MILLERSVILLE, Maryland — Every Tuesday, it's the same scene. Friends and co-workers of Provident Bank gather to watch "American Idol" at Bullseye Bar & Grill. But it's not because they're huge fans of Ryan Seacrest — it's because they're supporting local-girl-done-good LaKisha Jones.
The 27-year-old LaKisha, who was born in Flint, Michigan, worked as a teller for the Shoppers Food & Pharmacy branch of Provident Bank for just a few months, but lists Maryland as her home state on the "American Idol" official Web site — a note that created minor controversy among Flint residents who claim her as their own, as well as Houston residents who felt possessive owing to the years she spent there. When asked which state LaKisha might really "belong" to, former co-worker Melba Czosnowski diplomatically says, "Michigan is her home [state], we are just supporting her. We're her friends and of course we're going to support her."
Provident's branch, actually located inside the supermarket, is tiny — directly across from the frozen-foods section. Melba, the employee who hired LaKisha, was flanked by co-workers as she spoke to MTV News about their dear friend.
One of them, Robert Jack, remembers being totally surprised by Jones when, upon returning from a trip out of town, she confessed she'd been trying out for the show. "She came back and said, 'Yeah, I went to audition for 'American Idol' — and I got it!' We had no idea, we were like, 'You got it, didn't you?' Once she got through the initial audition and she didn't freeze up — I knew she was going to go all the way like this."
"I've voted for the top two winners; every year I've been correct so I'm hoping I'm correct this year," Melba confides. "I think she's gonna win. I do."
Robert adds, "Who can possibly hope to match that kind of power, that kind of enthusiasm?"
After the bank's closing time, everyone makes their way to the small bar next to a local motel that keeps a large reserved table in front of the flat-screen TV for the weekly "AI" viewing parties. They claim to close the bar every Tuesday night, but only recently moved to Bullseye after being bumped out of their original watering hole by some uncaring bartenders.
As Melba puts it, "It's just fun for us to go out and watch her on the big screen."
LaKisha's friend Debbie Davidson chimes in, "We get every person in [the bar] to be quiet and listen to her and cheer for her!"
With Barry Gibb being Tuesday night's special guest, the crowd in Bullseye applauds LaKisha's first performance (an underwhelming rendition of "Staying Alive") and seems moved by her second appearance, "Run to Me" — a rendition that everyone, from the judges to her friends, likes better (see " 'Idol' Recap: Melinda's Worst Is Still The Best; Blake Needs To Think Outside The Beatbox").
As Robert puts it, "The first song, it's really a party song — everybody knows it, everybody can get into it. But that second song, it was just soulful. It really shows her ability, it shows her performance and it's really what she's all about."
So as long as Jones is a contestant on the show, her friends will be cheering her on at Bullseye. But even if she is booted off this week, they don't expect her back at the teller window any time soon.
"She still has an open invitation to return to work," Melba laughs. "We just don't think she's going to come back!"