The Windy City basked in the spotlight as Fox's "American Idol" premiered Thursday night.
Judges Mariah Caray, Nicki Minaj, Randy Jackson and Keith Urban visited Chicago for auditions to determine who would earn a trip to Hollywood to compete for the chance to follow in the footsteps of such past winners as Mount Prospect's Lee DeWyze.
The judges punched the ticket for 46 singers, including Mariah Pulice of Darien and Andrew Jones of Hoffman Estates.
Pulice reached the judges' hearts with her powerful rendition of the Beatles' "Let It Be." But it was the The 19-year-old restaurant hostess' equally powerful story that helped deliver the knockout punch.
Trying to hold back tears, Pulice related her painful struggle with anorexia that began in junior high. By high school, she said, she was eating a slice of American cheese a day.
"There were days when I literally wouldn't get out of bed," she said, but added, "If there was no music, I would not be alive."
By the end of her performance, the other Mariah in the room was reduced to tears. "You touched me," Carey said. "I know what it's like to have to sing through tears."
Pulice said, "This feels beautiful. I feel beautiful for the first time in so long."
Jones swayed infectiously as he sang "Knock on Wood," prompting Urban to say, "I like you, man."
Jones, who grew up in Chicago's Englewood neighborhood on the South Side, served five years with the Air Force.
As for the rest of the show, viewers saw the pendulum predictably shift from the sublime to the ridiculous. The latter included dancers who tried -- unsuccessfully -- to branch out into singing, while the former included a tremendously talented singer from Florida, Lazaro Arbos, who suffers from a severe speech impediment that he can only overcome by singing, and an eccentric performer known as Kez Ban, who, when not singing, performs with fire.