Long Islander Sal Valentinetti performed during the taping of the...

Long Islander Sal Valentinetti performed during the taping of the Nassau Coliseum auditions for "American Idol" airing Thursday, Jan. 1, 2015. Credit: Fox

This story was originally published on Jan. 14, 2015, during "American Idol's" final season.


If nothing else comes from Sal Valentinetti's "American Idol" audition, at least he won $100.

The 19-year-old from Bethpage made quite an impression at the open-call Nassau Coliseum auditions in July and on the celebrity judges when he auditioned for them in September with the Frank Sinatra classic "Fly Me to the Moon."

"I'll give you a hundred bucks if you can tell me the real name of that song," judge Harry Connick Jr. challenges him as part of the audition, which airs Thursday night on Fox. When Valentinetti, who performs songs from Sinatra and Tony Bennett regularly at Vetro in Howard Beach and J. Michaels Tuscan Steakhouse in Oyster Bay, correctly answers "In Other Words," Connick pays him the money.

Valentinetti, currently studying business management at St. John’s University, said that the challenge came after he talked about wanting to keep the American Songbook alive. “I’ve been very blessed,” he said. “I’m 19 and I’m able to make enough money to make my own car payment, cell phone payment.”

Another Long Islander who apparently impressed the judges is Wantagh’s Adam Ezegelian, whose audition with Steppenwolf’s “Born to Be Wild” is also set to air Thursday.

The 20-year-old, currently studying toy design at the Fashion Institute of Technology, has always loved singing, but mostly in musicals at Wantagh High School like “Beauty and the Beast” and “Little Shop of Horrors.”

“I don’t really have a lot of experience in the ‘American Idol’ kind of way,” Ezegelian says, adding that he wouldn’t have auditioned if his mom didn’t ask him to do it for her and is now very glad that he did. “It really has been thrilling.”

Ezegelian says his style is somewhere between Steppenwolf and “Les Miserables,” with his major influences being “Weird Al” Yankovic and Jack Black’s Tenacious D.

Contestants are not allowed to reveal whether they make it to the Hollywood rounds or further, but both Valentinetti and Ezegelian say they were energized artistically by the experience. “I think it’s really worth pursuing this chance,” Ezegelian said.

And Valentinetti, who will promote the “Idol” auditions with an appearance on Fox’s “Good Day NY” Thursday morning,   says he was thrilled just for the chance to meet judge Jennifer Lopez in person.

“You think she looks good on camera?” asks Valentinetti, adding that Lopez called him an “old soul.” “In person, she’s like a hologram. She looks too good to be true.”

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