbook declarations such as "You're going to go far" and "Follow your dream." Stay sweet 4-ever. They missed golden opportunities for quips: "Is that the petting zoo, or did your performance smell like cow shit?" or "Nice try on the outfit, but the Halloween party isn't until Friday."
Then again, you couldn't blame a judge for being cautious when bystanders say stuff like "I ain't much of a handgun man. I'm more of a shotgun man, 'cause yer aim don't have to be as accurate."
Then there were the finalists. All a little too wholesome -- they looked like merciless porcelain smiles who would happily kick Tiny Tim down an elevator shaft to gain an advantage. The competition droned on throughout the week in front of audiences that were frequently outnumbered by livestock. Strangely, though, the talented contestants never wavered from their aw-schucks likability.
I found myself rooting for the competitors to hit each note and nail each song -- Annie Calore and her beaming smile, Patrick Lewallen's goofy charm, Kylene Marchiano's shy, overpowering voice, Jessica Bichelmeyer's confident crooning, the stunning Jessie Morales cooing "Crazy," and Mike Ward's corn-rowed rendition of "Sweet Home Alabama."
Then there was Vaughn Smith, the pride of Greenwood, Missouri. A skinny seventeen-year-old white dude with the voice of a middle-aged black woman, cute-as-a-button, belting out "Proud Mary" for thousands at Kemper on Saturday night as the Superstar.
Afterward, he could barely speak. He stammered and smiled with tears in his eyes. And for a moment my cold, cold heart melted.