Adam Lambert: The Jewish Mother Interview
By Gail Zimmerman
Arts & Entertainment Editor
Detroit Jewish News
“There are thousands of women of a certain age out there who are just one Adam Lambert Google search away from crashing their computers,” Newsweek’s Joan Raymond wrote in a June blog titled Why Cougars Crave Idol Runner-Up Adam Lambert. “The good news is that people who know about these things think that our little Lambert love-fest is downright mentally healthy.”
Raymond goes on to quote sex therapist Laura Berman, director of the Berman Center in Chicago, who says, “I think more women would be happier if they channeled their inner 14-year-old girls once in a while.”
Lambert, Berman believes, somehow manages to be “hardcore, crazy, humble, adorable, charismatic, sweet and mind-blowingly talented,” all in one package. “He’s a study in contrasts, and the gay thing doesn’t matter,” she says. “Anyone who can get women to talk, giggle and get their mojo back is fine by me.”
So you can imagine my excitement when I received an e-mail from the “American Idols Live 2009” press people saying that interviews were available to promote the Idols’ Aug. 26 appearance at the Palace of Auburn Hills.
“Can I get an interview with Adam? He’s the only Jewish Idol in the bunch,” I write. “Sorry, but his schedule is just too hectic.”
The consolation prize? “You can come to the press hour before the concert if you like.” The catch? There’s a 50/50 chance Adam will be there. Only five of the 10 Idols do press before each concert, and there is no way to say in advance who they’ll be.
I decide to take my chances. I come to the Palace on the day of the concert and hope for the best. About six or seven other press outlets are represented, including some local TV and radio stations. We are escorted into a dimly lit room.
A press officer from the AI machine comes in and announces that the Idols will be coming out shortly — not necessarily all at one time — and they would include Adam (thank you, God!). Absolutely no autographs or photos, she says.
She explains that the Idols will rotate around and that the journalists will have to speak with whomever ends up at their table — although we might not get a chance to speak with all of them. “You’ll get about 3½ minutes with each Idol,” she says. “You can ask whatever you want, but I suggest you don’t ask about Paula Abdul. Everyone has been asking about her, and they don’t know anything more about it.”
I go up to her and explain “the Jewish connection” and my desire to speak with Adam. She can’t make any promises.
The Idols trickle out (I don’t see Adam). She brings one over to me and introduces me as “Esther” from the Jewish News. I correct her on my name, and she apologizes. The Idol quickly figures out he isn’t going to get much press from me.
I see a tall figure with asymmetrically cut black hair — wearing jeans and a T-shirt — enter the room. Adam is smiling. Without his stage makeup, he looks younger than his 27 years. I concur with what Adam’s mom, Leila Lambert, said during an interview on ABC’s 20/20: “I always said he was like sunshine. He just walks into a room and he, he just glows.”
I’m talking with another Idol when I see Adam approaching with the publicist. (She must feel badly about calling me Esther.) I wish the Idol well, and he moves on.
The publicist introduces me to Adam. (Like Barbra Streisand in Funny Girl, I’d like to say, “Hello, Gorgeous.” But I am trying to maintain some sense of professionalism.)
Adam sits down next to me at the table and shakes my hand. We are face-to-face, sitting about two feet apart. He immediately makes an intense kind of eye contact, which he maintains throughout the interview, making me feel like I’m the only person in the room.
I abandon my notes and, hoping my tape recorder is working, decide to ask my prepared questions from memory. I don’t want to look away; I am having an out-of-body experience.
Adam laughs often and totally engages in the conversation. He is warm, polite, candid, good-natured and quick-witted, with a great sense of humor.
Listen in on our conversation:
Jewish News: Hi Adam, nice to meet you.
Adam Lambert: How are you?
JN: How are you?
AL: I’m very good. Thank you.
JN: Well, Adam, welcome to “the Jewish mom” interview.
AL: Yaaayyy! My people. (Laughing and opening his arms wide.)
JN: Speaking of your people, there are some things your Jewish fans are curious about. Are both of your parents Jewish?
AL: No, my mom is.
JN: The Rolling Stone article said you dropped out of Hebrew school at age 5.
AL: I think I was a little bit older than 5. Probably like 9.
JN: How were you able to sing those songs in Hebrew that everyone’s listened to over the Internet?
