American Flop

by Mike McHugh

When it comes to playing music, I limit myself to one performance a year.  I do this because of what I learned in college economics about the law of supply and demand.  Simply stated, the law provides that the less there is of something, the more people will want it.  Its proof is demonstrated every year at Christmas, whenever you see two grandmothers squaring off with knitting needles over the last Optimus Prime action figure on the shelf at Toys R Us.

I like to take full advantage of this law, as I need all the help I can get as far as music is concerned.  I have chosen the Children’s Pirate Costume Contest at the Contraband Days festival here in Lake Charles as the venue for my annual appearance.  You may think this a strange choice, but it has its advantages.  For one thing, I don’t need to take the precaution of stringing chicken wire across the front of the stage to protect me from the audience.  So far, the most That anyone’s thrown at me was a hand full of M & M’s.  (Marketing Slogan:  “Melts on the guitar player, not in you hand.”)

This year’s Big Event occurred last Saturday.  I arrived fully expecting to see them lined up around the outside of the Civic Center, anxiously waiting for me, Matey Mike, to take the stage in full pirate costume and launch into my stellar rendition of the “Spongebob Squarepants” theme.

So, imagine my surprise when I strolled out there with my guitar. From the size of the audience, you’d think the event was billed as a Charlie Sheen hangover re-enactment. How could it be?  Sure, the crowds had been small in the past, but this was my third year now.  Surely, word must have got around.

There was only one possible explanation for this, and that was what happened to be going on at that same moment over in the neighboring town of Westlake (motto: “We’re On The West Side Of The Lake!”)  There, the home town American Idol finalist, Joshua Ledet, was being honored in a huge parade.  I had no doubt that, if it weren’t for Josh, every one of the 10,000 people who lined the streets of Westlake would instead be part of my audience.

Was I jealous?  How could I be?  Josh’s success on Idol is a real asset to the local community, and I am as big a fan as anyone around here.  I was there at the foot of the stage when he performed at the festival later that evening, and, when he bent over to pick up the beads I tossed to him, he made me feel better than Jose Cuervo ever did.

Honestly, how can I compare myself to Josh, except maybe to say that we were (just barely) born in the same century?  Besides, he has the benefit of a show like American Idol to help launch his career.  There was nothing like that on TV when I was his age.  About the closet thing to it was The Gong Show, and there was no way I would ever have been able to out-do Gene Gene The Dancing Machine.

I never watched Idol until this year, and I don’t believe I’m alone around here in that respect.  In fact, by now I believe that Joshua Ledet has received more votes statewide than Edwin Edwards did in his lifetime.  I believe that’s a good thing, seeing how the show lets fans decide who should make it in the music business rather than some record company executive.

Maybe it will prevent us from ever getting anyone else the likes of Justin Bieber.

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