Thursday, May 27, 2010

Hometown Boy Lee DeWyze Wins American Idol

My former paint store clerk just won American Idol. Weird.

I live just down the road from the store where Lee worked, Mt. Prospect Paint, and have regularly seen Lee there over the years. MP Paint is a small store where the staff sells paint, window blinds, shades and drapes and knows you by name. I've shopped there for over a decade and remember Lee as a friendly kid with a lop-sided smile who would chat you up while he mixed your paint. We usually talked tattoos as Lee has a few nice ones on his arms and he noticed a couple of mine.

Lee's hometown of Mt. Prospect is a small community in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. I am a graduate of the local high school and moved back to the community after years of living in Chicago in order to enroll my son in the excellent local school system. (Prospect High School, my alma mater and where my son and Lee went to high school is also the school where the creator of Glee went and is one of the high schools the show is based on). Lee is known and remembered by many here in town. He's friends with my nephews, a friend of my kid on Facebook and regularly mentioned in conversation by almost everyone you talk too who's met him along the way. That's the way the suburbs of Chicago works and it makes the world seem just a bit more friendly.

The northwest suburbs of Chicago is a tight knit community and the support residents have for Lee DeWyze has been something to see. The paint store was the epicenter of it all, selling Lee t-shirts and bracelets and proudly displaying signs and banners for their employee. As you drive through the streets of the village people are displaying signs, banners, balloons, pictures, flags, you name it, they've made it with the slogan WE BELEEVE or VOTE FOR LEE. Last night during the live final episode, the village of Mt. Prospect held a huge blockparty across the street from their Library in the center of town and thousands of local people showed up to watch Lee win. If you were watching American Idol you might have seen it broadcast on the show. I was there for awhile to watch the excitement and to be a part of something that has brought so many people together.

Lee's story has really captured the hearts and imagination of millions. A rather lost young man, working paycheck to paycheck, singing karaoke at a local bar and dreaming of something bigger. He took a chance and has now won the biggest musical competition in the world. Everyone here in his hometown couldn't be prouder.

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