Although it’s Saturday, not Friday, the recent passing of Philadelphia singing and tv legend Al Alberts necessitates revisiting the following topic.
This post initially appeared 3/25/07.
True confession time: I envy the contestants on American Idol. For that reason alone I cannot stand to watch the show. That doesn’t mean I don’t secretly respect the show and all the good it puts forth.
Few of you know this, but I was a child talent show contestant.
Performing under the stage name James Meara III, I appeared on the legendary Philadelphia talent show Al Alberts Showcase. That was me, all right, Contestant #22. That day, on the air, I told Mr. Alberts I wanted to be a doctor, but that’s what my parents wanted to hear. In fact, there was nothing more I wanted to be than an entertainer: a singer, a dancer, a drummer, the works.
Mr. Alberts was so encouraging. He told me after the show that he thought I “had it.” Within weeks of that performance, however, I was kicked off the set of another children’s show, Romper Room. I can remember it like it was yesterday: I was sitting behind the set with a few other kids during a commercial break. One of the boys took my red, plastic stegasaurus and wouldn’t give it back to me as soon as I asked for it. In response, I did what I often did when confronted with such situations: I turned over the table, threw my chair at the boy, and then hit him with a left hook. When Romper Room came back from the commercial break, I was mysteriously missing from the cast, having been quickly escorted with my mother out of the studio.
Suffice to say I would not be making a return appearance on Romper Room. More damaging to my budding career as an entertainer, however, Mr. Alberts would never call again. I tried to enter some neighborhood talent shows – church basement fundraisers and carnivals – but word was out on the street. I was difficult, high risk, a head case.
So, as I sit high and mighty, proclaiming that continued seasons of American Idol and all those damn “reality shows” will eventually drive me to leave the country, don’t think I don’t harbor the dashed dreams of performing my version of “Send in the Clowns” for that neckless Brit-twit producer of Teletubbies, a former Lakers’ dancer and MC Scat Kat collaborator, and the only black man in America to willingly play bass for Journey. I’ve tried to walk away from it all, but I’m sure you all know what it’s like to have that one dream that won’t die.
By the way, at the risk of embarrassing my oldest friend, but my musical partner in crime, Townsman Andyr, was also a veteran of children’s television shows and talent shows. Here’s a clip of him performing on Romper Room.
Let us end with Rock Town Hall’s Official Eulogy…