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Prince Poppycock

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Prince Poppycock

Prince Poppycock
Poppycock, an opera singer persona who performs in the elaborate dress of a baroque dandy, at the America's Got Talent Tour stop in Greensboro, North Carolina (November 2010)
Background information
Birth name John Andrew Quale
Also known as Prince Poppycock
Born May 24, 1977/1978 (age 36–37)[1]
Origin Great Falls, Virginia, United States
Genres Musical theater, opera, pop, rock
Occupation(s) Singer, songwriter, performer
Instruments Vocals
Years active 1980s–present
Website .com.princepoppycockwww

John Andrew Quale is an American singer, songwriter, and performer best known by the stage name and persona of Prince Poppycock. Quale, who specializes in musical theater and opera, describes Prince Poppycock on his website as a "roguish operatic dandy."[2][3][4][5]

Poppycock came to national attention in 2010 when he competed on the fifth season of America's Got Talent.[1] On September 15, 2010, he was voted fourth place in the final four.

Early life and career

Quale was raised on a horse farm in Great Falls, Virginia.[6] As a child, he sang "incessantly" and was a member of several children's choirs. His first public performance was at age 11 at Kennedy Center in the Children's Choir of the Washington National Opera.[7] In his teenage years, Quale developed a love for writing music and became "enamored" with David Bowie, Depeche Mode, opera, madrigals, Gregorian chant, the Smiths and Gilbert and Sullivan. He also began recording his own music.[5] While in high school, he spent several summers at Interlochen Arts Camp, a competitive performing arts program of the Interlochen Center for the Arts.[5][6] His "flair for theater and arts made his teen years particularly tough," and bullying led him to drop out of high school in his junior year. Quale has since earned a GED.[6] Quale performed and toured with musicals and choirs throughout high school and college.[7] In December 2001, Quale joined Chicago synth-pop band Endora as lead singer and songwriter.[5][7][8] Quale moved to Los Angeles around 2005 and studied musical theatre at the Beverly Hills Playhouse.[7] Quale wrote and released a solo album, Worldview,[5][9] and was one of several young gay performing artists profiled in Brian Gleason's documentary Rise Up and Shout!.[4][10]

Quale played the role of Jesus in the musical The Beastly Bombing, which won the LA Weekly Theater Award for Best Musical and enjoyed two short runs Off Broadway in NYC.[3][5] He also performed and entertained at La Belle Epoque, with Ann Magnuson at Redcat,[11] and has opened for The Dresden Dolls,[11] Club Dandy, Wig Out, Dirty Deeds[11] and Jer Ber Jones.[7] Quale has studied voice for several years with Derek Graydon.[7] Additionally, Quale has been collaborating with Kristian Hoffman, songwriter for The Mumps and Klaus Nomi, on a rock album entitled The Solipsist's Soliloquy.[11]

Recently, John showed his support for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) youth, through his "It Gets Better" video.[12]

Quale developed the Prince Poppycock character, an opera singer who performs in the elaborate dress of a baroque dandy, in 2006 so he could perform in a Los Angeles nightclub show.[6][13] Quale was studying opera and had completed learning the Figaro aria "Largo al factotum" ("Make way for the factotum") from The Barber of Seville. A friend asked Quale to perform but stipulated he must wear a wig; he decided to perform as a "powdered-wigged baroque dandy, and highlight how the song was about being a fabulous hairdresser".[5]

Poppycock "is my mask," says Quale in People Magazine. "Give a man a mask and he will tell you the truth, in the style of Commedia dell'arte."[14] The New York Post noted Poppycock embodies the sensibility of "humor, irony and sarcasm".[15] He wears elaborate costuming and "dresses as if he stepped out of a French Baroque painting (pantaloons, powdered wig and pasty makeup)."[1] The New York Post called him "a towering, powder-faced concoction of glam-rock, synth-pop and light opera wrapped up in flamboyant period costumes."[6] His face is matted with whiteface (or white clown) a symbol of the highest status in the clown hierarchy and the oldest of modern clown archetypes.

