"For the Love of Adam Lambert", Details, November 2009

Why Does Every Woman in America Want to Sleep with the American Idol?

By Nancy Jo Sales


They started throwing the bras in Tacoma. That was the second night of the American Idols Live Tour. More flew in San Diego, Kansas City, and D.C. There were lacy, flowery bras and perky, polka-dotted bras, and the one that’s currently dangling directly over Adam Lambert’s head—a spongy E–cup on which some ardent fan has scrawled the initials A.L. over each giant boob. As a friendly prank, crew members have strung the bras up in the bowels beneath the stage at the Allstate Arena in Rosemont, Illinois, just outside Chicago, among an abundance of other offerings—some of them X–rated. The groupies also hurled riding crops, feather boas, handcuffs, panties; it looks a little bit like a grenade went off in Frederick’s of Hollywood. “I’ve heard about Tom Jones and panties,” says Lambert, who has come down to survey the haul. “But me and panties, that’s just a little bit freaky.” He points to a jockstrap on which someone has written, in sequins, JOCKS LOVE ADAM. “Oh,” he says wryly. “They do?”

To the showman in Lambert, a six–foot–one Pan of a man with deep–set blue eyes and a shock of jet–black–and–blue emo–style hair, it’s all part of the spectacle. “A lot of times I’ll pick up a bra and play with it during a song,” he says. “It’s a way to connect. It’s like, ‘I threw my bra up onstage and you’re spinning it around. Cool. Yay.’”

Still, he says, “I think it’s weird that I’m having this effect on women. It’s flattering. I’ve never had underwear thrown at me before. Clearly there’s something significant about it, because there aren’t a lot of openly gay men in the entertainment industry.”

It’s a testament to the sheer mainstream power of American Idol that a gay man with an unabashed affection for eyeliner and nail polish has emerged from this year’s competition as a new American sex symbol. “I think it’s beautiful,” Lambert says. “That’s the way it should be. It shouldn’t matter what a person’s sexual preference is—it doesn’t change their appeal.”

In the end, Americans of every persuasion proved defenseless against Lambert’s vigorous pelvic exertions. “When I’m onstage,” he says, “there’s definitely a sexual energy that goes into it.” Indeed, he gyrated his way through performances like Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love” with a libidinous abandon that’s rarely seen on prime-time network television. Moral Majority types found his style scandalous, but Lambert offers no apologies.

I have no problem telling people, ‘You know what? I’m not your babysitter, and I’m not your church,’” he says. “They go, ‘Jesus loves you, too.’ One time I just blurted out, ‘I’m Jewish, okay? I don’t need another crucifix! This is not an appropriate gift for me!’” He laughs. “I know people are coming from a good place, but it can be offensive. Like, ‘Thank you, I’m not Christian! I don’t read that book.’”

Nor does he beg forgiveness for his outrageous costumes, which often look like cast–offs from a Vegas production of Mad Max. “There’s a certain level of pageantry with Idol, and in order to work the show, you kind of have to feed into it,” he says. Some say the 27–year–old even upstaged Kiss during their Idol visit, outshining them with his soaring rock–tenor vocals and Bowie–lite stage presence.

Undeniably, it was his voice—which has been compared favorably to those of Robert Plant and his hero Freddie Mercury—that got him a shot on Idol, but it was his savvy that helped him stay there and eventually steal the show. The gay speculation that surrounded him, which he never shied away from, probably didn’t hurt, either.

Although he didn’t win the competition—”It doesn’t fuckin’ matter” who won it, says Lambert, the runner–up—it got him what he wanted: a platform from which to launch a singing career. And fame.

When the season ended, he was awarded a six–figure recording contract with 19 Entertainment, the company that owns Idol and puts out the albums of its headliners, like Clay Aiken and Kelly Clarkson. Simon Fuller, the Great Oz behind the show and one of the most successful producers in history (Idol music sales alone have generated close to $100 million), explains Lambert’s appeal as a matter of genuinely unique talent and natural charisma.

His voice is second to none,” Fuller says. “It’s up there with the all–time great singers I’ve come across. Many millions of people have already fallen in love with him. He’s got that glint in his eye, whether you’re gay, whatever, it’s just attractive. He’s just a very sexual guy—and he’s not threatening to women.”

