IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Ashlee Simpson’s vocal malfunction

An event makes viewers long for the days of Janet Jackson's breast. By Michael Ventre

In this case, if Ashlee Simpson had flashed a breast, the FCC probably would have let it go.

After all, agencies of the federal government are there to protect the citizenry from any sort of injury or harm. Ashlee’s performance at halftime of Tuesday night’s Orange Bowl in Miami was about as close as a singer gets to committing aggravated assault. If she had only taken a lesson from Janet Jackson, the world would be talking today about the exposure of a boob rather than a fraud.

Much of the blame for this fiasco falls upon ABC, which hired this female Gilbert Gottfried to headline the halftime show for college football’s ultimate game, matching No. 1 USC against No. 2 Oklahoma. If the Sooners are despondent today after absorbing a 55-19 bludgeoning from the Trojans, they can take solace that each and every one of them could have taken the halftime stage dressed in drag and mooed like a cow and still induce fewer boos than Ashlee did Tuesday night.

First NBC invited Ashlee on “Saturday Night Live,” where she tried to fool the audience by lip-synching her way through a song, but failed. Now ABC. Don’t these networks have a Standards and Practices office anymore? Don’t they care about the welfare of our children? Don’t these network executives realize that a performance like Ashlee’s could produce imitators? Are they unconcerned about copycat Ashlees?

Slack-jawed aweI watched the Orange Bowl Tuesday night, like millions of other Americans. The first half was all USC. When halftime arrived, I sat at the kitchen table, watching the TV from a room away. Because of the distance, the sound seemed lower than it was if I was right there in front of the screen. I started to enjoy a fine meal. I felt safe and secure.

When Ashlee came on and began to perform, though, I literally dropped my fork. Then I cupped my hands over my ears, but it didn’t help. Ashlee’s singing sounded like a cross between a political prisoner being tortured and a test of the Emergency Broadcast System.

I desperately searched for the remote so I could hit the mute button, but I must have misplaced it. But I also couldn’t believe that someone didn’t rush the stage and stop her. The local police. The FBI. Homeland security. Even an angry mob of vigilantes. Instead, they just let her keep going. I’ve never felt so helpless or vulnerable in my life.

I happened to look out the window and noticed that some of my neighbors were running down the street, their hands over their ears, screaming for help. I wanted to help them, I really did. Yet I was gripped by horror and disbelief. I was practically catatonic. For their sake — and for mine — all I could hope for was a swift end to the halftime show.

Shrieking like a hyena giving birth, she closed her “song” with something that approximates the phrase, “you make we wanna SCREAM!” And then she waited for applause.

Instead, she got boos, the kind of irate and vindictive boos that usually occur after a pro wrestler taunts a crowd.  Through the cacophony, the gentle strains of “You suck!” could be heard. Ashlee was escorted off the stage and through a tunnel, and let’s just say the Indiana Pacers were received more warmly by Detroit fans when they walked toward the locker room after the brawl.

Just go away nowI consider myself a tolerant person. I accept the talented and talentless equally. I realize not everyone can sing like Sinatra or Streisand. Usually, I applaud the effort, even if the result is unsatisfactory. On the handful of occasions when I have been at a karaoke bar, I clap my hands supportively for each and every participant, regardless of how pitiful their attempts. That’s just the kind of guy I am.

But I believe there are limits, and Ashlee has crossed mine, and I believe, the world’s. She is using her status as the sister of Jessica Simpson in order to carve out a career for herself. How anyone can listen to Jessica, let alone Ashlee, borders on the stupefying. But I see stories on the news all the time about con artists who separate people from their life savings. I know there were scads of gullible viewers who tuned in to watch Geraldo Rivera open Al Capone’s vault. I realize that humans are flawed, and sometimes those flaws can have disastrous consequences.

What I hope and pray for now is that Ashlee will go away and leave the public alone. On behalf of the world community, I implore her to pursue another career. There are many avenues for a young woman of her abilities. Pig farmers need wranglers. The U.S. Forest Service has many outposts in remote areas of our nation’s parks, where one can make all the noise one wants and not be heard by another soul for miles. And if she’s determined to remain in the entertainment field, the horror genre in Hollywood could always use a good screamer.

But Ashlee must cease and desist her professional singing career immediately. The lip-synching angered many. The Orange Bowl debacle undoubtedly caused thousands to seek counseling. What does she want next? Is she setting up some sort of blackmail scheme: “Give me $10 million or I’ll keep singing”?

If that’s the case, I’m prepared to donate generously. I don’t think I’m alone.