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Originally published May 23, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified May 23, 2007 at 2:02 AM

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Family and friends rally behind Blake Lewis

Their kid was 9 years old the last time Dallas and Dinah Lewis of Bothell vacationed here in Southern California. They saw Disneyland and...

Seattle Times staff

LOS ANGELES — Their kid was 9 years old the last time Dallas and Dinah Lewis of Bothell vacationed here in Southern California. They saw Disneyland and Mickey Mouse; Universal Studios with that shark from "Jaws."

Now the couple has returned, but the scene is more surreal: autograph-seekers; a chauffeured car; their kid, now 25, gracing the cover of their free hotel copy of USA Today.

A bodyguard, in fact, spends more time with their only child these days than they have — or will.

"I text him every day," Dinah Lewis, 57, a former special-education trainer, said Tuesday. "I can't wait till it's over. I want to see my son."

This is uttered with only the teensiest bit of annoyance, as Lewis sits in her hotel room hoping to "veg out before the crazy starts." The crazy: "American Idol." And at the hub of crazy is her son, Blake, one of two finalists on the most-watched TV show in America. The show's winner will be announced tonight.

The zaniness started about three months ago, back when Blake Lewis was still living at home trying to forge a music career. Then he got on the TV show. He started advancing week after week, and in turn, his parents were propelled further and further into a kind of celebdom that only appearing on a TV show can breed.

There are perks to this kind of fame: On this particular morning, for example, a car will pick them up and take them to Hollywood's Kodak Theatre, sparing Dallas Lewis from having to navigate clogged Los Angeles streets. The car is courtesy of Fox — their one "Idol" freebie to date. "Idol," in fact, pays for nothing for contestants' families (contestants themselves earn an undisclosed salary upon reaching the top 10).

And once, mom recalled, her son got her in to see the "Idol" hairdresser. (Clearly a mother-son bonding moment.)

But then there are the drawbacks, chief among them the inability to see their son whenever and however they'd like.

"I'm here to support him," said Dallas Lewis, acknowledging that his son's schedule is entirely "Idol"-controlled. "But you have to accept it, and I think this is all great."

It's no surprise the parents are already accumulating show-ticket stubs and photos from each round for their family's once-in-a-lifetime scrapbook. May 2007 will forever be remembered as the month they lived in limbo: finding out on Wednesday night, along with the rest of the country, if Blake moved on. Then finding last-minute flights from Seattle to Burbank, Calif.; booking a modest hotel room; securing a sitter for dog Buddy and cat Shiska for three days the following week.

"I'm treating it like we're on vacation," said Dallas Lewis, 58, a construction project manager for Tatley-Grund Inc., wearing a Hawaiian shirt and shorts. Except on this vacation, even in this star-studded town, the couple gets recognized: Blake's parents! And there is zero anonymity when Dallas Lewis sports his "I'm the Daddy" T-shirt (with picture of Blake) as he did Tuesday morning when he headed to the gym.

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And all semblance of normalcy evaporates on the red carpet in front of the Kodak Theatre. As they make their way past security to their front-row seats, the couple is engulfed in strobe lights, neon and glitz.

Back home with the Blaker Girls

SEATTLE — After the first day of "American Idol" auditions were aired way back in September, — even before the official selections were announced — Whitney Young, a 19 year-old from Seattle, knew Blake Lewis was going to win. She was so sure that she announced her prediction to all her friends. To her family. To the whole wide world on a MySpace page.

Now, nine months and 10 performances later, Young is ready to stick with her gut.

And the small-but-fierce crowd at a public viewing organized by the Blaker Girls (a Blake Lewis fan club) Tuesday night at the UW Bothell café/North Creek Events Center seemed to agree: They howled when Lewis smiled, they swooned when he sang and they audibly fawned over the montage of his baby photos.

The mostly-female crowd of 30 definitely had a crush.

"He's so handsome!" said Cecilia Garcia, 27.

"I like his new hair!" said Joyce Anderson. She came with her grandson, Skylar, a 7th grader at Kenmore Junior High, Lewis' old stomping grounds.

Skylar was less impressed: "I hope he doesn't win. If he does, my whole school is going to go totally crazy for a week."

Ari Joshua Zucker, a member of Arisawkadoria, a local band that used to perform with Lewis in Seattle, says "as far as I'm concerned, he's won already. He's so talented, he's funny. If he gets really famous, he'll already be primed to be a celebrity guest on 'Saturday Night Live.'"

Desirae Freeze, 27, says Lewis' adversary, Jordin Sparks, could be any old "American Idol" winner. "She's not that far from a [Katharine] McPhee or a [Kelly] Clarkson," she says, naming two previous "Idol" winners who share Sparks' vocal style.

After the performance, Young was a little nervous that her long-standing prediction may not come true. The judges applauded Lewis as an entertainer, but seemed to favor Sparks' chances overall.

"The judges seemed to be setting Jordin up. And she did sing pretty well," she said. "But, come on, Blake's got to win! He's from here!"

"Straight up," adds Zucker. "No matter what happens, he'll never forget his roots."

Florangela Davila: 206-464-2916 or fdavila@seattletimes.com. Haley Edwards: 206-464-2745 or hedwards@seattletimes.com

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