This Year’s ‘Idol’ Ringer Singer | Patti Smith Levitates; Hugh Grant Masticates; A Friend Vacates

This Year’s ‘Idol’ Ringer Singer

Last April, I told you that David Cook was the season’s ringer on American Idol. At the time, he had an independent album out, sold on amazon.com. You may recall that Cook went on to win the competition.

This year, one “ringer” has already been removed: Joanne Pacitti, who apparently was a friend of the show’s producers. But there’s still one left, and he’s making fast inroads with the audience and the judges.

Adam Lambert stole the show on Tuesday night when he wowed the audience with a flamboyant performance of Michael Jackson’s “Black or White.” Everyone went crazy, especially Paula Abdul, who exclaimed that it was the best performance in the history of American Idol.

PHOTOS: Click here to see the Top 13 on 'American Idol.'

Really, Paula? Better than Fantasia singing “Summertime" or anything from Jennifer Hudson? But I digress.

Lambert, 27, from San Diego, should be good: he’s a seasoned performer, a past member of the national touring cast of the Broadway hit, Wicked, and a regular entertainer in Los Angeles. There’s nothing amateur about him.

Indeed, Lambert was not only in Wicked, but in 2004 and this past year he was in the cast of The Zodiac Show, a Los Angeles musical revue where he honed his showy skills performing numbers as if he were Jonathan Rhys Myers in Velvet Goldmine. In his Zodiac bio, Lambert notes his self distributed CD of music, and the fact that his group Citizen Vein, is “in the studio.”

In other words, Lambert is an overnight sensation if you were born yesterday.

More details about him can be found on this blog. The Web site asks visitors to “view my reel” on YouTube, but whatever it was, it’s been removed. We do learn more about Lambert’s personality from the bio, here, though, including that he loves to shop and dress up. On his resume: “Been able to freely express at The Key Club with Club Makeup last Halloween, The Music Box in the Zodiac Show, Dragstrip 66 backing Mz A.”

Almost more interesting than Adam, though, is his dad, Eber Lambert. This is where the theatricality comes from. Eber Lambert is the host of Poetry Open Mic night in San Diego at Rebecca’s in South Park, He’s also an aspiring writer himself, working with San Diego Writers Ink.

According to Eber Lambert’s bio, he “was born the son of a tent re-canvaser in Outer Mongolia before being sublimated and reissued in Hinesburg, Vermont in the mid 1960s. He began writing disturbed poetry and prose much to the chagrin and repeated dissuasion of his writing teachers in college. So he became an electrical engineer and wrote strictly as a creative outlet for the next 25 years. In the 80s, he worked for the secret Nixon government and developed technology for Post-Extinction Warfare and Time Dilation Reality Modulators. After an extended midlife crisis in the late 90s, he narrowly escaped a track home suburban existence, underwent extensive deprogramming to emerge in 2002 divorced, the father of grown children and ready to resume his 20s. Still a part time writer, allegedly 37.3 percent of the way through his first novel, Eber spends his days working toward the Quixotic goal of early retirement — at least, this is the way Eber tells it.”

You can hear one of Eber Lambert’s pieces, about Jesus “getting all the babes” here. It begins: “Jesus and the Apostles were an early psychedelic garage band that rode into Jerusalem on chopped Harley mules.” It’s pretty amusing, actually. Another piece can be found here.

Patti Smith Levitates; Hugh Grant Masticates; A Friend Vacates

Patti Smith, the rock goddess of punk, just about levitated off the stage last night at Carnegie Hall during the final number in a tribute to REM. The event was an annual charity fundraiser produced by Michael Dorf in which an eclectic gang of famous performers sing the hits of one act.

In this case, the honoree was REM (Michael Stipe, Peter Buck, Mike Mills), and the performers ranged from Darius Rucker of Hootie and the Blowfish to Marshall Crenshaw, Bob Mould, Rhett Miller, Guster, Dar Williams, Vic Chestnutt, Glen Hansard (of the movie Once), and the sublime Kimya Dawson, wrote the music for the movie Juno and was accompanied by a performance art troupe The Moldy Peaches. Read about them on their Web site or Wikipedia. Amazing.

Anyway, each artist did an REM song, and really, Crenshaw got it the most right with “Supernatural Superserious.” No one tried any of REM”s big hits, though, so it was mostly a night of obscure musicians playing cult music.

Thus into the fray jumped Smith, who first tried “New Test Leper,” forgot some of the lyrics, started over and finished well. But then she was joined by the real REM on stage, and sang another song from the same 1996 album, “New Adventures in Hi Fi.” This one is called “Ebow the Letter.” I hope someone got it for YouTube. Something happened, and in the middle of it, Smith just levitated. She was magnificent, and sang better than ever in her vaunted career. Stipe must have thought so, too, because he crouched down next to her while she sang it, and looked like he was praying. The audience went, as they say in rock, berserk.

Just as a note: I remember “New Adventures.” It had no hits, came in an expensive box, and was a dud. No one liked it. Thirteen years later, two tracks from it stole the show. Go figure.

A plug: Proceeds from the evening benefited the American Symphony Orchestra, Mr. Hollands Opus Foundation, and the Church Street School of Music and Art in Lower Manhattan. …

Hugh Grant, with a hot babe, in deep conversation with director-writer Jake Paltrow, Gwyneth’s bro, son of Blythe Danner and the late great Bruce Paltrow (St. Elsewhere) at dinner late last night at Charles, the “hidden” restaurant in the West Village, an offshoot of the Waverly Inn. Other recent diners: Sting and Trudie Styler with Robert Downey, Jr., Calvin Klein, and so on. Paltrow is said to be finishing a new script. Could this be Hugh’s next project? Why not?...

…You never want to report a friend’s death. On Tuesday night, Braden Keil, who’s been writing a terrific real estate column for the New York Post for several years, succumbed to melanoma. Braden leaves his wife Jennifer and two small children. Braden came to New York and journalism relatively late in life, and he took them both by storm. A witty and urbane man, he was a great addition to our little world and left much too quickly at age 53. He will be sorely missed...