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Thursday, February 19, 2009

Danny Gokey: "I Don't Want This Story"

Poor Danny Gokey. It was obvious from the first words he spoke to the listening reporters today that he was tired—tired of answering the same questions.

And why wouldn’t he be since most of the questions were about the wife he lost just seven months ago. And what some see as the producers’ over use of his story. And the backlash that is starting to build against him from people who feel he is using his story to gain sympathy votes.

In fact, just this morning,’s Michael Slezak fueled that backlash by accusing Danny’s friends of using the photo of Danny and his wife as a vote-gaining strategy. I don’t know if Slezak was on today’s call, but if he was, surely after hearing Danny’s tired and pained voice he feels bad now.

Seriously, it was all I could do to keep from taking my phone off mute, screaming, “Danny, I love you. I’m so sorry we’re doing this to you” and then bursting into tears.

Here are the highlights of Danny’s interview…

On being the early fan favorite: “I’m honored…I think very highly of everyone who supports me…people that I have never met…I hope I can keep them [throughout the competition].”

On contestants getting eliminated: “It’s not fun to see people go home.” Danny said he used to laugh at contestants getting all emotional saying goodbye in previous seasons, because it’s a competition. But he said, “Living it out, it’s a whole different story…You really connect…It’s their dreams. You want to see them succeed.”

On Jamar getting eliminated in Hollywood: “I was mad. I expected him to go through. I was so confident that he showed his ability…It’s not the end of the road for him. He has a bright future.”

Then he got the first question about his wife, and I have to say he handled it beautifully: “It’s only been seven months. This is who I am…I get asked about it all the time. Everybody wants to hear about it…You guys are asking about it…I don’t want this story…It’s shaping my life…It’s causing hope for a lot of people, which is causing hope for me…I didn’t want to live after she passed…I apologize to everyone if they feel [the story’s] been shoved down in their face.”

A reporter wanted to know if Danny was wearing different glasses last night and he said he was. He has another two pair he wants to wear but they haven’t been approved by the show.

On the Top 36 Process: “That makes it so gut-wrenching. Some amazing talent is being sent home…It’s almost unfair…It’s so hard to explain…

Then the question we were all waiting for from that same reporter—Who from Group #1 deserves to make the Wild Card round?: “I think they all do…I’m so sad to see them go…”

Then there was the obligatory Tatiana question, since he was paired with her last night. “[With Tatiana] you expect the unexpected…She really is a great person. She wants it so bad. At times that can maybe hurt her.” Danny said that even though he looked confident, he was a wreck and he hopes he didn’t look overconfident to viewers. “I hope it didn’t come off that way to the voters…I was preparing myself to go home…With this show anything’s possible…Tatiana was the surprise element…I wanted to go out gracefully.” When another reporter asked him later if he thought he was done when he was standing with Tatiana, he quickly responded, “I did. I really did…I thought if this is it, I am going to go out gracefully…In this competition, you can never be too confident…I prepared myself. Thank God I didn’t get sent home.”

A reporter asked whether it’s hard not having Jamar in the competition now. “At this point in the game, it’s easier now…I’m more emotionally stable…I’m so thankful [Jamar} was in Hollywood…Hollywood was very tough for me. I was miserable…I let go of some things I was gripping so deeply…hurtful emotions tying me down…the pressure the show puts on you.”

With the door reopened, another reporter asked if Danny had any kind of memento of his wife with him and he said he doesn’t. “She’s in my heart. I don’t hang on to charms or anything like that…She’s so deeply ingrained in my heart and mind.”

Several times Danny mentioned that he’d like to lighten up. “It’s kind of hard to relax. I want to relax…I do have a mission…In the top 36, I think I got my message across. Now I want to lighten up and enjoy the ride…I’ve still mapped out in my mind what I want to do.”

Danny said his pastor cried on the phone when he talked to him after last night’s show. “He was there for the entire process. He saw how much it devastated me.” Danny said the transformation from the lowest low to the highest high “is emotional…He’s so happy for me. He’s a big part of who I am.”

Can he improve?: “I know I can improve. I want to clean up my vocals…I like taking risks. I don’t like to just be in the safe box.”

Would Danny want to be a Christian artist?: “I don’t know yet…Mainstream music is where I want to be. I could have a good effect on it…I can be a Christian that sings mainstream music.”

So what would his wife think?: “My wife would be buying clothes and trying to get herself all cute [for the show]…She was spunky with a little attitude…She’d be so happy.”

Then finally, the big question. What about all of the attention he’s been getting from the show? And again, his response was beautiful: “I do feel like I was highlighted. No way around it. I didn’t do anything [to get it]…but I’m grateful they would do that. Not everyone’s going to like me…It’s a bummer when people are real mad about it. I had nothing to do with it.”

When the moderator asked Alexis and Michael for closing comments, they jumped all over the chance. But when she asked Danny, he paused for a moment and then quietly said, “No, I don’t.”

After a long day of interviews, it was obvious he was ready to stop talking.

Unfortunately for Danny, “Idol” is a double-edged sword. He’s using it to help him through his pain, but because of “Idol” he has to keep reliving the pain.

And for those of you who think the producers are shoving his story down our throats, honestly, they can’t help themselves. This is the first time that I can think of that “Idol” has found a contestant with a great story that also has a great voice. How can they not spotlight him? And as he said, it’s not his fault.

He’s just trying to make the most of it…

Photo Credit: Frank Miceletta/FOX