Idol contestants talk about being "in the bubble". Cooped up in rehearsals, hurried through a strict schedule by minders and advised to avoid the media, they only have a the vaguest idea about how the world outside sees them.
Boy was Michael Johns in for a surprise!
Today Michael, who was eliminated from the contest on Thursday, told us about his first incredible night out of the bubble.
Michael, 29, started the evening feeling blown away when the public wanted their pictures taken with him, and ended it singing a duet with Ashton Kutcher in front of a room full of superstars.
And he said that any bitterness he had felt after he was dropped from Idol melted away when he was lauded by some of the biggest names in show business.
For Michael’s first night away from Idol, his wife Tracey and an old friend surprised him with a pair of tickets for Saturday Night Live in New York, which was guest-hosted by Ashton.
"Literally, I hadn’t done anything in the public. I got off the plane and my first public anything was SNL," Michael told us.
"So waiting in line, people were coming up taking photos and I was like, ‘Wow, what is going on?!’"
When SNL staff recognised Michael, they invited him and Tracey to the after-party at the trendy Chelsea barbecue restaurant, Hill Country.
"Cast members were coming up to me and going, ‘Man, you were robbed!’
"It was unbelievable! Then their mums and the dads and the PAs [were coming over].
"It’s just like ‘Whoa!’ We’d just done press, so I’d never really seen the public side of it."
He says that because Ashton was hosting, the party was even more star-studded than usual.
"They had everyone there from like P Diddy to Marisa Tomei, Lorne [Michaels] was there, Demi Moore, Cameron Diaz, all the cast from Superbad.
"I’m just sitter there like ‘Whoa!’"
But Michael, originally from Perth, Australia, told us that things got really crazy when he spotted Rumer Willis, a dedicated Idol fan.
"I’d met Rumer Willis before at events and stuff in L.A.," he said. "So I went over to talk to her and then, as I was going to talk to her, I was felt these arms come behind me and hug me and Rumer goes, ‘Oh Mum!’
"I was like, ‘If I turn around and that’s Demi Moore, I’m going to freak out!’ And it was!
Michael, a former professional mascot who was paid to wear a kangaroo suit to rugby matches, said that the Ghost star told him she was a huge fan and was outraged that he had been booted.
"You see these people in TV and movies and stuff and you don’t know what to expect and just that they would embrace me and they were like, "Don’t worry dude, your career’s going to be fine, you’re cool dude.’ It was huge!," he said.
Michael and Tracey were thrilled enough when Demi and Ashton invited them to their private "after-after" party at the Cutting Room nightclub, but he never dreamed he would end up being the star of the night!
When the band that had been booked to play didn’t show up, Michael told us, "Demi said ‘Is it possible you’d go up and sing and do a couple of songs for us, please.’
"And I’m like, ‘Er, yeah, ok.’
"So one of the guys from the SNL band knew a bunch of cover songs, so he got up on the piano and we jammed out!
"We did Dock of the Bay — an Otis Redding tune — and Ashton said to me, ‘Do you know Dream On?’,
"So I was like, ‘This is the song I got voted off for and everyone got out their camera phones and we sang the song!
"It was phenomenal! I’m still in a daze. That’s not normal!"
But, as Michael starts to negotiate record deals, only time will tell if that will just a be a single, bizarre night that Michael will remember forever, or the first day of his life as a star.