Chris Crocker — the flamboyant Bristol, Tenn., native whose 2007 YouTube clip "Leave Britney Alone" made him an instant celebrity — is back with a new perspective.
He's 25 years old, and the subject of a documentary "Me@ The Zoo," airing 9 p.m. Monday on HBO. It documents his growing up gay in East Tennessee, his YouTube fame and how it all came crashing down.
Talking from New York, where he's doing press for the documentary, Crocker sounds calmer and more focused than his public persona. There's not a moment of tantrum or shrillness. He calls such behavior his performance personality reserved for his clips, of which he's made thousands.
"In real life, in everyday life, I'm really one of the most boring, calm people you'd ever want to meet," he says. "When I do the videos, that's the time to let (my outrageousness) out, that's the time for me to perform."
Back in Bristol, he says he's gotten death threats because he's openly gay. He has stopped dressing as a woman and walking the streets.
His family life is shown as tragic in the documentary. His grandparents are baffled by his behavior. His mother wanders in and out of his life and, allegedly, strung out. Currently she camps near Johnson City and is not seeking treatment. Crocker does not mention his father.
Of his mother, "she's like a light switch," he says. "She'll do good for a while then she'll do bad again. ... She's kind of in her own world. It's kind of tough."
After the "Leave Britney Alone" video was viewed by millions, Crocker was offered his own reality show and became a celebrity of sorts in the Hollywood scene. Eventually the deal fell through, and interest in him cooled. Crocker went back to Bristol and continued to do web clips and club DJ work.
However, "people don't take me seriously as an artist," he says.
Crocker still likes Britney Spears, but "she's not the main source of inspiration" for him anymore.
Four years ago, he was interviewed for a documentary about reality show stars. But when Crocker's larger-than-life personality came shining through, the documentary shifted focus. "Me@The Zoo" has netted critical praise, resulting in new opportunities.
"There's a lot ahead for me," he says. "I'm looking forward to it."
YouTube: Chris Crocker's "Leave Brittney alone!" video
© 2012, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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