Sunday, December 05, 2010

Run-Away Widow Joins the Circus (sorta) Hey, That's Me!

David Moye of AOL wrote this story:

Showbiz is a hard career, but it's even more difficult if you're trying to make it big by singing "Silent Night" like a pigeon, yodeling while milking a cardboard goat or imitating Ralph Kramden doing Shakespeare.

But New York radio personality Leslie Gold is doing a sort of showbiz stimulus package for people whose talents are, shall we say, less easily marketable -- such as the 60-year-old who wears a pigeon suit and coos like a bird sitting on a telephone wire.

And she's doing it by bringing back "The Gong Show" in a live setting. Gold will present "Gong Show Live" at B.B. King Blues Club & Grill in Times Square. It's a talent show modeled after the cheesy game show hosted by Chuck Barris in the late 1970s, where contestants compete for a measly sum ($543.32, to be exact) while trying to avoid being "gonged" by the three judges.

Heidi the Yodeling Guy is perhaps the only entertainer trying to make a career out of an act that consists of him yodeling while milking a cardboard goat. So far, a stage show called "Gong Show Live" is the only place giving him a chance.

For Gold, who will be one of the judges, bringing back a TV show in a live setting is something of a demented dream come true.

"To me, this hits the entertainment sweet spot," she told AOL News. "The best parts of shows like 'American Idol' and 'America's Got Talent' are the bad acts." Gold is a devoted fan of "The Gong Show" and got the idea to do her version after interviewing show creator Barris on radio.

"I'm an admirer of his. I think he's some kind of kooky genius," she said. "I wanted to do it as a live event."

Gold was told not to bother even trying to restart "The Gong Show," mainly because her naysaying friends assumed the rights to it were sewed up and wouldn't be granted. That wasn't the case, however.

"The trademark for the TV show and live show had lapsed, and the guy who was in charge of them said 'Yes!' [and] I knew he was doing nothing with them."

The first of what Gold hopes will be many live shows was held in August, and it was an immediate success.

"The club wanted us back within three weeks, but we held out till Halloween, which I think is perfect for this," she said, adding that the idea of a talent show where acts can be potentially gonged off the stage is especially appropriate in the Big Apple.

Pigeon lady Carol Scibelli dresses like a bird and sings songs such as "Silent Night" as a pigeon might.

"New York audiences can have a gladiator mentality," Gold said. "We can tell how the audience feels after 10 seconds, but we give all acts at least 30 seconds."

The task of finding enough acts unworthy enough for the show fell to casting director Robert Russell, who claims he checked out thousands of performers looking for the best of the worst.

Some of the acts that made the cut include "Amazing Amy," a contortionist who claims she's 55 but is suspected of being more than 80; Jessica Delfino, a performance artist who sings a song about being raped; and a striptease act involving robots.

"Yes, they're robot strippers," Russell confirmed. "The act is not risque because, well, they're robots."

Russell is especially enthusiastic about Bob Greenberg, who recites Shakespeare as Ralph Kramden from "The Honeymooners," and Carol "The Pigeon" Scibelli, who dresses up like a pigeon and sings "Silent Night" and "Hava Nagila" as a bird might.

It's a talent that Scibelli has waited 48 years to capitalize on.

"I started doing this when I was in eighth grade," she said with a laugh. "You know how kids like to do goofy things. I actually performed for Chuck Barris himself at a 25th anniversary 'Gong Show' celebration at the Friar's Club and I didn't get gonged! Barris even told me he liked my act because I had the chutzpah to sing 'Silent Night' to a room full of Jews."

Scibelli's background is in writing, but she is ready to fly at a moment's notice to pursue any opportunities to make it big as a birdbrained singer.

"They may take the show to Tampa and I'll go with them," she said.

Most of the entertainers are from New York and New Jersey, but David Reynolds is flying out from Las Vegas on his own dime in order to perform as "Heidi the Yodeling Guy." He dresses up like a St. Pauli Girl on steroids and milks a cardboard goat while yodeling.

"I actually used to perform this act on a cruise ship," said Reynolds, who thought he gave up showbiz four years when he decided to open up a flower shop. "It's hard because you're yodeling and milking at the same time. Of course, churning butter is a whole 'nother thing."

Like Scibelli, Reynolds was a fan of the old "Gong Show" and hopes to milk the exposure into getting something bigger.

But not every act on the live show was familiar with "The Gong Show." In fact, Roger Hanson, 21, wasn't even born when the show debuted and was unfamiliar with the Comedy Central reboot a few years back.

"When I tried out, I didn't take it seriously," he said. "But when the other performers told me about it, I did research it and now know how important the show was."

Hanson performs under the name "Wonder Boy," and he describes his act as "extreme interpretive dance."
"I do a warrior-angel-robot thing," he explained. "I'm a big dude so dressing like a fairy's pretty funny."

Hanson wants to do a good show and is excited about the chance to win the $543.32 grand prize that goes to the act that gets the best score from the judges.

"I just got my associate's degree and am trying to get into the Fire Department, so the money would be nice," he said.


  1. Louis Falcon9:59 AM

    Hey there! Just to clear things up, the song Jessica sings isn't "about being raped", it's about NOT being raped. She plays a rape whistle and sings in partial disbelief about the rape whistle as a weapon that is straight faced-ly handed to women as something to defend themselves with. So as she says in her intro, "I wrote a song on my rape whistle in the hopes that potential rapists will dance away". She uses her smarts to come up with engaging social commentary while making people laugh. Love it!

  2. Anonymous10:05 AM

    You're right...didn't notice the reporter got it wrong. I love Jessica's act, too!