By Jared Chausow
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By Jon Campbell
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After the 31-year-old rocker finished fixing his hair, even fluffing the hairs on his chest a bit with the blow-dryer, he sprayed a coat of Axe deodorant all over his torso, put on a purplish T-shirt with an indescribable graphic design, yanked on a pair of ornately embroidered beige cowboy boots, and put his arms through the sleeves of a slick black leather jacket. As he prepared to leave, he looked one more time at the only photo that decorated his otherwise nondescript dressing roomof Maroulis standing with his arm around a pudgy middle-aged woman, the fan who sent the photo to him. He smiled a little as he looked at it, as though it reminded him of those who found pleasure in standing next to a real live star.
Tonight a woman Maroulis had met recentlyat one of the rock performances at bars and clubs that now fill his scheduleand who had been writing to him on his MySpace page was going to meet him backstage. He seemed interested to get to know her because they shared New Jersey roots. "She's, like, a very sexy Jersey girl," he said to a visitor as he prepared to reacquaint himself with her in a few minutes.
Maroulis is always the last cast member to leave the Al Hirschfeld Theatre on West 45th Street to sign autographs for fans. But he at last finished with his post-show primping and was ready to face his adoring public. At the bottom of the stairs he paused, took a deep breath, and said, "All right, let's go for it." He then stepped out onto the sidewalk and stopped for a moment as about 100 women and girls screamed his name and pushed to get closer to the metal barricade. Women held their playbills out to be signed and snapped his photo. Patiently Maroulis looked into every camera with either a straightforward grin or his famous American Idol pout, a sort of puppy-dog look that involves tilting his head down, gazing up with his brown bedroom eyes, and sticking out his bottom lip.
A woman standing at the stage door called to Maroulis, who at first seemed confused. Then he remembered: It was the very sexy Jersey girl, a skinny brunette, wearing a low-cut black top and pants, standing with her two blonde friends.
"Oh, hey!" Maroulis said.
"You walked right by us," she said.
"I did?" he replied, quizzically.
After talking with them for a few minutes Maroulis returned to signing autographs, giving hugs, and having his long hair stroked by dozens of strange, reaching hands. It took nearly 30 minutes before he wrestled himself free of the throng and jumped into a Chrysler 300 luxury sedan and sped away, alone in the backseat, leaving the very sexy Jersey girl behind.
"I think she's married," he said.
Since it burst into the American pop culture consciousness in the summer of 2002 as an immediate Top 10 sensation, American Idol has become as enduring a part of the culture as The Ed Sullivan Show was to a previous generation, attracting 35 million viewers to its finale last season. When Maroulis was voted off the show in April 2005, just before entering the final five, it represented a huge upset for the many fans who had fallen in love with his rocker persona and his lanky, casual sex appeal. As one of the first self-proclaimed "rockers" to earn a finalist spot, he achieved front-runner status when Paula Abdul, one of the show's three judges, who was highly susceptible to masculine charms, had proclaimed him the "one to beat." She cried on air when he left the competition. But Maroulis assured Abdul and his fans that there was nothing to worry about.
"I'm gonna keep rockin' " were his parting words.
After American Idol, many in Hollywood expected big things for Maroulis. He was quickly approached by Ralph Lauren, among others, about modeling. He was represented by the top talent agency in show business, the all-powerful Creative Artists Agency, which also handles the careers of Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, and Steven Spielberg. He was named the sexiest 30-year-old in America by People magazine. He struck a deal to develop a network sitcom at ABC to be executive-produced by Kelsey Grammer. He performed that summer on an American Idol tour to sold-out crowds. He took his pre- Idol rock band, Pray for the Soul of Betty, out on the road in a decked-out tour bus. He went on a solo tour of the Philippines. His popular rendition of "Bohemian Rhapsody" earned inclusion on a Queen tribute CD titled Killer Queen, and he even got to chat with Jay Leno when he performed it on The Tonight Show.