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Peggy Sue got

Peggy Sue got


Week 5 of Advocate contributor Dave White's American Idol recap: This week's installment was more fun than watching the Fonz jump over a big tank of sharks. Just not much more...

Simon, shooting off his mouth in the press, has announced that he believes Kellie Pickler, Taylor Hicks, and Chris Daughtry are going to be the final three. In other words, he's dying for someone white to win. And if it can be a guy, even better. A straight guy, please. A straight white male for Simon. One that's not all goony like Hicks. A man's man with impeccable chick-banging credentials. One named...oh, say...Chris Daughtry, maybe. That's such a good, strong-sounding winner's name, don't you think?

Seacrest introduces the top 11 and they all trot out to take their applause. Pickler seems out of it. She's got dead-eye face until she remembers she's on a stage where people can see her, not hiding in a fort she made out of the box the washing machine came in. That's when she turns on the Pageant Grimace. It's a small moment, but it'll return for an encore later...

Tonight's theme is the 1950s, a time of racial segregation, rigid social conformity, and repression of women and homosexuals. You know, the Good Old Days. God, these theme nights are the worst, chosen by what can only be a team of dullards. When, for example, is Bjork night? Danzig night? Joy Division night? Scott Walker? Roxanne Shante? The Fall? That's the one I really want. Mark E. Smith comes in and works with the kids, pours booze down their throats until they're raging, berates them until they cry, then gets into a fistfight with Bucky. Or how about Everyone Sings "Hey Jealousy" by the Gin Blossoms night?

This week's special celebrity oldster is Barry Manilow. Barry is, after all these years, still phenomenally popular. He was the Clay Aiken of the 1970s, but even more successful than Clay, in an era when it was still impolite to publicly speculate on the sexual orientation of a male performer, even if he played piano for Bette Midler in gay bathhouses. Barry's latest CD, a collection of boring cover versions of 1950s songs, is the number 1 record in the country, so he's spent the week with the AI kids, arranging and coaching and freaking them out with his immobile face. His jaw moves when he speaks, and that's how you know he's still alive.

First up is Mandisa, singing "I Don't Hurt Anymore," made popular by the legendary Dinah Washington. Before she takes the stage, Barry, in his "How I Helped" reel, accidentally says that Mandisa "has no range." He means, of course, that she has no limits to her talent, but why didn't they reshoot that quote? They could have. It's not like he's providing live commentary. I'm puzzled. And she's great tonight, finally singing softly with some guts instead of just foghorning her way through it. When she opens her mouth wide, though, you can see that her tongue is all orange. Someone was snacking on Cheetos, Sunkist soda, and circus peanuts before the show. Afterward, Paula says, "You took me right back to the '50s." Except that Paula wasn't even born then. Then Seacrest, in an archetypal Type 3 Gay moment (see last week's recap for an explanation of Type 3 Gay, because I don't have time to explain it again), coos over Mandisa's shoes. Cut to Mandisa's well-pedicured toes for the second time in as many weeks. You just know that every dude in the country with a thing for BBWs and feet is having a very good TV-watching time tonight.

Last week Simon tried to emasculate Bucky the Babymaker by comparing his gleaming blond hair to Jessica Simpson's. This must have stung poor Bucky, because it appears as though he hasn't washed his hair since then. He was right to do that, because he ain't the man I've come to know and love without his trademark layer of grime. And Barry doesn't get Bucky. This is clear. If he did, he wouldn't have taken a cool old Buddy Holly song and gayed up the arrangement with horns and tambourines and whatever else. Why don't you call Rudy Galindo and get him to loan Bucky one of his skating outfits too, Barry? So now we know what sort of "'50s" we're going to be served this evening: the same version they have on the menu at Wowsville, the "Authentic '50s Diner" from Ghost World.

