By J. Freedom du Lac
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, November 12, 2006
That Kevin Federline sure is a hoot. Three days removed from the very public collapse of his marriage to Britney Spears, Federline touches down in Washington, theoretically to tout his new CD, "Playing With Fire," and he winds up at the downtown nightclub Platinum -- thus ensuring that the words "Federline," "CD" and "platinum" will make a rare appearance together in a sentence. Good one, Kev! We could just stop right now.
But an even funnier thing happened on the way to the end of K-Fed's very odd evening here: absolutely nothing.
The wannabe rap star soon to become the former Mr. Spears (Fed-Ex, if you please) showed up sans wedding band just past midnight Friday, and the expectation was that he would do something, anything to promote his album, which needs all the help it can get: The first-week sales tally was an embarrassing 6,500, according to Nielsen SoundScan. (The Missus's "Oops! . . . I Did It Again" sold well over 6,500 copies per hour when it was first released in 2000.)
And so to help "Fire" catch, tracks would be played at Platinum. Autographs would be signed. The crowd would be addressed. Mingling would commence. And maybe, just maybe, Federline would be compelled to perform a little bit.
Instead, he came, he saw, he just . . . sorta . . . stood . . . there -- encircled at all times by his excessive entourage, which kept the hoi polloi at bay. For the better part of 2 1/2 hours, celebritologists and other lookyloos inside the crowded club watched as K-Fed demonstrated that he's mastered the art of inertia. He drank a little, chain-smoked a lot, laughed with various members of his posse and, inexplicably, blinked a flashlight at people around the club. Alternately flanked, shadowed and eclipsed by a bodyguard the size of a Kodiak bear, he also swayed in place to some of the hip-hop hits booming over the sound system.
A couple of the songs were his own, including "Privilege" (sample lyrics: "It's going down like a fresh pair of panties" and "I'm not her father, I'm just a mack"), but they were played with little fanfare, and without any acknowledgments by the father of four himself. And as it turned out, another of Britney's former love interests got more space on the Friday-night playlist: Justin Timberlake's songs surfaced at least four different times, the first just after K-Fed arrived; upon hearing "SexyBack," Federline even sneered briefly.
He didn't look like he'd been losing much sleep, no bags under the eyes, no stubble on the chin. He wore diamond studs in his ears and a big white tee under a zip-up jacket. He didn't have much to say, said Brett Leve, one of the club producers. "He's just flirting with girls."
Though he did it from a distance. Melanie Platten, 22, an employee at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, said she'd tried to get a picture with Federline, at the behest of her best friend. But she couldn't get past the security gantlet.
"I don't get it," she said. "I didn't even know he was a celebrity." Platten referred to the artist as "Federstein."
It all made for a curious semi-study in celebrity, such as it is.
Federline is an only-by-osmosis celeb: The former dancer took up with pop princess Britney after having taken up with actress Shar Jackson, a bit player in the celebrity galaxy, and suddenly he Mattered. As a front-line entertainer? Not so much. Beyond his dismal album sales, Federline has also struggled to sell concert tickets. When lawyers for Spears filed divorce papers last week, Federline, 28, officially began his journey back into obscurity.
One of the first pit stops: the Hagerstown Wal-Mart, where he and two bodyguards dropped in Friday for a midday shopping spree, creating enough of a stir that local police had to come around and handle crowd control and paparazzi. A local woman told the Hagerstown Herald-Mail that when she saw the three cruisers, she figured a shoplifter had been nabbed. Just can't see that on the front of Us Weekly.
There was something like a mob scene outside the Platinum nightclub several hours later, but was that K-Fed or the usual Friday party special of $2 vodka shooters and two-for-one domestic beer before midnight?
Word came down Thursday that Federline was interested in coming to the club, and promoters sent out electronic alerts to announce that the singer was going to show.
"I was text-messaging some girls about it, and they were like, 'Really? Well, I wasn't going to come, but now I am,' " said co-promoter Ryan Sessler.
At 2:37, when K-Fed got fed up with standing in the fishbowl and finally left the club, there was a minor commotion outside.
"It's Kevin [expletive] Federline getting into his [expletive] SUV!" a young woman shrieked. Her two friends giggled. Further investigation was required. What's up with the K-Fed fixation, ladies?
Marissa Tonelli, 18, said that she and her pals -- all George Washington University students -- had been "looking for K-Fed all night" and that "we were kind of bummed that we didn't get a picture or autograph or anything."
They were drawn by the allure of celebrity, she said.
But Helena Bala, 20, pointed out that Federline "isn't even a celebrity. He's a D-list celebrity, along with Kathy Griffin," the comedian who starred in her own reality show, "My Life on the D-List."
Still, Tonelli said, D-list is better than no list. But barely.
Upon hearing the commotion when Federline left the club, a man walking down the street asked: "Who is that guy?"
"Kevin Federline," he was told. "Britney's soon-to-be-ex."
"Who's she?" he wondered.