with a story.
I ever tell you about the time I visited Britney Spears' dad?"
This was Chris Rose, an entertainment writer for the newspaper in
Louisiana where I interned last summer.
used to have a sign up there that said 'Britney Spears: the Pride
of Louisiana,' until somebody decided to spray paint the 'P' out of
the billboard," Rose said.
since taken that sign down, but I became enamored with the idea of
checking out the childhood town of one of America's most infamous
queen is a born-and-bred Louisianan, from a small dairy town of 2,600
on the border near Mississippi called Kentwood.
for three hours to see the place for myself. I ended up staying for
downtown was completely gutted except for a lone barbershop and a
recently-closed furniture store with a proud sign proclaiming Britney
as their own.
is this strange disconnect between the fantasy image of the place
of Britney's youth and the reality of Kentwood. The reality is that
of a depressing, stagnant town, gutted of industry and history, except
that of the overbearing glow of Britney, glaring past everything in
of that bright sunbeam of Britney, I found the real people of the
was the curator of the Kentwood historical and cultural museum, who
dutifully chatted with me about Kentwood's proud past.
she expressed a quiet dismay for the museum's war heritage display,
which was now being overrun by the three rooms of Britney Spears memorabilia,
including a full-scale reproduction of her childhood bedroom.
a man who had never left the area around Kentwood in all his life,
partly because he spent half of it in prison. He now works hard to
raise a family and some dogs in his trailer home beside the road,
a confederate flag hanging in his window.
Spears' dad, who had the week before threatened a batch of teenage
Britney fans with a gun, telling them to get off his property.
adoring fans of hers from Wyoming, Florida and Arkansas, at the end
of their thousand-mile pilgrimages to their own personal Mecca.
is a lot like the town I come from. It's small. It's a quiet, closed
community. This is a place where the people who leave never come back.
Those that don't, never go anywhere else.
of the American myth, to come from humble beginnings and then go on
to become something greater. It's a story many wish to live themselves.
last day in Kentwood, I stopped by a gas station near the local water
bottling plant. At the gas station, sitting on the shelf, was a makeshift
compact disc cover of another young blonde, in a pose not unlike Britney
Spears in her earlier albums.
was Taylor Horn, and she too was a singer, being groomed to be the
next big thing to come out of the town.
she's going to be the next Britney Spears," I remember the museum
curator telling me.
it continues in America.