Shopping With an Idol
Actor-musician Constantine Maroulis has come a long way since grade school in Wyckoff, New Jersey, when his mother, who worked in retail at Macy’s, made sure his khakis were starched and his turtleneck tucked in before leaving the house. But even in circumstances as bleak as these, young Constantine managed to inject a little personality into his look: styling his hair with a severe part, one decidedly more to the side than your average side part.
In preparation for his debut visit to The View last week, Maroulis, now 33, once again deferred to an opinionated Greek to dress him: “John Varvatos,” he says, rather solemnly, while perusing the offerings in the Barneys men’s section on a recent Friday afternoon. “They’re hooking me up with a beautiful outfit and so I’m really excited. Full Varvatee.”
Click Image to View Our Shopping Trip with Constantine Maroulis
“Full Varvatee” is vintage Maroulis—the overtly dorky, implicitly self-deprecating quip that he’s probably been relying on since he first discovered a passion for musical theater in high school. And it will likely take much more than starring in a Broadway show—this season’s unexpected hit, Rock of Ages—and being nominated for a Tony for the performance to get him to a place where he’s entirely comfortable with his vast collection of boots and heavily middle-age female following, which he earned as a top-10 contestant on American Idol.
“The thing is that American Idol obviously appeals to a massive audience, and they have everything from little teenagers that freak out and scream when they see me,” Maroulis says. “Then there’s the sort of weird kids that were a little bit different and alternative than everyone else and were getting into Idol, too. You have the single moms. You have the Oprah audience. You have the grandmothers. You have women that want a baby. Women that want to fuck you. Women that want you to fuck their daughter or people that want to make you cookies.
“So you have everything,” he continues. “But I’ll tell you, I definitely have a pretty hard-core sort of middle-age woman following. It’s awesome when anyone follows, but I think that if I had a new hit on the radio and I was playing shows, you’d see a lot more of the teeners there, but the women that are dedicated, that travel all over the country to see me, are from 30 to 50 and some older, definitely.”
“You have the single mom fans. You have the Oprah audience. You have the grandmothers. You have women that want a baby. Women that want to fuck you. Women that want you to fuck their daughter or people that want to make you cookies.”
Yes, he allows, he has gone there, and, certainly, a good cougar ride can be good for the soul. But ultimately, Maroulis has his eyes fixed on the long term. “No, listen, you know that’s all been really great and fun, but I’m very focused on the work and eventually settling down and finding one nice girl, preferably Greek,” he says, as his chauffeured Town Car pulls up to Bloomingdale’s. (By chance, the Bloomie’s publicist is an old friend. Awkward!)
Along for the ride is his best friend since college, Jason Jurman. When met they at the Boston Conservatory of Music, they immediately bonded over their mutual affinity for the movie South Central and the fact that they were the only two guys in the musical theater department who weren’t gay.
“When we got to school, he had already started a gang called Deuce,” Maroulis explains. “When I heard him say ‘deuce’ I was like, ‘Is that from South Central?’ And that’s when we knew we were best friends.”
They began tagging the word "deuce" around campus and saying “deuce” a lot. “And you know I think we were the only two straight guys in the whole school so, we always did pretty well, too,” he says. “Then some people would mispronounce it ‘duisse,’ so then that became another sort of faction of deuce. It would be like, ‘ duisse.’ And then we had Gay Deuce, too, but I probably shouldn’t mention that.”
Jurman, whose breakthrough role came in the Showtime classic Cougar Club, has watched as his friend has risen through the ranks. He’s a lucky bastard, it’s true, Jurman tells me, but above all he says his friend is relentless at his craft.
“ American Idol is not like it’s Real World, where I’m getting drunk in Cabo with my friends.”
“I’ve always been a hustler,” Maroulis agrees. “I put myself through school. I was a little older when I started. I was about 22. I had been working in every bar and club and restaurant in New York and New Jersey. I was auditioning and I was in bands and then I said, ‘Fuck this. I need some training.’”
While he was in Boston, he did everything from small Shakespeare companies to working as hired muscle for a wedding planner.
“I would work all night long on these stupid weddings,” he remembers with a laugh, “and then be at class early the next morning and ballet all day.”
He came to New York hungry. He booked Rent pretty much right away. He hasn’t stopped since. He makes no apologies for his path. Case in point: Frank Sinatra got discovered on Rosemary Clooney’s show.
“I’ve taken some shit, but now I have a Tony nomination for best actor,” he says. “That’s something that I’ve always wanted to do, something that I studied long before American Idol, which was theater. So I feel like, and I hope I’m in no way coming across defensive, but it’s interesting when people sort of compare us to other shows. It’s not like it’s Real World where I’m getting drunk in Cabo with my friends.”
A few days later, I called to check in with him about The View. He said by all accounts the show had been a great success. As for the “full Varvatee” outfit—white pants, gray fitted tuxedo blazer, gray shirt—in classic Constantine form, he opted to add a personal spin: no socks, blue patent leather shoes.
Spencer Morgan is a freelance writer living in Brooklyn. His column Men of Manhattan appears in the New York Observer. He is a contributing editor at Playboy magazine.