Bowersox still hero in struggling hometownWritten by John Seewer (AP) | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Crystal Bowersox’ second-place finish on “American Idol” didn’t change how people on her home turf feel about her.
“She’s already won” said Judi Clapper, 60, of Whitehouse, who watched the results of the Fox singing competition Wednesday night at one of the bars where Bowersox first started performing when she was 14.
The two share a bond, Clapper said, because they both have diabetes.
“There’s a lot of kids with diabetes who see her,” Clapper said. “It gives them hope that there’s more to life than shots and insulin pumps.”
Fans and friends inside Papa’s Tavern shook their heads in disbelief when it was announced that Lee DeWyze had won. So did hundreds who watched the show at a downtown arena.
“She’s going to be successful no matter what,” said Alisa Smith, 43, of Perrysburg. “She’s got her own style.”
Just a few months ago, Bowersox was a single mother struggling to make a living and playing every Wednesday night at the same tavern on taco night. She’d stand with her guitar on a tiny stage in the corner and play her original songs.
But this Wednesday, everyone watched her on television.
Ryan Popp, 34, of Toledo, said it’s surreal to watch her now and think back to all the years he saw her perform in front a few dozen people.
“She’s set for life,” he said. “It might be better because now she can do the music she wants. She won’t be locked into being the ‘American Idol.”’
With her blue-collar roots, Bowersox is a lot like the Ohio towns where she grew up, and her unlikely path to stardom has hit just the right note with people in an area that has fallen on hard times.
“She’s one of us,” said Diane Frick, who lives in Oregon, a Toledo suburb. “People are for the underdog today because everyone has been hit by the economic downturn.”
Part of what makes Bowersox likable is that she embraces what her story means to people.
A song she wrote a few years ago called “Holy Toledo” has become a favorite on local radio stations, with its refrain: “How do I get to heaven from here?”
“It’s the anthem for my city,” she said during last week’s ”Idol’ show. “And it’s given the area so much hope and something to look forward to, and that’s what this is all about.”
As soon as Wednesday night’s show was over, the crowd in Papa’s Tavern started singing along with her signature song as it played on the jukebox.
Bowersox, 24, started singing when she was 10. She used money she won in talent contests to buy clothes and left home for Chicago when she was 17. She strummed her guitar in subway stations and coffee houses before returning home to raise her son, Tony, who’s now a toddler.
She grew up in Elliston, a tiny village just outside the eastern edge of Toledo, and calls both places home.
She’s from the side of the city that’s home to a pair of oil refineries, a coal burning power plant and a hazardous waste dump. Her father is an electrician at a plant that processes metal.
The area has been hit hard by auto industry and manufacturing layoffs in recent years, and the unemployment rate has stayed around 13 percent, well above the national average.
Bad news seems to come in bunches lately — schools being shut down, jobs moving out of town and police officers and firefighters taking pay cuts.
That’s why this rags-to-riches story couldn’t have come at a better time.
“It’s given people something to smile about,” said Becky Zaborski, of Petersburg, Mich.