Lambert’s groupies on the Idols Live Tour follow him across the country, offering him clothes and books and jewelry—and they’ve tried to give him other things.

There was one woman in Jersey who was actually gorgeous,” says Lambert. “She had obviously had a couple of cocktails, and during an after–show meet–and–greet, she just slithered up next to me and started kissing my neck. I was cool with it. But then it started to get a little weird because she was, like, moaning. She gave me a note that said, ‘I want to make out with you, here’s my number,’ and I was like, wow, this is crazy. But again, it’s cool. Because yeah, I am gay, but I like kissing women sometimes. Women are pretty. It doesn’t mean I’m necessarily sleeping with them.

Of course, had I been the one drinking the cocktails,” he adds, “I probably would have made out with her.”

He says it wouldn’t matter to his 24–year–old boyfriend, whom he won’t discuss except to say that he’s “Cajun” and has “swagger.” (“I like ‘em smaller and younger,” Lambert says mischievously.)

He smiles. “I don’t see how all this is any different than—let’s take a modern sex symbol like Brad Pitt. How many of these women who fantasize about him actually get to sleep with him?” he asks. “It’s all fantasy—that’s what entertainment is. I’m here to entertain you, and if my sexuality is apparent and you respond to it, and you’re attracted to it, then great, I’m doing my job. It ain’t happening anyway!”

His road manager arrives to hustle him off to get ready for the show. “It takes him a little longer because he’s totally on girl time,” she says affably.

I like to get real pretty,” Lambert says.

Lambert grew up in an affluent suburb of San Diego. His parents were laid–back boomers—his mother was a dental hygienist and his father a supervisor at a telecommunications company—who didn’t freak out when their little boy exhibited a fondness for singing show tunes and gamboling around in capes. Which might explain why, two decades later, Lambert could sit up in front of a somber Chris Connelly on 20/20 and tell him how comfortable he is with his sexuality.

Get into it, bitches!” he says now, laughing. “I’m not hiding anything. At least I can say that I’m honest.”

But growing up, he says, he felt different, and he didn’t always like the way he looked. In high school, he battled acne and his weight. “I really struggled with my self–image for a long time,” he says. “I thought I was ugly. So that’s probably where all the makeup and the dyeing of the hair stemmed from.” (He’s really a redhead.)

After a few weeks as a musical–theater major at a college in Orange County, he left to star in a play in San Diego. He came out at 18, but he was still a virgin and “actually very lonely,” he says. At 19, he worked as a singer in a musical revue on a cruise ship for a year. “That showed me the world,” he says. “And I got to do a lot of shopping. It affects your perspective like crazy. Somewhere in the South Pacific I saw a really poor Third World island and I was like, ohhhh. I had never seen that. I was kind of, like, upper–middle–class and white–bread.”

He lost his virginity on his 21st birthday, in Hollywood, where he had moved to pursue a singing career. That same year, he traveled for six months in the European production of Hair. In 2004, he got great reviews playing Joshua in an ill–fated musical production of The Ten Commandments at the Kodak Theater in Los Angeles, alongside Val Kilmer. But, he says, he felt he wasn’t really getting anywhere.

He fell into a depression sometime in 2006. “I got out of my first relationship, and I was kinda downward–spirally,” he says. “I was destructive … just numbing myself out.” He started partying at nightclubs like Hyde and sleeping around a bit—or as he describes it, “being a slutbag.” He was also drinking, “smoking a shit ton of weed,” and doing coke. “It was everywhere,” he says. “And I’m not gonna lie, I had some fun, but it’s never worth it the next couple of days physically.”

In 2007, he was cast in the chorus of the national tour of Wicked and finally making enough money to support himself—about $1,800 a week. “But I was burned out on the show,” he says. “Wicked was humbling; I was an understudy. I didn’t get to go on all that much.”

That summer, on a spiritual quest of sorts, he went to the Burning Man Festival in the Nevada desert. While on acid for the first time, he says, “I had a spiritual epiphany about the world and where I fit into it and what I am supposed to be doing. And my epiphany was, like, I can’t be afraid anymore. I have to take life by the balls and make shit happen.”

