For ‘Idol’ sensation, the show’s not over

Larry Platt’s popularity has exploded since his performance of “Pants on the Ground’’ hit YouTube and Twitter. Larry Platt’s popularity has exploded since his performance of “Pants on the Ground’’ hit YouTube and Twitter. (John Bazemore/Associated Press)
By Errin Haines
Associated Press / January 18, 2010

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ATLANTA - He won’t be the next American Idol, but the show’s hardly over for “General’’ Larry Platt.

The 63-year-old civil rights veteran has become an Internet sensation after performing his original song, “Pants on the Ground,’’ at an audition for the ninth season of “American Idol.’’ It wasn’t really singing or rapping, but it was performed with some gusto and even included a little break dancing for good measure.

Platt’s fan base exploded last week after his Wednesday night debut, as his audition hit YouTube and Twitter. Within hours, he had been clicked and tweeted into one of the Internet’s most popular topics. Jimmy Fallon reprised a version of the song on his show Thursday night, and Platt is scheduled for an appearance on ABC’s daytime talk show “The View’’ this week.

“I have a horrible feeling that song could be a hit,’’ said “Idol’’ judge Simon Cowell.

Surrounded by plaques recognizing his work in civil rights and photographs of Platt with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., congressman John Lewis, and others from that era at his home in East Atlanta last week, the e-celebrity seemed dazed by the attention. Platt - given the nickname “General’’ for his work during the civil rights era - said he hoped his message of personal responsibility doesn’t get lost in his popularity.

The lyrics of the song came to him one day after he spotted a young man holding a child, his pants hanging below his waist.

“After all this work I did with Dr. King . . . walking around with your pants on the ground?’’ Platt said. “They’re going to have to get them up. I’m sorry.’’

His show-stealing performance was the last of a round of auditions taped in Atlanta in August. Platt was allowed to perform even though the age cutoff for contestants was 28.

The spotlight on him, Contestant 103519 began belting out the now infamous verse: “Pants on the ground! Pants on the ground! Looking like a fool with your pants on the ground!’’

Shaking his head at the end of Platt’s song, Cowell offered: “I don’t think this is gonna be the last we hear about you. I have a feeling about you, Larry.’’

Platt - his black jeans securely fastened - proudly showed off black and white photographs that show him alongside civil rights icons documenting his social justice work as a dedicated foot soldier with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.

Platt is still an activist and can frequently be seen in downtown Atlanta holding signs protesting foreclosures, war, violence, racism, and “any wicked things that take place.’’

Platt said he’s hoping for the same fate as fellow wacky “Idol’’ contestant William Hung, whose rendition of Latin crooner Ricky Martin’s “She Bangs’’ gained him a cult following and a record deal, even though he didn’t make the TV show cut.

“He still made it, ain’t that right?’’ Platt said, smiling. “That’s what I’m going to do.’’