True friends protect you from yourself

Published 5:29 pm Friday, December 14, 2007

By Staff
Tough love’s intention: intervention
By Ray McKeithan
American Idol is returning to TV in January. Let’s act quickly. We have time to take action and rise up against Simon, Randy and Paula to protect this country from further degeneration!
Do you ask yourself the same questions I do about the people on this show who face painful — though usually well-deserved — public rejection?
Where are the friends of these wannabe American Idols? How can they allow self-deluded loved ones to make fools of themselves on national TV? Don’t they have relatives who wish to protect the family name?
Are these no-talent performers oblivious to the look of pain reflected in the faces of those who listen to their screeching? Do they perceive snickers, covered faces and watering eyes to be signs of encouragement?
So many questions; so few answers.
There is something that can be done for these “singers.” It’s called an intervention. I know; I had one.
For most of my first 21 years, I played in a rock band with my best friend, Greg Miller. Together, with another close friend, Jeff Braswell, we formed the band before we even reached puberty. In fact, “Klutz” began before we could even play instruments. We learned together. Most of what we learned had little to do with music.
We began our musical careers — as most do — with a great deal of experimentation and compromise. We tried to play the coolest songs of the day, but were limited by equipment, patience and talent. It didn’t matter.
The first song we learned was Smoke on the Water by Deep Purple. We could only play a couple of verses and didn’t even attempt the chorus or extended instrumental passages. What we lacked in ability at the time, we made up for in honesty. Lest we deceive the multitudes that came to hear us play, we shortened the name, as we had done the song. Our rendition of “Smoke” is now the stuff of music legend.
Around this time in history, something occurred in the garage of Greg’s house that advanced the development of vocal performance in this world to an exponential degree: I was intervened upon.
I can’t recall exactly how the conversation went on that fateful day. But, I’m sure the matter was handled — as most conversations between young boys are — with sensitivity, diplomacy and grace.
Sometime around 1974, we had a conversation that must have gone something like this:
Me: Hey guys, where’s my microphone?
Greg: You’re not getting one.
Me: Why not, you have one.
Jeff: Ray, Greg is a singer: you’re a (2-syllable word, rhymes with “rum glass”).
Me: “I’m a great singer!”
Greg: Uh, no you’re not, stupid.
Me: You’re stupider-er.
Jeff: Idiot, you’re singing the right notes, but they’re in the wrong order; and it’s the wrong song.
Me: “Well, um … you, uh … your breath smells like doo-doo.”
Clearly, I had won that round of verbal sparring. (Never double-team the Ray-man; you’ll lose every time.) However, their point was made. The damage was done.
We must have performed 20 gigs in our time. Only once was I given a microphone. It was unplugged. (They still think that’s funny 30 years later.)
You see, I’m grateful that my friends intervened and inflicted a brief moment of pain while sparing me a lifetime of embarrassment. That’s what friends and family are for. I think it’s called, “tough love.”
Thank you, Greg and Jeff, for saving me from myself so long ago. I’ve managed — until this column began — to forestall public humiliation at my own hand.
What does this have to do with American Idol? Plenty.
I think it’s sad that the worst-of-the-worst singers in this world have been encouraged to do something that will cause them (and others) pain and discomfort. I’m sure their loved ones are well-meaning; but that’s called, “too-spineless-to-tell-you-the-truth love.”
Therefore, the only solution is thus: American Idol should be banned from TV. The show is inhumane; it is mean and represents all of the worst elements of the human condition.
But, it’s hilarious. I don’t know which is worse: that it is allowed to happen; or that I enjoy it so much.
I can’t wait until January.
Ray McKeithan is associate publisher of the Washington Daily News. If you have suggestions of topics, or questions about operations at the WDN that can be addressed in future columns, please send an email to: or call 252-940-4205.