"Amateur Night" at the Apollo, now 80 years young

Also performing that night with host Wayne Brady was a 13-year-old blind keyboard phenom named Matthew Whitaker, who played like the second coming of Ray Charles.

Whitaker won "Amateur Night" when he was just nine.

Contestants come from all over, and have to audition to get in.

Twenty-three-year-old Sung Lee is a "beatboxer," making music with his mouth -- and this year has won the first two "Amateur Nights" in which he's performed. "I want to win the whole thing, of course. But I've got my ways to go. Two more rounds."

A psychology major, Lee gave up his job in Las Vegas, to beat-box full-time in the New York subways. Not an easy crowd! "But if you really grab their attention with something special and unique, they'll stop for you," Lee said. "And they'll pay you."

At the Apollo, at least, he didn't have to compete with the trains. "But it's actually kind of similar," he told Mason, "because the audience is the judge, both for the Apollo and the subway."

Apollo crowds are encouraged to express their opinion, which is measured by a meter over the stage. Sung Lee scored a 91. If he can win twice more he'll be the annual "Amateur" champion -- and, like Dr. Matthew Hashimoto, will walk away with a $10,000 check.

"Oh, it was great," said Dr. Hasimoto. "Can pay off my student loans!"

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First-place winner Matthew Hashimoto, with Apollo "Amateur Night" producer Marion J. Cafey, at the 2012 Amateur Night At The Apollo Super Top Dog Finale, November 14, 2012 in New York City.
Shahar Azran/Getty Images
For the winners, "Amateur Night" at the Apollo is often life-changing. But Dr. Hashimoto, who now has a band, has not given up his day job. "Oh, I do love dentistry, yeah," he said. "I love singing, too. And actually I do sing sometimes when I'm working with patients!"

Mason asked, "How thrilling was it to win at the Apollo?"

"I tried to make sure that I remembered every moment of it," he replied. "Just because it was one of those things that never in a million years do you ever think it's going to happen."


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