AL: Oh. All phonetic. I don’t speak Hebrew. I wasn’t bar mitzvahed, unfortunately.
JN: So did your family celebrate the holidays?
AL: We did celebrate Chanukah as opposed to Christmas. So we stayed true to our roots that way. And we celebrated Passover occasionally. I mean I hate to say it, but we were kind of Jewish by form. Lightly Jewish. Diet Jews. More of a heritage thing.
(True to his heritage, and to the spirit of tikkun olam, Adam has requested that his fans donate to charity rather than buying him gifts. For more on his campaign to help support arts and music in high-need public schools, go to DonorsChoose.org/Adam Lambert.)
JN: I loved the version of Muse’s “Starlight” you sang on Good Morning America and can’t wait to hear you perform it at tonight’s concert.
AL: Thank you.
JN: The song’s lyric, “Black holes and revelations.”
AL: Isn’t that beautiful?
JN: What’s the biggest black hole you’re afraid of falling into?
AL: Obscurity. That would be a shame. That would be a real shame. If I have anything to say about it, it won’t happen no matter what goes on with my career.
JN: What’s the biggest revelation you’ve had?
AL: You know, at the risk of sounding a little bit cliché, that anything’s possible. I really think that, to a point, if you dream something and really visualize it, I think that it can come true. I really do believe that now.
(The AI publicist has her back to me. I surreptitiously ask Adam if he can autograph my copy of “Rolling Stone” with him on the cover. “Ye-ah,” he laughs, as he signs it with the Sharpie pen I’ve brought for the occasion. Don’t be looking for it on e-Bay!)
JN: I know your mom’s going to be working for you.
AL: She’s going to be helping me with administrative stuff. Yeah.
JN: What’s the best piece of unsolicited advice she’s given you lately?
AL: You know, it’s funny [but] my mom doesn’t give me a lot of advice these days. I think it’s kind of in the vein of an unspoken kind of advice. It’s more of a support thing. My dad’s really Mr. Advice.
JN: There’s always one parent who’s like that.
AL: Yeah, yeah yeah. My dad’s my teacher. Teacher-parent.
JN: You have fans that range from age 8 to 80. Do you have grandparents who are alive to see everything that’s happening to you?
AL: Unfortunately, both of my mom’s parents have passed away. My dad’s parents are both alive, and they’ve been blown away by everything that’s been going on. I saw my grandma at one of the California shows. I think she came to the second L.A. show, and she was so sweet. She really enjoyed that.
JN: How is your family dealing with all the peripheral fame that comes along with all of this?
AL: I think they’re doing a pretty good job. Obviously, it’s a big adjustment because there are people trying to get to me through them sometimes, and it’s not something that anybody’s ever prepared to deal with, I don’t think. It’s interesting (laughs) … pretty interesting.
JN: November should be an exciting month for you. Your album is due to be released, and you’ve recorded a song for the film 2012 that will be in theaters about the same time.
AL: Yes, and it’s a really beautiful song. Very inspirational, and the production is gorgeous, very like a great classic rock ballad — very unlike the material that’s going to be on the album actually. The album’s going to be more modern electronic rock-pop, and [the 2012 track] is a more traditional, old school, heartfelt ballad, a little bit more like some of the stuff I did on Idol. The album is going to take what I did on Idol as a reference, and I’m going to launch it into today.
JN: With your album coming out, you’ll have to promote it. Would you like to host Saturday Night Live?
AL: Oh, my God. That would be amazing. That would be so much fun. That would be great. It would be very, very cool.
JN: When you go on the road in support of the album, would you like to tour to Israel?
AL: Yeah. I would love to. I want to go everywhere!
(The publicist puts her finger up for one last question, and I start to play a sort of “Jewish geography.” I ask Adam if he knows a certain family in San Diego, where he grew up.)
AL: Yeah (he says, with a look of surprise). How do you know them?
JN: I don’t. My next-door neighbor asked me to mention it. Her best friend in San Diego has a best friend in San Diego, who is the mom in the family.
AL: Well, her daughter Danielle is my best friend. And [Danielle] was sitting in the audience with my family during the [AI] shows. She’s my best friend in the world!
JN: Six degrees of separation.
AL: There you go! Nice meeting you! A pleasure. Have a good one. Have fun tonight!
Adam Lambert’s debut solo album will be released on November 24.