Saturday, May 5, 2007

Stacey: Idol Tour or Navy Duty?

One of the saving graces of being eliminated From Idol's Top 10 is that you still get to participate in the Idols Live Tour over the summer. But that might not be the case for Navy man Phil Stacey, reports Reality TV World.

"My primary responsibility is to the United States Navy.," Stacey said. "The possibility exists that they'll need me for a mission, and if that's the case, I'm committed to following through with my commitment to the Navy," during his exit interview conference call with the press yesterday. "So far, I can say that they've been 100% flexible with me, with American Idol ... They've been gems and a huge support base for me. I give the Navy all the props in the world just even for letting me do what I've done to this point.

"I'm not really worried about [missing the tour] at this point," added Stacey. "But I will say, yeah, it would break my heart not being able to go on the tour. At the same time, I've got a duty and most importantly have to fulfill my responsibility to the Navy first and foremost.

"As a Navy guy, I'd like to go out and do something patriotic, like "God Bless the U.S.A.," he said. "Something to represent the Navy and just kind of be a unifying factor for Americans. ... "My job right now -- it's kind of weird -- I'm a singer for the Navy, and a lot of what I do is going to high schools and everything," he said. "There's been a little bit of concern expressed for the security of those concerts at this point. You know what I mean? It depends on how capable I am of completing my task. So we'll see how it works out. I'd love to be able to continue to do that.

"I can't say a single bad thing about my time in the Navy. I've absolutely loved every minute of it. But I didn't enlist with the idea of a career in mind. It was to do my duty and be a part of what was happening in the 'War on Terror,' " explained Stacey. "I was going to do the first term and then move on. Especially with this kind of exposure, to be honest with you, I think I could do a lot more from my perspective if I went out and put out and released music and everything. At this point, I don't have any plans of getting out early. I want to fulfill my duties to the Navy.

"I got a lot of support from my Navy buddies. Up front, they made fun of me because I went to the auditions to begin with. They joked about how I was wasting my time and everything. Of course at the same time, they said they believed in me and everything," said Stacey. "When I got on the show, there was just nothing but every single week they would text me little messages like, 'Phil you're my Idol,' you know, that kind of stuff. It was really sweet actually. Really nice of them."

Then Stacey had to duck out of the conference call to take a call from hid commanding officer. On returning he said, "I apologize for my absence. My commanding officer just gave me an emergency phone call. I had to skip out for a few minutes. The Navy is giving me legal clearance to participate in this week's media events," explained Stacey, which brought laughter from Richardson, who commented, "Yay Phil!" "When you belong to the United States Government you kind of wait to really participate until you get official clearance," said Stacey.

And the Los Angeles Times asked,"Now that 'American Idol' voters have kicked Navy sailor Phil Stacey off the singing competition, is the Pentagon considering sending him to Iraq?"

Navy and Pentagon officials weren't saying Thursday what was next for Stacey, an active-duty petty officer 3rd class and a vocalist with the Navy Band Southeast in Jacksonville, Fla. During the competition, Stacey was temporarily assigned to the Los Angeles recruiting district.

Military officials were clearly pleased they had a certifiable star on active duty. Navy spokesmen said the service was discussing with Stacey his next assignment, and whether he would join the other finalists on their tour this summer.

Stacey could be allowed to participate in the tour as part of a recruiting assignment; the Navy could force him to use personal leave; or he could be released from his military obligation.

There is precedent for the Navy releasing sailors from active-duty obligations. Naval Academy graduate David Robinson was allowed to enter the Reserves in order to play pro basketball with the San Antonio Spurs. "The Admiral," as he became known (though he didn't reach that rank), helped lead the team to two NBA championships.

But the Navy may have more of an interest in hanging on to Stacey. The New Republic magazine reported last month that the USO had struggled this year to recruit celebrities to entertain U.S. troops in Iraq. The USO has blamed transportation difficulties for a declining number of tours, but the magazine suggested that the decline might be tied to the increasing unpopularity of the war.

Although the USO may have few stars willing to go to Iraq, with Stacey the military has a singing star it can order to perform anywhere.

Stacey enlisted in October 2003 and is committed to serve until fall 2008. "I expect when the band deploys, he will go with them," said one military officer in the Pentagon.

Bill Dougherty, a Navy spokesman in Jacksonville, said the Navy Band Southeast did not typically deploy overseas. According to Dougherty, the band mainly plays in high schools to help with recruiting. Stacey is also the lead singer of Pride, the Navy's rock band.

