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thedrifter
05-13-03, 05:55 AM
'Idol' returns to Marine job


Joshua Gracin aims to pursue a music career after the end of his enlistment

By Lisa Marinelli
UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER

May 10, 2003

To the audience of one of the top-rated shows on television, Joshua Gracin is the clean-cut singer who beat out nearly 70,000 contestants and came close to becoming the latest "American Idol."

But to the U.S. government, he's a camouflage-wearing Marine supply clerk with the 1st Force Service Support Group at Camp Pendleton.

Gracin, whose shtick is country western, made it to the top four on the TV talent show that drew 14 million to 16 million viewers this week but did not tally enough votes to remain. So he's returning to base next week to resume his life as a Marine, husband and father.

"I still try to think of myself as a normal, everyday person," said Gracin in a phone interview as he was driven from venue to venue in Hollywood yesterday. "That's the kind of image I tried to portray on the show. I don't want to get my feet too far off the ground."

"American Idol" sparked the career of its first winner, pop star Kelly Clarkson, in its initial season. This year's three final contestants Clay Aiken, 24, Kimberley Locke, 25, and Ruben Studdard, 25 will have their musical fates determined over the next few weeks by the millions of fans who phone in to vote.

In the meantime, Gracin whose last song on the show was the Bee Gees' "To Love Somebody" will stow his wardrobe and head back in his cammies to the administrative job he left on base to begin his journey on reality television.

In fact, he briefly checked back into his unit on base Thursday, a day after his stint on the TV show ended, he said.

"It felt good to go back," said Gracin, who plans to leave the Marine Corps when his four-year enlistment is up in September 2004 to pursue his music career.

Even stardom couldn't keep the Marine in Gracin from coming out as he sang his way through elimination rounds on the show. During his audition, he saluted the judges to help set himself apart. One night during the competition, he answered prickly judge Simon Cowell with push-ups when Cowell suggested he lose a few pounds.

The bearing he learned during boot camp at Parris Island, S.C., helped him succeed on the show, he said.

"It helped me remain confident and calm and take everything in to assess what's happening to you at that point," he said.

Gracin would like to perform with the American Idol singers as they tour the country, but that must be first worked out with producers and the Marine Corps.

When the show began Jan. 21, he juggled his duties as a Marine and the responsibilities of being a contestant. As things progressed and he moved to Los Angeles as a finalist, the Marines granted him "permissive temporary active duty" leave. His role provided publicity for the Marines, he said.

As the war with Iraq escalated, Gracin received some negative comments about his performing while other Marines were dying. The truth is his unit was never called to deploy to the Middle East, he said.

"People are going to say things when they have no clue how things actually work," he said. "People don't understand that not everybody goes overseas when a war happens. If I was told to go somewhere, I would have to go somewhere. There would be no opportunity for special treatment."

Gracin, a native of Westland, Mich., is optimistic that he can lay the groundwork for a music career while still completing his commitment to the Marines. He wants to record during his free time on the weekends.

So far he has not signed any deals for additional contracts or endorsements, he said.

For now, he and his wife, Ann Marie Gracin, 23, his high school sweetheart, plan to resume their life at home on base at Camp Pendleton, shopping like other Marine families at the commissary and post exchange.

But their taste of Hollywood was a wonderful experience, she said. She joined her husband during many of the tapings of the show and media interviews this week. She and their 13-month-old daughter, Briana Marie, lived in a Los Angeles hotel room Sundays through Thursdays and waited backstage while he performed.

"Ever since we've met, I've known that he does have a wonderful talent, and I knew he would be able to show off that talent," his wife said. "It's amazing to see him up there doing what he loves to do. He just touches everybody."

As Joshua Gracin sang his farewell "To Love Somebody" on Wednesday, he cradled his daughter on stage as his wife looked on from the audience.

"It was a very, very special moment. Something that we will always remember," she said. The next "American Idol" with the three remaining contestants airs Tuesday on Fox TV. The finale is scheduled for May 21.



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Union-Tribune library researcher Michelle Gilchrist contributed to this report.
Lisa Marinelli: (760) 476-8216; lisa.marinelli@uniontrib.com



Sempers,

Roger