The Full Story: Blurring the line between laughing at and laughing with is the bread and butter of reality television, and it's hard to find a better example than "General" Larry Platt. In mid-January, the final segment of the Atlanta-audition episode of "American Idol" belonged to Platt, who performed his original composition, the cringingly endearing "Pants on the Ground." It combined the earnestness of an older man (Platt is 63) insulting youth culture with outsider-artist marionette dancing and atonal vocals. With his target -- the low-hanging style of how some boys wear their jeans, exposing much of their underwear -- in mind, he rapped, "Call yourself a cool cat / Lookin' like a fool with your pants on the ground." Though Platt exceeded the "American Idol" age restrictions by about 35 years, the judges' ensuing mockery was tinged with kindness. As Simon Cowell told Platt: "I have a horrible feeling that song could be a hit."
What's Happened Since? Video of Platt's performance instantly went viral. Only a few days later, USA Today reported that Platt was not just an old man with a silly song but had been on the forefront of the civil rights movement in the early '60s and was given the title "general" by the Rev. Hosea Williams for his efforts. This, combined with the fact that Platt's song was only slightly worse than any other song in the top 40, elongated his 15 minutes. He appeared on "The View" to perform and be interviewed, and he recorded a studio version. Released a few weeks later, the song sold 150,000 digital copies and made it to No. 46 on the Billboard Hot 100. Video of his "American Idol" appearance has been viewed on YouTube more than 7.3 million times.
In His Own Words: Platt has an attitude that seems not so much shameless as immune to shame. His message has been somewhat unfocused, beyond pulling one's pants up, but he maintains his sense of the way things ought to be. He likes talking to government officials about the downtrodden, wants to reform urban youth culture, and concluded an interview with local Atlanta news by saying, "Be a man. Don't be walking around showing yourself to the world! I don't think that's right!"
Video: Best Larry Platt 'Pants on the Ground' Remixes
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