Mother’s Day treat: ‘Idol’ celebrity comes calling

By Virginia Ross

He didn’t win, but Aussie Michael Johns — who has Akron ties — captured the hearts of many fans.

NILES — As far as Bambi Carlson is concerned, Michael Johns is the true “American Idol.”

On Saturday, the 40-year-old Fowler woman waited nearly five hours to express her opinion to the “American Idol” Season 7 contestant. Johns was greeted by more than 300 fans during his Saturday afternoon appearance at Eastwood Mall.

“I love him,” Carlson exclaimed while waiting in line to meet the 30-year-old Australian-born singer. “I almost wrecked my car when I saw his name on the marquee outside. I couldn’t believe it. I’m here with my mom and my daughter, and it’s the best Mother’s Day present ever. There are three generations of women from our family here, and we all really love him. He’s awesome.”

Carlson, who arrived at the mall at 9 a.m. and waited for the show to start at 1 p.m., said she began watching the show when she caught a glimpse of one of Johns’ performances. She stopped tuning in when he was eliminated.

“There just wasn’t any reason to watch anymore,” she said. “That’s all.”

Although David Cook won the top spot on “American Idol” last year, Johns reigned supreme among fans who turned out to support him Saturday afternoon. Johns, who was a top-eight finalist on the show, played a solo, acoustic set on the center-court stage before making his way to the AT&T store for a meet-and-greet with fans. AT&T is sponsoring the national mall tour, which features free performances at each stop.

Terry and Kathy Gerberry agreed Johns gave an award-winning performance Saturday. The Howland couple watched Johns on “American Idol” faithfully.

“When he sang the Beatles song ‘A Day In The Life,’ I voted for him 50 times that night,” said 48-year-old Kathy Gerberry. “I just kept hitting redial. It was hard to take when he was eliminated. But he’s very talented, and there’s no doubt he’ll be a big star. He can do so much by [singing and playing] his guitar. That’s all he needs.”

Johns finished a concert tour in October and just completed a record, “Hold Back My Heart,” due for release June 23. His first single, “Heart on My Sleeve,” was released in April and has been among the most-added songs on pop radio stations in recent weeks.

Johns, who now lives in California, was born in Perth, Australia, and moved to the United States about 10 years ago. His wife, Stacey, is originally from Akron, where some of her relatives still live.

Johns was ousted in his eighth week of “American Idol” after singing Aerosmith’s “Dream On.”

“I loved when he did ‘Dream On,’” said Talia Longberry, 27, of Niles. “I started watching ‘Idol’ because of him. Last year was actually the first time I saw the show, and I got hooked because of him. It was hard to watch after he got eliminated. But I think he’ll be just fine. I think he’ll do OK. He’s a great singer.”

As for Carlson, her 10-year-old daughter, Jennifer, and her 66-year-old mother, Joan Masterson of Aurora, they wanted Johns and everyone else in the house to know their feelings about the rising star. The family team held up signs during Johns’ 20-minute performance that read “We Love You, Michael,” “Dream On” and “You Are A Champion.”

“I wanted him to know and to make it clear that I am the biggest fan here,” Carlson said. “I supported him when he was on ‘American Idol.’ I support him now, and I’ll do what I can to support him. He’s even better up close than on the screen. He’s a true talent, and this has been an amazing day for me. Truly cool. It’s the best Mother’s Day gift ever.”

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