The high, low notes of celebrity, fame

Published 9:39 am Thursday, March 1, 2018

Until a recent shift, we’ve always given celebrities a free pass when it comes to bad behavior. That is unless you botch the national anthem.

Pop singer Fergie is the latest in a long line of celebs to learn this painful vocal lesson.

The long overdue #MeToo movement notwithstanding, we often hold celebrities to a different standard — in many cases no matter how reprehensible their behavior actually is.

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We excuse things that go beyond idiosyncrasies or quirks, simply because of some other perceived talent or connection.

Long before he was hawking insurance with catchy jingles, country singer Brad Paisley captured it perfectly when he sang:

“Can’t wait to date a supermodel, can’t wait to sue my dad

“Can’t wait to wreck a Ferrari on my way to rehab”

Paisley also points out the double standards when it comes to justice.

“I’ll get to cry to Barbara Walters when things don’t go my way

“And I’ll get community service no matter which law I break”

But mess up the “The Star-Spangled Banner” in the digital age? You better watch out.

Comedian and actress Roseanne Barr almost derailed her career and got publicly shamed by a sitting President of the United States for a performance that was nothing short of a complete train wreck.

Accomplished singers including Michael Bolton, Steven Tyler and Christina Aguilera were all lambasted for their mistake-filled renditions that included forgotten lyrics and over-the-top gimmicks.

Even national icon and 10-time Olympic medalist Carl Lewis didn’t escape public ridicule after he gave what is still widely considered one of the worst performances of all time.

And then came last week’s NBA All-Star game.

Fergie, whose real name is Stacy Ferguson and gained her fame as a member of the Black Eyed Peas musical group, sang a slow, drawn-out, maybe supposed-to-be sexy version of the song.

It didn’t go well.

Many fans in attendance at L.A.’s Staples Center stifled laughter that gradually turned to some boos. The players, men who aren’t afraid of anyone on the court, looked uncomfortable and downright scared. Viewers at home were largely perplexed.

Ferguson knew she was off pitch.

“I’ve always been honored and proud to perform the national anthem, and last night, I wanted to try something special for the NBA,” she told media outlets later “I’m a risk taker artistically, but clearly this rendition didn’t strike the intended tone. I love this country and honestly tried my best.”

Then things got really ugly.

The social media comments were nothing short of cyber bullying. Some are things it’s hard to fathom why you would ever say them to another human being. I’m not going to repeat them.

Celebrities have to have thick skin, but this went to extremes.

Accusing the singer of being unpatriotic for flubbing a song is, well, downright un-American.

As a society, hopefully, we will never go back to the “bad old days.” Those who prey on others and abuse their power must not be given a free pass on behavior simply because of who they know, how big their bank account is or how well they perform on the court or field.

That has nothing to do with showing compassion and civility for our fellow human beings, especially when it is as harmless as a few notes falling flat.

Michael Caldwell is publisher of The Jessamine Journal and Jessamine Life magazine. He can be reached at (859) 469-6452 or by email at