The yawn heard around the world

Tyler Crotty earned big media attention by acting his age: 13

Pop Culture

April 11, 2004|By Linda Shrieves | Linda Shrieves,ORLANDO SENTINEL

Tyler Crotty's 15 minutes of fame are almost up.

But the 13-year-old - whose videotaped yawning, stretching and watch-checking behind President George W. Bush vaulted him to celebrity status - is eking out the last precious seconds.

After last weekend's trip to New York, where he appeared on CBS' The Late Show With David Letterman, MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann, NBC's Today show and Fox News' Fox & Friends, Tyler returned home to Orlando, Fla., and hit the circuit again.

There was an early-morning telephone interview with a Tampa radio station. An afternoon photo shoot at Disney World that will appear in People magazine. A taping for Fox News' Hannity & Colmes.

Everybody wanted the kid the BBC dubbed "the yawning boy."

All Pam Crotty wants is for her son to finish his homework, including a geography paper and a poem about Mother's Day.

By midweek, Tyler - the son of Orange County Chairman Rich Crotty - had packed up his backpack and returned to Pine Castle Christian Academy. There, he has been the talk of the school - "and that's definitely not normal," says his friend Megan Humeniuk - but it was back to geography, English and Tyler's least favorite subject, math.

At the school, which has 541 students, Tyler's sudden celebrity has been much debated.

"At school, people think he's making so much money," says Megan, 13.

"Everybody's talking about him, even people we don't know," adds his friend J.B. Cote, 13, who attends nearby Conway Middle School.

Sister defends him

Meanwhile, at Boone High School, Tyler's sister, Christina Crotty, discovered her brother was the subject du jour.

"At school, people are saying, `Oh yeah, I saw him last night on Hannity & Colmes,' " she says, referring to the political debate program on Fox. "I'm amazed at the number of kids who said that. I mean, it wasn't an entertainment show. It was Hannity & Colmes."

Christina, 17, gets hot, however, when people criticize Tyler for yawning during the president's speech or for keeping his hat on.

"It was a George W. Bush hat given to him by people in the campaign," she says indignantly. And when people have critiqued his manners, Christina defended him. "He's 13 years old," she says. "These people need to get a sense of humor."

Tyler remains down-to-earth about his brush with fame. He does, however, look forward to one change: an enhanced reputation with girls.

"Hey, the ladies dig me," says Tyler.

"The seventh-graders can't stand him," corrects Zach Blakely, 13, Tyler's best friend. "The high-school girls dig him."

"See, I'm a mack," quips Tyler. Translation: Ladies' man.

Yet, for all the media attention, Tyler is unfazed by his instant celebrity.

"He's very candid," says his mom. "Very comfortable in his own skin."

`Always fidgeting'

At home with his friends, Tyler is the low-key, goofy kid that most people saw on Letterman. He cracks his neck, chiropractor-style, just as he did on TV. And he yawns. And yawns.

Skeptics still wonder: Wasn't he hamming it up just a little, fully aware that he was on television? No, says his mom. No, says his dad. Absolutely not, says Zach. "No matter where we go, Tyler's always moving, always fidgeting." Besides, he says, "Tyler's not a very good morning person."

Indeed, Tyler is a typical 13-year-old boy. He loves watching The Simpsons and SpongeBob SquarePants and playing video games. He and his friends like to play "manhunt," a no-holds-barred game of hide-and-seek in the dark. After school, they wrestle in Tyler's room, creating their own mosh pit.

And for laughs, they hang around the main road outside Tyler's neighborhood, pretending they're beating up one another as drivers pass by and honk.

Bart Simpson, meet your new competition - Tyler Crotty.

What's next for Tyler? His parents aren't sure how to proceed.

The phone keeps ringing at the Crotty household. There have been requests from The Ellen DeGeneres Show. And from Tom Arnold, who hosts The World's Best Damn Sports Show Period on Fox Sports. And from a never-ending stream of radio stations, from Detroit to New York, Indianapolis to Buffalo.

His parents are tempted to let Tyler explore the possibilities.

"If anything comes out of this, good for him," says Pam Crotty. "The media has had a lot of fun with him, at his expense."

Already, his mom is thinking of the commercial opportunities.

"I think he'd be hilarious doing a Red Bull ad. Drinking one of those and getting wired," says Pam Crotty, laughing. "Or Sealy Posturepedic."

The Orlando Sentinel is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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