News

Sanjaya fever hits boiling point

By MARGO HORNER

The Mirror

City officials are suffering from the wrath of angry “American Idol” fans nationwide after declining to proclaim a “Sanjaya Malakar Day” honoring the Federal Way resident, who has made fame as a contestant on the famous TV talent show.

In Bothell, the hometown of fellow “Idol” contestant Blake Lewis, the city proclaimed April 11 “Blake Lewis Day,” noting that the singer and beat-boxer has reinvigorated community spirit as locals band together to support him.

In Federal Way, however, there is not as much Sanjaya spirit. There are no plans for a Sanjaya Malakar Day, city manager Neal Beets told KCPQ, the network that airs “American Idol.”

“Federal Way has more important things to deal with and unless a council member tried to push through a proclamation, then that ‘Idol’ wannabe should not expect a similar honor,” Beets said.

Since then, city offices have been swamped with phone calls and e-mails from across the country.

“We’ve been inundated with this thing,” said Natalie Rees in the city manager’s office. “It’s amazing to me.”

“There’s people on both sides of the issue,” she added.

Votefortheworst.com, a Web site devoted to keeping the worst and most entertaining contestants on “American Idol” for as long as possible, is rallying viewers to vote for Sanjaya. After Federal Way allegedly declined Sanjaya his day, the Web site encouraged folks to e-mail Mayor Mike Park and Deputy Mayor Jim Ferrell in protest.

Ferrell said he has received nearly 100 e-mails from across the country, many of them copies of a sarcastically-toned form letter.

Those who wrote — most of them from out of state — have the story wrong, Ferrell said. Federal Way has not refused to proclaim a Sanjaya Malakar Day. They simply haven’t discussed it, he said.

“I’m very open to considering it,” Ferrell said. “I’m obviously very proud of the Federal Way resident. He’s got a great personality and he’s a great entertainer.”

Ferrell said after hearing about the Federal Way resident’s success, he and his wife took a new interest in “American Idol” and sat down to watch their first episode last week. He said he was impressed with Sanjaya’s performance. Even before the onslaught of angry e-mails, Ferrell said he had considered proclaiming a day in Sanjaya’s honor.

“I’ve already started talking to my colleagues about it,” he said.

Council member Jeanne Burbidge said that it is unlikely Sanjaya will get his own day in Federal Way. She said that feedback from local citizens is not supportive of Sanjaya Malakar Day.

“We’ve had a couple of local e-mails discouraging us from doing anything,” she said.

She noted that Sanjaya lived in and attended high school in north Seattle for some time before moving to Federal Way a few years ago.

“It’s nice to give people recognition, but I’m not sure how much he identifies with the community,” Burbidge said, adding that she wishes Sanjaya the best of luck on “American Idol.”

Indeed, there doesn’t seem to be much local support for Sanjaya. Officials at the city and at Todd Beamer High School, where Sanjaya briefly attended, said they are unaware of any local fan groups.

“I have not heard of anything,” said Federal Way School District spokeswoman Diane Turner.

It is difficult to find anyone in Federal Way who even knows Sanjaya personally.

But either way, Ferrell said the teen from Federal Way embodies the city’s motto “It’s all within reach.”

“It just goes to show that if you’ve got talent and desire, then it is within reach,” Ferrell said. “I think it sends a great message and I wish him the best.”

Contact Margo Horner: mhorner@fedwaymirror.com or (253) 925-5565.

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