But Stacey could be reassigned or be asked to volunteer for a musical tour in Iraq or Afghanistan or on the two naval carrier groups stationed in the Persian Gulf. "Maybe he will bring the rest of the 'Idol' finalists with him," said the military officer.

Listening to the conversation, another officer quipped: "I would rather have Sanjaya deploy." Sanjaya Malakar was a young "Idol" contestant whose singing talent has been widely ridiculed but who made it far into the competition based on the devotion of preteen fans and Howard Stern listeners.

For their part, Navy officials sounded enthusiastic about letting Stacey tour with "Idol" finalists but reluctant to let go of their new star. "We view this as something tremendously valuable for the Navy in terms of public affairs and recruiting," said spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Jeff Davis. "He was showing off skills he developed in the Navy…. He has been an excellent ambassador for the Navy."

According to the Navy Times, Stacey’s immediate future is unclear. The Navy said in March that he was given temporary assigned duty in Los Angeles to be on "Idol," but there was no indication this week whether he would stay there, return to his Navy Band gig in Jacksonville or try something else.

The sailor’s older brother, Keith, told the Florida Times-Union newspaper that he thought Phil’s Navy hitch might be up in October.

Wichita Eagle columnist Denise Neil reported on March 25 that Stacey aspired to move to Memphis with his wife, Kendra, and pursue a recording career. Neil quoted Kendra’s best friend, Miranda Rice, who has been visiting the Staceys in Los Angeles. “Idol” judge Randy Jackson told Stacey several times on “American Idol” he thought the sailor could sell records as a country singer.


Since you've been away from your family for so long, did part of you actually want to leave?

I wanted to win! ... Inevitably, the bubble could have burst for me had I stayed any longer, but I'm excited about spending more time with my family. I miss my girls really bad.

Were you ever surprised by the judges' reactions?

My big surprise came during country week. I'm definitely more in my comfort zone in country music, but I'd grown so accustomed to getting very critical feedback, so when Randy was like, "Dude! You were good this week!" I was like, "Really? Sweet!"

Who do you think the front-runner is now?

I think that the four people that are left have individual strengths that set them each apart. I think Blake [Lewis] is most likely the most original contestant ever on "American Idol." He just blew it out this week with Bon Jovi; he was incredible. Melinda [Doolittle] is possibly the greatest singer I've ever heard on the show. LaKisha [Jones] sings with so much passion that it's hard to listen to [her] and not get chills. And Jordin [Sparks] has got a range that lasts for days, and her upper notes just have so much power behind them. Honestly, I think it's anybody's ballgame at this point. I'm going to be really looking forward to how it goes from here on out.

What songs would you like to sing on tour?

The "Idol Gives Back" [show] has really changed my life, and I think that one thing that I want to do is be a positive influence on people and a role model of sorts.

What was the best decision you made on the show?

To go into it with a positive outlook ... I think that a lot of people started liking me more as a person when they saw that I was truly grateful to be there. Because, you know, being in the bottom three several weeks in a row could be considered hard on a person, but my outlook was that 103,000 people auditioned for this and I was so blessed to be there.

Why does the bald look work for you?

It was unique. It wasn't something that anybody else had this particular season. If I was on last year and it was between me and Chris Daughtry being the bald guy, I don't know that it would've gone so well for me.

You couldn't convince Blake or Chris to do it?

Well, you know, I did convince Blake. That whole time he's been wearing a wig, but you didn't hear that from me.

Your wife was always in the audience supporting you. Did she get a lot of support from other Navy wives and your fans?

She's gotten some e-mails on MySpace and some of the blogs have been very positive. I'm not deployed right now and I'm not doing something in a dangerous zone, but in a way, she represented those who stood as a support for [the military]. I thought it was very ironic that during my video montage — they've played "Home" by Chris Daughtry for every single person, except for me they played [Carrie Underwood's version of the Pretenders'] "I'll Stand by You." All I could think of was my wife and how she stood by me and has been exactly what the song says.

You got a lot of praise for your country-week performance. Is that the genre you want to pursue a career in?

I'm grateful that you can ask that question, because it means that I've shown that I'm an eclectic artist. But definitely the music that I write is country music and gospel music. I don't know which path God will put me on, but I'll definitely follow the doors that are open for me.

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