Paul Andersen: All Gong Skölers beware! | AspenTimes.com
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Paul Andersen: All Gong Skölers beware!

If the allure of fame and fortune has you contemplating a stage appearance at the Wheeler Opera House for the upcoming Gong Sköl Show, caution is strongly advised. If the dazzling footlights have you in their thrall ” beware!

The Gong Sköl Show is billed as a light, irreverent lark, a tawdry celebration of Aspen’s messy vitality, a randy spectacle of mirth and humor. Beneath that giddy, gilded exterior, however, lurks humiliation and ignominy.

I know. I was a contestant in the first Gong Sköl Show and found the limelight irresistible. Like a moth, I was attracted to a flame that singed my star-struck soul.



When the Gong Sköl Show was announced last winter, I jumped at the chance to stroke my latent exhibitionism. With a guitar in hand, a song in my heart, and stars in my eyes, I went to my audition.

Squinting into the blinding floodlights I strummed and sang before a panel of judges. When I was selected to be on the show, my modest talent swelled into a delusion of stardom.



As the Gong Sköl Show neared, I became hypercritical of my “act” and nervous about my stage presence. Would I perspire noticeably? Would I stammer and stutter? Would I forget the lyrics and muff the chords? Would I throw up?

Dress rehearsal was like walking to the end of the plank above a tempestuous ocean. On the day of the Gong Sköl Show, I would make the fatal leap, and there would be no safety net. I went through a thousand tiny crucibles of self-doubt and aggrandizement.

Practicing before a mirror, my talent dissolved into mediocrity. My illusion of veneration from a fawning audience dissipated into raw fear. What began as a lark had morphed into a nightmare.

Then suddenly it was real, more real than a root canal or a colonoscopy. Watching the other contestants on a TV screen from my dressing room was like viewing the French Revolution. The guillotine and the gong became synonymous; the victims fell one by one.

Those who succumbed to the whims of the judges heard in the gong a death knell for their aspirations. As the audience roared at the judges’ antics, like Roman citizens at the Coliseum, the mood among contestants went from manic to morose.

Contestants were sacrificed to the god of hubris. Their dubious talents were impaled on pikes of derision. Their privates were exposed, their vitals expunged, their egos stripped naked and paraded before all. They were Quasi Moto, mocked as king with a broken vase for a crown.

When my turn came I steeled myself before the great, sucking vacuum of the audience and performed. I tied for second place and was brought out for a playoff with Jammin’ Jim the Juggler.

We were dressed in garbage bags, plastic shoe covers and shower caps. We were told to eat from platters of Hostess Snowballs, without using our hands. He who could eat the most in three minutes would win the $250 prize. I refused to plunge my face into the morass of mushy marshmallow and instead pelted the audience with them!

Now that another round of human sacrifices is being sought, I must warn any would-be performers that acquiescing to the self-flattery of public showmanship may have deleterious effects. If the role of buffoon is one you are willing to play, then throw aside your trepidation and sign on the dotted line.

Just remember this: Don’t take yourself seriously. Don’t take the judges personally. Don’t become angry or defensive. Don’t duck the big lesson. Do your best, stand tall like Spartacus, and take your crucifixion with dignity.

Then know it’s all for the esprit de corps, that being a pinata can be fun if you can take the knocks and share your stuffing. Like me, you may come to realize that humble talents are best displayed at home.

Paul Andersen was not gonged, but felt for those who were. His column appears on Mondays.


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