The widower of a basketball coach who was killed in the same helicopter crash that claimed the lives of Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna paid emotional tribute to his late wife during an emotional performance on America’s Got Talent.
Matt Mauser, 51, from Huntington Beach, California, appeared on the talent show on Tuesday night, when he wowed judged with his heart-wrenching performance of Phil Collins’ hit Against All Odds.
Before launching into his rendition of the song, Matt – a retired teacher – honored his wife Christina, describing her as a ‘humble, powerful human being’ and his ‘greatest supporter’.
Christina, who was an assistant basketball coach at the Newport Beach school where Gianna was a student, was killed alongside Kobe, Gianna, and six other people on-board their helicopter when it crashed in Calabasas on January 26, 2020.
Matt teared up as he told the judges about dealing with the loss of his wife – while his three children watched on from the wings, having jokingly advised him ahead of his appearance to ‘not suck’.
‘On January 26, 2020, I lost my wife in the same helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant,’ Matt said, before explaining that he and Christina, who was 38 when she died, had been school teachers, but retired so that he could pursue his music.
Emotional: The widower of a woman who was killed in the helicopter crash that claimed the lives of Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna appeared on America’s Got Talent on Tuesday
Tribute: Matt Mauser, 51, paid tribute to his late basketball coach wife Christina, 38, who was mother to his three children – all of whom joined him on the talent show
Support: Speaking about the devastating loss of his wife, Matt described her as a ‘humble, powerful human being’, adding that she was his ‘greatest supporter’
Before wowing the judges with his heart-wrenching rendition of Phil Collins’ Against All Odds, Matt explained that he and Christina had retired from teaching so he could pursue singing
Christina then got the opportunity to coach girls’ basketball at a nearby school, which is where she met Kobe.
Speaking to host Terry Crews ahead of his performance, Matt said that he and Christina had lived a ‘dreamy life’ before the crash that took her life, explaining: ‘Before January 26, me and Christina lived this dreamy kind of life.’
He revealed that it was actually his singing that brought the two of them together back in 2004, after she saw him performing at a local dive bar.
‘I asked her out and we sat in my car and we talked about music,’ he shared, before agreeing with Terry’s suggestion that Christina had been his ‘greatest supporter’.
‘She was this humble, powerful, beautiful human being. My mom said, “If you don’t marry this girl, you’re stupid.”
‘We were married for 15 years, we had three beautiful children. It was filled with love.’
Describing his final moments with Christina, an emotional Matt said that her final words to him were, ‘I love you’.
‘When she left that day, she kissed me and she said, “I love you,” and that was the last thing my wife ever said to me,’ he recalled. ‘Your whole life changes in a second.
‘My focus immediately went to my children. You start to say, “Alright, she would want me to carry on.” She would want our kids to have happy lives. I don’t know if it’s possible but I’m going to try.’
Once up on the stage, Matt left the judges open-mouthed as he explained how much he misses Christina, telling them: ‘If I had it my way, I would have my wife and I’d be supporting her.
Tragedy: Kobe and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna (right) were killed alongside Christina and six others when the helicopter they were flying on crashed in Calabasas on January 26, 2020
Before his performance, Matt revealed that it was actually his singing that brought him and Christina together back in 2004, after she saw him performing at a local dive bar
The couple’s three children, Penny, Thomas, and Ivy, watched on from the wings as their father paid tribute to their late mother, who died at the age of 38
Speaking to host Terry Crews, Matt said that he and Christina had been living a ‘dreamy life’ before the helicopter crash, adding that the final thing she said to him was: ‘I love you’
‘But that’s not what happened. It’s been a rough year, but here I am.’
Judge Simon Cowell then asked if Matt’s children were with him, before calling the trio – Penny, Thomas, and Ivy – onto the stage to say hello while the audience gave them a standing ovation.
‘I’m not going to ask anything else Matt,’ Simon continued. ‘All I’m going to say is best of luck.’
‘I want him to be great,’ Howie Mandel whispered to Heidi Klum as Matt prepared to begin his performance.
The devoted dad certainly delivered, launching into a powerful rendition of the 1984 song, leaving all four judges fighting back tears.
Towards the end of his performance, the emotion appeared to become too much for Matt, who broke down, while the audience and all four judges gave him a standing ovation.
While Matt wiped away tears, Howie, 65, praised the father-of-three for allowing his ’emotion’ to shine through in his performance.
‘We felt your emotion and regardless of what anybody does on that stage if you’re able to move strangers and we can feel it in our hearts – and I’m not only speaking about everybody at this table, but everybody at home that heard that – there aren’t words to describe it,’ he said.
