From Babies to Baby-Boomers, Santa Cruz Turns out for Durbin Day

In an unprecedented move, the producers of American Idol, released ousted rocker James Durbin from his contractual requirements in order to have his day at home in Santa Cruz. And his fans turned out to see him—some 30,000 in all. Young, old, white, brown, we came together to celebrate our local, if not American, idol.

I arrived at Louden Nelson Community Center to relative calm. All the action was inside as Durbin met with kids from the local theater group that helped launch him and with a group of kids with Tourettes or Aspergers. Outside, as the crowd grew, so did the variety of signs.

“Geezers for Durbin” was carried by a white-haired lady sporting a Harley jacket. There were LOTS of folks over 50 who were not only proud of James Durbin, but also, don’t forget, proud to be rock-and-rollers.

“James We Need Your Harmonic Energy” was carried by a purple-eyed alien who was harder to capture on film than Durbin himself. Very Santa Cruzan (as were the “tails” hanging from the backs of jeans).

“Maybe We’re Amazed” seemed to sum up our general surprise and “Don’t Stop Believing” our encouragement.

A group of kids, wise to the goings-on at Louden Nelson, spotted James through one of the windows and started up a chant. He obliged with a quick peek and a show of his guitar. As we waited for his appearance at the door, signaling the beginning of a walking procession to the Beach Boardwalk, fans started up singing “Don’t Stop Believing.” DO NOT try this at home. There are only  three people in the world who can hit those notes: Steve Perry, Lea Michele (of Glee), and James Durbin. Our attempts quickly frizzled from the strain…plus nobody knew the words.

Finally, the marching band was lined up (playing “Uprising”), and the police escort and convertible parade car were in place. A roar went up as the Durbinator exited LN and he slowly walked down the steps to the waiting car. Youngsters with photos and Sharpies lined the walk and Durbin signed as many autographs as he could, including this little girl’s hand.

I did not join the 500 or so fans that waited with me outside LN for the procession to the beach. I knew the crowd there would be huge but when I in saw the morning paper that there were tens of thousands, I was glad I went home. Santa Cruz only has about 55,000 people so it couldn’t have been just locals and that means parking nightmare at the beach!

I want to thank the producers of AI and the Santa Cruz downtown associations that made this possible. It was great fun and we know James will do just fine with his musical career now that he’s off to such an amazing start.

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