Prince Poppycock performing at Gay Pride in West Hollywood in 2011

At first his mother was concerned for her openly gay son's new outrageous persona but now she "couldn't be more pleased".[6] On Halloween, October 31, 2010, Prince Poppycock was crowned the honorary Mayor of West Hollywood for the Creative City's annual Halloween Carnaval.[16]

America's Got Talent

In summer 2010, Quale auditioned and became one of the top four finalists on NBC's reality television talent show series America's Got Talent that features singers, dancers, magicians, comedians and other performers of all ages competing for the advertised top prize of US $1 million, and a show as the headliner on the Las Vegas Strip. The Tampa Tribune called him "one of the most unusual contestants in the show's history".[1] They noted he's been called "a male Lady Gaga" and "the Adam Lambert of America's Got Talent", and that he "may be the most innovative act since Pee-wee Herman".[1][17]

For the New York City auditions (June 8) he performed a modified—to fit the 90 second timeframe—and slightly personalized version of the Figaro aria ("Largo al factotum", "Make way for the factotum"), an aria from The Barber of Seville (1816) by Gioachino Rossini.[18][19] Sung at the first entrance of the title character, the repeated "Figaro"s before the final patter section are an icon in popular culture of operatic singing. The term "factotum" refers to a general servant and comes from the Latin where it literally means "do everything." Due to the constant singing of triplets in 6/8 meter at an allegro vivace tempo, the piece is often noted as one of the most difficult baritone arias to perform. This, along with the tongue-twisting nature of some of the lines, insisting on Italian superlatives (always ending in '-issimo'), have made it a pièce de résistance in which a skilled baritone has the chance to highlight all of his qualities. In the pre-interview segment he noted the difficulty of the piece, as did the judges after the performance.

For the Las Vegas Week, Classical Singers performance (July 6) Quale's voice was compromised by illness but his overall performance of an abridged version of "La donna è mobile" ("Woman is fickle"), the cynical Duke of Mantua's canzone from Giuseppe Verdi's opera Rigoletto (1851), helped him advance to the Quarterfinals.[20] The canzone is famous as a showcase for tenors and soon after its first public performance every gondolier in Venice was singing it. Quale could be seen struggling to hit the highest notes and was visibly upset that he could not be in better health.

For Week 4 of the quarterfinals (August 3) he performed "Vesti la giubba" ("Put on the costume"), a famous tenor aria performed as part of the opera Pagliacci, written and composed by Ruggero Leoncavallo, and first performed in 1892.[21][22] "Vesti la giubba" is the conclusion of the first act, when Canio discovers his wife's infidelity, but must nevertheless prepare for his performance as Pagliaccio the clown because 'the show must go on'. The aria is often regarded as one of the most moving in the operatic repertoire of the time. The pain of Canio is portrayed in the aria and exemplifies the entire notion of the 'tragic clown': smiling on the outside but crying on the inside. This is still displayed today as the clown motif often features the painted on tear running down the cheek of the performer. Quale was costumed by Steve LaNasa as a clown with a tear after he took off a large wrapped costuming, the costume was later lit up from inside with several hundred color-changing LEDs.

For Round 1 of the semifinals (August 24) Quale performed a modified version "Bohemian Rhapsody", a song by the British rock band Queen, written by Freddie Mercury for the album A Night at the Opera (1975).[1][17][23][24] The song has no chorus, instead consisting of three main parts—a ballad segment ending with a guitar solo, an operatic passage, and a heavy rock section.[25][26][27] Judith Peraino said that "Mercury intended... [this song] to be a 'mock opera,' something outside the norm of rock songs, and it does follow a certain operatic logic: choruses of multi-tracked voices alternate with arialike solos, the emotions are excessive, the plot confusing."[28] The "young hero, having confessed his crime to his mother leaves home to 'face the truth' and finds himself in a queer world of Italian opera."[29] It was the most expensive single ever made and remains one of the most elaborate recordings in popular music history.[30] It became the UK's third best selling single of all time.[31] Rolling Stone Magazine ranked it as the 163rd greatest song of all time in their 500 Greatest Songs of all Time issue.[32] The Daily Mail noted the "judges viewed it as a star-making performance and the highlight of the program".[17]

