Wheeling' s Haley hits the 'Idol' stage again tonight
The plan was just a quick stop at Wheeling's board meeting on Monday, to confer with Village President Judy Abruscato about plans for Saturday's Hometown Celebration. Ten minutes, tops.
But Harry Reinhart and Patti Miller-Reinhart got talking to neighbors and an hour later they were still there chatting away. Or Patti was. Harry was at the door, patiently waiting for his wife and smiling with his arms crossed.
"All these years she's been my little girl, and now she's everyone's little girl," said Patti about her daughter, "American Idol" finalist Haley Reinhart. "But she's having fun. Although she's too skinny. I think she looks too skinny."
The journey of an "Idol" finalist is a long one and no one knows that better than the finalist's parents. Haley Reinhart, 20, left her hometown of Wheeling for Hollywood in March and hasn't been home since. Besides two live shows a week, she and the other contestants are busy with constant rehearsals, filming commercials and cutting studio tracks of their weekly performances. Phone calls home are rare, although the Reinharts did hear from Haley via Skype on Mother's Day.
"Poor baby, she's tired," Patti said. "But this is so very cool."
The Reinharts have lived in town for more than two decades, reside 10 doors down from the mayor and know the police chief personally. Haley graduated from Wheeling High School where her younger sister, Angela, is now a student.
They've made two appearances at Wheeling village board meetings, one time staying almost two hours to see if a Dunkin' Donuts drive-through was approved.
It was. After the vote, Patti gave the board a quick round of applause.
Musicians themselves, Harry and Patti aren't leaving for California this week until after Harry performs Tuesday night. He plays guitar in Midnight, a classic-rock cover band; Traffic Jam, a rock band; and Skip Towne and the Greyhounds, a blues band. Patti and Harry met in 1978 and she often joins him onstage, especially at the PS Pub in Wheeling.
The first time Haley took the stage, she was 9 years old and with her parents.
On "Idol," Patti and Harry say they can feel their daughter's nerves. But last week, Haley brought the judges to their feet with her version of "House of the Rising Sun."
A few days later Harry sent out an email to his band's followers.
"Be still my heart," he wrote. "It's one of the classic songs from every musician's childhood from my generation. Garage tune of all garage tunes and if I may say so, she made it her own. Haley has to follow that up with a big week and get back home."
Tonight, she'll take the "Idol" stage again. This week's theme is the Lieber and Stoller songbook, which features 1950s and '60s hits like "Jailhouse Rock" and "I'm a Woman." Lady Gaga's the mentor and Reinhart covered her unreleased track "You and I" on last week's show, so the two should have some kinship.
Only four contestants remain, and if Reinhart makes it past Thursday's elimination round, she's coming home to a daylong hometown celebration on Saturday that will end with a mini-concert at Arlington Park.
If she gets cut, she's just coming home.
Of the four final contestants, Reinhart has been in the bottom three four times, the most of any of the remaining Idols. Front-runners James Durbin and Scotty McCreery have never been there, and Lauren Alaina's first taste came last week, but she was safe when Jacob Lusk was eliminated.
"This Wednesday is really important," Harry Reinhart told the village board. "She's on a roll. People are starting to listen."
Thanks in part to PS Pub selling hundreds of "I Love Haley" T-shirts, Patti and Harry have been able to fly to California a handful of times to watch Haley perform live. But when they're home, the couple blends back into their regular lives.
"Angie and I were at Walgreens and this woman looked at me and said, 'You look familiar,'" Patti said. "But she never really figured it out."