COSTA MESA — Los Angeles-based musician Ernie Halter has his fans but he just found out that one of the biggest pop icons in the world knows his name: Justin Bieber.
Bieber showed up Thursday night during a performance by Halter at La Cave in Costa Mesa to surprise the singer-songwriter. Bieber had covered Halter's song "Come Home to Me" at a Hong Kong performance during his recent world tour.
Halter, 36, had no idea that Bieber, 17, knew he existed until he saw a video of the performance online. From that moment on, he said, everything got crazier. The two started Tweeting shortly thereafter.
Intending to do a solo act at the bar and restaurant, Halter didn't expect a pop icon to follow him onto the stage, let alone sing alongside him.
"I always try to picture in my head, you know, what would be the best thing that could happen, what would be the best opportunity … I think if you know what you want, that you're that closer to getting it," Halter said. "The other day someone asked me, and I was thinking, 'Well, a song on 'Grey's Anatomy,' that would be big, or someone singing my song on 'American Idol' — that would be ridiculous.
"I never thought of this. This outdoes any of that. I can't think of an opportunity that would be bigger. I'm just really, really fortunate."
Halter is no stranger to the industry. He's been getting by as a musician for years, living in Los Feliz, and enjoys faithful fans.
However, he said, nothing could have prepared him for last night.
"I think I'm just enjoying what it is in the moment. The moment is really nice right now," he said. "If anything happens after this, then awesome. If nothing does, then I'm OK. This has been really incredible, and he's such a humble guy."
La Cave owner Mike Palitz got a call about the pop star coming to his restaurant and was told to keep it under wraps.
He told his 11-year-old daughter, Fiona, that she might want to make a trip to the restaurant that night.
"Before his car door even opened, she had already ID'd him, pushed her way to the front, running out with her camera," he said. "Whatever… the fever, she's got it."
Palitz was surprised when a simple SUV showed up carrying Bieber and his girlfriend, actress Selena Gomez, and Bieber's manager, Scooter Braun.
No entourage. No crazed fans.
"The thing I found interesting was the very humble way they came," he said. "Justin specifically told the manager that they wanted to be treated normal."
Justin ordered the swordfish and Gomez had the Surf N' Turf.
Palitz said they asked to write to the chef, complimenting the meal and saying it was one of the best they'd had.
"They were [the] nicest people," he said.
As for Halter, he's just living in the moment. Although many are crazed fans for Bieber, not many can say that Bieber is a fan of them.
When asked about a possible collaboration, he stayed cool.
"I've learned just to take it as it comes. This has been really awesome," he said. "I'd love to do collaboration. But we'll see. I don't know what will happen."
The song Bieber covered, "Come Home to Me" is off Halter's record "Franklin and Vermont."