Wednesday, August 05, 2009

“Geauga’s Got Talent!”

c. 2009 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

I had been in the Geauga Theater for almost an hour.

Setup preparations for the local talent-show broadcast were taking longer than expected. But now, we were almost ready to begin. Our host, celebrity figure Carrie Hamglaze, stepped from behind the curtains with a dazzling shimmer of metallic green.

“Everyone!” she announced. “Live from Chardon, it is my great pleasure to present to you… GEAUGA’S GOT TALENT!”

Cascades of applause filled the air.

I leaned sideways, and whispered. “Doesn’t this feel a bit like the old ‘Gong Show’ created by Chuck Barris?”

Both of my co-panelists snickered. The connection was undeniable.

Hamglaze continued her introduction. “Tonight, just like in the national competition featured on NBC. our performers will be critiqued by a three-person panel. If you will, please welcome them now. From The Burton Daily Bugle, wordsmith extraordinaire, Ezekiel Byler Gregg! From the Newbury Siren-Monitor, our own princess with a pen, Martha Ann Reale! And finally, from The Maple Leaf, in Chardon, columnist, author, and former department store janitor, Rod Ice!”

I cringed at her introduction. But Ezekiel and Martha Ann laughed out loud!

“Each judge has a buzzer at the ready,” our host explained. “If all three hit their buttons, the act will stop immediately.”

“Gonggggg!” I said in a hush.

My cohorts squirmed in their seats, chuckling.

Hamglaze turned toward the curtains. “First on our roster tonight is a schoolteacher from Middlefield. He has developed an act that combines history, comedy, and canine calisthenics… give a great Geauga welcome to… Jeffers Stantorek!”

I applauded with excitement.

A balding old man appeared with his trio of spotted puppies. Through thick glasses, he peered at the audience.

“I am going to read Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address,” he boasted. “Meanwhile, my boys are going to show off their acrobatic skills…”

On cue, the young dogs began to do a series of wild flips in the air.

Stantorek bellowed with statesmanlike eloquence. “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal…”

Our buzzers sounded almost immediately. Despite its uniqueness, the puppy-political performance act was cut short.

The restless audience booed this hasty decision!

Carrie Hamglaze bowed reverently. “Our next act comes from Burton. Please welcome… The Butter Brothers!”

A team of young men took the stage. They carried breakfast plates piled high with pancakes of all sorts.

“Thank you, thank you!” the troupe leader said, gleefully. His uniform was a yellow T-shirt, with brown stretch pants. “Tonight, my brothers and I will entertain you with the world’s most exciting ‘Flapjack Frisbee’ exhibition! Enjoy!”

Discs of fried batter quickly filled the air. The team did an athletic dance while singing a polka melody. “Flapjacks, flapjacks, in the air! Sell them at the county fair! Flapjacks, flapjacks on the run! Maple syrup, yum yum yum!”

I was speechless. “This is insane!”

Martha Ann chided me for being negative. “You sound too much like Piers Morgan!” But then, she slapped her buzzer. Soon, Ezekiel and I joined in the bee-like chorus.

The audience hissed loudly. Our show was becoming unpopular.

Carrie Hamglaze gestured offstage, once again. “Thank you very much! Our next contestant is from Bainbridge. A student of Far East culture, astrology, and social habits of the insect world. Give a big welcome to… Solda Sunstream!”

Ms. Sunstream stepped confidently to the microphone. Her naturalist dress was knitted from strands of hemp.

“I am a poet, and performance artist,” she said, tossing a handful of spices into the crowd. “Please join me in the spiritual continuum…” With widening eyes, her poetic tirade began.

“Outrage! Campfires foul the air while moms and dads fail to care. What was my point? You well may ask. I am given to the task – of enlightenment about the environment! Outrage! Young minds prowl the muck yet their generation is stuck. Stuck where you say? I give you the answer. On the road to forever – fed on promise by a hi-tech Adonis. Outrage! Say the word. Sing the word. Let the word drip from your lips like the melted remains of sorbet with pomegranate chips! Out! Out! Out!”

Ezekiel leaned over our table. “Out, indeed! As in ‘out of this competition’ Ms Sunstream!” He swatted his buzzer impatiently. A cheer echoed through the theater.

Hamglaze tugged at her silk collar. “Well, we’ve certainly had an interesting variety of talent tonight…”

Growls and catcalls sounded defiantly from the crowd.

“This is turning ugly,” I whispered.

One after another, dancers, singers, and amateur comics paraded across the stage. Eventually, even our boisterous host was suffering from fatigue.

“Our final performer is from Parkman,” Carrie Hamglaze said with relief. “Give a warm welcome to… Gretel Hofner!”

The audience grew still as a petite young woman appeared, in denim overalls, a flannel shirt, and a straw hat.

Ezekiel sighed loudly. “Good evening, Miss Hofner. Tell us about yourself, would you?”

The farm girl smiled. “I help raise animals for my grandparents. They have a big herd of dairy cattle.”

The crowd began to snort and guffaw. “Loser! Loser! Loser!”

“Please!” Martha Ann pleaded. “Let’s give this girl a chance, okay?”

I rubbed my forehead. “Very good. So… what are you going to do for us, tonight?”

“Sing!” she giggled.

The audience was unconvinced. “Buzzer! Buzzer! Buzzer!”

“Stop it!” Martha Ann screeched. “Be still, all of you!”

I took a deep breath. “What will you be singing, Miss Hofner?”

Her face brightened. “It’s a tune that Grandma loves. Something she remembers from Frank Sinatra.”

There was open rebellion in the theater. “Throw her out! Throw her out! Throw her out!”

Ezekiel pounded his fist on the table. “Shut up, I say! Everybody shut up!”

Silence spread across the theater.

“The stage is yours, Gretel,” I said.

Sweetly, she began. “Next time you’re found, with your chin on the ground,
there’s a lot to be learned, so look around…”

The audience was stunned.

“It’s just like watching Susan Boyle,” I mused.

“Just what makes that little old ant, think hell move that rubber tree plant,” the girl sang. “Anyone knows an ant, can’t, move a rubber tree plant…”

Martha Ann had tears in her eyes.

“But he’s got high hopes, he’s got high hopes,” Hofner intoned, melodically. “He’s got high apple pie, in the sky hopes!”

Suddenly, the three of us had joined the melody.

“So any time your getting low, instead of letting go, just remember that ant - oops there goes another rubber tree plant!”

The theater rocked with amazement. Everyone repeated the festive chorus.

“Oops there goes another rubber tree plant! Oops there goes another rubber tree plant!”

Hamglaze shouted with confidence. “I think we have a winner!”

“I vote yes!” Martha Ann agreed.

“So do I!” Ezekiel thundered. “So do I!”

“And it’s a ‘yes’ from me,” I said. “Well done, Gretel! I think we’ve proved tonight that Geauga does indeed have talent!”

Our host waved to the audience, and television cameras. “This concludes our competition. So from Chardon, Ohio, this is Carrie Hamglaze saying good night, and God bless all of you!”

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