Enter Reggie Benjamin, Indian-American pop hero extraodinaire. I first had the misfortune of hearing him at some tsunami relief benefit concert in LA in 2005, and my life hasn't been the same since. Somehow in a lineup that included Karsh Kale and Nitin Sawnhey, Reggie was the show's grand finale. He was awful. Incidentally he looked like a cross between Michael Jackson and Alien. Okay okay that's a bit of a low blow, but unfortunately that's the best part about him. Although he allegedly had "a hit song in Europe" he would bring shame upon any wedding band.
Sometimes life mimics bad reality TV. Sometimes things are so awful that you just want to see more of it. It's like watching little children fall in airports. It's disturbingly enjoyable. Although this may be sacreligious to say, "Saved By The Bell" may be placed in the same category of the "it's so bad it's so good" phenomenon. My interest in Reggie perked up when I saw an article about him in the reliable India Abroad which gushed over the newest (and only) Indian youth sensation who was set to perform at the Grammy's!....errr...jigga what?
Lo and behold somewhere between U2 and Coldplay's performance, Reggie was mysteriously missing. Maybe CBS censors had edited him out. Where could he be. He couldn't have been lying could he? Hmmmmmm. After a good tip off I decided to investigate. For those of you still reading, this is where it gets good. Your reward for flamboyantly showing off your literacy skills are about to come to fruition.
If you goto Reggie's website ("the man of inspired expression") it portrays our hero as being not only a superstar in the making (which honestly any good public relations effort should do) but a patron saint. More striking is the fact that he actually seems to be making inroads. He gotten letter from Jesse Jackson saying "how proud he is of an Indian making it," he was named the sexiest Indian alive according to some magazine, and he has his own charitable foundation for India. Quiiiite a resume. Quiiite. Surely that whole Grammy lie was the exception, right?
Let's go to the fact sheet:
- The Jesse Jackson named is not the Reverend Jesse Jackson but rather some random dude in Illinois (well he's still a Congressmen, but who isn't these days?)
- While I don't usually rank the sexiest Indian males alive, I'm pretty sure if I did it would not be Reggie (Abhishek Bachchan has him beat hands down). How could any magazine, in this case the South Asian-centric "BiBi" magazine, think that? Well as it turns out they did. (technically he's only one of 6 sexiest Indians, he's not the sexiest one) I'll say it right now, if this magazine is legit I'm ashamed to be an Indian. For the record in Bibi's top 6 rankings, one of the guys is only half Indian. WTF? There are 1 billion Indians in the world. More than 500 million of them are males. Are there really so few sexy Indian males that we have to resort to people who aren't fully Indian? Although to be fair, after some cursory observations in Bombay and Delhi, that may be true. Do we really have so few qualified people that a non-Indian can be considered a real challenge to be Indian Prime Minister? Okay so maybe that's true too...
- Okay, on to the charitable foundation. I know some of you may think I'm stretching this hatred a bit too far, but seriously this is where it gets ridiculous. According to his website, Reggie's foundation "Hands 2 India Foundation was created to support and nurture America's 1st Amendment rights in India." Say what? Newflash! How can you promote Constitutional rights in a different country? Hell England doesn't have those rights, we should work on them first. You could even argue that we have to work hard to preserve those rights in America, and we're the ones who are supposed to have them. The site goes on to say "grants and awards are given to honor individuals in India whose actions have made signicant contributions" to this goal. Um, okay. This all just begs the question, who exactly has been recognized by such a noble foundation? The answer: Two people. The first, Playboy's very own Hugh Hefner. You've gotta be kidding me. When I think desi, I think Hugh. WTF. Reading between the lines Hugh's award only really came because Hugh allowed Reggie to film a video at his mansion. (this is what our parents meant by saying there's only low quality stuff in Playboy) You scratch my back I'll scratch yours. Okay, so maybe that's understandable...but who got the second award? Hmmm, I'll give you a hint, it's Reggie! Yes it's true, Reggie gave himself an award for being "The First Indian Pop Artist." I can't make this stuff. Sorry Bombay Vikings, Lucky Ali, Asha Bhosle, Lata, Kishore Kumar, or even Sonu Nigam (Nigam what?) As Bad Religion said, sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.
I heckled him at the tsunami charity event along with some others and I'll do it again. After watching his epic three song set I was left wondering, hadn't the millions of people affected by the 2005 tsunami already endured enough pain?