After boosting Crystal Bowersox for most of the season, Simon Cowell told fellow judge Ellen DeGeneres on her talk show Tuesday (May 25) that he’s feeling pretty bullish about Lee DeWyze’s prospects for winning “American Idol.”
That kind of thinking merely puts him in line with what most of DeWyze’s friends and admirers back in Mt. Prospect, Illinois, have been saying for weeks: Their man is going to bring home the first non-Southern “Idol” title in the show’s history Wednesday night.
Pal Mike Corsi met Lee in high school detention nine years ago, and he can lay claim to calling the finale before anyone had ever even heard of DeWyze. “It’s going to come down to him and Crystal,” he said two weeks ago of the man whom he also claimed has prodigious improvisational skills . “But I honestly believe that he is going to win it. I said to him in January when he left, ’I have a feeling you’re going to go all the way.’ ”
Bill Lagattolla, Lee’s former boss at Mt. Prospect Paint , recalled the strong-headed teenager who came into his store eight years to drop off an application and came back every day afterward to ask if there was anything else he could do to snag the job. “He was very persistent but a very likable kid,” said Lagattolla, who has done brisk business selling thousands of brightly colored Lee T-shirts that benefit the music program at the singer’s former high school. “Oh, he will win. He didn’t go there to lose.”
When Krista Alvarado thinks about Lee, she pictures the shy, humble teenager sitting on the floor of her preschool classroom playing “Old MacDonald Had a Farm” and “The Wheels on the Bus” for her students. Asked if she thought the then-struggling teen would rise from high school dropout to potential “Idol” superstar, she laughed and said, “Maybe not ’American Idol,’ but I knew he’d be famous. I absolutely knew he’d be famous.”
How sure was she? When preschool graduation rolled around and it was picture time, she asked Lee to sign his photo with her class. She told him: “Because you’re going to be famous one day, and I’m so proud of you, and I know you’re going to do it. And I’ll have your autograph already, and I won’t have to be bugging everyone else!” And for that reason, Alvarado said confidently, “He’s going to win. He deserves to win.”
Older sister Sarah DeWyze-Salas, 26, said she felt good about Lee’s chances all along after years of watching her brother drag out his guitar at family functions, in the car, at dinner or anywhere else he could get away with it. “He always said that music was his life and that this was his dream,” she said. “So I knew something would come [from] all of that.” As for whether he will be standing alone tomorrow night, she said, “Yes. All the way. He has to.”
But regardless of whether he outlasts Bowersox, Corsi is confident fame won’t change the former paint-store clerk. “His life’s changed already,” Corsi said. “But … he still is the same loving person. He still holds his friends and family dear. He hasn’t changed. He loves Mt. Prospect. He loves the people in his life. And he’s a great guy. He’s probably the most genuine person that ’Idol’ has ever seen.”
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