Heidi then chimed in: ‘There was just a different kind of vibe in your voice and when you were singing it, it definitely went inside of me. It was beautiful, it was sad. And as a man, as a strong man standing there, it was very special.’
The devoted dad certainly delivered, launching into a powerful rendition of Collins’ 1984 song, leaving all four judges fighting back tears
The father-of-three broke down in tears as he neared the end of the song – which all four judges praised for its incredibly raw emotion
After his emotional rendition of the song, Matt told Simon that he hopes his appearance on the show will show his children that their grief will not define their lives forever
This was the scene on the hillside in Calabasas after the crash at 9.45am on January 26, 2020. There were no survivors
Sofia Vergara described the song as ‘very emotional, very touching’, before thanking Matt for stepping out on stage to share his story.
When asked by Simon what he hoped would happen should he find success on the show, Matt admitted that he ‘hadn’t got that far’, but said that he wants to show his children that their grief will not define their lives forever.
‘I would like to make sure that my children see that, in spite of the grief that we’ve been through this year, that grief is not going to define who we are as a family and that my children see that you have to find joy in life and you have to continue,’ he said.
‘If this in any way can help my children to chase their dreams then I’ll take it.’
Howie kicked off the ‘yes or no’ portion of the judging with a touching message, telling Matt, ‘You know something, your wife is always here, and [your children] are her legacy, you are her legacy, this moment is her legacy.
‘And on behalf of your wife and everybody in America, I’d like to give you your first yes.’
His ‘yes’ was then echoed by all of the other three judges, prompting another standing ovation as Matt’s three children ran onto the stage to celebrate with their dad.
Concluding his debut performance on the show, Matt told the camera: ‘When I was out there tonight, I was singing to her, and I wanted to make her proud… I think I did that.
‘I felt her in my heart, which was nice.’
Heidi Klum admitted that she was incredibly touched by the ‘beauty’ and ‘sadness’ of Matt’s performance, while Simon Cowell expressed his condolences to the father-of-three
All four judges gave Matt a standing ovation at the end of his performance, with each of them giving him a resounding ‘yes’, putting him through to the next stage of the competition
Matt’s three children ran on stage to congratulate their father as he celebrated his success
‘If this in any way can help my children to chase their dreams then I’ll take it,’ he added
Matt’s appearance on the show comes just 17 months after the helicopter crash that killed Christina and eight other people.
He had previously opened up about the devastating loss during an interview with the Today show in the wake of the horrific accident, describing his wife as ‘extraordinary’ and ‘incredibly witty and funny’.
‘She was incredibly witty, funny, funny like nobody you’ve ever met,’ he said. ‘She was warm, she was incredibly bright, she was technologically incredibly savvy. She could figure out anything.’
Matt added that he was ‘trying to figure out how to navigate life with three kids and no mom,’ admitting that he was ‘scared’ about what the future held for the family.
‘I’m scared,’ he said. ‘I think more than anything I’m a little scared about the future.’
In February of this year, federal investigators ruled that the crash was caused by pilot Ara Zobayan’s poor decision to fly in dangerous conditions, which they said was the result of ‘self-induced’ pressure to please his famous client.
Prior to the ruling, investigators had not been able to definitively say whether Kobe put pressure on the pilot, who was working for Island Express, a private company, to continue with the flight despite the dangerous weather conditions.
There was no proof of helicopter malfunction but because the helicopter had no black box, it was largely a mystery what happened. Island Express, the private charter company that owned the aircraft, removed the black box while renovating the helicopter so they could fit more passengers.
However, the final results of the investigation determined that there was no pressure placed on the pilot by Kobe.
Instead, investigators said the crash occurred when the pilot lost control of the aircraft after becoming disoriented in the fog and that all along, he’d was likely influenced by a ‘self-induced pressure’ to satisfy his famous client.
The best of the rest: America’s Got Talent judges wowed by ‘angelic’ nine-year-old opera singer – as she blazes a golden trail straight to the live shows
Golden buzzer: All four judges and host Terry later during the two-hour episode simultaneously pushed the Golden Buzzer to send nine-year-old girl opera singer Victory Brinker straight through to the live shows
Golden confetti: Golden confetti fell as Victory became the first contestant to ever receive a Golden Buzzer from all four judges and the host simultaneously
Tender moment: Victory ran and hugged her mother as golden glitter fell down around them
All four judges and host Terry later during the two-hour episode simultaneously pushed the Golden Buzzer to send nine-year-old girl opera singer Victory Brinker straight through to the live shows.
The audience leapt to their feet after her performance as a pigeon that had gotten into the theater flew on a speaker and sat there almost waiting for the judges to issue their decision.
‘You are angelic and I loved it,’ Howie told her.
Heidi told Victory ‘you are incredible.’
Sofia told her ‘you are a star.’
