This post was already planned, but I was inspired to publish it now by Matt Morris' hilarious post Britney Spears is F*@%!ng With My Creative Process.
"I do want to go to college. Right now I want to focus on my music, but I definitely want something to fall back on and to have something to look forward to because this business is crazy!" Britney Spears, 1999
If she had only known. Britney Spears became a gigantic star before she had a chance to become a grown woman. And so of course she became a media punching bag, a designated bimbo whose every action was chronicled around the world.
In Britney's case she kept bumping into not only paparazzi but her own worst self. She started out as a sizzling rocket, but she was set up early to crash and burn ... by the very people who should have protected her the most.
So, yes, for those of you keeping score, of course I have a Britney Story. In My Worst Job: A Night with Ozzy Osbourne, I said this:
Ozzy's AOL chat was the second hardest I ever produced. You'll have to guess the hardest. I promise to write about it soon. Degree of difficulty includes the celebrity's intelligence/ability to respond, plus the make-up of the audience and number and tone of questions coming in from users.
Yes, Britney's chats were the hardest. I sense you are not surprised.
I met America's favorite Pop Tart in 1999. Accompanied by Mom, Britney came to AOL's Culver City studios five times between January and April to headline our popular AOL Live online chats.
Let's just say, chatting was not her strong suit. A few sample snippets:
Question: Do you like all the attention of being a hot singer?
Britney Spears: I mean sometimes it's fun, but sometimes it can be a little overwhelming and you don't have peace or time to yourself, but sometimes it is really flattering.
Question: What do find most rewarding about performing?
Britney Spears: Probably just the crowd's reaction is the best feeling when you're up there. Even the songs that, like aren't out yet, they're still screaming, and that's the best feeling in the world because they know your music. And they're screaming your name!
Question: What is the best advice ever given to you?
Britney Spears: Probably just to check it with yourself every day or, I mean, check IN with yourself everyday.
Question: I have never talked to a celebrity before and it would be really cool if you would just tell us something that not even your biggest fan knows!
Britney Spears: I pick my toenails.
Question: What do you want your third single to be?
Britney Spears: "Crazy."
(c) 1999, Entertainment Asylum & America Online.
Well, seems she was a bit prescient too.
To be fair, she was very young. Her mother, though older, was... well... not much wiser. Whenever I met them, I was treated to duets of gum chewing. Double doe-eyed confusion. And near pathological unselfconsciousness.
Or hey, maybe just plain unconsciousness.
Let's put it this way: I wasn't at all surprised when Britney displayed her coochie to the world seven years later. Because ...here it comes... she'd already bared her boobs to me, at her mamma's request.
We were in the Green Room, a fairly high traffic area, preparing for one of her last AOL chats. No more typing, it was a live web interview, streaming video, so her fans could see her. As we waited, conspiratorial mother-daughter whispers and giggles resulted in an "impromptu" wardrobe change.
Off with her shirt! No tube top. No bra. Full. Frontal. Britney.
Apparently part of Mom's ploy to solicit my opinion--read: affirmation--as a fellow parent. And who knows, maybe also to seek support (something Britney clearly didn't need) from other adults in the vicinity. And everyone else in ogling distance.
Note: I'm not comfortable imagining us as even vaguely similar mothers. Plus, I have a son, no daughters. Though I can't imagine any of my 11 nieces baring all in front of strangers, mamma-says or not.
However, as Lynne's truly lovely and clueless child stood there naked from the waist up, jaws working, eyes unfocused in the middle teen distance, one foot tapping to an inner beat, her mother asked me ... wait for it ... "Do you think ah was wrong to buy her them thangs?"
Lynne Spears was a grade school teacher. Which doesn't guarantee good parenting. But it should at least require correct grammar. Hell, what do I know, maybe in the Deep South "them thangs" passes for Shakespeare.
Britney was no literary genius herself. Who cares. She could sing, she could dance, she could connect to an audience in that magic way some performers just do ... it can't be learned, it's in their DNA.
Often, sadly, so is self-destruction. Britney had a gift, still does. Real, genuine talent. It got buried for a while under a pile of inadequate supervision, bad choices, even worse advice. And, as I saw for myself, no strong helpful voices.
Underneath it all, Britney was a nice kid who grew up (and out) too soon. Now she seems to have her act back together. I hope she can keep it that way. Because she's not just a sexy pop tart, she's a performer with some serious game.
Oh, right. I'm not quite finished. It's only fair, you waited this long. So: Yes, they were spectacular!
Wait! I just found this quote, totally by accident:
Question: If you got to be like one person who would it be?
Britney Spears: Probably Meg Ryan
Well. Heh. Have I got timing or have I got timing?!