28 FEB 07: SING INTO SPRING
We'll get to our main topic in a moment -- but first, we have to break from our "Hurtsboro Monday" custom. That's because several city employees told WRBL Tuesday night they haven't been paid in two weeks. With so many businesses in the town reportedly closed, I'm not sure where they could spend the money, anyway.
Hurtsboro Mayor Sandra Tarver said she signed the city paychecks as usual. But the City Clerk has been fired, apparently because she followed some kind of "lag time" rule in paying city bills. Maybe the clerk used to work at a furniture store - and believed that stuff about "90 days, same as cash."
The Hurtsboro city payroll now is being handled by a company in Trussville, Alabama. Given what we've heard about the town in the last 60 days, it could be because no one else there can be trusted with the money.
As for Hurtsboro's loudest critic: Constable R.J. Schweiger's case is scheduled for a "docket call" in Russell County court today. He's scheduled for a jury trial in mid-March - and if he decides to be his own defense attorney, there could be an open chair for a blogger like me to be in the courtroom.
AND NOW.... back to our originally scheduled topic: a big musical week in Columbus, which officially starts tonight. In a five-day span, the original plan was for visits by two "American Idol" winners - as well as Art Garfunkel, who probably never would have passed an audition before Simon Cowell.
The first singer to perform is Taylor Hicks, appearing tonight at the RiverCenter. He went from nightclub appearances in Birmingham to the "American Idol" title last year - then surprisingly did NOT sign a deal to do commercials for Just for Men hair coloring.
Taylor Hicks was cheered on to victory by fans called the "Soul Patrol." If WFXE-FM's Michael Soul had organized one of his own, Gonzoes' Sports Bar in Phenix City still might be in business.
Hopefully Taylor Hicks will end his RiverCenter concert early, because a behind-the-scenes interview with him is promised tonight on WXTX "News at Ten." But then again, maybe these things are being combined -- and Deborah Singer will join Hicks in a duet.
The success of Ruben Studdard, Bo Bice and Taylor Hicks have made Birmingham a hotbed for American Idol - so much so that open tryouts were held there last summer. But Alabama is absent from the final 20 singers this year. NOW will you believe it was a mistake to fire Mike Shula?
After Taylor Hicks, Thursday night will be Art Garfunkel's turn to perform at the RiverCenter. If Paul Simon is joining him, it has NOT been announced. Given their recent history, it probably would have to be - else Garfunkel might walk out.
The cavalcade of stars was supposed to wrap up Sunday, with Fantasia Barrino sharing the top billing for a Columbus Civic Center concert. But that show isn't on the Civic Center's calendar -- so once again, Columbus has "star fatigue." It can't handle more than two big names in a week.
(I can't help wondering if Ms. Barrino's victory on American Idol in 2004 changed Disney's plans -- and stopped the re-release of the "Fantasia" movie.)
LAUGHLINE FLASHBACK: American Idol began in 2002 - and as the show took off, we covered it for subscribers to LaughLine.com. Here's some of what we wrote:
25 Jul 02: Every time we hear people talk about "American Idol," we wonder whatever happened to rocker Billy Idol - and whether he's waiting for the right moment to file a lawsuit.
1 Aug 02: "American Idol" slipped to a sextet of singers, as Ryan Starr was eliminated.... "Entertainment Weekly" reminded us Ryan Starr went by the name of Tiffany Montgomery when "American Idol" started. Changing your name is easy - changing your voice isn't.
8 Aug 02: Has "American Idol" changed British judge Simon Cowell? In one way, it has. Cowell revealed the other day he no longer wears high-waisted Armani trousers. [True/Sky News] What a hypocrite - telling contestants to raise the bar, while he lowers his own.
14 Aug 02: The five finalists on "American Idol" sang an evening of Burt Bacharach music, coached by Bacharach himself. We hope Simon Cowell took the song "Do You Know the Way to San Jose" very personally....
15 Aug 02: American Idol dropped to its "fab four" Wednesday night, as confirmed Christian R.J. Helton was shown the door. We keep waiting for Christian conservatives to picket outside this show, anyway -- campaigning against idolatry.
