When Miley Cyrus took to the stage at the VMAs last Sunday and began faux-masturbating with a large foam finger, she didn’t just creep out the vast majority of Americans, she desecrated a holy icon. At least that’s what Steve Chmelar, who created the original “No. 1” finger back in 1971, has to say about it.
"She took an honorable icon that is seen in sporting venues everywhere and degraded it,” Chmelar told Fox Sports on Wednesday.
Chmelar first created the iconic foam finger as a 16-year-old high schooler hoping to cheer along his school’s basketball team. After assembling the giant finger from hardware cloth, spray paint and paper mache in his parents' garage, Chmelar took the accessory to the state semifinal and playoff games in Des Moines, Iowa, and inadvertently became a legend. An AP photographer happened to capture a shot of Chmelar and his finger, and the idea eventually spread across the country.
"It was pretty popular at the game," Chmelar said. "Nobody had ever seen anything like that before, so it got some attention. And then when the team made its trip back to Ottumwa from Des Moines, I recall being on the bus with the team, holding the finger out the window."
By 1978, another man named Geral Fauss began selling foam versions of the giant finger, inspired by Chmelar’s original version. Fauss’ foam finger sold like hotcakes and quickly became a staple at sporting events across the world, but Chmelar is widely considered the true father of the foam finger. And just like Miley Cyrus’ real father, Chmelar is very disappointed in the young pop star.
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"I would say that it certainly misrepresented its intent to encourage team support," Chmelar added. "She took an honorable icon that is seen in sporting venues everywhere and degraded it. Fortunately, the foam finger has been around long enough that it will survive this incident. As for Miley Cyrus, let's hope she can outlive this event and also survive."
Still, Chmelar admits that Miley Cyrus was never really his cup of tea anyway. The 59-year-old says he prefers much more relaxed singers.
"For people that like that kind of entertainment, I'm sure that it met their needs," Chmelar said. "If I had a choice between Julie Andrews singing 'The Sound of Music' and Miley Cyrus doing 'Can't Stop,' I'd go the Julie Andrews route, but everyone has their choice and their decision.”