American Idol: Backflip Guy Revealed! My chat with Tim Willy

American Idol: Backflip Guy Revealed! My chat with Tim Willy

As we gear up for tonight’s Idol trip to Milwaukee, I have to revisit one of my favorite moments from last week’s premiere.  If you didn’t catch the show, or read my review (shame on you for not reading my review – click here, get caught up, and then hurry back), you missed one of the most epic fails ever broadcast on the show.  It was a clip of only a few seconds – but it was impossible to miss.  That’s right, I’m talking about Backflip Guy.  Only now – I know his name and I know his story.  Read on Idol fans…

For the benefit of the pop culture hermits out there, here is the epic fail in question:





After watching that last week, I asked – did that guy have to pay for the camera?  Imagine my surprise when the back flipper in question contacted me the next day and we had a chance to chat.  His name is Tim Willy and this is his story.

Tim auditioned for “American Idol” last summer in Milwaukee. He was one of the 280 or so contestants that made it through the initial cattle call auditions – you know, the ones where Ryan whips up 12,000 hopefuls jammed in an arena/stadium/detention center with the promise that “this year’s American Idol could be here in this room”.  He was called back to audition for the executive producers a few days later.

While filming all of the contestant intros and crowd shots, the producers wanted to know if anyone had any special talents, other than singing.  (Obviously they were looking for another 300 pound dancing Pocahontas. Don’t know what I mean?  Consider yourself lucky…).  Timothy let them know he was a gymnast.  They quickly pulled him to the front of the room and asked that he do a tumbling run for them.  He said sure.  The plot thickened.

Here is how he described what happened next:

There was a wall to the left of me, contestants sitting to the right, and maybe a three-foot walk way. I asked the cameramen whether they would like a standing flip or a running pass.  They said running, of course. So I asked where they would stand so I knew where to flip so they could get the best picture. They were indecisive.  In tumbling, sometimes we have someone with a camera lie down to the side and point the camera up at an angle to get a different view.  The cameraman asked, “What if you do a flip over me and the camera?” I said I could do it, we’re trained to tumble on mark, but I’d need a couple of practice runs.  I tried to talk them out of it, but they insisted. So the guy laid down and I backed up about 20 feet away from him.  I did a three step round off back handspring and landed about a foot away from him. They said – perfect, all I had to do was flip over him.  I needed a few more practice runs but they said they didn’t have the time. Just to go.

I backed up once more, asked again that they take it from the side view, but they said just do it. This was more nerve racking than auditioning. I said, “If I kill you, I’m not going to be held liable, right?” They said I was fine.  Three steps round off back handspring – one foot hit him in the face right above his lip, the other hit the $100,000+ camera.  It shattered; I bent my legs, did a backflip off his face, landed on my head, and rolled out.  The room gasped… and then cheered.

The cameraman was not hurt.  According to Tim, after the initial shock wore off, he was thrilled that he might have a chance to be ON the show for once – not just filming it.  As you might imagine, the backflip fail was the talk of the afternoon with both the contestants and the producers.  Usually, the only thing crushed at an Idol audition was someone’s hopes and dreams – now there was a cameraman and camera left in that wake of destruction.

He made it past the first round of producers with a gymnastic entrance (sans camera destruction) and a song from “Jekyll and Hyde”.  (Not a bad musical – it opened with David Hasselhoff, and at one point starred Sebastian Back from Skid Row).  Tim has posted video of himself performing the song up on his YouTube channel.  Watch it through to the end for a bonus “mini fail” with his webcam – he just can’t catch a break.





Alas, the dream was destined to end with the executive producers – the gatekeepers to a date with Steven, Jennifer, and Randy.  He wasn’t able to do a tumbling entrance, and the specter of a camera taken to the great Idol audition in the sky (far too young…far too young) still hung in the air.  He reminded one of the executive producers of Clay Aiken – I can see that – but they felt his voice was better suited for the theater.  Despite pulling out a pop song, his journey was over.  No date with the judges for Tim.

Instead of a golden ticket to Hollywood, all Tim has is a golden moment of epic failure preserved forever on the American Idol highlight reel.  He was disappointed and confused after his audition, but has a theory as to why he was cut:

When I returned to the hotel to pack my bags, the lobby was full of contestants.  They said that they were just talking about me. They had derived a theory – “Would it be fair for the other contestants to let you through and show the tumbling video?  America will love you for that video, and wouldn’t judge you on your voice.“  They chose to show the video, rather than keep me in the competition.

I’ll let you be the judge as to whether Tim would have made it to Hollywood without the cameraman carnage.  We’ll never know for sure.  The good new is, no one was hurt and he didn’t have to pay for the camera.  The bad news is – that backflip will live on in infamy.  But all is not lost.  With a little luck, a little Internet buzz, and coverage by yours truly, he can still get that ticket the American Idol finale.  I can just see him now, back flipping across the stage, just before Japanese Michael Jackson guy comes out to do his rendition of “Beat It” with the 300 pound Pocahontas.  American Idol – where dreams come true.  Word Zombie out.

© 2011, The Word Zombie. All rights reserved.

One Reply to “American Idol: Backflip Guy Revealed! My chat with Tim Willy”

  1. Thanks so much for following up with Tim’s story. He’s a great kid who has been through a lot for his age.

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