An Open Letter to Britney Spears

Dear Britney:

Here's what nobody said a year ago when you appeared at Palms Casino Resort for your last MTV VMA appearance: "Gimme more."

You were out carousing 'til all hours. You had the worst hair day in the history of hair -- it would have been smarter to shave yourself bald. You stuffed yourself into a wild bikini like a 10-pound ham into a sausage-link skin. You didn't play well with your intended escape-artist co-star Criss Angel. Instead of the magic he had in mind, you flailed vaguely to no apparent rhythm, certainly not your song's. You became like Milli Vanilli, the band famous for lip-syncing somebody else's singing, only they at least were good at it. You were the world's worst Britney Spears impersonator.

But some good came out of it. Your self-assassinating performance spawned two hits for other people: Chris Crocker's half-crocked, wholly tearful defense of you on his Number One MySpace video "Leave Britney Alone!" and Perez Hilton's open letter to you. "What you did was disrespectful to your few remaining fans," he wrote. "And it was disrespectful to MTV! You were probably still drunk or high during your performance!!! You almost tripped a few times, you [bleeping] mess!!!!!!! A true professional will DELIVER -- no matter what!!!"

But hey, if The Zombies can come back 40 years after their biggest hit, so can a zombie like you a year after your biggest bomb. Americans love a reformed sinner better than a saint. Besides, there was no place for you to go in the direction of down, and nothing more for you to expose for cheap publicity thrills. What were you going to do, make yourself translucent like those Visible Woman anatomy dolls?

And your new VMA appearance has spawned a hit in advance of the Sept. 7 show. Your series of improv comedy videos with Brit clown Russell Brand of Forgetting Sarah Marshall fame are good fun, mostly because the two of you are seated on a couch in front of a 9,000-pound elephant. Last year, you were the elephant in the room, and berserk at that. Russell Brand is famous for having gone berserk, shtupping every celeb in sight, and treating rehab like a merry-go-round. You're made for each other!

"You are Britney Spears?" Brand asks. "I'm not dreaming this?" "No, this is for real," you reply. When you get his name wrong (it's Brand, not Brown), it's not even clear whether you really screwed up. Your artful tresses fall across your chest just so; your belly no longer attempts to compete with the protuberances above it. Instead of aping a Vegas hooker, your knees are primly pressed together, your feet apart, echoing the good-girl-next-door-yearning-to-go-bad pose of your first album cover. You never looked better, girl.

You're up for best pop video and best female video, for "Piece of Me," and a piece of you no longer weighs 200 pounds. Your managers are in denial about whether you'll be performing, however. How can you deny us after all you put us through last year? What, are you going to tiptoe across the stage, read off a winner's name, and skulk off like a loser? Or are you going to do it again -- not last year's calamity, but that thing that made you famous?

I'm not asking for a rematch with the "Slave 4 U" snake. You've got the flickery forked tongue of Russell Brand on your side; who needs snakes? He'll wrap his louche charisma around you like a skinny anaconda. And if you can rechannel your immortal-performer self and leave your dumb tabloid self in the dumpster, you'll be back on top in a flash (no pantyless flashes required). Even as a reeking, outrageous failure, you managed to boost the VMA show's ratings by 23 percent last year. Imagine what you can do if you act like you actually have a job to do!

As they say in England, Britney: Stand and deliver.