Paris comes out in Fantasia's "Summertime" dress to sing Peggy Lee's "Fever." I wonder if Paris, at her young age, really understands this song. But no matter. She's very good, as usual. Cut to Constantine from last season sitting in the audience next to Ryan Cabrera. What's their story? Does Constantine think the Boy Ashlee Simpson is going to bestow him with hit-making magic dust? Where's Constantine's old band? Are they palling around with Cabrera now too? If so, why didn't they get tickets to tonight's show? What does Constantine even do now, anyway? Like, for example, you know where Nikki McKibben is. She's got her karaoke bar and appears on other reality shows. She's got her life together in her own way. But what's Constantine's postshow story arc? Shouldn't he be rehearsing or something instead of becoming a professional hanger-on? And now that I think about it, whatever happened to Ejay?

Commercial Time! Here's the trailer for the Shall We Dance-meets-Dangerous Minds movie called Take the Lead, starring Antonio Banderas and featuring Ya-Ya from Cycle 3 of America's Next Top Model (a.k.a. "F*%#ing Ya Ya" in my house). Paige from Degrassi: The Next Generation is in it too. It'll suck, but I'm totally going to see it.

Once upon a time, back when that crappy 1990s alterna-band Live was popular, they covered Johnny Cash's "I Walk the Line," all minor-key and alterna-bandish. It wasn't the worst thing ever committed to tape. I got no serious beef with crappy 1990s alterna-band Live. But I'm growing a minor-key beef with Chris Daughtry for covering it. He's a good singer, and I want him to STOP WASTING HIS TALENTS ON INFERIOR MATERIAL. And no, Johnny Cash fans, I'm not saying Johnny Cash is inferior. I'm saying that Daughtry's influences, like crappy 1990s alterna-band Live, are just that: crap. He's already demonstrated his affinity for the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Bon Jovi, so I worry that this isn't going to end well. But just like last week, when I suggested he cover Jawbox (and can you even believe how much he ignored me?), I'm going to offer up more advice. Hey, Chris Daughtry, you should hear this band called Death From Above 1979. They're good. Go buy their CD. After Daughtry finishes, there's another cut to Ryan Cabrera and Constantine. They're Daughtry fans. So yeah, that's the seal of approval you want. Meanwhile, the judges act like Barry and Daughtry just invented that arrangement of the song all by themselves.

More commercials: In the Mix on DVD! Finally! My Usher collection, complete at last.

Simon butchers Katherine McPhee's name and calls her "McVie." Uh...McFly maybe, Simon, but not McVie. She's no McVie. She'll never be a McVie. McPhee sings "Come Rain or Come Shine." She's bra-free and therefore somewhat mesmerizing. But then she hits this weird squealy note toward the end that makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up. Not in a good way. But yeah, otherwise she's fine. I respect her note-battling ability, but I'm not moved by her yet. In fact, I'm bored. I start wondering about other theme weeks they could do. Prince week would be good. I'd love to see him come in and stare them all down (or up, rather), dress them in frilly blouses and head-to-toe yellow leather jumpsuits, make Kevin Covais sing "Darling Nikki" and rename Pickler "Pyrranha." Simon tells McVie, "Tonight you turned into a star." He really is saving all his love for Whitey this week.

Taylor Hicks cements his position as King Tool of All Time by introducing himself to Barry with his own Soul Patrol rendition of "Mandy." Barry appears a little unnerved by this and doesn't exactly look like he warms to Taylor. Good instincts, Barry. Gray Charles, dressed in an outfit that is, no lie, one red bow tie away from turning him into Pee-wee Herman, lunges into a by-now-routine spaz-attack performance. He does "Not Fade Away" by Buddy Holly, wriggling like an eel and running over to the left side of the stage just in time for a horrifying '80s Thunderdome Sax Solo Dude to leap out. Then they start jamming together. Someday they're going to invent the technology that allows you to actually reach into the screen and smack someone, and I'm going to be first in line to own it.

