Reality Rocks - Archive

General Larry Platt: A Real American Idol

Lyndsey Parker
Reality Rocks

This week on American Idol, 62-year-old novelty rapper General Larry Platt upstaged all the "real" singers on the Atlanta auditions episode with his instantly viral hit, "Pants On The Ground." But Platt is not just some William Hungian TV clown angling for 15 minutes of YouTube fame. His real legacy in fact extends all the way back to the '60s, when he was a teenage crusader for the Civil Rights Movement in Georgia.

That's right: General Larry Platt isn't just a wannabe American Idol, he's a bona fide American hero. The man was even honored with his own holiday in Atlanta, Larry Platt Day, on September 4, 2001, for his "priceless and immeasurable contributions to society" and "his great energy and commitment to equality and the protection of the innocent and for his outstanding service to the Atlanta community and the citizens of Georgia."

On that fateful day, the Georgia General Assembly declared: "For the past 40 years, Larry Platt has given of himself in service to the people of the City of Atlanta, the State of Georgia, and the nation...Larry Platt merits the highest recognition for his many valuable contributions to the Civil Rights Movement and his dedication to the struggle for equality and human rights."

Platt was actually a student of Martin Luther King Jr. back in the day, which makes the timing of his sudden fame quite interesting, given that next Monday is MLK Day. In the early '60s when he was only 16 (see the 16-year-old Platt in the photograph here; he's the one on the far left), he worked with activist groups like the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee and Southern Christian Leadership Conference to fight racial segregation in the South. He was even beaten while participating in the infamous "Bloody Sunday" protest march from Selma to Montgomery in Alabama.

During that time, according to an article in USA Today about the unlikely "overnight celebrity," Platt actually got his "General" nickname from prominent civil rights leader Reverend Hosea Williams, who was impressed by his valiant efforts. The General remains a community activist to this day, working with the United Youth Adult Conference (a volunteer organization set up to find missing children in the Atlanta area) and fighting public foreclosures.  

Somewhat sadly, General Larry Platt may now be forever better known as the "Pants On The Ground Guy," rather than for his years of activism. But if his American Idol fame draws more public attention to his heroic past and what he's stood for all his life, then in way his audition will be far more important and impactful than the one by whoever ends up winning American Idol this year.

Plus, admit it: "Pants On The Ground" is a darn good song. Really, every day should be Larry Platt Day.

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