Published September 21, 2007
Chris Crocker has been called "queer," "a human train wreck," the "Britney guy," an androgynous "it" and much, much worse.
But how does this 19-year-old Internet phenomenon, known worldwide for his tearful YouTube defense of Britney Spears, define himself? (Warning: YouTube video contains extremely profane language.)
"I'm the key to world peace," says Crocker, sporting a sleeveless black T-shirt with a hot pink silhouette of Marilyn Monroe. His blond bob is swept behind an ear and the eye liner is, as always, flawless.
World peace aside, the teenager has captured millions of viewers on MySpace and YouTube with his passionate, campy and sometimes furious monologues about life.
Crocker, which is a stage name, had a cult following after he started posting video blogs a year ago. But it was "Leave Britney Alone" -- a profane, smeared-mascara answer to critics of Spears' performance on the MTV Video Music Awards -- that earned him instant fame and 8 million YouTube clicks.
"You're lucky she even performed for you!" he screams. "If anybody has a problem with her, you deal with me!"
Since then he's been featured on late night, cable and network news and scores of radio shows. The video itself has been parodied by dozens of other YouTube users, most famously by actor Seth Green.
And Crocker has done it all from his bedroom in his grandparents' home in eastern Tennessee. (He asked The Associated Press not to reveal his real name or exact hometown because his critics can be vicious, and he doesn't want anyone to know where he lives.)
Earlier this year, Crocker signed a development deal for a reality TV show originally intended to be filmed in his hometown, but now he thinks it may be time to leave.
It's tough to be openly gay in a conservative Southern town, he says. There have always been death threats, bullying and glares at his clothes and makeup. Oh, and he's always pushing someone's buttons.
"My grandparents can't go to their church any more," said Crocker, his spunk clouded momentarily with genuine concern.
He's fiercely protective of his grandparents, Pentecostal Christians who took over raising him when his teenage parents couldn't. Crocker said his outrageous behavior, a stark contrast to the rest of the family, started when he was in kindergarten. He raised eyebrows that year for bringing Barbie dolls to class for show-and-tell.
"What I do affects them, and I feel bad for that," he said of his family.
Crocker's grandmother, who declined to be interviewed, is seen in a handful of his videos, appearing as an uncomfortable bystander. In one, Crocker is imitating a Christian woman interviewing his grandmother, who says she loves her grandson. In another, his grandmother is patiently arguing with him over his attitude.
Crocker said that when she agreed to be taped, "she didn't really grasp the size of the audience."
Since August, Crocker and 44 Blue Productions, a Studio City, Calif., firm specializing in documentaries and reality programming, have been pitching shows to several networks, including MTV and LOGO, a gay and lesbian channel. Crocker signed on with 44 Blue in May.
"Chris first got on our radar a year ago," Rasha Drachkovitch, president and co-founder of 44 Blue, said in a statement. 44 Blue considers Crocker "a rebel character that people will find interesting. He's going to be a TV star."
Crocker said there wasn't much interest in him as a reality TV star -- until the "Leave Britney Alone" video hit.
"It's just sad to me it takes a Britney video" to generate mainstream interest, he said.
He initially wasn't even going to post the Britney video, fearing that it would turn off his usual audience.
"They're not used to me talking about celebrities," he said. "I'm glad I posted it now, though, because I'm just giving Britney fans a voice."
Crocker sees Spears as a role model and says they have plenty in common: They're both Southerners, performers and "easy targets."
Most important to Crocker, he and Spears are both Sagittarians, the "entertainers" of the Zodiac. (Crocker had some serious reservations about being interviewed by a Capricorn for this story.)
If his proposed "Complaining with Chris Crocker" show is ever launched, he would love to host Spears. "I always say Britney's been my mom ... Britney's been there for me when my parents haven't," he said.
With all this talk of Spears, have the two actually met or even chatted?
Crocker coyly answered, "I can't say."