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Gongsköl, parade make for a wild Wintersköl

Jennifer Davoren

Tap-dancing ventriloquists, 9-year-old songwriters, flaming bowling balls – the first-ever Gongsköl, Wintersköl’s take on “The Gong Show” at the Wheeler Opera House, had it all.

Some contestants showcased talents. Others displayed, well, the exact opposite.

Either way, the audience of Friday’s Gongsköl saw a different side of their friends and neighbors.

“Maybe you’ll see a side of them you didn’t want to see, but here it is,” shrugged event co-host Brian O’Neil as the Gongsköl curtain lifted.

The evening’s first act introduced one of two Aspen Times columnists who turned out for the event.

The admittedly mojo-less Barry Smith entertained the crowd with a song that posed the question, “What if [blues legend] Muddy Waters was white?” The answer: “Hootchie Caucasian Man,” a riff on the titular character’s dedication to SUVs and cell phones.

A panel of judges – Aspen Mayor Helen Klanderud, County Commissioner Patti Clapper, computer guru Nick DeWolf, local musician Jeannie Walla and KSPN disc jockey Steve Skinner – scored the competitors.

Smith – who, according to a few audience members, suffered for being the first to take the stage Friday night – scored well, but was soon knocked from prize contention by consecutive acts.

A barbershop quartet, a tai chi performer from South Africa, and a tap-dancing ventriloquist/RFTA driver were among the acts “gonged” by judges and audience members. The gong disqualified contestants from the evening’s competition.

A guitar-playing Greg Gordon and his version of Chuck Berry’s “Ding-a-ling,” along with gallery owner Judy Hill’s rendition of “What Lola Wants,” were also interrupted in midperformance, though both vocalists took their “gongs” in stride.

A performer dressed as Tiger Woods, performing a balancing act involving golf clubs and the theme to “Caddyshack,” and New Zealand native Faith Murray, performing a dance from her homeland, survived near-gongs to finish their acts, but found low scores from the judges.

“Jammin’ Jim” Pomey offered the evening’s show-stopping finale with his flaming juggling act, involving a few burning batons and, at one point, a lighted bowling ball.

Pomey provided one of the evening’s more exciting moments when he briefly lost track of a blazing baton that bounced off the wood of the Wheeler stage. He quickly recovered the wand, however, ending his act on a high note.

Gongsköl’s first-prize honors went to fourth-graders Cooper Means and Obadiah Jones for their original song, “Time.” The Aspen Community School students – Means, the vocalist and dancer, and Jones, the song’s guitarist – will split the $500 in prize money.

A “super-secret tiebreaker” was required to determined the Gongsköl’s second-place winner, when score keepers realized that Pomey received the same number of points as Paul Andersen, another Times columnist taking part in Friday’s performance with his ode to the “Killer 82” commute, “Downvalley Shuffle.”

The pair’s mission: to eat as many pink coconut Hostess “Snowballs” as possible, without the use of their hands.

Pomey made quick work of his plate of cupcakes. Andersen, turning up his nose at the treats, decided instead to toss them at the crowd. Pomey won second place and $250 by default.

Anderson took home third place and a “surprise gift” – a children’s snowcone maker.


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