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Originally published January 19, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified January 19, 2007 at 1:12 PM

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One local man stung; another has a ball

Should Jonathan Jayne get another chance to sing before 36 million people on national television, don't be surprised if he selects "Don't...

Seattle Times staff reporter

Should Jonathan Jayne get another chance to sing before 36 million people on national television, don't be surprised if he selects "Don't Cry for Me Argentina."

A day after "American Idol" judge Simon Cowell dismissed Jayne's performance and commented on his girth, the Renton native was reveling in his newfound fame and waxing philosophical about the price he was willing to pay for it.

"I think it was absolutely wonderful," Jayne, 21, said Thursday from his home, where he spent the day fielding phone calls from reporters. "I was just having a blast, and this is what you get for having a blast."

"This" is a spate of TV columnists, personalities and bloggers decrying the cruelty meted out by "Idol" judges, who snickered and snorted their way through critiques on contestant's clothing, weight, height and, in the case of one Bothell man, his eyes.

The smarmy barbs have become a typical, even anticipated part of the show. But viewers apparently had a soft spot for Jayne and Kenneth Briggs, the 23-year-old Bothell man whose eyes Cowell compared to a primate's. Both young men seemed genuine, earnest and vulnerable, prompting viewers to lash out against their treatment.

"It's one thing to make fun of the voice teacher who is obviously in the wrong profession, but another to pick on someone's physical features in front of millions of people," one viewer wrote on Entertainment Weekly's Web site.

Briggs, who said he usually goes by the name Michael Swale, said Thursday he is in shock from all the backlash after Cowell's comments aired Wednesday night.

By Thursday morning, national TV shows were talking about Cowell's remarks, and Briggs' cellphone filled up with messages.

"I knew he would be cruel about my singing, but I didn't know he would be cruel about my personality and cruel about my appearance," Briggs said. "To me, it just seems like Simon could learn some manners."

Despite the comments, Briggs feels like he came away with his dignity.

"I enjoyed doing it. Would I change a thing and go back and not do it? No, I would do it again," he said.

Jayne said he gave it his all after producers selected him out of thousands of potential contestants during a round of auditions in Seattle last October, telling him he was "different and he was singing pretty good." The judges — Cowell, Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson — complimented his personality, but Cowell sarcastically referred to his waistline and asked if he was wearing the portly Jackson's pants.

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After the auditions, Cowell pronounced the Seattle contestants "the worst bunch of miserable singers" he'd ever seen.

Jayne, who watched the show with his mother, seemed mystified by the backlash. Although viewers speculated about his disabilities, he said he will talk only about his abilities. And if people want to throw a pity party for him, he said, they'll have to do it without him: He's too busy talking to reporters and handing out the phone number for his new agent.

On Thursday night, Jayne planned to reprise his performance of "God Bless America" for a social club he belongs to.

Briggs and Jayne flew down to Los Angeles today. They'll appear tonight on "The Jimmy Kimmel Live" show. Listeners of a West Palm Beach radio station offered donations to fly out the two contestants for a Florida vacation, including a singing appearance at an upcoming concert.

"I told my listeners that something really disturbed me last night while watching 'American Idol.' And they all knew what I was talking about, and the phones were ringing. And they were saying we should have them here so they could sing and we could just applaud and have a party for them," said Brant Hanson, morning host for 88.1 WAY-FM.

For Jayne, the barbs come with the difficult career path he's chosen, one that he hopes will lead to a DJ job or a gig as a talk-show host.

"If you're going to make it in TV, the first time you're going to fail, the second time you're going to fail, the third time you're still going to fail. The fourth time you might get somewhere, the fifth time you might get something really good, and the sixth time you're going to be a star."

He also observed that the negativity "doesn't make me look bad. It does make Simon, Paula and Randy look bad."

Seattle Times reporter Florangela Davila contributed to this report. Susan Kelleher: 206-464-2508 or skelleher@seattletimes.com;

Brian Alexander: balexander@seattletimes.com

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