For the Top 10 show (September 7) Quale did a medley of "The Star-Spangled Banner", "The Yankee Doodle Boy", and "The Stars And Stripes Forever". In the middle he quoted from the second sentence of the United States' "Declaration of Independence", a sweeping statement of individual human rights, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal ..." This sentence has been called "one of the best-known sentences in the English language"[33] and "the most potent and consequential words in American history".[34] While he spoke, images of American civil rights icons Abraham Lincoln, Susan B. Anthony, Harvey Milk, and Rosa Parks were shown as well as an image of Poppycock on a $3 bill evoking the phrase "queer as a three-dollar bill" or "phony as a three dollar bill".[35]

Quale stated he planned to have a more emotionally connected performance for the Final 4 show, "I feel it's a strength that I have as a performer that hasn't really been showcased as much because I've been focused so much on spectacle [for America's Got Talent]. I'll still bring spectacle, but hopefully an emotionally resonant performance as well."[36] He performed "[37]

On the September 15, 2010 Finale, Poppycock opened the Finale Show with a duet with one of his favorite celebrities, singer and disco superstar Donna Summer. That night, he finished in fourth place. A day after the finale of America's Got Talent Poppycock made an appearance on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno in a segment called "The Ross Report" (with Ross Mathews) which he mentioned and posted pictures of on his Twitter page.[38] The top ten finalists performed in a 25-city tour of the US in October and November 2010.[39] He returned to AGT as a guest artist in August 2011.[40]


Episode Song(s) Original artist/composer
"New York City auditions" (June 8) "Largo al factotum" ("Make way for the factotum"), an aria from The Barber of Seville (1816) Gioachino Rossini
"Las Vegas Week, Classical Singers" (July 6) "La donna è mobile" ("Woman is fickle"), a canzone from Rigoletto (1851) Giuseppe Verdi
"Week 4" (August 3) "Vesti la giubba" ("Put on the costume"), an aria from Pagliacci (1892) Ruggero Leoncavallo
"Round 1" (August 24) "Bohemian Rhapsody" (1975), by British rock band Queen Freddie Mercury
"Top 10" (September 7) Medley of "The Star-Spangled Banner" (1814),
"The Yankee Doodle Boy" (1904),
and "Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean" (1843)
with an excerpt of the U.S. Declaration of Independence (1776)
Francis Scott Key,[41]
George M. Cohan,
Thomas á Becket,[42][43]
Thomas Jefferson
"Top 4" (September 14) "Nessun dorma" ("None shall sleep"), an aria from Turandot (1926)

Buzzed by Piers Morgan

Giacomo Puccini
"Finale" (September 15) Medley of Donna Summer's Last Dance (1978) and
No More Tears (Enough Is Enough) (1979)
Paul Jabara,
Jabara and Bruce Roberts


