Local Impersonator a "Thriller" in New York

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It's not just the sequined glove that makes people think Ray Brooks has a resemblance to Michael Jackson. It might just be moves as well, dancing that turns even a dimly-lit front porch into a stage with an audience.

"My mom said I used to dance to Michael when I was in the crib as a baby," Brooks said. "She'd put on the music and I'd kind of wiggle a little bit."

What the Bryan High grad does now is much more than wiggling. Ray and his mother set their eyes on stardom early. Her schedule for him growing up was homework first, practice second, playtime third.

"I guess she was real strict about that, because other kids would come to the door," remembers Brooks. "'Can Ray come out?' 'No, he can't come out, he's practicing.' She was kind of like Joe Jackson, Michael Jackson's dad. That's why I relate to Mike so much."

His love of the King of Pop translated into a more and more uncanny impersonation, one which officially debuted on stage in 1997. The song, "Billie Jean."

"When you get on stage, you come alive," Brooks said. "It's right then and right there. It's like Michael all into you."

More and more, Ray became noticed for his act. He still is asked to dance anywhere he goes, be it a street corner or a shopping mall. But a friend clued him in on the opportunity of a lifetime. The famous Showtime at the Apollo was on tour, and on their way to College Station.

"I was shocked because I'd always wanted to do that show," Brooks said, "and she said, 'They're looking for talent and I think you need to audition.' At first, I was like, 'I've been doing too many shows.' I was actually trying to do American Idol."

Ray Brooks was victorious locally, and by virtue of his win, he's now in the midst of a competition to make it to the weekly television show at the Apollo Theater. His first time on stage in New York, he and his fellow performers were given three minutes each.

"I noticed it was over three minutes. I went to five," Brooks recalled. "And then I said, 'Just out of curiosity, why did you let me go over three minutes?' And she said, 'Because if you hadn't done the moonwalk, Mr. Jackson, you wouldn't be a part of this show.'"

The 22-year-old's goals are lofty. He's working on his own music, and although he doesn't aspire to be a Jackson impersonator for life, what he wants sounds pretty similar to MJ: "To be the biggest recording performing artist of all time," he said.