The best part happens at the end: Paula is standing, dancing, waving her hands in the air, like she does, and then Taylor--hip cocked out, shoulders hunched, neck squooshed down, and left arm contorted into a triangle--ends with a note of seriously bugged-out finality, his left hand zapping the judges with what can only be Invisible Magic Saxophone-Fortified "Love Me!" Jizz, impregnating them all with adoration for Whatever the Hell That Was He Just Did. Cut to a child yawning in the audience. Then the judges mix it up, getting all crazy and in each other's faces. Simon, of course, calls it a "hideous party performance." Taylor responds unwisely with, "But that's what the '50s were." (So there's your proof that he's been lying about being 29 this whole time.)

That's when Paula goes awesomely mental, jumping up and down and screaming at Simon about...dancing.

Why she's upset anyone's guess, but it sure is excellent to watch. I just read today that the AI powers-that-be debated firing Paula earlier in the season, and I'm here to publicly thank them for not letting her go.

Lisa tries "Why Do Fools Fall in Love." Barry must not dig her much, because his arrangement is frantic and all over the place. It's as though he's pranking the poor girl somehow. Meanwhile the stylists must hate her too, because they've dressed her like Rizzo. The whole thing is a disaster, and I want Olivia Newton-John to descend to the stage in that flying car and take her under her protective wing. Get her out of this mess. Paula, who has no sense, says, "The energy of what you brought tonight is who you are." And the AI bosses wanted to fire this woman? Don't see they see the TV gold they're sitting on?

Here's what I love about Covais tonight: he sings the entirety of "When I Fall in Love" by Nat King Cole with one hand in his pants pocket. He's wistful but jaunty, opening his little pencil sharpener mouth into a perfect Charlie Brown Christmas "Ooh." The whole thing is very, "Hi, I'm Perry Como, welcome to my ski chalet. Warm yourself by the fire and have a hot toddy, won't you, while I smoke my pipe and slip into an Arnold Palmer cardigan." When this boy falls in love, it totally will truly be for-frigging-ever. Cut to Jasmine Trias from a couple seasons back, sitting in the audience, big flower still in her hair, big grin on her face. Will she befriend Ryan Cabrera too? After the song, Randy announces that it's "one of the Dawg's favorites!"

Seacrest, introducing Captain Caveman Elliott, busts out his "A" material and makes jokes about Simon being so old he actually remembers the 1950s. Wow, jokes sure are funny. Elliott has the cast iron ones to admit that he didn't care for Barry Manilow's music before meeting the man. Then he admits that Barry was so good to him this week that he's now a fan. Smart boy, Elliott; you don't want the arrangement curse that's already befallen Bucky and Lisa. And he's the only one in this competition that I don't feel I have to worry about when he opens his mouth to sing. I have too much emotionally invested in little Paris because she's my favorite, so I fret for her. But Elliott is like a note-hitting machine. He does "Teach Me Tonight," and while he's still got to figure out how to sell a lovey-dovey song like this so that people actually want to cuddle up to him, I still think he's great and pretty close to giving me the same goose bumps I always experienced over Fantasia and Kelly. man! Bangs! Fix those effin' bangs!

Wow. Barry hates Kellie Pickler so much, he's actually slyly making fun of her. There is no possible way in this entire world that he can be telling the truth when he says he's never heard of Pickler's selection for tonight, the Patsy Cline song "Walking After Midnight." It's not possible. The man is a hundred years old. He knows the great American songs of the 20th century. I guarantee you he does. He's just taking the piss by mimicking her self-consciously adorable Know-Nothing stance.

Then he says, "It's not just a happy doo-doo song."

I have to make TiVo replay the quote about three times to make sure he actually said, "doo-doo." Then I have to sit quietly for a moment to understand what he's talking about. Then I realize, after that moment, that there's no telling for sure, so I press "play" again and watch Pickler resume her dead-eyes look. And what in tarnation happened to her makeup? I think Barry hates her so much he got his own personal makeup crew to drive her out into the Valley somewhere to hit a mall Merle Norman franchise for a makeover. I want that reach-into-the-screen technology again. But not to smack her. It's wrong to hit ladies. I just want to gently tap her on the shoulder and tell her that she's doomed if she doesn't wake up.

