8:00am PT by Rob Tannenbaum
Louisiana Promoter Cheats Fans by Hiring R. Kelly 'Imposter'? The Real R. Kelly Responds
A recent appearance by R. Kelly in Monroe, La., ended in angry accusations that Kelly and the promoter cheated fans by hiring an impersonator to perform. But R. Kelly and promoter Cedric Johnson, who says he's received death threats since the event, both tell The Hollywood Reporter there was no impersonator.
Ads for the Oct. 26 event at the Monroe Civic Center, which was attended by 2,200 people, said, "Ced's All Black Affair Birthday Extravaganza Presents: R. Kelly 'The Black Panties Promo Party.' " Video taken on the 26th and posted to YouTube shows a brief performance by a singer billed as R. Kelly, with snippets of three songs and a poem, lasting about 10 minutes. Most tickets were priced at $35 to $85, with VIP tickets at $150. After the event, fans began to inundate Johnson's Facebook page with complaints, threats, and a conspiracy theory, based largely on the fact that "R. Kelly" was not as dapper as R. Kelly usually is. "THAT WAS NOT R. KELLY," Sophia Magee wrote. Courtney Lawrence added, "That wasn't even R. Kelly who performed…instead it was an R. Kelly imposter."
"That was actually me," Kelly tells THR. He says he was hired to "make an appearance and host a party" in Monroe, but people who bought tickets expected to see a full concert. "So I come off looking like a damn jerk, while [other] people make money."
"That was R. Kelly," promoter Cedric Johnson confirmed when THR contacted him. The 33-year-old promoter also says people should have known not to expect a concert because he never used the word "concert" in ads for the event. "They expected a full concert, but I didn't pay R. Kelly to do a full concert. He did exactly what he was paid for. It was a great event. It's just that when R. Kelly came up, and he didn't stay on the stage long, everybody hated it." (Johnson would not reveal the fee he paid to Kelly, except to say it was "over $40,000.")
The denials of Kelly and Johnson, both of whom would have profited from presenting an imposter in Kelly's place, likely won't satisfy conspiracy theorists. But separately, Todd Mastry, the executive director of the Landers Center in Southaven, Miss., where Kelly performed on Oct. 27, confirmed that the singer's touring schedule showed he was in Monroe, La., on the 26th.
On Facebook, prior to the event, Johnson or someone from his company replied to the question "is this a party or will r kelly be performing?" by writing, "ITS A PARTY AND HE WILL PERFORM OLD AND NEW SONGS THE ONLY THING IS HE WONT HAVE A LIVE BAND WITH HIM THAT'S ALL YOU WILL SURELY ENJOY YOURSELF."
After the event, a few people defended Johnson on Facebook. "The flyer clearly stated black panties promo party not ‘concert.' So why are ppl getting upset b/c there was no concert?" LaShanda May wrote.
But Johnson says he's received death threats via Facebook and phone calls and has had to hire two bodyguards to protect him. "My name is slandered everywhere due to this event," he said.
Still, his silence since the event certainly hasn't helped his situation. "A STATEMENT WILL BE GIVEN ON TODAY AS TO WHAT ACCUTALLY (sic) HAPPENED AT THE PARTY," his company wrote on the Facebook event page on Oct. 28, with no follow-up since then.
While fans blame Johnson for not making it clear that R. Kelly would not be performing a full concert, and Johnson says any confusion was the fans' own fault, Kelly is somewhere in the middle: "I can't say who misled anybody. I know they were misled, though, if they thought I was gonna be performing [a concert]. I don't know who misled or told the people that. But I know these people don't just come out to a show and spend that kind of money [to see] an appearance."
Cedric Johnson says he'll continue to promote events in Louisiana, and won't be giving any refunds. "For what reason? I never led anybody wrong. I gave the people exactly what I said."