19 Aug 02: If you vote once a week in "American Idol," others may be voting MUCH more often. Producers admit some people with the right software are making thousands of calls at a time. If the wrong telemarketer gets his hands on this, we all may be doomed....
The producers of American Idol believe about 100 people across the U.S. are using high-speed Internet connections and "auto-dial" software to phone in as
many as ten-thousand votes a night. Democrats in Chicago have a term for this -- a great new approach to business as usual.
American Idol's producers call the high-volume voters "phone phreaks" - and say they know who's doing it. We're simply glad we don't have that show's "Caller I-D" bill.
The staff of American Idol claims the "phone slammers" are NOT having a major impact on the weekly results. But they STILL won't reveal the weekly vote counts. Just wait until the second-place singer files a lawsuit in Palm Beach, Florida....
You may not know that American Idol set up the phone system so people in California CANNOT vote while the singers appear on T-V in New York. The telecast doesn't appear in California until three hours later. This presumes, of course, people actually vote based on how well the contestants sing.
20 Aug 02: The theme for "final four" night on American Idol will be songs from the eighties and nineties. Which performer will stare at Simon Cowell and sing, "Papa Don't Preach" ?!?!
21 Aug 02: The producers of American Idol spent Tuesday explaining a troubling story in "U-S-A Today." It revealed the singers signed a contract allowing the rules of the game to be changed at any time. This is a scary thought - that Attorney General John Ashcroft might be allowed to walk in and take the record deal.
The producers of American Idol say the contract language about changing the rules allows them to intervene, if the phone voting system breaks down. Well, OK - as long as they don't give the final vote to Simon Cowell.
American Idol's producers promise they will NOT change the basic rule, to let viewers choose the top singers. But we wish at some point, they'd also allow to choose which judge we can vote off.
22 Aug 02: Millions of jaws must have hit the floor Wednesday night, when Tamyra Gray was voted off "American Idol." If the producers still refuse to release vote counts, Gray can expect two phone calls today -- from Al Sharpton and Johnnie Cochran.
(Did you notice how American Idol was more musical than ever this week? Because of the contestant count, it was "three-four" time.)
23 Aug 02: Three singers now remain in American Idol - and Kelly Clarkson now may be the favorite. She's the only one who has NOT been called to center stage, for having a low number of votes. If Clarkson wins, she'll get phone calls from almost every candidate for Congress.
28 Aug 02: All three American Idol finalists have been given bracelets by judge Paula Abdul. The bracelets have the message: "Own the Power" - to which the singers probably asked each other, "Does Ford make that car?"
(In response to this, Simon Cowell might give all the singers something to remember him -- an autographed set of carving knives.)
So why doesn't M-T-V have its own version of American Idol? Put all ten singers in the same house, and have them live together for weeks....
29 Aug 02: The hosts of American Idol did NOT give away who placed first in this week's voting. Kelly Clarkson and Justin Guarini are left to wonder who's in the lead - and who needs to hire James Carville to prepare attack ads.
2 Sep 02: Speaking of Labor Day, did you know the "American Idol" finalists are union members? They joined a musicians' union in Hollywood over the last few weeks -- but for some reason, the runners-up have yet to picket outside Simon Cowell's dressing room.
Kelly Clarkson admits she's gained a motor-mouth reputation among the American Idol singers. Clarkson says she could talk and talk about anything -- so if she doesn't win the big recording contract, she'll get her own show on M-T-V.
3 Sep 02: The American Idol duo seems to offer voters a clear choice. Justin Guarini has an African-American father, an Italian-American mother and a background of singing bar mitzvahs. Kelly Clarkson is a white girl from Texas. In other words, it's Democrat versus Republican.
Kelly Clarkson and Justin Guarini will sing three songs for the voters tonight. In fact, they'll each sing the SAME song - one written to be their debut single later this month. They'll take turns singing it, so the "re-mix" rights can be sold to as many studios as possible.
