Want to check our e-mail? First we have to learn what Britney Spears or Paris Hilton is up to. I don't think I'd recognize them on the street - I'd just think they're more young Danville women - but I know their names and vaguely that they're blond and beautiful and we're supposed to care about their every move. Perhaps those are last year's headlines - I'm not the hippest person on the planet, I admit.
A few years ago the fascination was an ungainly adolescent who videotaped himself pretending to be a ninja warrior. The tape went onto the Web and, alas, everyone in the world was laughing at a film shot in the privacy of the boy's home. I wonder what became of that awkward young man and if he survived his adolescence. I'm sure there will be an update: WHAT'S HE DOING NOW?!? That's another thing that passes for news online: "Sophia Loren is growing older." How odd. I'm growing younger and looking better every day.
Last week my online e-mail service thrust a new image in my face: Susan Boyle, a "frumpy Scot with the voice of an angel." I ignored it and moved on to my e-mail. But I kept seeing references to her and then Bill Maher mocked our fascination with Susan Boyle, and of course mocked her, but then he mocks everything. Then Willy Brown referred to the singing incident in his column in the Chronicle.
OK. They got me. Just who is this Susan Boyle, I finally wanted to know, and what does she sound like? I went online and searched for Susan Boyle YouTube. A middle-aged woman in a gold unstylish sheath chatted backstage with two young good-looking stage hands about how nervous she was to appear on a show called Britain's Got Talent, and that she'd been singing since she was 12 and always wanted to perform in front of a large audience. Her frizzy hair was no determinate style and she looked like someone cast in the role of charwoman. Soon she walked onstage to be interviewed by the three judges, who would have to be classified as "beautiful people." Personally I found Susan Boyle most attractive with her genuine smile and a twinkle in her eye but I'm sure that my husband, for example, would prefer the beautiful blond judge.
The camera scanned the audience of young, good-looking faces who looked askance at Susan Boyle as though wondering how this unkempt middle-aged person could possibly have wandered into their midst and even been allowed onstage. She joked with the judges about her age - 47 - shimmying a bit in fun and they regarded her with mocking expressions.
Then she began to sing. She belted out "I Dream the Dream" from "Les Miserables," a touching ballad. And it was indeed the "voice of an angel." Now the mouths dropped open. The cocky judges visibly wilted as they faced her enormous talent and humility. It was an underdog surprising everyone and the audience - in the studio and around the world - loved it. So did I. It was lovely to listen to and fun to watch everyone's reactions as their expectations and stereotypes were broken.
But on reflecting on the phenomenon (which has received 93 million hits on YouTube, as I write this), her voice was a little too good. Was she putting them on? And surely the show has tryouts and practices so just how surprised could the judges have been? Maybe they were putting us all on. After all, like American Idol, the show is just entertainment, and it was that. Nonetheless I'm glad I checked out the video of a frumpy woman showing up a young hip audience whether it was faked or real. It certainly beats looking at photos of famous actresses growing old.
-Dolores Fox Ciardelli can be e-mailed at editor@DanvilleWeekly.com.