Simon paused before giving her his answer and then he asked Terry to come over before he said to the disappointed girl that ‘we are not going to give you a yes today.’
The crowd booed, but then Simon said, ”We are going to do something else that we never, ever done on the show before, we are all going to give you something special. Five, Four, Three, Two, One ‘ and then all the judges including Terry pressed the Golden Buzzer together.
Victory ran and hugged her mother as golden glitter fell down around them.
‘Victory, you are going straight to the live show,’ Terry told her.
On stage: Simon, Sofia Vergara, Terry Crews, Heidi Klum and Howie Mandel joined Victory on stage as her mother hugged her
First up: The show started off with Joel Claudio, 30, a Puerto Rican twirler who mesmerized the judges performing his twirling routine to Queen’s ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’
When Simon asked Victory what she would do with the $1 million prize, she said she planned to buy Simon a rainbow shirt with glitter so that he could add some color to his wardrobe.
The show started off with Joel Claudio, 30, a Puerto Rican twirler who mesmerized the judges performing his twirling routine to Queen’s ‘Don’t Stop Me Now.’
Sofia screamed ‘amazing’ when he was done.
Simon said he loved his positive personality and that he just knew he was a great person, while Howie said he was a ‘one man parade.’
All four voted him on.
Next, a singer named Madilyn Bailey entertained the judges with her original song made from her hate comments she received on her YouTube videos and used them to make a catchy song.
Original song: Madilyn Bailey entertained the judges with her original song made from her hate comments
‘Why do you make every song bad, your voice is very, very bad,’ were some of her catchy lyrics. ‘She’s so overrated, am I the only one who really hates her?’
Heidi said her performance was ‘so-so”, but Simon told her she had a great talent.
Madilyn’s original song got her four yeses.
The judges were blown away by the Chapkidz Dance Fam, a group of dancers aged 12 to 18, who said they would use the prize money if they won to take a trip to Universal Studios.
Talented team: The judges were blown away by the Chapkidz Dance Fam, a group of dancers aged 12 to 18
For the dance, the group of around 30 performances moved completely in sync to the music.
Howie told them it was a sleek professional performance, while Simon said they were one of the best dance acts.
The judges gave them four yeses and voted them on.
There were a variety of acts that stunned the judges from Slinky Josh, who performed with slinky toys, to a dance duo with one of the dancers aged 96.
Dynamic duo: The dance duo of Roy and Judith, age 96, impressed the judges
Then a man named Donovan, who said his dream was to be a Broadway performer, shocked the judges with his high pitched voice.
‘Well, well, well, we were not expecting that,’ said Simon. Heidi called his voice ‘very unusual.’ Simon told him he had ‘an amazing voice’ and the judges all voted him on.
One contestant named Alex Ostrovskyi performed an act with flying little trumpets, however, his music failed to win over the judges and he got two X’s.
Flying trumpets: One contestant named Alex Ostrovskyi performed an act with flying little trumpets, however, his music failed to win over the judges and he got two X’s
Simon, though, gave him a standing ovation and thought it was ‘unbelievable’ that he got two X’s.
Cam Bertrand, 27, a stand up comedian from Tampa, Florida, came out and lightened the mood with an act about turning 27 trying to buy wine. In no time, he had Simon, Sofia, and Heidi laughing.
The judges voted him on.
Funny guy: Cam Bertrand, 27, a stand up comedian from Tampa, Florida, came out and lightened the mood
Cam’s act was followed by a 13-year-old dancer named Breez Lily.
Breez said she has been dancing since was five. She cried when she said she was adopted and that she was very shy.
Her parents watched on stage and Breez danced to Kelly Clarkson’s ‘Piece by Piece.’
Sofia told her she looked beautiful and looked like she was floating, while Heidi told her that ‘you are really, really special.’
High praise: Sofia told the young dancer that she looked beautiful and looked like she was floating
One act called GiGi Deluxe featured a professional archer mother shooting balloons out of her daughter’s mouth with a bow and arrow.
The scary act had arrows coming within inches of her daughter.
All the judges except for Howie voted them on.
‘I was trying to save the child,’ said Howie.
Next time: MJ failed to advance after the judges had a hard time hearing him
A group of Mexican male dancers called Guapacharros dressed in charro outfits started out with a traditional dance but then ripped off their jackets to reveal their chiseled bodies turning the act into a Magic Mike-like show.
They said they wanted to go on to bring their show to Las Vegas and all the judges voted them on.
America’s Got Talent will return next week on NBC.
Charros group: A group of Mexican male dancers called Guapacharros dressed in charro outfits
Shirts off: The group then ripped off their jackets to reveal their chiseled bodies turning the act into a Magic Mike-like show
Source: Daily Mail