Adam Lambert, left, kissed a keyboardist as he performed during the closing… (Matt Sayles / Associated…)
Pop idol Adam Lambert kissed a man on national television on Sunday night. Now ABC has given Lambert the kiss-off, and CBS has embraced him.
Apparently responding to hundreds of viewer complaints following Lambert's racy performance during Sunday's "American Music Awards" telecast on ABC, the network canceled its plans for a Lambert-headlined concert that would have aired on ABC's "Good Morning America" program today.
The network reported on Monday that it had received about 1,500 complaints about Lambert's number, in which he kissed a male keyboard player and another dancer placed his face in Lambert's crotch during a performance of his song "For Your Entertainment" (the latter bit was edited out for the West Coast broadcast). During the song -- a lyrically innocuous ditty closer in spirit to bubble-gum than hip-hop or heavy metal -- Lambert was accompanied by writhing dancers in bondage attire.
"Given his controversial American Music Awards performance, we were concerned about airing a similar concert so early in the morning," ABC said in a statement.
Though Lambert rehearsed his "AMA" performance for days before Sunday's show, the singer later told CNN that the kiss had not been planned and had taken place "in the moment."
ABC initially characterized the outcry as merely a "moderate" response.
The openly gay singer, whose high-pitched, Freddie Mercury-like vocal stylings and charismatic stage persona first came to national prominence on "American Idol," said Tuesday in a radio interview with Ryan Seacrest that he respected the network's decision.
"They gotta do what they gotta do," Lambert said. "It's too bad, I think there were a lot of fans who were excited to come see me."
The controversy could be a boon for CBS' "The Early Show," which swooped in immediately after the "GMA" cancellation to schedule an exclusive interview and live performance with Lambert for today. Lambert will almost certainly draw more viewers than normal for the CBS morning program, which typically trails far behind "GMA" and NBC's "Today" in the ratings. Lambert also has been scheduled to perform on David Letterman's "Late Show" today, according to CBS, a gig booked weeks ago.
According to an Associated Press report, "ABC had seen Lambert in rehearsals and knew some of what he had planned, but not the extent. Top ABC News management made the decision to cancel Lambert, spokeswoman Cathie Levine said. She said there was no pressure from the parent Walt Disney Co."
Of course, erotic come-ons and provocative body language have been part of rock 'n' roll's rebel pose since its birth. So too have related expressions of moral outrage. Elvis Presley was depicted only from the waist up on "The Ed Sullivan Show" to avoid inflicting the King's suggestive pelvis twitching on Middle American audiences.
On the same variety program, the Rolling Stones were required to change the lyrics of "Let's Spend the Night Together" to "let's spend some time together." In later decades, broadcast standards loosened considerably.
One of the strongest objections to Sunday's broadcast came from the Parents Television Council, which denounced the show in a statement as "tasteless" and "vulgar," and has asked its members to express their displeasure to ABC, Dick Clark Productions and the show's advertisers.
In a phone interview, Melissa Henson, the organization's director of communications and public education, said her group's criticisms were aimed specifically at Sunday's performance, not at the singer or his song per se. It remains to be seen whether Lambert's upcoming performance on CBS will be similarly in-your-face, she said.
"We're not anti-Adam Lambert," Henson said. "It's unfortunate that he felt he needed to be sort of provocative to advance his career."
By noon Tuesday, the "Good Morning America" website had registered thousands of comments on ABC's decision.
"Kudos to Good Morning America for cancelling [sic] Adam Lambert's appearance," wrote stepmom89. "It is a shame that Adam resorts to such tasteless tactics when his talent is more than sufficient on his own. To be a celebrity one seems to have to cause some sort of controversy. "
Other commentators characterized ABC's decision as hypocritical, suggesting the network was applying different standards to the sexual posturing of male and female performers.
"Madonna, Janet Jackson, Lady GaGa have done some very explicit shows on prime tim [sic] and nobody complained . . . because they were girls," one poster fumed.
Lambert made a similar point when he spoke with The Times on Sunday night following the "American Music Awards" broadcast. "It's a shame," Lambert told The Times. "Female entertainers have been risqué for years. Honestly, there's a huge double standard."