When he got back to L.A., he decided to try out for American Idol.

Lambert’s entrance onto the stage of the Allstate Arena is preceded by some booming thunderclap sound effects and a screen lit up in pulsating red lights that look like the electronic flames of hell. Twenty thousand fans unleash bloodcurdling screams. And they’re not all girls. There are dudes—straight dudes who look up to the stage with expectation, waiting to see this guy who held his own singing with Kiss and Queen: their bands.

Lambert swaggers onto the stage amid a near–seizure–inducing light sequence, wearing a leather jacket with spiked shoulders. He launches into his trademark Zeppelin number with howling gusto, then plunges the mic stand between his legs and rubs it up and down as if teasing his manhood. The crowd goes insane.

Now the women are throwing bras at him. They come zooming up from every which way. Here comes a pink feather boa. Lambert picks it up and swings it around his head. When a brightly colored beach ball arrives, he gives it a swift, hard kick into the crowd. Not a girlie kick, either.

Outside after the show, 16–year–old Cara is waiting in front of the stage door with about a hundred other teen girls and their moms. “He’s sexy as helllllll,” she says. “He’s a fucking badass.”

Adam Lambert is the perfect man,” sighs 15-year-old Jennifer.

The next day, Lambert sets out for a walk around Chicago. He’s reluctant to go at first because, he says, “they will mob …” And they do. In their own polite way, because they’re Midwesterners. They want to praise and congratulate him and take pictures with him. “I voted for you!” they tell him.

There’s a feeling of entitlement [with the fans] because they voted to get us where we are,” he says, just a trifle irritated. “But you know what? I am responsible for what I created on that show—you voted for what I created, and thank you, but I created it, you didn’t.”

A beefy guy in a sweatshirt and aviator shades approaches.

Big fan,” he says, opening his arms for a hug.

Oh, right on,” says Lambert, allowing himself to be embraced.

I thought it was you!” says the man, squeezing Lambert close.

Yeah, it’s me,” says Lambert, gently extricating himself.

It would be hard to miss him. Lambert is wearing an outfit that looks like Johnny Rotten’s closet had an orgy with Prince’s dry cleaning. “Nobody tells you how to do this—there’s no handbook for, like, insta–fame,” he says as we walk away. “I’m just trying to be nice and responsible.”

At a quiet Italian restaurant, he discusses the phenomenon of his “jock” appeal. “Maybe it’s the thing of being, like, confident in who you are, which cuts across the lines of gender and sexual orientation,” he says.

Or maybe the jocks just like the way he sings—and Lambert intends to keep it that way. “I just want to entertain,” he says. “I don’t want [my music] to be a political or social thing right away. Eventually I would love to mess with that, but it’s a tricky, tricky road. There’s a part of me that’s a businessperson and part of me that’s an artist, and the artist wants to push buttons and break boundaries, but the businessperson goes, ‘Well, that doesn’t really sell albums.’ I don’t want to alienate a bunch of people who would otherwise be into what I do.”

For the album, 19 Entertainment has paired Lambert with some of the best pop producers in the music industry, including Greg Wells, who has worked with Katy Perry and Kelly Clarkson. “The surprise is that he’s also a gifted songwriter,” says Wells. Lambert plays a taste of the album for me on his iPod. He describes it as “edgy pop.” It has the kind of catchy hooks designed to go platinum.

I’m working my ass off right now,” he says. And it’s already paying off: He just rented a three–bedroom house in Hollywood Heights and has his eye on a Jaguar coupe. “I’ve started looking at them and I’m like, ooooh. I’m not gonna lie and say money doesn’t mean anything to me,” he says. “It’s fun to have money. It’s nice to have nice things and live comfortably, and that’s one of the reasons why I wanted this. That’s one of the trade–offs of fame. It’s the American dream.”

Adam, is that you?” A woman is passing by our table. Seeing him, she stops; her hands fly to her mouth. She begins to tremble and weep. Lambert gets up to give her a hug.

It’s going to be okay,” he tells her, laughing. “It’s really going to be okay.”

Subjects: Music 音楽

Mood: Raves and Rants

Tags: Adam Lambert, Details