They started throwing the bras in Tacoma. That was the second night of the American Idols Live Tour. More flew in San Diego, Kansas City, and D.C. There were lacy, flowery bras and perky, polka-dotted bras, and the one that's currently dangling directly over Adam Lambert's head—a spongy E–cup on which some ardent fan has scrawled the initials A.L. over each giant boob. As a friendly prank, crew members have strung the bras up in the bowels beneath the stage at the Allstate Arena in Rosemont, Illinois, just outside Chicago, among an abundance of other offerings—some of them X–rated. The groupies also hurled riding crops, feather boas, handcuffs, panties; it looks a little bit like a grenade went off in Frederick's of Hollywood. "I've heard about Tom Jones and panties," says Lambert, who has come down to survey the haul. "But me and panties, that's just a little bit freaky." He points to a jockstrap on which someone has written, in sequins, JOCKS LOVE ADAM. "Oh," he says wryly. "They do?"
To the showman in Lambert, a six–foot–one Pan of a man with deep–set blue eyes and a shock of jet–black–and–blue emo–style hair, it's all part of the spectacle. "A lot of times I'll pick up a bra and play with it during a song," he says. "It's a way to connect. It's like, 'I threw my bra up onstage and you're spinning it around. Cool. Yay.'"
Still, he says, "I think it's weird that I'm having this effect on women. It's flattering. I've never had underwear thrown at me before. Clearly there's something significant about it, because there aren't a lot of openly gay men in the entertainment industry."
It's a testament to the sheer mainstream power of American Idol that a gay man with an unabashed affection for eyeliner and nail polish has emerged from this year's competition as a new American sex symbol. "I think it's beautiful," Lambert says. "That's the way it should be. It shouldn't matter what a person's sexual preference is—it doesn't change their appeal."
In the end, Americans of every persuasion proved defenseless against Lambert's vigorous pelvic exertions. "When I'm onstage," he says, "there's definitely a sexual energy that goes into it." Indeed, he gyrated his way through performances like Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love" with a libidinous abandon that's rarely seen on prime-time network television. Moral Majority types found his style scandalous, but Lambert offers no apologies.
"I have no problem telling people, 'You know what? I'm not your babysitter, and I'm not your church,'" he says. "They go, 'Jesus loves you, too.' One time I just blurted out, 'I'm Jewish, okay? I don't need another crucifix! This is not an appropriate gift for me!'" He laughs. "I know people are coming from a good place, but it can be offensive. Like, 'Thank you, I'm not Christian! I don't read that book.'"
Nor does he beg forgiveness for his outrageous costumes, which often look like cast–offs from a Vegas production of Mad Max. "There's a certain level of pageantry with Idol, and in order to work the show, you kind of have to feed into it," he says. Some say the 27–year–old even upstaged Kiss during their Idol visit, outshining them with his soaring rock–tenor vocals and Bowie–lite stage presence.