Last night's American Idol episode focusing on the show's Denver auditions introduced America to Fort Collins' Haeley Vaughn, who's clearly Colorado's great Idol hope.
But arguably the most memorable moment came courtesy of Ty Hemmerling, dubbed "Bikini Boy" by judge Randy Jackson because he showed up wearing a revealing two-piece -- one he got to know intimately. "I basically spent three days in that bikini," he says.
The idea that he try out for American Idol came courtesy of Amanda Lea, who used to work with the Wolf's previous morning team, Jesse and Shotgun.
"Amanda said, 'American Idol is coming to town. Let's do something,'" he recalls. "And I'd done an earlier bit when I measured the snow at the Capitol lawn in a bikini -- and because Bikini Girl got so much attention the year before, they thought, 'Let's see if we can get you through as Bikini Boy.'"
He was up for the stunt, gamely borrowing a bikini from his girlfriend. "She looks better in it than I do," he notes -- and that's a good thing.
Hemmerling didn't have high expectations about making it all the way to the judges' table. "I thought I'd maybe get my picture taken in front of 12,000 people at Invesco," he admits. But he kept progressing through the preliminary process.
"The first song I sang was Katy Perry, 'I Kissed a Girl' -- and I liked it," he remembers. "And they sent me through the first day. Then, two weeks later, I had to go back to another location and sing another couple of songs. That's when I did Billy Ray Cyrus, but they didn't like the song choice -- so I did Carrie Underwood's 'Last Name.' And they sent me through to the next day, and that's when I got to see the judges."
Every Idol fan suspects that the staff approves the occasional contestant for humor value -- and that was definitely true in Hemmerling's case.
"They pretty much knew why I was there, and they made sure I knew that they knew -- like, 'You know why we're putting you through, don't you?'" he says.
The Idol personnel also had no trouble figuring out his background.
"One of the first questions they asked me on the first day was if I worked for he media," he notes. "And before I could even answer, they said, 'Don't lie, because we'll find out.' So I said, 'This is what I do.'"
That didn't doom his chances, however. "One of the producers said, 'I don't think you'll get through to the judges, but you'll probably get some face time.'"
Obviously, he did better than that, in part because he agreed to cooperate: "I wasn't able to talk about it until after it aired. They said, 'Keep your mouth shut. If you can do that, we'll send you through.'"
Cut to the big moment before the judges, on view below. Hemmerling says the segment that aired last night "was pretty much how it went down" -- but there were some moments that wound up being edited out.
For instance? Judge Kara DioGuardi "asked if mine were real and if she could touch them."
Once he began to sing, though, the judges, including Simon Cowell and guest Victoria Beckham, rose from their seats and walked away -- and Hemmerling didn't see them again: "They left, and I sat there forever," capping a full day of hanging out in his girlfriend's swimsuit. By his calculations, "I got there at 7:38 and I didn't get out until 4:30 in the afternoon."
What's next for Bikini Boy? "I'm pretty much down for anything," he says. "Like, if you know anybody who's having a bachelor party, I'm really good at popping out of a cake."
He's also proving adept at interviews -- which makes sense given that he's worked at the Wolf for two years, beginning as what he calls "the intern-stunt guy" and progressing to production, promotions and even a nighttime shift that ended in December when the outlet switched to syndicated programming.
"After the show, my Facebook page filled up with radio stations wanting to know if I could talk to them this morning. I've talked to stations in Canada, Chicago..."
Unfortunately, he hasn't had any appearance offers yet -- but, he says, "hopefully I'll get invited back for the finale. I think that'd be great."
That way, "maybe I can squeeze out fifteen-and-a-half minutes of fame."
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.