And the song itself? A miserable embarrassment. She was Alannah Myles-Black-Velvet-If-You-Please-as-Patsy Cline. And she blows the last key change. Sad. Cut to her grandpappy in the audience wearing a T-shirt with her face on it. I want one, too.

Afterwards, Seacrest goads her, "Anything new to share?" But she seems confused and borderline upset: "I don't know...uh...[scratches head]...uh..."

The judges like her performance. But then, the judges are nuts.

Nothing can be said about Ace that hasn't been said before. Ace is dreamy, blah blah, etc. Ace sings passably well. Barry loves Ace. Paula loves Ace. The camera loves Ace. A 7-year-old girl in the audience loves Ace and announces his entrance. Everyone alive on Earth with a television loves Ace. But most of all, Ace loves Ace. And that's enough for Ace. He sings "In the Still of the Night," and he's...I don't know...fine, I suppose. I'm just so tired of looking at him, always sticking his arm out, reaching for Love. I think about how it would be funny if he got a pie in the face. But then, that would be a wasted pie. And I have strong feelings about pie. Stronger feelings than I've ever had for Ace.

The judges, I must say, have been more superfluous and useless than usual tonight. According to them, everyone was "back," everyone "worked it out," everyone "made the song [their] own." And that's not true. Like, at all. Bucky blew it, Lisa blew it, Pickler blew it. I predict Bucky leaves tomorrow night...

And now it's time to find out if I'm right about Bucky. It's "Chopped & Screwed" night...

I missed last week's Ford commercial starring the AI kids. I don't know why. I guess I just forgot it was on and I let TiVo speed through it. I rue that day. Tonight's commercial is an homage to From Justin to Kelly. The commercial is not only set on a beach, does not only involve a musical number that includes giant beach balls, but is set to "We Got the Beat" by the Go-Go's. Now, as you all remember from when you rushed out on opening weekend to see From Justin to Kelly, revisiting it multiple times in its theatrical run to make it the highest-grossing film of 2002, that movie opened with Kelly Clarkson singing the Go-Go's song "Vacation." It's a secret message being sent to us from the Go-Go's. We just have to figure out what it is. Taylor Hicks thinks he knows because he's shoving his face into the camera to the beat. Nightmare material.

Back in the studio, the crowd is cheering for Barry, making it hard for him to focus on Seacrest's questions. Barry cannot not respond to a cheering crowd. He's so old-school that if an audience is making a ruckus for him, he can't help himself. He has to acknowledge them. "My public!" appears in a thought bubble over his head. Barry begins to sing "Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing" and HOLY CRAP IT'S BOBBY BENNETT!!!!!

Perhaps you remember Bobby Bennett. The big boy with the Jackie Gleason vibe and the gay way of clapping. The BARRY MANILOW OBSESSIVE. There he is, standing up in the audience, swaying to Barry, clasping his hands together like an excited schoolgirl for Barry, ready to leap up onto the stage to hump the leg of Barry.

Does Barry know that this kid is in the same building? Are his bodyguards standing by? Because it's gonna be Rupert Pupkin time up in here if he doesn't. Cut to Katherine McPhee laughing her head off, but no cut to what she's laughing at. And then we know. The song stops and Bobby Bennett rushes the stage to bear-hug Barry. "I'LL BE IN VEGAS ON THE 12TH!" Bobby Bennett shouts at Barry's face. Barry, quickly attempting to disguise himself as Santa Claus, exclaims, laughing, "Oh, ho ho ho! Come see my show!" Bobby Bennett is led away from Barry and his crushed vertebrae.

Now it's time for the anticlimax. Cut to the 11 Fame-Hungerers on the couch. Cut to Pickler being told that Simon called her "ballsy" last night. On cue she says, "What's a ballsy?" Cut to Lisa, Covais, and Bucky taking the bottom three slots.

Lisa is safe.

And then Bucky takes his seat too. Kevin "C to the L" Covais is going home to be stuffed into a locker by the first jock who crosses his path in the hall.

P.S. I just learned that Constantine divorced his old band and might be in a sitcom. Of course.

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Dave White