By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
By Roy Edroso
By Jon Campbell
By Albert Samaha
By Zachary D. Roberts
Some observers have speculated that the main trouble for Maroulis was that he came from Brooklyn, and not the South. Out of the 15 contestants who've made it into the top three, 12 have come from Southern states. He believes the fact that his family was from an affluent New Jersey suburb and appeared on the week he was voted off could have been a factor.
"It's fucked-up," Maroulis went on. "You put Scott Savol's poor overweight kind of white-trash family on there stirring the spaghetti and some ketchup and all of a sudden you get, like, half the country's votes. That's just the way it is." Savol beat out Maroulis and entered the top five before being eliminated.
"My father is sick, so we didn't put him on camera," Maroulis explained. His father suffers from Parkinson's disease. "The funny thing is, if we had put him on camera, I would have gotten big votes," he said.
But Maroulis managed quite well by using his own savvy for most of the competition. In the finals he obsessively checked fan pages to read what they were thinking about his performances and did what he thought they wanted on the show. "Fans would send me red roses all the time," he said. "And then finally I wore a red rose on the show and I pointed at it and all the fans went crazy because they knew they had given that to me. And it could have been any one of the dozens of roses, but to them it was like I was connecting to them." Connecting to his fans continues to be a top priority for Maroulis.
At about 20 minutes after midnight, Maroulis and Hamboussi picked up two friends who work for Stryker and headed to Stereo. A crowd of stylishly dressed young women and men lined up outside, hoping to get beyond the velvet rope. Maroulis and his friends stepped up to the front and were immediately ushered to a long couch and two tables in a corner at the back of the club. A DJ was spinning hip-hop, and the volume was at a level where everyone had to shout into one another's ears to hear.
Maroulis is more than six feet tall and skinny, and if you didn't know who he was you might have confused him for one of the many models hanging out that night. Maroulis likes models and said his model friend Anna was going to meet them there later. His friend Alex, whom he had spoken to earlier on the phone, was there with someone identified as the son of a famous photographer, along with two club promoters named Bernie and Brady (also known as B2), a pretty blonde named Andrea, and several other people from Stryker. All of them were new friends Maroulis had met over the summer. Andrea worked as his assistant for about three days, until she lost a CD he gave her of 300 images of himself and he had to fire her, but they're still friends.
Trays with bottles of vodka, carafes of orange and cranberry juice, and buckets of ice with blue bottles of Bud Light were brought to their tables. After about 20 minutes, one of the tables they were at was sold, and the whole group had to cram into one small area of the couch, sandwiched between two other parties. Maroulis stood on the floor and Andrea stood on the couch behind him and began to play with his hair. She said Maroulis uses her as protection. If a girl comes up to him whom he doesn't like, Andrea is his girlfriend. But if he does like the girl, he tells Andrea to go away.
Throughout the night Maroulis checked his BlackBerry about every six to seven minutes, sometimes just pulling it out to look at it and then putting it back in his leather jacket. In fact, almost everyone in his group had a BlackBerry or some kind of BlackBerry-esque device. At various intervals the table fell silent because everyone was checking their messages.
At around 12:45 a.m. Anna appeared with her friend. Both women had long, straight blond hair. Anna, who was pretty but did not seem tall enough to be a model, was wearing a multicolored, sleeveless, low-cut dress and carrying a little gold clutch purse. Maroulis sat on top of the back of the couch with a vodka-cranberry, and surveyed the packed dancefloor as Anna took a spot next to him.
Anna explained to someone else at the table that she is taking time off from Dartmouth. "I guess you could call me a model," she said, "but I'm not, not really."
Anna pawed at Maroulis and was soon standing on the couch in front of him dancing and singing the words to the Eurythmics' "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)." Maroulis loosely touched her waist and didn't seem too into the whole idea of dancing with her on the couch, that is, until "Faith" by George Michael came on. Then he stood up and pulled her close, and they sang the song together.
Maroulis and Anna danced and talked until 2 a.m., when she left. "For the record," Maroulis explained after her departure, "she wanted me to leave with her and I didn't. I'll probably call her, though."