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“Adam Lambert was never banned from the show,” says American Music Awards executive producer Larry Klein emphatically while eyeing a chair on the aisle of row two, audience left (see photo). That’s where the American Idol runner-up will be seated on Sunday night, just behind Heidi Klum. Lambert will also be presenting an award, marking his first return to the ABC show where he sparked a wave of controversy.
To recap: it was November 2009, five months after Lambert closed out Idol with a bang, but without the title. His debut album For Your Entertainment, was about to come out and in front of a TV audience of 14 million, the San Diego native was to perform the title track.
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As Lambert explained immediately after the show, the excitement of the moment got the best of him, and while the performance was already racy (featuring guys on leashes and at least one female dancer faking fellatio), he took it up to 11 by kissing his male bass player, Tommy Joe Ratliff, on the lips. What came next was a flood of criticism, not so much as a result of his actions onstage, but because it was during primetime and children were tuning in. For his part, Lambert made sure to point out a double-standard when it comes to televised lip locks of the same sex (Madonna, Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera, anyone?).
“That thing got so out of control and was just so out of left field,” recalls Klein, who defends Lambert’s performance, but reasons that it was a spur-of-the-moment reaction rather than a premeditated jaw-dropper (the network received around 1500 complaints from parents). “We rehearsed it, and what we rehearsed was not what we saw on the air that night,” he continues. “The kiss wasn’t in the script. Did Adam rehearse it on his own and not tell us? I have no idea.”
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Klein says the notion that Lambert would be banned from the network over a performance is somewhat absurd. “We laugh about it to this day,” he insists, but in recounting the events of that fateful night, he does acknowledge the camera’s quick cutaway — facilitated by the broadcast’s seven-second delay no doubt. “We didn’t censor,” says Klein. “The kiss went on and that’s all there is to it.”
As for the future, Klein very much looks forward to another Lambert performance, but not this year. “Adam Lambert is a friend of ours, he’s talented and I like everything about him,” says Klein, “It’s like [AMAs creator] Dick Clark always used to say: ‘I don’t care what people do on stage because a stage is for their performance. I care about how people act offstage.’ Adam was performing on a stage. Did he get carried away? Absolutely. Was he regrettful afterwards? Of course he was, but it’s over. ABC never banned him and Dick Clark Productions never would. We’d absolutely have him back.”
That opportunity will come soon enough. On Friday, Lambert tweeted that his long anticipated second album will be titled Trespassing and is slated for release in Spring 2012. He also revealed that a song of the same name appears on the album and was co-written by Pharrell Williams.
The 39th annual American Music Awards air Sunday at 8 p.m. EST on ABC. Watch Lambert’s 2009 AMAs performance below:
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