Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Royal lineage: A story of two heirs.

It wasn't a typical double date.

Each couple converged in the multiplex lobby following the synchronized finishes of their preferred movies. One pair decided to screen "The King's Speech" prior to the Oscar deadline, while the other duo opted for the slightly lighter "Never Say Never," the story of Justin Bieber and his unlikely rocket launch to stardom.

I should probably elaborate at this point. My wife and I attended the mature-themed film, and my daughters did Bieber, umm...so to speak.

After we met up, we each were quite satisfied with our respective choices, and were eager to talk about what we'd seen. Even though the subject matter and historical time frame differed significantly, the two movies dealt with a couple of guys who were strewn into extraordinary situations and compelled to make good under extreme pressure.

Granted, Justin Bieber isn't a bona fide monarch...or is he? If we traced his non-familial teenage heartthrob lineage, we could probably begin with the original American idol: Frank Sinatra. Arguably from there, the crown might be traced to Fabian and Paul Anka, and on to Frankie Avalon, Davey Jones, David Cassidy, Leif Garrett, Shaun Cassidy and Rick Springfield. Okay, let's do a quick tally. Caucasian bubblegum boy stars, 10, every other ethnicity, Zero.

During the mid-eighties, the industry giants must have decided that a boy band was at least four times as good as a single star, so the pre-fab ensembles took over, like New Kids Under the Block and N' Sync. Crooked boy band architects like Lou Pearlman came up with the formula for success: Half of the group would have talent, and the rest would rock intricate facial hair carvings.

But then, it was back to the future, as guys like Jesse McCartney, Zac Effron and any other solo acts who looked good in Mickey Mouse ears seized the reins back for the cause of the lone wolf.

Enter Mr. Bieber.

I'm not going to retrace the lineage of the British monarchy, but prior to King George VI, played by Colin Firth in "The King's Speech," the head royal wasn't expected to publicly address his subjects. The introduction of the newfangled "wireless" technology rewrote that rule as he ascended to power; his people were no longer satisfied with someone who simply looked good in a uniform while cutting a ribbon, they wanted to hear what he had to say.
Oh, yeah, and the new king possessed a debilitating stammering problem.

Have you ever spoken publicly, like at a wedding or a work meeting? It's difficult, especially when you're attempting to convince or inspire people. You feel nervous, sometimes nauseous. But what if you're expected to do as such, even though you can barely string four words together, and an entire nation's confidence in your abilities as king rests on a single address?

Adult diapers? Aisle 18b.

Years ago, my manager suggested that, since I got so anxious speaking in public settings, that I join the local Toastmasters club. It was a great experience and trained me to hold my own without quivering like aspic-covered ham while speaking to a large group.

I won't elaborate too extensively on the time back in 1989 when I entered district "table topics" competition. I had won the club and area contests, so I was feeling a bit cocky with my abilities. The winner got a really cool trophy, which I suppose would've looked nice next to my framed letterman's jacket.

Oh, but there would be no trophy for a shallow pond that day.

A speaker of table topics must face the audience and receive a small piece of paper containing a subject from the Toastmaster. The contestant must then speak extemporaneously on the subject for one minute, with five seconds allowed for mental preparation. My topic that day was "What kind of vegetable would you be?"

My first thought, which I know is sick, was of famous people who have been vegetables, but I could think of none. I locked up completely and babbled incoherently for an entire minute, and actually did list a lot of vegetables. I'm sure that impressed my first grade teacher when we did that farm unit, but the audience looked like I was inserting needles into their shins

After an inappropriate cucumber comment, the longest minute of my life was over.

So, to Justin Bieber, you beat the odds, you didn't mess up when it was time to lay it all on the line, and, even though I'm a little bitter about that, I admire such traits in your rich, little, non-threatening, sixteen-year-old self.

To King George VI, even though you are dead, you beat the odds, you didn't mess up when it was time to go for broke, and the man who played you will probably get a trophy, which I didn't at that Toastmasters thing.

Yes, I'm a little bitter about that, too.

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