Durbin-Mania hit Santa Cruz Saturday and some 20,000 people basked in the glow of America's newest star.
It was like the days of Elvis or the Beatles, or a movie script.
Boy gets laid off from his job at the pizza shop in Capitola and can barely afford diapers for his young baby. He tries out for the second time for a talent contest and gets selected over tens of thousands of candidates. He fights his way to the top and builds a huge fan base. He goes on Jay Leno, comes home to a parade, press conference and concert with fans shouting his name everywhere.
"So, what's been going on since I've been gone?" Durbin asked as he began a press conference at the Louden Nelson Community Center, a community hall where he also met kids from the theater programs that launched his performing career. "Anything special? I heard there was some jerk on TV parading around beaming."
In his first time out of the bubble that is American Idol in Hollywood, he showed a natural charisma, a lightness about it all that resembled the early Elvis. He wore a denim vest with studs in it and a fox tail hanging over his rear, he said, because he left his scarves back in the Idol dressing room.
"It feels great to be back. It's a whirlwind of emotion. I went to Zoccoli's today and ate two sandwiches."
Asked by a reporter where he thinks his career is going to go now, he replied: "Down the toilet."
Then he got serious.
"It's going to be radio-friendly and catchy. In this day and age in music, it has to be poppy and upbeat in order to succeed. But it's definitely, definitely going to bring in my metal edge."
He said he wasn't distressed by his loss and hoped his career would echo that of another fourth-place finisher, Chris Daughtry, who sold 6 million copies of his album after Idol. James was the first Idol contender to be allowed to give a hometown concert even though he didn't finish in the Top 3 selected by fans who vote for their favorite by phone and computer.
He asked them to continue watching the show and to come to the live concerts this summer.
"They're not paying me to say this," he said.
He was asked about how he felt coming from Santa Cruz to a mainstream show and audience.
"Weird is the new normal," he said "Who else but someone from Santa Cruz would go on American Idol and sing Judas Priest?"
The singer who was laid off from Domino's Pizza in Capitola two days before his tryout, reminded the press that "I'm still unemployed."
He confessed to gaining 30 pounds in Hollywood and said he would take it off before he has to rock out on stage.
He also told a story few knew about Dylan Rosenberg and his metal band, Archer. James said that since he was 15 he had asked to be the band's singer, but Dylan turned him down. Now, he said, he was grabbing Dylan from Archer and was going to team up with him as the lead guitarist in his band, for a combination he compared to Robert Plant and Jimmy Page and Steven Tyler and Joe Perry.
Preteen fans stood outside the room and held posters up to the windows. The streets between downtown and the Boardwalk were lined with fans holding signs and hoping to get a glimpse.
He was almost an hour late getting to the Boardwalk, but he stayed within his contractual obligations and played only three songs: "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?" "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" and "Don't Stop Believing."
He spoke to an audience that covered much of the beach with an easy candor and humor, sitting on the stage telling them how the thing that bothered him most about losing was the prospect of not being able to play for his hometown. When he learned he would, just before doing Jay Leno, he said he cried and washed off his stage makeup.
Mayor Ryan Coonerty proclaimed this "James Durbin Year" and gave him a surfboard emblazoned with Durbin's picture. Durbin admitted that he didn't surf but "I can sing a bit."
He'll be back in the area on the American Idol live tour which plays July 13 at San Jose's H-P Pavilion.
To see a photo gallery of the day, .