  1. ^ a b c d e f "Rock, roll with CMA Music Festival tonight", The Tampa Tribune, September 1, 2010.
  2. ^ Prince Poppycock bio page for John Andrew Quale
  3. ^ a b Ann Magnuson, Paper, February 2007.
  4. ^ a b Roy Rogers Oldenkamp, "WeHo's Rise Up & Shout Debuts", WeHo News, August 9, 2007.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g "John Andrew Quale, homepage on MySpace". 2013-11-26. Retrieved 2013-12-05. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f Sean Daly, "The battle of the high Cs: 'Talent's' Jackie hunts Quale", The New York Post, September 4, 2010.
  7. ^ a b c d e f Victoria George, "Cast/Creative biographies", The Ugly Beast, New York Theatre Festival, 2004-2010 National Music Theater Network, Inc.
  8. ^ Endora band history, Endora's official site
  9. ^ Available online
  10. ^ "Rise Up & Shout! film preview", Honolulu Rainbow Film Festival, The Honolulu Gay & Lesbian Cultural Foundation, October 2008.
  11. ^ a b c d Lenora Claire, "19: Prince Poppycock: Randy Dandy", Frontiers's "Hot 25 of 2007".
  12. ^ "It Gets Better – Prince Poppycock – John Quale". YouTube. Retrieved 2013-12-05. 
  13. ^ Maria Sciullo, "Richland singer in close race on 'Talent'", Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, September 08, 2010.
  14. ^ Cynthia Wang and Jessica Herndon, "Secrets of 'America's Got Talent' top 10", People, September 7, 2010.
  15. ^ Deborah Starr Seibel, "‘Talent’ scare: The night the buzzers went dead backstage", New York Post, August 22, 2010.
  16. ^ "Prince Poppycock's 'Whirlwind' Rise to Fame Leads to This: Mayor of Halloween".
  17. ^ a b c "'The Male Lady Gaga': Prince Poppycock rocks America's Got Talent", Daily Mail, 26 August 2010.
  18. ^ Isabelle Carreau, "'America's Got Talent' – 'Episode 503' Performances Recap", TV Squad, June 9, 2010.
  19. ^ Len Melisurgo, "'America's Got Talent' recap: Frat boys who float in the air, and Jersey guys who can't sing", The Star-Ledger, June 9, 2010.
  20. ^ Episode 511
  21. ^ "Quarterfinals – Week 4 performances". America's Got Talent. Season 5. Episode 19. 2010-08-03.
  22. ^ "Episode 519". Retrieved 2013-12-05. 
  23. ^ "Queen album brings rock to Iran". BBC News. 24 August 2004. Retrieved 12 April 2010. 
  24. ^ Episode 527
  25. ^ Whiteley 2006, p. 252.
  26. ^ BBC 2004b.
  27. ^ Whiteley 2006, p. 253.
  28. ^ Peraino 2005, p. 230.
  29. ^ Peraino 2005, p. 231.
  30. ^ Cunningham 1995.
  31. ^ Corn 2005, p. 24.
  32. ^ "500 Greatest Songs of All Time". Rolling Stone. 2004. Retrieved 12 April 2010. 
  33. ^ Lucas, "Justifying America", 85.
  34. ^ Ellis, American Creation, 55–56.
  35. ^ Partridge, 1573, 1955.
  36. ^ Derrick J. Lang, "Final 4 acts advance on 'America's Got Talent'", Associated Press, 9 September 2010. He was buzzed by Piers Morgan.
  37. ^ "Prince Poppycock dissed during 'America's Got Talent' finals". USA Today. 2010-09-15. Retrieved 2010-10-01. 
  38. ^ "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno – The Ross Report – Video". Retrieved 2013-12-05. 
  39. ^ America’s Got Talent: Nationwide tour announced
  40. ^ Parker, Lyndsey. "Prince Poppycock Spreads His Wings in ‘AGT’ Comeback Performance",, August 24, 2011
  41. ^ Key's poem was set to the tune of a popular British drinking song, written by John Stafford Smith
  42. ^ Historical sources generally agree that during the autumn of 1843 an actor named David T. Shaw wanted a new patriotic song to sing at a benefit performance. He gained the assistance of a fellow performer, Thomas á Becket, who wrote the lyrics and melody for him. Evidently, Shaw published the song by his own name, but Becket was able to prove his authorship by means of his original handwritten composition. There remains some disagreement as to whether other versions of the song predated Becket's composition or followed it.
  43. ^ Paul Holsinger, editor, War and American Popular Culture: A Historical Encyclopedia, Greenwood Publishing Group, 1999, p. 67


  • Corn, John (2005). Britain Since 1948. Folens Publishers.  
  • Cunningham, Mark (October 1995). "An Invitation to the Opera".  
  • Ellis, Joseph. American Creation: Triumphs and Tragedies at the Founding of the Republic. New York: Knopf, 2007. ISBN 978-0-307-26369-8.
  • Lucas, Stephen E., "Justifying America: The Declaration of Independence as a Rhetorical Document," in Thomas W. Benson, ed., American Rhetoric: Context and Criticism (1989)
  • Partridge, Eric, Tom Dalzell, Terry Victor, The New Partridge Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English: J–Z, Taylor & Francis, 2006, ISBN 0-415-25938-X, 9780415259385.
  • Peraino, Judith (2005). Listening to the Sirens: Musical Technologies of Queer Identity from Homer to Hedwig. University of California Press.  
  • Whiteley, Sheila (2006). Queering the Popular Pitch. Routledge.  

External links

  • Official website
  • Prince Poppycock update, May 2011
  • Prince Poppycock July 2011 interview
  • Poppycock headlines the 2012 Black and White Party
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