4 Sep 02: The American Idol judges were given seats in a Kodak Theatre luxury box, to evaluate the singers. Wasn't that amazing -- life imitating "The Muppet Show...."
"Inside Edition" revealed Kelly Clarkson's most recent job was as a cocktail waitress. Considering all the smoke in nightclubs, it may be a wonder she can sing at all.
(And did you also know Kelly Clarkson's favorite treat is an orange flurry from Sonic Drive-Ins? All she needs is a pair of roller skates, and she can sing her first TV jingle.)
5 Sep 02: Kelly Clarkson stood almost expressionless when she was named the winner. Her mother in the audience broke down in tears. And in Florida, some Democrats accused the Texans of cheating with the votes again.
Kelly Clarkson's next big performance may come next Wednesday. She'll sing the national anthem at a September 11 commemoration at Washington's Lincoln Memorial. It will make a great statement to the world - since the Taliban wouldn't let a woman speak, much less sing.
Now back to the present, and other news items from Tuesday:
+ Columbus Police raided two stores on North Lumpkin Road, made three arrests and seized counterfeit name-brand clothing. One store is called "Choose Shoes" - as if those items are the frauds.
+ An attorney for former Phenix City Municipal Court Clerk Max Wilkes confirmed a lawsuit has been filed, to challenge his firing by city officials. Have you noticed absolutely no one has talked about running for mayor, since Wilkes was let go last September?
+ The Georgia Legislature gave final approval to a bill allowing a Columbus citywide vote on creating special "tax allocation districts." The districts would be set up for redevelopment - and there's nothing better to attract new businesses to Victory Drive than charging them extra taxes.
+ State Rep. Carolyn Hugley told GPB's "Lawmakers" the PeachCare health program needs to continue because "the children of Georgia are the responsibility of the state of Georgia." Which makes you wonder if her children are in federally-subsidized day care centers during the legislative session....
+ The Columbus Cottonmouths lost to Huntsville 3-1. The WEAM announcers thought they saw a Columbus fan offer money to a Huntsville player, so he'd get into a fight. That might work with Mike Tyson in Las Vegas....
(BLOGGER'S NOTE: Our jokes for today have concluded - but you're welcome to read on, for a follow-up to Tuesday's main topic.)
BUT SERIOUSLY: Had we only known.... but we didn't know. Not until late Tuesday morning did we learn a Daytona Beach Thunder player had died during the Columbus Lions' first game. Our Tuesday topic might have been very different, had we only known.
We checked the Columbus-Daytona Beach live webcast during the third quarter. It was the fourth quarter when a collision occurred, stopping play for 30 minutes and leaving a Daytona Beach player dead. It's absolutely no way to promote a new sports franchise -- except maybe for young people who play violent video games too much.
There's still much we don't know about the deadly play. Lions Coach Jason Gibson said Tuesday the front of a helmet seemed to cave in, when two players who weren't watching each other collided. They may have hit face mask-to-face mask - and that may be where the first lawsuit will come, in the wake of this death.
It didn't help matters that as of midday Tuesday, neither the Columbus Lions nor the World Indoor Football League had posted anything about the death on their web sites. The WIFL site only hinted at it, announcing a news conference "concerning the events" of the night before. Refusing to talk about death does NOT make it go away.
We were reminded of two years ago, when a former Troy University football player was killed during a game with arena football's Los Angeles Avengers. Add to that Coach Jason Gibson's statement on WRBL that about six Lions were injured during Monday night's game, and you start to question whether indoor football really is a good idea.
An ESPN Radio host the other night recalled the words of Super Bowl-winning quarterback Kurt Warner. Warner once said the National Football League is slower than arena football. And while the players in both versions may have similar padding on their bodies, I know the side walls of indoor football aren't well padded - and you wonder a bit about the carpet below their feet.
Undoubtedly the WIFL season will go on - but the attitude probably will be different now, and the mood at games may be different for a while. Certainly safety issues of indoor football need to be studied. And the fans in Daytona Beach should understand that - because the same thing happened there, after Dale Earnhardt died six years ago.
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