American Idol' or just plain idle?
Fans debate whether Josh ought to be on duty
March 31, 2003
BY JULIE HINDS
FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER
Last week, "American Idol" finalist Josh Gracin impressed viewers with his performance of a Garth Brooks song, "Ain't Goin' Down 'Til the Sun Comes Up." But what's gone down lately on the show's online message boards? A small skirmish over the stateside status of the singing Marine from Westland.
"Josh should leave," griped an "Idol" fan who wanted him off the show because other Marines are fighting in Iraq.
"The PR he is providing is priceless," countered another. "Get off his back."
A few fans argued Josh should be over there fighting. The majority defended him, saying U.S. troops aren't allowed to choose when or if they go overseas.
And a wave of pro-Josh messages slammed the current issue of LA Weekly, where columnist Nikki Finke advised Josh to "suck it up and ship out on his own," especially since some members of his unit have been deployed to Kuwait.
According to a military spokesperson, however, the flap is much ado about nothing.
Josh's status is the same as it's always been, says Capt. Shawn Haney of the Marine Corps liaison office for movies and television. Namely, he hasn't received any deployment orders, but if he does, he'll answer the call.
"He knows it, the show knows it, everyone knows it," says Haney, who's acting as a liaison to "American Idol."
For the moment, Josh is living with the show's eight other finalists in a large secluded house with reporters kept away. Normally, he's stationed at California's Camp Pendleton.
Although some Marines from Josh's unit, the huge 1st Force Service Support Group, have been sent to the Persian Gulf, his particular maintenance section hasn't been given those orders.
"A lot of people don't understand Lance Cpl. Gracin doesn't get to decide when he deploys," says Haney.
There's always a chance Josh could be sent overseas. If that happens, "Idol" producers have promised he can return as an automatic finalist next season.
One of Josh's biggest fans describes the current controversy as "kind of silly."
Cindy Park, 16, of Havelock, N.C., runs a Web site, www.JoshGracin.com
>. She bought the domain name for $9 after seeing him on "American Idol" and has spent about $200 of her own money to keep the site running.
Park, whose father is a Marine sergeant, says visitors to the site have credited Josh with improving their attitude about the military.
"I know it's convinced some teenage guys to enlist," she says.
Recently, she got a phone call from her TV idol.
"It was really exciting," she says. "I was acting like a teenybopper."
Contact JULIE HINDS at 313-222-6427 or firstname.lastname@example.org