By Ken Stone and Chris Stone
Venezuelan-born Marla Merlano, 54, speaks five languages and journeyed from her home on Oahu.
Fellow singer Crystal Sullivan, 32, of San Jose was in foster care for six years and separated from her sister.
Hundreds of people auditioned Sunday in San Diego for the 15th season of “America’s Got Talent,” and most everyone had a hook. Something beyond raw ability to get the NBC producers’ attention.
Detroit native Antoine Baynes told of being a former homeless comic who did Michael Jackson impersonations in Las Vegas before moving to L.A. He says he tried out for Season 3 of “So You Think You Can Dance.”
Fellow comedian Lynne Oneal, 56, of Morgan Hill said she’s been sober 24 years and now is a second-year student at Gavilan College in Gilroy.
Rapper Angela Hegne, 24, of Reno, Nevada, lost her mother at age 2 and never knew her father. Dancer Calvin Wilson, 20, is from the Warm Springs Indian Reservation in Oregon.
And singer Michael Muldoon, 73, lives on a sailboat in Harbor Island with Julia, his wife of 53 years. He says now is the “right time” to gain the fame he’s been chasing his whole life.
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On the other hand, Clairemont 10-year-old Makena Stumpo — brought to the San Diego Convention Center by his mother, Teri — has more modest goals. He wants to meet Paul McCartney and “AGT” host Terry Crews.
Singing “Hey Jude” for Times of San Diego, Makena showed serious chops — but said he’s never had a professional voice coach.
“He just has a gift,” mom Teri said in the Ballroom D holding area, where acts filtered through starting at 8 a.m.
And SDSU baton twirlers Alexis Gallegos (a sophomore studying criminal justice) and Kari Webb (a senior English major) threw themselves into the $1 million annuity competition as well.
San Diego last hosted preliminary auditions in January 2016 — where “AGT” producers pick the talent suitable for taped tryouts before creator Simon Cowell and a revolving cast of celebrity judges including Howie Mandell.
This year, it’s the first of nine audition cities, followed next week by Louisville. Stops include New York City, Dallas, Miami and Las Vegas — ending Feb. 1 in Los Angeles.
Singers Nancy and Michael Natter of Descanso were happy just to be there.
In January 2016, they were riding in a Lexus SUV when someone ran a red light near the Oceanside Home Depot and T-boned the car they were in. Nancy, 70, says she lost 4 inches in height as a result of spinal injuries.
Her husband, Michael, 68, suffered less but feared losing more.
The driver? He was famed San Diego singer Jason Mraz. The Natters wrote songs he spun into gold.
The Natters — with six children and looking forward to their 18th grandchild — share songwriting credits for Mraz’s “Yes” and “3 Things” while Michael is composer of the Grammy winner’s “I Won’t Give Up” and “Love is a Four Letter Word.”
(The pair also wrote the 2014 hit “It’s About Us” for Alex & Sierra, winners on the final “The X-Factor US” reality show.)
Scripps Ranch’s Sawyer Flint, a 12-year-old magician attending Marshall Middle School, showed off a card trick with his father, Brock, holding a snack for later — a banana.
Amber Pierron, 34, of San Diego was making her second attempt to make it past the first “AGT” audition — planning to sing an R&B tune by Colbie Caillat. When she was in her 20s, Pierron also tried out for “American Idol.”
Originally from Oklahoma, she comes from a family of singers, but said her clan concentrated on her education. She received a bachelor’s degree in chemistry.
Now after raising two children and keeping her pipes active with karaoke, Pierron wants to continue her goal of inspiring girls to be themselves.
Angela Mona, 19, of Menifee also had dreams of stardom. Mona recently released her first music video entitled “Snap.”
Practicing in the back of the room, Mona was philosophical about her chances, saying she would be satisfied “as long as I am able to express myself. I’ll see what I have to offer.”
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