Sam Johnson, a 1998 graduate of Houlton High School, last night advanced to the next round on “America’s Got Talent,” the summertime nationwide competition on NBC that brings out some of the most unique talents in the country. Johnson, who Houlton residents might know from his performances years ago at the Houlton Agricultural Fair and the Houlton Recreation Center, climbed up an 80 foot sway pole set up outside the “America’s Got Talent” studios, and then, completely untethered, did a handstand. Judges Howie Mandel, Heidi Klum, Mel B and Howard Stern agreed his act was well worth keeping on the show for the next round.
On the show, Johnson, 34, said he is a single dad of a 5-year-old son, Phinneas, and that he joined a circus when he was younger, with which he traveled around and learned the tricks of the trade – including his death-defying pole-climbing act. He quit the circus to raise his son. According to WHOU-FM, a radio station in the Houlton area, Johnson is a graduate of Houlton High and was familiar to the community when in the 1990s he performed at various events around town, whether it was juggling or slack wire walking. The Bangor Daily News wrote an article about Johnson back in 1995, when he was a freshman in high school, describing him riding a unicycle on a slack wire and studying with Circus Smirkus, a Vermont-based traveling children’s circus. He is still based in Burlington, though as he said in an email Wednesday night, “my heart is still in Maine.”