Local man clips ‘Idol’ grand prize for video

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As TV prepares to anoint a pop star tonight, Dan Cunliffe II of Minot will celebrate his own “American Idol” victory.

A 10-second video he created – zapping himself into the popular program’s Web site and dancing on a computer screen – has won a national contest from AmericanIdol.com.

He earned the $5,000 grand prize. And his video may be on the much-awaited telecast.

“I don’t know if it’ll be on,” said Cunliffe, who signed papers giving “Idol” the rights to televise the video. “But basically, they own the clip.”

His 10 seconds of fame may be fleeting, but the 39-year-old store owner plans to be prepared.

“I’ll have a tape ready, just in case,” he said.

To Cunliffe, it’s all good fun.

“I love the competition of the contest,” he said. “I didn’t expect to win.”

After all, he lost a big video contest last year. The prize: an interview with Tom Cruise about his movie, “War of the Worlds.”

Is he star-struck? A little, perhaps.

His family’s Auburn store, Republic Jewelry & Collectibles, sells movie props and costumes and has hosted autograph signings for famous athletes, including Baseball Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley, and Steve Grogan, a former Patriots quarterback.

Cunliffe likes brushes with fame. And his family – wife Angie and their four kids – like “American Idol.”

“It’s a nice, wholesome show that we can watch together,” he said.

He created his entry while vacationing at his parents’ home in Florida. Working mostly at night, he combined the video with special effects on his dad’s computer, already set up to edit home movies.

Then, he merged the film with music and singing from a friend back home in Auburn, Ron Bergeron.

The result is quick, just long enough for Bergeron’s voice to sing, “AmericanIdol.com. The next-best thing to being there.”

“It’s tough,” he said. “You’re trying to get a point across in 10 seconds.”

And the competition seemed fierce. Cunliffe was chosen from 10 finalists and voted upon by visitors to the Web site, where the videos were posted.

“You wonder, Is Steven Spielberg’s son making a video?'” he said.

Among the other 10 finalists were an elementary school in Media, Pa., and a woman from Mira Loma, Calif., who made a video starring a donkey.

“I hope I don’t lose to the donkey,” Cunliffe told himself as the vote concluded. He guessed he’d likely lose, since the school would have lots of built-in voters.

In retrospect, he figures the Sun Journal helped him by running a story when he became a finalist.

He doesn’t yet know where his prize money will go.

He plans to share some with Bergeron, since he helped so much. The rest will probably go into an account for his kids.

“It’s not like I’m going to go out and buy a motorcycle,” he said. “My fun was making the video.”

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